Realtor apologises as detail on sign sparks backlash: 'Tenants don't understand'

Speaking to Yahoo, the Melbourne agent shared his surprise at the backlash generated by the sign, which has since been taken down.

A real estate agent has copped abuse for erecting a sign outside a property which declared it had just been leased for a 'record price' during the rental crisis.

The backlash was swift and severe, with many questioning why this would be a moment of pride given renters are suffering the fallout, yet the agent reiterated this practice of "advertising for future owners" is standard in the industry.

Barry Plant real estate agent Charbel Kattoura put the sign up last week after leasing the four bedroom property in Melbourne's inner city suburb of Coburg. However, after an image of the sign was shared online, he has copped countless angry messages and phone calls, and is accused of being "un-Australian" and "greedy".

A picture of real estate agent Charbel Kattoura is on the sign which reads 'Leased for a record price in Coburg'.
Barry Plant real estate agent Charbel Kattoura erected the sign outside a Melbourne rental declaring it was leased for a 'record price'. Source: Reddit

He told Yahoo News Australia he knows times are tough but was admittedly "shocked" by the backlash, believing many are quick to demonise real estate agents for simply trying to do their job.

"I didn't make this market go up. I'm getting hired as an agent from the owner... It is my duty to go and get the best result as possible," he said, detailing the pressures that investors are also under.

The struggle to satisfy owners and tenants

Kattoura said it has been difficult to navigate the housing market and appease both owners and tenants during the tense times.

"What tenants don't understand is what owners have to pay. They've got a mortgage, they've obviously got insurance to pay, water rates, council rates, maintenance," he said.

Housing affordability is declining significantly as rental and house values surge — with the median rental price in Australia hitting a record high this week — and more Aussies are unable to buy their own home.

The real estate agent denies claims he prioritises homeowners, sharing he has gone out of his way many times for struggling renters, often reaching out to other local agents in the hope they can help assist find people a home.

Agency CEO weighs in on backlash

Lisa Pennell, CEO for the Barry Plant franchise where Kattoura is employed, told Yahoo News the agency did not go for the "highest price" offered for the Melbourne rental but instead selected the most "suitable tenants" for the owner, adding that most of their clients are "mum and dad saving for their retirement".

"I think whilst in hindsight, that sign could have been better worded, it's normal in any industry to want to talk about business successes," she said.

The sign was removed on Monday and both Kattoura and Pennell have apologised.

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