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Property prices in the Byron Bay region could tumble as record-breaking floods decimate communities, but experts say buyers will have to be quick to snap up a bargain.
Entire homes, shops and businesses have been completely submerged in the unprecedented floods that have swept through Lismore and Ballina, in the NSW Northern Rivers, for the second time this month.
Lismore – which is positioned in a flood plane – was the worst hit, with water levels peaking at 9m in early March, and 11.4m overnight on Wednesday.
Even Byron Bay, which is by the ocean and tends to experience shorter flash floods, saw the main street submerged with water during the deluge this week.
Within the last year, homes in the area have almost doubled in value in the sleepy towns, but real estate agents say a price drop could be on the cards as people reconsider whether they want to invest in a disaster zone.
Peter Carmont, from Property Professionals, has been selling houses in the Ballina, Byron Bay and Lismore area for 30 years and told Daily Mail Australia that data gathered from previous floods shows prices could fall between six and 10 per cent.
Byron Bay saw floods this week after a deluge swept across the Northern Rivers of NSW. Pictured: People walking through floods in Byron Bay on Wednesday
Byron Bay (pictured during dryer times) is a tourist and celebrity hotspot where the median house price sits at around $3million
In February – the month before disaster struck – properties in Lismore were at at $512,000, up from $378,000 in March last year. The median house price in Ballina was at $900,000 in February after peaking at $680,000 a year ago.
Buyers paid around $2.5million for a home in Byron Bay in March 2021, but homes in cost an average of $3million last month.
‘We’ve seen price drops between six and ten per cent before – there’s an apprehension from buyers,’ Mr Carmont said, referencing floods in 2017, and previously in 1989, 1974 and 1954.
‘But now we’ve had two incidents in a four-week period and we’re on national news – I have had emails from people who say they won’t buy in Ballina.’
‘I don’t see an upward trend.’
Pictured: A woman standing in floodwater in Lismore on Thursday morning. The region has seen its second flood in a month
Floodwaters inundate a road in Lismore where swathes of residents have been forced to evacuate their homes
Pictured: Lismore, before the floods hit in March. Median house prices almost doubled over the past year
Mr Carmont has sold residential properties within the last month, but the houses have either been outside flood zones or only saw small amounts of water damage.
Gai Mason, from Byron Ballina Property in Lismore, said there will likely be a number of houses on the market going for less than they were a month ago – but that will attract people who want to snap up a bargain.
‘While there are certainly houses still selling, I don’t think there’s as much of a demand to buy property because of the fact that people are having trouble getting in and out of the area because of the water,’ she said.
‘But then everyone will want to get off the flat and they’ll be buying up everything else, out of flood zones.’
Many people were evacuated and lost all their belongings in the floods when they swept though Lismore, twice (pictured)
One real estate agent who works in Byron Bay (pictured) said prices in Lismore will likely be more impacted by the freak weather events
She said properties have been sold in the last few months that are now underwater, but any house that survived the floods will eventually be worth more.
Realtor Ed Silk, who runs Ed Silk Byron Bay, hesitantly said that prices in flood-ravaged regions could very likely see a drop.
‘Generally, my logic says that if there are properties in Lismore that have been flooded twice in a couple of weeks, that are uninhabitable, what’s going to happen to their value?’ he asked.
‘Who would be buying a house in a known flood area that’s been destroyed?’
Mr Silk’s business focuses on properties in Byron Bay itself, but he doesn’t see the recent weather events having an impact on housing prices in the small town – which has become a a new celebrity hotspot, and the focus of Netflix series Byron Baes.
People walk through floodwater on March 30, 2022 in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales
‘Because Byron is small geographically, supply is low and demand is high, so I’d say my guess is prices will remain the same,’ he said.
Data from CoreLogic, a leading authority on property prices, suggests property sales and listings in all three towns have dropped, but realtors say it’s too soon to tell what the overall impact of the floods will be.
On Thursday morning, former Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson said the town is a ‘living example of poor planning 100 years ago’.
‘It’s actually below the waterline in a wetlands – you wouldn’t build a town there now for quids,’ he said.
‘The water gets captured in Byron like in a wok.’
Ms Mason said some areas of Byron Bay ‘aren’t as well planned as they could be’, while Mr Silk agreed that the area has a lot of water because, 100 years ago, people relied on water to travel and export commodities down to Sydney.
Ballina has also been underwater this month, with 920mm of rain recorded on Wednesday (pictured)
‘Why was Lismore built on the river?’ he asked. ‘Because that’s how they got produce in and out, but they wouldn’t build it like that again.
‘We make plans that make sense at the time – they were doing their best, but it’s nice that Simon had that thought,’ he added.
As of Thursday morning, there were 6,000 homes without power across the Northern Rivers
The NSW State Emergency Service (SES) responded to more than 100 call for help overnight on Wednesday, along with 11 rescues.
In Lismore, the river is at 10.7m with waters receding.
NSW SES Deputy Commissioner Daniel Austin has warned that while the threat of flash flooding from rainfall is diminished, ‘significant riverine flooding’ was still ongoing.
‘That water needs to discharge through these systems,’ he said.
‘The riverine threat is certainly not over at this point in time.’
The SES received just over 100 calls for assistance in the past 24 hours, including 11 flood rescues.