Desperate home owners are selling their properties months after they were damaged in south-east Queensland’s flood disaster — but the risk of inundation is not always made clear to house hunters.
- Real estate institute says there are no laws covering the subject and encourages people to research before buying
- State Greens MP says some homes for sale online have not mentioned they recently flooded
- Brisbane’s flood maps have not been updated since latest events, house hunters urged to ask around
While the damage is obvious in many homes, in others it is not and sometimes there is no mention in listings.
The ABC has spoken with several real estate agents who said their clients made the decision to sell because they could not stand the heartbreak of ending another flood.
Many said sellers were listing their damaged homes at a discounted price, hoping their insurance payout would cover any loss to them.
Indooroopilly real estate agent Jessica King is weeks away from listing a flood-damaged property.
Her clients bought their “forever home” in Graceville on Brisbane’s west side last year in the hope of moving in when their two toddlers were ready to go to school.
They believed they were decades away from another disaster.
“We were going to rent it out temporarily for 12 months, but then the floods hit,” Ms King said.
“The devastation in seeing it first hand … it basically broke them. They were honestly just shell shocked.”
The couple has now decided to sell and move to an area well away from the flood zone, but Ms King said buyers needed to be realistic.
“The majority of Brisbane is on a flood plain,” she said.
“People need to be realistic with insurance and setting aside a kitty in case a flood does happen.
“This flood was very different to 2011. Some areas that didn’t flood previously were impacted, and in some cases homes that went under in 2011 weren’t touched in this flood.
South Brisbane Greens MP Amy MacMahon said many locals in her electorate claimed they were not told their homes had been flooded when they bought, or began renting in the area.
In the days following the February flood, she was helping clean up a block of units in East Brisbane.
She said weeks later, four of the five units were listed for sale online.
“The listing didn’t mention that just a few weeks prior, those apartments had experienced really serious flooding,” she said.
“There’s a responsibility for sellers and for landlords to be notifying people if a property has flooded so that people don’t have to go through this again.
“Otherwise, you’re putting people’s homes and their lives and their possessions at risk.”
Agents not required to inform potential buyers
Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) chief executive Antonia Mercorella said there was no legal requirement for agents to tell buyers a home had flooded before.
“We don’t have a uniform statutory disclosure regime,” she said.
“The Queensland government has engaged a stakeholder group to review this issue, and to perhaps look at a new and more modern form of statutory disclosure when it comes to selling, but at this stage that group is not recommending that flooding be disclosed.”
She said that was largely because buyers can seek the information from elsewhere, either through speaking to neighbors or the agent, or through flood mapping.
“If [they] were to give a false answer about that, certainly that would constitute unlawful behaviour.”
Ms Mercorella urged buyers and tenants to do their research before making a bid.
‘A lot of these events are now unpredictable’
Goodna resident Julianar Hellwig can appreciate owners of flood-affected properties desperation to leave.
She was away on a trip in Melbourne when her daughter Jessica phoned, saying the home they had only occupied for three months, and had just finished renovating the day before, was taking on water.
“It was just sleepless nights. Like, horrendous to live through that,” Jessica said.
Ms Hellwig did not believe her daughter until she saw the images of her house on the news.
Three months on, marks on the window are proof of how high the water came. Plaster has been ripped from the walls and donated furniture fills the lower levels of their house.
Ms Hellwig said she knew the area was in a flood zone, but thought she had decades before another “one-in-100-year flood” hit.
They have now applied for the Queensland government’s buy-back scheme.
When asked what it would mean for her and her mother to get out of the area, Jessica said: “Everything.”
“It’s not sustainable to live in fear of being flooded all the time.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t forget.”
The Hellwigs said if they could turn back time, they would never have purchased the property.
Brisbane City Council said its flood maps were last updated on May 28, 2021.
“We continue to use the latest technology and innovations in mapping to arm residents with the latest and best available flooding information,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“Council will use new data obtained as a result of the 2022 weather event to update the existing flood studies knowledge base.
“Data from the recent weather event will be used to inform future updates as soon as possible.”