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Birds of a Feather Flock Together – Deal with it!

September 26, 2011 – 12:09 pm3 Comments

A sign marking an old Italian neighbourhood in Toronto

By Anthony Frosh

Box Hill in Victoria has lots of Chinese, Lakemba in NSW has lots of Lebanese, Peppermint Grove in WA has lots of WASPs, and of course, there are a number of areas in Australia that have lots of Jews.

People choose to live near other people from their own ethic group or subculture for a variety of reasons. People’s friends tend to be disproportionately from their own subculture and people in general like to live near their friends. They also want to be near their community infrastructure.  In the case of Shabbat observant Jews, they often have a strong preference to live not only within the eruv, but within easy walking distance of their shul as well as close family/friends whom they regularly eat with over Shabbat.

So, shouldn’t real estate companies and the like be catering to these demographic realities? For example, I am often perplexed by advertisements for residential property auctions that are scheduled on Shabbat in areas not only with a large Jewish  population, but also with a considerable frum population. Often this happens when the seller and the real estate agent are unaware of the Shabbat dynamic.  However, it still sometimes happens with real estate agencies that ought to know better.

Gary Peer is a real estate agency that seems to function almost entirely in the suburbs of Melbourne that are heavily populated by Jews.  And quite incredibly, in the Caulfield area, they seem (from casual observations) to have close to a 65% market share.  While it can be assumed that Gary Peer are aware of the Shabbat dynamic, since they have so many ‘Jewish area’ properties for auction on any given weekend, they probably can’t schedule them all on a Sunday. I like to imagine that they have rather entertaining weekly  meetings where they determine the likelihood of frum Jews being potential buyers for new listings they’ve won, and then make their Saturday vs. Sunday decision on that basis. I’m not sure if this is the reality though.

Sydney based Oschrie Massatschi, founder of the Jewish Living website, bases his enterprise on the idea that Jews have particular real estate needs that are not easily met by general real estate websites. According to Massatschi, “When moving to an unfamiliar country it is difficult for people from the Jewish community (as a minority) to find the right suburb to live amongst like minded people and have the possibility to maintain their Jewish lifestyle and traditions. Jewish Living is the only website in the world to display all relevant Jewish infrastructure and eruvim on maps with contact details of these points of interest. Jewish Living even combines these points of interest with all available properties marked on the maps.”

But Jewish Living doesn’t just cater to home buyers. Jewish Living also functions to help people find flatmates.  Massatschi states that “The desire/need to live with someone Jewish prevents many young Jews to move out of their parents’ home as it is vital for them to live with flatmates that adhere to the same traditions/religion and value the same beliefs, e.g. Shomer Shabbat, keeping kosher, etc”. For example, the Jewish Living website will help someone find share accommodation that has a kosher kitchen.

Massatschi says he has received a lot positive feedback from people who used the website from everything to sell their property to find the perfect flatmate. The site started with a focus on the Sydney market, and has now expanded to Melbourne.  Massatschi says he has even received requests from people hoping the site will expand to other countries such as South Africa.

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