Can any­body help me?

Herald Sun - Property - - OPINION - AN­DREW WIN­TER An­drew Win­ter hosts Sell­ing Houses Aus­tralia on the Life­style Chan­nel

I HAVE a pas­sion for prop­erty, not just a real es­tate deal. For me, it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing com­bi­na­tion of homes and peo­ple.

What’s the his­tory? Is it six months or 200 years old? How is the home used?

Then there are the chal­lenges — do you ex­tend or ren­o­vate, or not? Should the own­ers sell now? What if they’ve tried and failed? Why did some­one buy a house an­other dis­missed?

What makes one home ap­peal to vir­tu­ally ev­ery­one, while oth­ers re­pel all passersby, even be­fore they’ve stepped in­side?

So you see in this me­dia gig I do ask and get asked a lot of ques­tions and re­ceive re­quests for help. One now is not so much a re­quest, but more a story to be told, with the writer only re­ally seek­ing a chance to vent.

I’m not aware of ev­ery sin­gle de­tail in this story, but the gen­eral over­view is pretty clear, so I’ll con­dense it for you.

The writer is not ex­pect­ing an an­swer or fol­low up, as I wanted to ask for your in­put be­fore I re­sponded, but I would love to re­ply with some form of pos­i­tive, proac­tive sug­ges­tion.

The story be­gins with a young cou­ple buy­ing a twobed­room town­house and spend­ing $20,000 im­prov­ing it. Four years later, the lo­cal mar­ket was flat, but they were now a mum and dad to one, with an­other on the way and needed to sell.

They sold for close to the orig­i­nal pur­chase price, so the in­vest­ment in im­prove­ments and any stamp duty was lost. Un­de­terred, they be­gan look­ing for a bar­gain for­ever home, fo­cus­ing on lo­ca­tion and block size. It needed to have the right po­ten­tial, be af­ford­able and a place they could stay long term.

They even­tu­ally found the right home, a ren­o­va­tor that ticked all the boxes. They bought through a recog­nised real es­tate brand, used a li­censed con­veyancer and a lender that would have au­tho­rised a pro­fes­sional val­u­a­tion of the prop­erty. So what could go wrong?

Ini­tially noth­ing. In fact the lender let them have more money and, com­bined with the Bank of Mum and Dad, $170,000 of work was un­der­taken.

As the work neared com­ple­tion, the houses at the back of the block were all de­mol­ished and a 9m high sound bar­rier fence ap­peared. Then, con­trac­tors ar­rived and

started build­ing a ma­jor multi-lane road. I’ve not replied to th­ese peo­ple yet as I want to see what in­ter­est I can gen­er­ate first, but fair to say I’m sur­prised they hadn’t no­ticed.

Per­haps the houses at the rear were lived in right un­til the last minute?

Any­way, if this wasn’t bad enough, the house started to crum­ble around them, with the huge ground works go­ing on to their rear. Then the bat­tle starts. Val­u­a­tion re­ports, engi­neer’s re­ports, lawyers, cracks re­veal­ing crum­bling as­bestos in the kids’ bed­rooms. Sud­denly their for­ever home was a night­mare.

I think we can all imag­ine the stress for a young cou­ple and two small chil­dren when their home — their safe haven — be­comes a le­gal bat­tle­field.

All the in­vest­ment on prop­erty No. 2 is now also be­ing frit­tered away, not by mar­ket con­di­tions but by some­one, some­body or a sys­tem that has failed so very dis­mally to warn them be­fore they com­mit­ted to the home.

Main Roads ac­knowl­edged liability for the dam­age, but were not pre­pared to fix it, only to buy the home back at a fig­ure that did not take into ac­count their con­sid­er­able ren­o­va­tion costs, or stamp duty at time of pur­chase.

To add to the tale of woe, the lo­cal mar­ket has bounced back sud­denly leav­ing them priced out and with no way of buy­ing any­thing com­pa­ra­ble.

This is where the story gets re­ally in­trigu­ing.

I’m told the former own­ers of the house were aware of the sit­u­a­tion and pro­vided the sell­ing agent with all the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments. One sale had al­ready col­lapsed due to that dis­clo­sure, so why were our young cou­ple never in­formed?

Why didn’t the con­veyancer know about such a huge lo­cal scheme, or act when it was known the pre­vi­ous owner had in­formed the agent?

Why isn’t the agent ac­count­able or the real es­tate in­sti­tute do­ing some­thing?

I’m not dis­clos­ing the rel­e­vant state, but I do want to hear from any industry body rep­re­sen­ta­tives or lawyers who might be in­ter­ested in help­ing with some re­dress?

I’m pro real es­tate agents and I un­der­stand the term “buyer be­ware”, but this sounds like a mas­sive er­ror on his or her part and ex­actly what their pro­fes­sional in­dem­nity in­sur­ance is de­signed for — to mit­i­gate the con­sid­er­able losses this young fam­ily has in­curred. Any sug­ges­tions please email info@an­drewwin­

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