As I mentioned two weeks ago here, we’ve been in the market for a new home in the Wangjing area (motto: You can never have too much KFC). As promised, we did find a place in the complex we had settled on and even a full day earlier than I predicted. However, this time the process has left an acrid taste in my mouth and I don’t think the apartment we settled on is quite perfect. It will do, comfortably so – low hanging living room chandelier aside. No, the distaste that I’m left with isn’t so much about the actual apartment or even the process of looking for a place, unpleasant as that may be, it’s the amount of deceit that Savvy and I picked up on this time around.
I don’t expect everyone to be a paragon of virtue, but when we started noticing that the majority of people in the housing industry appeared to be massaging reality, it does give me pause and wonder if humanity had reached some sort of low-tide in the department of character and credibility. For example, this time around, one suggestion we had received was to check with online listings posted directly by owners. Savvy contacted a few and in each instance the person who called us back was a real estate agent who had posted the actual listing. Why? One explained that it was a simple marketing ploy to drum up business. I guess that could be seen as enterprising to some, if not a little disingenuous.
There was the obvious bait-and-switch where apartment sizes are listed at a given price but when the agent arranges to show you around, those better-priced units have just been rented out. Or what was promised as fully furnished is actually empty and the landlord wants more to furnish it. Both could seem like honest situations, except we worked with at least half a dozen different agents this time (I lost count) and when patterns start to emerge across different companies and agents, I’m fairly good at reading the writing on the wall.
Yet it was the seemingly inane lies that make me the most suspicious of the entire Beijing housing industry. For whatever reason, we began to favor one agent and his approach. He seemed candid and more cognizant of what we were actually looking for in an apartment. He also had a way of making it sound like he knew the landlords we were introduced too. More than once, he said a landlord was an old client that he had helped before. Subtle things like that added an air of credibility and made me feel more comfortable with him. Which was great, until Savvy overheard him tell one landlord who inquired as to how we had become his clients that we were old customers whom he had helped find a home before. That was news to me. Add liar, liar pants on fire! to the list of phrases I need to memorize in Chinese.