This week on the podcast we look GOMO, specifically grief over missing out on your dream home.
It’s the other side of FOMO, where fear of missing out has you plunging headlong into what might be unwise purchases and contracts.
When it comes to houses, it can feel more like a seduction and betrayal when you’ve been encouraged to imagine living there for years of domestic bliss, then the faithless vendor goes and sells it to someone else, just because they have more money.
You can get a taste of Sue’s original article on GOMO (© Sue Williams) for Domain here.
Then we chat about sea changers and tree changers, why people are fleeing our city centres and where they are going. And try to explain exactly how we came to ignore our own advice about diligently doing your homework before purchasing a flat, especially off the plan, and plunged into buying one in Kiama.
We talk about how newcomers to strata often don’t have a clue about their rights and responsibilities and how an Owners Corporation Network and City of Sydney webinar is setting out to resolve that issue.
And we discuss the benefits of having electronic notice boards in our lifts (not so much those highlighted in this week’s newsletter). That’s all in this week’s Flat Chat Wrap.
TRANSCRIPTION IN FULL
A couple of years ago, you invented an acronym, which was GOMO. What does that stand for, Sue?
That’s right. It was a variation of FOMO; you know, fear of missing out. I was doing a story about grief, when you do actually miss out and so I called it ‘grief over missing out.’ It never really caught on, GOMO, but in fact, I was asked the other day to write another story about GOMO! And, I was delighted, because maybe this time, it will stick.
So, we’ll be talking about GOMO; what else have we got?
The move of lots of people towards coastal regions in Australia (and also regional areas as well), post-COVID and the newest recruits to that trend.
Right. And, we’re going to be talking about your rights and responsibilities when you move into an apartment block and how you can get some advice on that. I’m Jimmy Thomson, I write the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review.
And I’m Sue Williams and I write about property for Domain.
And this is the Flat Chat Wrap.
So Sue, you’ve been writing about GOMO; ‘grief over missing out?’
Yes, because the housing market at the moment is so tough and the apartment market is similarly tough. I mean, in some areas, it’s a little bit soft, particularly in Melbourne CBD. It’s kind of quite easy to buy an apartment there and the prices haven’t gone up at all and in certain areas (well, very few areas of Sydney is the same). Harris Park out west, has actually shown a drop in apartment prices, but everywhere else, apartments are doing incredibly well. There’s a huge demand; an excess of demand over supply. A lot of people are going to auctions or trying to buy apartments that are actually for sale, and a lot of them are missing out and time and time again.
I thought apartment prices were going down and rents were going down?
Rents have gone down but they’re coming back up again. Apartment prices in most areas are quite strong. They’re just soft in some areas; the CBD’s of most cities (certainly Melbourne and Sydney), but in lots of other areas, apartments are doing pretty well and there is still a shortage of apartments in many areas. There’s an excess (Docklands), or Green Square over in Sydney, but in most areas, it’s quite patchy and demand is much greater than supply, so lots of people are missing out, a lot.
So, people are going into the areas that people really want to go into and there’s just not enough supply?
That’s right. A friend of mine is trying to buy an apartment; she was trying to buy in the eastern suburbs, or the inner west of Sydney. She has been missing out time and time again, because obviously, prices can be so strong. She’ll go to an auction where the price guide is maybe $850,000 and the apartment ends up selling for $1.1 million, which is above her budget.
Is that also above the limit for under-quoting?
Well, it’s really hard at the moment. I do feel sympathetic for real estate agents, because often, during the duration of say, a four week campaign for auctions, they’re starting at a certain price. The next week, they’re adding $50,000 on. The next week, they’re adding another $50,000 on, because people are coming to them and saying “I’m prepared to pay this much,” and they’re thinking, “well, the price is going to have to go up as a result”. So, it is really hard for them to keep track, because the market is just so hot.
So, is there any advice for people who are suffering GOMO?
