Owners list flooded homes at 2005 prices

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Houses wrecked in the floods that devastated NSW earlier this year have washed onto the market for rock bottom prices – sometimes near what the properties traded for back in 2005.

Many of these properties were a mess of mud, debris and warped walls from when the flood waters swirled in, often to ceiling height.

They’ve since been cleared and stripped to an uninhabitable shell of timber beams and listed as opportunities for renovators to snap up a bargain.

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Most of the biggest price discounts were in the areas at the centre of this year’s unprecedented disaster, described by the Bureau of Meteorology as a “rain bomb”.

These locations included Lismore, Ballina and other towns in the Northern Rivers region of northern NSW, along with parts of the Port Macquarie area in central NSW.

There have also been occasional flood damaged homes come up for sale in northwest and southwest Sydney.

Agents reported many of the owners selling their properties were “too devastated” to continue living in them and did not want to go through the ordeal of restoring them.

Some were accepting cash payments from their insurance companies and relocating to higher ground.

One pair of home sellers, who paid more than $500,000 for their South Lismore home last year, recently listed their property overlooking the Wilsons River for $260,000.

The traumatised owners were reported to have told their agent they never wanted to live in the area again because they had “lost everything” and, after an exhausting year, needed to “move on”.

A flood damaged house on nearby Union St has been listed for sale at $170,000, just $20,000 above the price it sold for in 2005. A home on Arthur St is for sale at $295,000 – the same price as in 2009.

Similar deals have emerged in Mullumbimby in the Byron Bay region hinterland, Kingscliff in the Tweed region and towns along the Richmond River near Ballina, such as Woodburn and Broadwater.

The owners face an uphill battle to sell. With building costs up nearly 30 per cent over the past 18 months, timber in short supply, and tradies overloaded with work, fewer buyers are willing to renovate.

“It months on a waiting list to get a tradie on the Northern Rivers,” said Katrina Ulyatt, a local agent with One Agency.

“Many residents are still not back in their houses. Most of the services in the town are still closed. So much work needs to be done but there’s little money going around.”

It comes as flood-prone communities brace for another rainy La Nina event this summer, with warnings river levels may rise again and sweep through many more houses.

Ms Ulyatt said the Northern Rivers community was on edge. “Everyone is thinking lightning will strike twice. I’ve lived here my whole life. No one thought (the water) would go so high again. We’re concerned there will be another flood.”

Insurance Council of Australia spokesman Mathew Jones said new buyers of homes in locations susceptible to flooding may find it virtually impossible to get insurance, which in turn, would make it difficult to get financing.

“Unless it’s bought outright, the bank won’t lend against it,” he said.

Insurance Council data showed the 2022 floods in NSW and Queensland were the most expensive in Australian history, costing the insurance industry nearly $5.3 billion – triple the cost of the 2011 floods in Brisbane.

Mr Jones said some communities needed to make “hard decisions” about where they wanted to build and keep houses.

“Once houses become devalued, the owners have little incentive to maintain them and the only people who want to live there will have lower means,” he said. “Some of our most vulnerable people will be then stuck in places exposed to extreme weather risk.”

Wall Murray and Co First National’s Benjamin Conte, who is selling a range of flood damaged homes, said there were some tradesman who were optimistic about the investment potential of the homes.

He pointed to the current rental crisis as an incentive for builders to swoop in and get properties with high rental returns.

“Some of the houses are selling quickly,” he said. “Mostly it’s to tradespeople and they’re planning to build with more flood savvy materials.

“We are used to floods up here. There’s a thinking we’ll rebuild and be back to minor floods and all we’d need to do next time is just hose the mess down.”

Originally published as Homes ravaged in 2022 NSW floods for sale at prices that hark back to 2005

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