“I’m kind of a rental broker,” says Tonny Birungi, Settlement Grants Program Officer (Housing and Employment) at Metro Migrant Resource Centre.
What I’ve found is that if you know someone at the real estate agent, it’s better in a sense. Clients come to me and say, ‘I’m looking for a two-bedroom unit in Belfield do you know anything around?’ Then I’ll say, ‘there is one at this real estate agent, contact John and say I introduced you to them’. Clients can then go and ask: ‘Can I see John? Tonny has asked me to see you about a property you mentioned in Belfield.’ That gives our clients some sort of introduction. Before that, most of them were knocked back because they have no rental history.
“The relationship is so precious,” agrees Gerald Nyasulu, Accommodation Coordinator for Townsville Multicultural Support Group.
We have been making an effort to build relationships and some of the attitudes of real estate agents are much better. We have positive relationships. Some even call us to tell us they have a property available and ask, ‘Have you got anyone coming?
On the other side of the country, Kachuol Piok, Housing Assistance Officer at Edmund Rice Centre Mirrabooka, has achieved similarly positive outcomes through building relationships with housing providers: “I have connections with some real estate agents. They know me and what I do, so when rental accommodation is available, they let me know and I find suitable tenants for them.”
Through linking their clients with relevant housing options, workers could achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for clients and housing providers. Tonny provided the following example:
There was one unit in Greenacre which was rundown inside. The carpet was terrible, the paint was not good but the owner didn’t want to do anything about it. The real estate agent said to me, ‘If you can get someone who is willing to do the carpet and the paint themselves, then we count it towards their rent and the unit is available.’
I knew this guy who had been looking for a house and had been training in painting. I said: ‘There’s a unit here, you need to approach the real estate agent, if you can paint it using your own money and put carpet in it, it’s all yours and the money will go towards your rent’. And the guy said: ‘That’s fine’… He moved into the unit and is paying less than the market price.
By acting as an intermediary between clients and housing providers, settlement services staff can also help to address concerns on both sides. “If an agent is having an issue with one of our clients, I am the middle man,” says George. “Issues are often about communication and understanding and sometimes it is just a gap that needs to be bridged. So we stick to our clients and help them understand.”
Piok has a similar approach:
It’s my job to advocate on their behalf, to liaise on their behalf and make some guarantee to the real estate agents that I know them and they will keep your house clean and, if anything arises, then I’m available to help.