Yes, lots of advice. I was talking to lots of psychologists and also a psychotherapist and they were saying the thing is, grief is really real. You know, we tend to think of grief as the death of a loved one, the death of a partner, the death of a family member or a friend having an accident; something really big like that. They were saying, a lot of people say “oh, we missed out on an apartment; t’s a first world problem,” but in fact, the grief you feel (these therapists say), is very real. It’s not just grief over missing out on an apartment; on a property, it’s actually grief of missing out on the lifestyle you’ve suddenly envisaged yourself as enjoying. You’ve kind of gone into an apartment, maybe a few times during the open’s… You’d imagine your own furniture there.
Well, they encourage you to do that, don’t they?
That’s right and they make it a very neutral palette. They take photos off the walls and things. So, you can imagine yourself living there, which gives you a real emotional attachment. So then, when you aren’t successful at an auction or in a sales campaign, you do feel genuine grief, because property in Australia is tied up so much with our idea of self, security; of success and we can feel like a failure if we miss out on apartments. Somebody else may have bid an extra $100,000 and suddenly, they seem like a success in life and we feel a terrible failure.
So, your friend (our friend), who has missed out on a lot of apartments;, sometimes because we’ve given her the advice not to buy…
And it’s interesting because we gave her advice not to buy one apartment when we read the strata report and she was a bit heartbroken, because she’d set her heart on this place; she really liked it. She took our advice, and she decided not to buy, and eight weeks later, that apartment is still on the market, so she feels very glad that she took our advice. I don’t know how you feel, but I kind of feel a bit vindicated
And relieved, quite frankly! So, what would your advice to someone like her be, about (not so much how to get the apartment), but how to deal with not getting the apartment?
Well, the therapists say the grief is very real, so you really need to acknowledge the grief. You really need to share it with other people; you need to tell friends or family that you just missed out and you’re feeling a bit miserable, because one of them said this amazing thing. He said, silence is the fuel of shame. Yeah, it’s quite profound. So, if you don’t talk about a loss, you can start getting really tied up in feelings of your own inadequacy, because you weren’t successful and it kind of makes it worse and worse. So, you really should acknowledge the grief; you should share the grief, because you know, a problem shared is a problem…
I was going to say halved, but maybe not even halved. You should be kind to yourself; sort of have a rest and recharge. I told this to my friend, and she said “oh no! I don’t have time to rest and recharge. I’ve got to get onto the next auction.” You can see how that becomes a real driving force, but all these therapists were saying you should kind of think beforehand, how you’re going to behave if you are disappointed in an auction or in a sales campaign. So, you kind of work out practical strategies to cope if you do fail, because it’s no good losing out, getting really emotional and upset and then trying to work out how to cope, because that’s not going to work. You’ve got to go in with a strategy, beforehand and, you know, temper your expectations, sometimes. If something is priced $850,000, don’t be devastated when it goes for $900,000, because you’re looking at the market and so much is going for much more than it normally does. There was a report in one of the newspapers, of a tiny fibro house in the west of Sydney, that just went for double its reserve price, and it’s a really modest little place. In this market, you just really don’t know quite what’s happening.
But, I think that’s a case where somebody has gone in with a very clear idea of what they want to do with the property and the price, probably, might be the least concern to them. That’s more about getting a certain property in a certain position and a little fibro house sounds like it might be meeting a bulldozer quite soon.
Yeah, absolutely, but it’s, it’s interesting; they were saying that really, if you keep losing out in a particular area, maybe look towards the ‘bridesmaid area’, you know, the suburb next door, which might not be as highly priced. It might not have, you know, great views of the water, or it might not be next to a park, but they were saying, just have a think about what home means to you. What does an apartment mean? It might not necessarily be a great view, or it might not necessarily mean lots of room. It might mean you’re near a cafe that you particularly like; that you’ve become friends with the owner. It might be close to a little bunch of shops, where you like to go and do your shopping. It might be just having really nice neighbors. There’s lots of things that make up a home and we shouldn’t just concentrate on one thing when we keep battering our head against the wall and keep losing out.
