Homes flooded in February hit the market, but real estate agents are not required to notify buyers

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Desperate homeowners are selling their properties months after they were damaged in the flood disaster in southeast Queensland – but the risk of flooding is not always made clear to house hunters.

While the damage is evident in many homes, in others it is not and sometimes there is no mention of it in the listings.

The ABC spoke with several estate agents who said their clients made the decision to sell because they couldn’t handle the heartbreak of enduring another flood.

Many said sellers listed their damaged homes at a discount, hoping their insurance payment would cover any loss to them.

Indooroopilly estate agent Jessica King is weeks away from listing a flood-damaged property.

Her clients bought their ‘forever home’ in Graceville, west Brisbane last year, hoping to move in when their two toddlers were ready to go to school.

They believed they were decades away from another catastrophe.

“We were going to rent it temporarily for 12 months, but the floods hit,” Ms King said.

“The devastation of seeing it first hand…it basically broke them. They were honestly just shocked.”

Indooroopilly estate agent Jessica King said she has worked with families who have experienced flooding.(Provided)

The couple have now decided to sell and move to an area away from the flood zone, but Ms King said buyers need to be realistic.

“The majority of Brisbane is in a flood plain,” she said.

“People need to be realistic with insurance and set aside a kitty in case a flood happens.

“This flood was very different from 2011. Some areas that had not been flooded before were affected and in some cases houses that sank in 2011 were not affected by this flood.

Amy MacMahon lifts a box full of flood-damaged goods.
Greens MP Amy MacMahon said people should tell potential buyers about flooding when selling a property.(Provided)

South Brisbane Greens MP Amy MacMahon said many in her constituency claimed they were not told their homes had been flooded when they bought or started renting in the area.

In the days following the February flood, she was helping clear a block of units in East Brisbane.

She said weeks later, four of the five units went on sale online.

“The listing did not mention that a few weeks prior these apartments had suffered very severe flooding,” she said.

“It is the responsibility of sellers and landlords to let people know if a property has been flooded so people don’t have to relive it.

“Otherwise you put people’s homes, their lives and their property 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 notify buyers that a home had ever been flooded.

“We don’t have a uniform statutory disclosure regime,” she said.

“The Queensland Government has engaged a group of stakeholders to look at this issue and possibly consider a new, more modern form of statutory disclosure in sales, but at this stage this group is not recommending that flooding be disclosed. “

A pensive woman as she stands outside a building
REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said there is no legal requirement for real estate agents to notify buyers that a home has ever been flooded.(ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)

She said that’s largely because buyers can look for the information elsewhere, either by talking to neighbors or the agent or by mapping the floods.

“Whether [they] would give a false answer on this subject, it would certainly constitute illegal behavior.”

Ms Mercorella urged buyers and tenants to do their research before making an offer.

“Many of these events are now unpredictable”

Goodna resident Julianar Hellwig can appreciate the desperation of owners of flood-affected properties to leave.

Jessica and Julianar stand side by side in a bare room.
Jessica and Julianar Hellwig say they now want to leave the Goodna area. (ABC News: Laura Lavelle)

She was on a trip to Melbourne when her daughter Jessica phoned, saying the house they had only lived in for three months and had just finished renovating the day before, was taking on water.

“It was just sleepless nights. It was awful going through that,” Jessica said.

Ms Hellwig didn’t believe her daughter until she saw the footage of her home on the news.

Three months later, marks on the window testify to the height of the water. Plaster has been ripped from the walls and donated furniture fills the lower levels of their home.

Ms Hellwig said she knew the area was in a flood zone but believed it was decades before another “100-year flood” hit.

The lower level of a two-story house is completely submerged by flood waters.
The lower level of Hellwigs House was inundated by floodwaters. (Provided)

They have now applied for the Queensland Government buyout scheme.

When asked what it would mean for her and her mother to leave the area, Jessica replied: “Everything”.

“It’s not sustainable to live in fear of being flooded all the time.

“It’s one of those things you don’t forget.”

A ruined and muddy kitchen.
The Hellwigs had only finished renovating the day before when floodwaters entered their home.(Provided: Jessica Hellwig)

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 technologies and innovations in mapping to arm residents with the latest and best flood information available,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Council will use new data obtained following the 2022 weather event to update the existing knowledge base on flood studies.

“Data from the recent weather event will be used to inform future updates as soon as possible.”

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