Desperate renters are trying every ruse to get housed in recession-fuelled rental crisis says Graeme Baker, the Herald's news editor and occasional rental hell correspondent.
Turn up in good time. Wear a suit. Have references. Prepare questions. Smile. Know that it's more what's in it for them than what's in it for you.
Getting a tenancy has become as taxing as a job interview. Welcome to the cut-throat, back-stabbing, bordering-on-cold-blooded-murder rental market of Auckland.
We've had tales of 200 people turning up to open homes, price gazumping and crazies prepared to put down six months' rent in advance.
We've been given a list of 'renters' tips' from agents - kiss the feet of your new land-overlords while signing the cheques.
What better time to enter the fray? Well, I've spent five months getting absolutely nowhere, and it's not getting any easier.
I've wasted nights on Trade Me and weekends and lunch breaks trudging around the many crap, and a few decent flats, that have been targeted by half of Auckland's landless peasantry.
I've contemplated going to open homes wearing a sling for sympathy, I've ironed shirts, I've asked my boss to say nice things about me (in writing).
I've been nice and smiled at estate agents, for flip's sake. Surely, I have done enough for someone to take pity on me!
It's the same story at pretty much every open home I have been to.
Rewind two weeks and I find myself outside a flat in St Marys Bay (near a Ministry of Fisheries building - choice) with 50 others.
Everyone either ignores or sizes up the competition with dagger stares. Other renters, as we all know, are the enemy and must be destroyed.
The agent arrives, shimmering with the power of alpha and omega. She opens the door and the bunfight begins. Ten of us try to wedge ourselves in the lift, others make for the stairs so they can be first in. One man makes a sexist joke on how to get the tenancy but damn - the agent isn't in the lift with us. That would have been one down, 48 to go.
We surge in, we lurch for the balcony, we squeeze into the tiny bathroom with a cupboard (oooh, a cupboard!). We jostle to press the flesh of the agent, and ask pointless questions in the hope she might wield the pen of destiny in our favour.
We all leave, clutching at the application and the hope that all our troubles are over. We rush it in to the estate agent's office believing that this is the one.
But they aren't and it's not. A day later, a terse "your application was not successful" email arrives, and we're back to square one. No explanation, no emotion. You're out, sucker.
She could have written 'YOU ARE DEAD TO ME' and it would have had the same effect.
But flat-hunters soldier on ... this week I saw another flat in the same building by the same agent - for almost $100 a week more. But flat-hunters soldier on ...
The renting process is fast becoming an impossible joke, a hopeless revolving exercise of hope, despair and inevitable defeat.
But what is the alternative? The sunlit uplands of ownership, ridiculous house prices, fluctuating mortgage rates and body corp charges?
Yes, even that is becoming tempting.