Okay, when we come back, we’re going to talk about people who are fleeing the cities and going to live in places that are not in the city. That’s after this.
And we’re back. So, people in large numbers are moving out of the city centers. That certainly seems to be the case in Sydney and Melbourne (especially Melbourne). Where are they going?
They’re going mostly to coastal areas; north or south. Or, they’re going to regional areas, near regional towns. That would be in New South Wales. It might be the Southern Highlands or it might be the north or south coast. In Melbourne, they might be going up to the Mornington Peninsula; Warrnambool.
It would be down to the Mornington Peninsula.
It might just be areas on the coast. This was a trend that was already happening, before COVID, people were looking to move out.
The sea-change thing.
That’s right and they felt the cities were becoming a bit busy. There was lots of traffic, lots of noise and they were kind of thinking “we’d like more of a slower lifestyle”. So, that was happening, but COVID has really accelerated that trend. A lot more people now are also thinking “well, we want some fresh air; we don’t want to be around quite so many people, all the time”. Because we can work remotely, that gives us huge opportunities to move out to regions or to the coast; work at home, and then maybe just travel in once or twice a week, to the city, to our head office. I did a story about somebody commuting from Hobart to Sydney.
Yes, you talked about them the other week.
I met someone the other day who’s commuting from Merimbula to Sydney,which is a long way. They’re flying in a couple of times a week, to work and then flying back.
Most people aren’t going quite that far, though, are they? I mean, here in Sydney, we’ve talked in the past about people going up to the Northern Beaches.
That’s right. A lot of people have been going to Avalon, but people are looking a bit further afield, because prices have been going up so much in those areas close to the city, they have to go a bit further out. They do kind of say, if you can find a good place maybe two hours north or south or west of the city, that’s kind of ideal. Two hours isn’t bad, especially if it’s on a train line and if it has good highways that aren’t too congested. Two and a half hours is okay; three hours is kind of getting a bit much, but you can go further if there’s maybe an airport in that area.
So, what would the ideal be? I mean, the checklist; you would want NBN?
Yes, but most places, I think, have NBN now.
And, you’d want either a railway station or an airport?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, you can drive obviously, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to get public transport instead.
What about health care? Is that a concern?
That’s really important, especially if you’re a little bit older, and you’re looking for a bit of a lifestyle change. You need somewhere that has good doctors; that has access to a hospital, as well.
What about cafes and things like that? Do you want to take that Sydney/Melbourne lifestyle with you?
I think many people are really obsessed with lifestyle. It’s the word of this decade, I think, really. For lifestyle, you do need cafes, restaurants, boutique shopping, good grocers; things like that. We all just love sitting around cafes. You know, in the past, we might have loved sitting around in pubs a bit more, but we do like small bars as well. That kind of lifestyle stuff, we want to be able to do that, too.
Right. What are the places that you think offer all of these elements? Anything spring to mind?
Well, in New South Wales (for Sydneysiders), a lot of people are going up to the central coast. They are going up to Lake Macquarie. I know someone who’s just bought a place in Port Macquarie, which is a bit further away. Then when you look south, places like…
Yeah, Kiama is a good one.
Yeah and over in the Southern Highlands; people love the Southern Highlands.
Moss Vale, places like that. Down the coast, there’s Shoalhaven, Shellharbour. It’s interesting, because two people (I’ve heard), have just joined this trend, Jimmy.
Right. Who are these people?
We went (on a whim), for a drive down to Kiama yesterday and we ended up buying an apartment.
Yeah, that was funny, wasn’t it?
It was spontaneous and for people who stress all the time when you buy an apartment, particularly off the plan, you really have to due diligence.
We saw a rainbow and went “it’s a sign.” People think I’m joking; it’s not a joke!
But having said that, we’ve just made an expression of interest in an apartment, off the plan. So, our lawyer will now (our conveyancer will now), go through the the contract and we will now do our due diligence on that developer, on that development and on other developments they’ve done in the past. So, we will actually do that, but we kind of did it a bit the wrong way round.
