A big part of a Property Valuer’s unique and diverse work is going out on the road, inspecting houses and meeting homeowners. Within WBP Group, we hear countless stories everyday of people’s affinity to their properties, but these recent encounters by our NSW Property Valuer, Simon Harriott, touches on communities in bushfire-affected areas and the property insights behind what we only sometimes see as numbers.
Seeing the devastation face to face is quite confronting.
My previous experience with these calamities would bring me to streets where properties were completely wiped out. I would receive property valuation requests for homes that have now become debris on vacant land. But the opposite can be seen when you look at the locals. Where there is destruction, there is a build-up of unity in the community.
Much like how bushfire-affected residents bounce back, the Australian property industry usually regains its footing. Typically, even better in rural areas. A good example was the 2013 fires from Winmalee and Yellow Rock which started from a tree branch falling on a high tension power line. The fire travelled rapidly. Many residents lost their homes and almost everything they owned. Within a few weeks though, people’s resilience took hold. The locals rose to the challenge and homes were quickly rebuilt. Real estate agents from impacted areas were receiving calls from all over Sydney asking if any vacant land was for sale. Eventually, prices grew quite well in the area. Growth in Winmalee, in 2013 was below the Blue Mountains’ average, being 4.25% compared to 5.38%. However, growth was higher in 2014 being 10.83% compared to Blue Mountains as a whole being 9.49%.
|Year||Growth in Winmalee||Growth in Blue Mountains|
Houses being built were considerably larger and have better quality than the one’s destroyed. Winmalee was typically known for entry level specs, 1980s – 1990s brick and tile project dwellings. Newer dwellings were required to be built to higher specifications due to fire regulations, but the availability of finance through lending policies at that time meant owners were not only building bigger, more modern dwellings, they were also being built to meet new BASIX compliance.
This recent bushfire that has affected the Blue Mountains is also impacting another industry that’s important to this area which is tourism. With hundreds and thousands of acres in the mountains lost, we’re noticing significantly reduced numbers of tourists. Locals and businesses in the upper Blue Mountains suburbs that have a strong percentage of holiday and bed and breakfast accommodation have suffered greatly from the recent tragedy. Due to the recent losses in the area, primarily in the holiday rental market, properties will possibly get listed for sale and this could create the potential of oversupply.
During the wake of the disaster, people were emotionally charged with sorrow and anger as initial reaction to what just happened. I found that being open and honest while doing inspections always puts people at ease. As Property Valuers, we are accustomed to empathise with people who consider their homes as an extension of who they are. You learn to read people quickly when they talk about their property. Hearing all their stories could become emotionally draining. What made this all the harder was due to the fact that fires were contained under a kilometre from my house. I am very fortunate that I have a wonderful wife who understands the job, as she’s also a Property Valuer. We draw strength and insight from each other.
I remind our fellow Sydneysiders that we’re open for business. We have some of the best views, food and coffee around and they should visit nearby affected areas and support our local businesses. My hot tip for coffee or lunch is Mountain High Pies in Wentworth Falls. Get some take away and go have a picnic at Wentworth Falls Lake. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the weather, playgrounds for the kids and then have a stroll around Leura, Wentworth Falls or Leura villages. It’s a wonderful place. If you’re feeling more adventurous there are plenty of walking tracks for all levels of ability with stunning lookouts with parking nearby. Here’s one I took myself:
With everyone’s support, our communities will definitely rise from the rubble.
Simon Harriott operates in regional NSW around the areas of Blue Mountains for the past 15 years.