Senin, 19 Oktober 2009

Some home truths about property reviews...

Readers of the Brown Couch may be aware of an innovative new website where tenants can share news and views of their rental properties throughout Australia.

Home Truth: The online voice for the rental community looks great at first glance. Indeed an opportunity for disgruntled tenants to publicly vent some spleen is long overdue. But there are several things to consider if you're going to regard it as anything more than light entertainment:

  • The website will be of more use to those who are able to "pick and choose" where to live, than those who need to find a new home pronto. With this in mind, it represents good value for the socio-economically blessed, but it offers very little for the rest of us (especially when vacancy rates are low).
  • The website invites reviews of properties and real estate agents. It does not review landlords. It is therefore not on the same footing as a residential tenancy database which collects tenants' names, and holds them to ransom.
  • There is an inherent problem with reviewing properties and real estate agents, and that is the transient nature of both. With property, ownership can change, and so can its level of repair. With agents, a person's employment can change. The review of a property or agent may become inaccurate or irrelevant by virtue of such change. It follows that such reviews could be apt to mislead.
  • Reviews are likely to be made in response to a particular set of circumstances. While one person's experience may be defined in a certain way, it is unlikely that their story will resonate with others to the extent that a property or real estate agency will be boycotted.
  • There is no way to verify whether reviews are genuine. Anyone who makes a decision to rent a property based on a website review must have rocks in their head.
  • The website has potential as a pool of information to draw from while pushing the law reform agenda. But given the problems outlined above, tenants are better advised to take their grievances direct to the Office of Fair Trading. This can be done on a website too!