But you know, you look at the elements there. They were talking about the building management contracts… They’re going to limit them initially to one year.
Which is excellent, isn’t it?
Which they don’t have to do, but that’s what they’re recommending. It’s a two-storey -high development, so it still gets building construction insurance…
And, home warranty.
Home Warranty insurance. Basically, there’s a lot of boxes there, that it ticks.
Sure and I mean, Kiama has a train line and it’s a nice little community. Lots of shops and lots of cafes. We went into the bookshop, and they had my books, which is a big plus.
All of which close at 2.30 on a Saturday afternoon.
That’s true, but that is the country and we have to get used to that.
And it is coming into winter.
Hmm, yeah. It was bitterly cold down there, but then, it was bitterly cold in Sydney yesterday as well.
But you’re right. We just ignored our own advice and jumped in. But, we haven’t actually signed anything.
No, we haven’t put down the deposit. So, now there’s plenty of time, to check it all out and do everything that we tell everyone else to do.
Yes, which is good. But, it’s exciting and one of the things that the developer there said they’re going to do is they’re going to have like an induction course for new residents, many of whom are downsizers, who’ve never been in apartments before. So, they’re going to tell them, ‘these are your rights and your responsibilities’.
That’s a great idea.
So we’re going to be talking about rights and responsibilities and a seminar. That’s coming up, after this break.
We’re back. Sue, rights and responsibilities… What do you think most new apartment residents and owners get wrong in the rights and responsibilities?
I think a lot of people when they come from houses, they don’t realize that strata is so different and you only own the airspace, really, in the building.
In your apartment.
Yeah. And that, you’ve got common walls, you’ve got lots of common features and that you kind of have to live as a community, rather than as an individual. Your house is your castle, and doing whatever you want, you kind of have to bear in mind that you’ve got neighbors close, living close by and you have to realize that decisions about where you live are going to be made communally by everybody who lives there, collectively. You have to be prepared to contribute to those and behave rationally and reasonably.
Yeah. It’s funny because over the years, we’ve come across a lot of people who have done neither of those things. Sometimes, not maliciously, just they don’t…
Just out of ignorance. They just don’t understand.
The resident owner of a place (when the strata manager or the building manager came to complain about him playing his music to loud), his response was “oh, it’s okay. I’m an owner.” He thought that the bylaws only applied to tenants and then there was a tenant who actually responded to an article of mine in the paper, about bylaws, who said… It was quite funny, because it was all done on the comment thing in the Sydney Morning Herald. He said ‘I would look at the bylaws and choose which ones I thought were reasonable and ignore all the others.’ Somebody wrote back and said ‘good luck hunting for a new apartment this weekend, cuz you’re gonna get kicked out.’ There’s things like, people find somebody’s parked in their parking space, so they block them in with their own car and then delay going down to let them out. That’s actually against the law. It’s things like that, where people feel justified. It’s that defensive thing of that “my home is my castle” and they feel justified in quote ‘protecting their homes’. Well, you know, there are limits to that.
That’s right. When a lot of people make mistakes, just purely out of ignorance, it becomes a problem, because those kind of neighborhood feuds just become more and more bitter and more angry and more unreasonable as time goes on. Whereas, if they’d have just put a nice note on the person’s windscreen and said, “look, sorry, you probably don’t realize that this is my space and please don’t park here in future,” probably, that would have solved the problem and there’d be no rancor left.
Yeah, but there are always people who will say “stuff you; what you’re going to do?” I mean, there was a case recently of a builder in a townhouse development, who’d used his garage as his kind of store room and workshop and parked his truck in visitor parking. The resident of this townhouse development’s mother came to visit and she parked in that space, and the guy came back and put this horrendously abusive note, saying “this is my space and if you park here again, I’m going to trash your car.” Obviously, this guy was a bully and an idiot, but he was claiming that visitor parking space as his own, which he was just not entitled to do. Somebody had to sit him down and explain the facts of life to him, which would have been an interesting little meeting.
