October 18, 2015

Fantastic Inner City Funky Trendy Living At Its Best OMGICan'tEven

There are many occupations that walk the tightrope between ethical and unethical. Lobbyists. Advertisers. Media people. Politicians. But what most people have missed, over the last many decades, are the small guys. The tightrope isn’t the privilege of the bigshots alone. Why doesn’t anyone recognize the regular blokes trying to make a dishonest living, just trying to do what’s right for themselves? Insurance people. Mutual fund brokers. That glorious Indian category, “fixers”. And the universal hustler – the real estate agent.

It takes some serious ballsiness to pick a career option that may, for months at a stretch, give you no income at all. The sort of ballsiness, in fact, that your chances of “playing with the truth” are between 50-100% (vs. the 0-10% tolerance you learnt at your mother’s knee).

There has never been a real estate agent who told you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about a house. This is for two reasons:
1. Renting or buying is all about compromise. Lies make compromises much more palatable.
2. Whether you’re renting something (for half your income) or buying something (for half your lifetime income) the last thing you want to hear is the truth. (“This is an average size apartment with an exorbitant price and oh by the way there’s a rat infestation.”)

So the realtor weaves his web of lies. The lies usually go inwards in a concentric circle like this:

Area / location
Every city has nice areas and dodgy areas, right? Wrong! It’s not the epicenter of the drug problem, it’s “got character”. Regular muggings make it a “colourful” area, crumbling buildings mean it “has a lot of history” and the junkies and brothels “present an exciting alternative lifestyle”.

On an aside, what’s with the re-naming? (Bombay I’m looking at you.) If Wadala can be rechristened “New Cuffe Parade”, anything is possible.

All a street needs to be called “tree-lined” is three trees. No more, no less. It’s as if realtors believe that at two trees, it’s a bit of a stretch but three is just the right number, even if the trees have been hacked at and are more shrubs than trees.

Similarly if it’s a large road which will most likely have traffic at all times of day, it’s “accessible” – by which they mean it’s accessible to ambulances at 2 a.m. blasting their sirens.

The house
If you're getting a house (i.e. not an apartment) there's literally no end to the amount of obfuscation. Here's a few examples:
Quaint = This house was built in the twenties
Family home = Fifteen sets of young children have ravaged this place
Comfortable = The owner hasn't felt the need to paint this place for the last seventeen years
Spacious, inner city living = These are words that don't go together. It's either spacious or it's inner city. If it's both, the rent means you can't live there... ergo, no 'living' for you.
Sought after area = Please pay extra rent for the two liquor stores in close proximity.
Open plan living = Code Red. This is a studio masquerading as a one-bedder.
Practical = The bed is going to have to be a fold-out.
This property won't last! = Has been on the market for five months.
Water views = Please notice the sliver of open drainage system you can see if you stick your neck out of the window.
Very ventilated = Install your own AC.
Fully furnished = Please sell your kidney.
Funky = This isn't an apartment. This is a space made from bits carved out of other apartments, leading to the most misshapen studio you've ever seen.

Come home to this comfortable, relaxing studio set in green surrounds.
And the pictures. Oh man, the pictures. If you see an advert which only shows you the building on the outside, you know you have to reject this immediately. There are agents who believe a photograph of the kitchen countertop is sufficient pictorial evidence of "Stylish, spacious apartment". There are agents who will send you photos of the apartment from 10 years ago, when the building was new, the apartment unblemished and the photographer brilliant. I've seen pictures of lovely, light-filled, tasteful apartments which turn out to be dingy, stuffy hellholes with price tags that can only be called hyper-optimistic. And yet, such is the brilliance of the owners / agents, they do get rented out at those prices.

No wonder everyone wants to buy a home of their own (a really nice one) and an "investment" home (a tiny place your stuff won't fit in, in a building with amenities you won't use, in a trendy / "upcoming" area where parties go on until the first knife fight happens).