The Sydney Rat Race

| Nov 26, 2023 min read

We bought an apartment! A beautiful, quirky three-bedroom apartment on the ground-floor of The Malthouse, nestled snugly in the much-coveted locale of Summer Hill, a medium density community that is close to school, transport, markets, parks, and cycleways. Yes, we’ve managed to snag a piece of property gold in a great neighbourhood, and let me tell you, the joy is palpable: Summer Hill, with its leafy streets and vibrant community vibes, will become the canvas we paint our dreams upon.

But first, let’s dive into the grubby chaos of modern capitalism and the “thrills” of trying to outrun the dreaded rat race, while navigating the exorbitant Sydney real estate market.

Picture this: You’ve been trying to get back into the real estate market for a year, concentrating on single-floor houses around the Inner West, hoping to snag that dreamy Sydney property with renovation potential close to friends and the community you’ve grown accustomed to. You’ve done your homework, crunched the numbers, and got pre-approval from St George bank. Properties come and go, you increase your loan amount, but still don’t seem to be close to “winning” a property at auction, which routinely go for $200K more than advertised.

Fuck this, I hate it. Let’s look at apartments.

In what feels like no time, you find what seems like a good option. It’s going to auction, but you put in a pre-auction offer, then another as a second party also does the same. Back and forth, increasing offers each time until, finally: it’s yours.

Elated, you push for full unconditional approval with your mortgage broker. The valuation comes back good, the loan will be affordable, and the only possible fly in the ointment is that the vendors want a long settlement – March 1st, 2024. That’s fine, you think. Gives us time to pack.

Then St George pull the approval. They cite “close to a service station” as the reason. Stress levels are through the roof.

Cue the frantic scramble mode; panic buttons are activated. Caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty, your broker promises he has applied with CBA and will get a full loan in 5 to 7 business days. Every second ticking by feels like a lifetime: if you can’t get another mortgage, there goes your 10% deposit. And without that deposit, there goes your savings, and potentially your last chance of getting a mortgage, ever – you’re not a young first-home-buyer with a parent who can co-sign, after all.

Desperate, you call CBA for an update, but they don’t seem to have the application (!!). But just when you’re teetering on the edge of losing hope, a beam of light shines through the chaos. A beacon of salvation arrives in the form of a personal referral to an executive loan manager at the Commonwealth Bank. Luck? Fate? Call it what you will, but this connection is your golden ticket out of the labyrinth of real estate woes.

Now, let’s pause for a moment and discuss the rat race. Modern capitalism often feels like sprinting on a hamster wheel, trying to inch ahead, only to realize the game is well and truly rigged. The stress, the uncertainty, the constant juggling act—sound familiar? That’s the nature of the beast we call “getting ahead” in today’s world. Real estate, once considered a cornerstone asset for stability and wealth, has increasingly morphed into an unattainable fantasy for a significant chunk of the population. It’s not just a roof over your head anymore; it’s an investment avenue that seems to be drifting further away from the grasp of many aspiring homeowners.

The heart of the issue? Affordability — or should I say, the lack thereof. The soaring prices of properties in Sydney resemble a rocket taking off into the stratosphere, leaving behind a trail of dashed dreams for many young and ambitious souls.

For the younger crowd, saddled with student loans, juggling rising living costs, and attempting to navigate the choppy waters of an uncertain job market, the prospect of homeownership seems like a mirage in the desert. The dream home transforms into a distant speck on the horizon, shimmering but always out of reach.

But let’s not just pin the blame on skyrocketing prices. The playing field isn’t level; it’s riddled with hurdles. Stricter lending criteria, hefty deposits, and the infamous stamp duty—these obstacles transform the road to home-ownership into an obstacle course, one that many find impossible to conquer.

And don’t even get me started on the fierce competition. Bidding wars, properties snapped up faster than you can say “sold,” and investors eyeing properties as mere commodities — it’s a landscape reminiscent of a high-stakes strategy game where the odds are stacked against those just trying to find a place to call home.

Back to the story, and to make it short: your contact comes through, granting a full unconditional mortgage with CBA within 24-hours. The relief flooding in when you finally get that elusive green light from the Commonwealth Bank? It’s akin to beating the final boss in a video game, a euphoric rush of triumph over insurmountable odds. Sure, there’s an uncomfortable conversation (or three) to be had with the broker - but at the end of the day, St George is to blame. It’s a grubby business, but one they choose to be in. And you have to do what is right for you.

The euphoria of rejoining the ranks of property owners is beyond words. After navigating the turbulent seas of real estate chaos, the feeling of being able to plant our roots in a beautiful neighbourhood is nothing short of exhilarating. It’s a testament to resilience, perseverance, and a sprinkle of good fortune that led us to this delightful spot, and we can’t wait until moving day.

So, here’s to navigating the rat race, beating the odds, and triumphing in the face of real estate mayhem. Cheers to this new chapter in our Sydney story — may it be filled with more joy and fewer heart palpitations.