I think we’ve still got a long way to go in Australia, really, haven’t we? I mean, in Europe, they’ve been living in apartments for so long. They’re kind of used to this idea of communal living, whereas for us, it’s still quite new for Australians, I think, really.
In fact, the Owners Corporation Network is running a webinar on June 16, at lunchtime, sponsored by the City of Sydney and their Strata 101 program, which will basically be discussing your rights and responsibilities as a strata owner and resident. You can find out more about that on the Flat Chat website.
One of the ways of getting information across, is notices in lifts and I’ve mentioned a couple of my favorites in the introduction to the newsletter this weekend. So if you’re not getting the newsletter, you’re going to miss out on that. Hahaha! But, I think most people who listen to this would get the newsletter as well.
One of the trends I’m noticing in buildings is electronic notices in the lift. You’ll get something that says ‘oh, we’ve got the AGM coming up next week.’ There might even be local or national news and pictures and everything. It’s really quite sophisticated.
That’s like, corporate lifts, isn’t it, really? Corporate offices, tend to have those kind of things and now it’s coming into apartments.
Yeah. I don’t know if it was Edward de Bono who wrote about this, or he actually gave the advice, but I always remember the new office building and they surveyed the workers in the office building and they asked them what they liked and what they didn’t like. One of the common complaints was the lifts took too long. It was a huge building; multi-storey and they couldn’t make the lifts go any faster. They got this expert, the psychologist and said “what do we do about this? How can we make people less annoyed about the lifts?” He suggested “put a mirror in the lift.” Suddenly, rather than standing there, counting the seconds, you go and you check your tie, or your makeup or whatever. You check your hair and it’s kind of like you’re passing the time; you don’t even notice that you’re spending the time in there.
That’s very clever, isn’t it? I don’t have time to brush my hair before I leave the building and so I often brush my hair in the lift, if there’s nobody else in there.
Yeah, it would be a bit antisocial.
Yes, that’s right. I sometimes put mascara on and sometimes lipstick on, if I haven’t done it already.
One of the benefits of living on the 15th floor is you’ve got plenty of time to do all that.
I’m really happy to do that.
Yeah, but notices in lifts… I think that they can be quite entertaining and they can be informative. They can be very, very silly. I’m for them.
Oh, yeah, look, communication is always a fantastic thing, I think, among apartment residents.
As we know there are certain people; the kind of people who try to dominate committees. The last thing they want is communication. They don’t really want everybody to know what’s going on. That’s why I would recommend just about any building to get something like our sponsors, Strata Box. They provide a kind of online interface, where you can get everything from the building’s accounts, to agendas for meetings, minutes for meetings, but you can also send each other messages. If you’ve got something like that in the lift, people get in and they can see what’s going on. The trouble is, if you’re on the fourth floor, you just got in and you’re just starting to read and you’re out. Well, you’d have to keep going up and up and down, so you can read the whole story.
It’s a good thing, because say, we’ve just got a heater for sale; a gas heater, that we’ve just replaced. We thought “oh, we should put a note on the noticeboard,” but not many people see our noticeboard, because it’s in a really weird place. If it were an electronic noticeboard, that’d be fantastic. Because, anybody moving into the building would think “oh yeah, I could have this gas heater, which would fit in the gas thing in the front room.” Perfect. People are moving in and out all the time and have stuff that they would like to sell, or even to give away sometimes and that kind of communication would be a fantastic thing.
Yeah. Zero chance of it happening in our building, but everybody else, good luck with that; it’s worth pursuing. Thanks, Sue, for your contribution. We’ve covered a lot of ground.
Thanks, Jimmy, nice to talk to you.
And thank you all for listening. We’ll talk to you again soon. Bye. Thanks for listening to the Flat Chat Wrap podcast. You’ll find links to the stories and other references on our website, flat-chat.com.au And if you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to this podcast completely free on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite pod catcher. Just search for Flat Chat Wrap with a W, click on subscribe and you’ll get this podcast every week without even trying. Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.