Four Brisbane families have been dealt a devastating blow after a “greedy” developer pulled out at the last second, leaving them “in limbo”.
Lisa Johnson and her husband began planning their “dream home” in February 2021 – but just 15 months later, that dream is in tatters.
The nightmare began early last year, when the Johnsons and three other families decided to buy a subdivided block of land on Elizabeth St in Brisbane’s Everton Hills.
The contract was signed and a deposit paid in February 2021, with the couple told at the time it would only take a couple of months for the paperwork to be completed, with the build then “good to go”.
But months of delays followed, with the would-be homeowners asked for extensions on the so-called “sunset clause” – which allows parties to exit the contract after the stated expiry date.
Along the way, the four families say they were continually assured all was well – but earlier this month, the unthinkable happened, with a legal email revealing the developer had pulled out at the last moment.
While the families are entitled to get their deposits repaid in full, Ms Johnson said the couple would be left “thousands and thousands of dollars” out of pocket after forking out for items and services associated with the build.
But even more devastating is the fact that over the last 15 months, the property market has gone through the roof, effectively pricing the family out in the time their project was languishing.
In fact, the mother of two said her family would have paid around $850,000 to build their brand new, four bedroom, 2.5 bathroom family home – but a similar home today would cost up to $1.5 million, a price well outside the family’s reach and representing a loss of around $650,000.
“The developer just gets to walk away and wash their hands of it,” an emotional Ms Johnson told news.com.au.
“My husband and I are in our 50s – we have around 15 years left (before retirement) and that was our chance to have our home.
“Not only have they taken that away, but they’ve also taken any chance we had of getting in the market now.
“That’s why it hurts – they strung us along by our heartstrings, and the law is there to protect them; there’s nothing to protect the little people, the battlers who are desperately trying to get a home to live in.”
The social worker said the families were given no explanation as to why the developer, LHI One Pty Ltd, had terminated the contract, and that she believed it was because they had realized that prices had exploded since the initial contract was signed, meaning the developer could vastly boost their earnings by canceling and reselling.
“Something has to change because these developers are greedy,” Ms Johnson said.
“They can turn around and sell the land for at least $200,000 more for each block, and leave us destitute with no chance of getting anything.
“It’s just heartbreaking – I’m a pretty resilient person, but this has really knocked me. It’s a real kick in the guts.”
Julie Lyne, who had a contract on a block next to the Johnsons, told news.com.au what was happening was “wrong”.
“Why put us through that mental instability and financial struggle and then turn around and pull the pin?” she said.
“Being used as a back-up plan is wrong. We work hard and we don’t ask for much – we just wanted a home.
“Our life was in limbo and we were just put on hold … while every month that passed, the price of houses went up and up and up. We’re absolutely devastated.”
The affected families have sought legal advice and have been informed the situation was a “grey area” and that they would have to consult with a barrister, making the battle too expensive to pursue.
They said they had since heard of many similar cases across the country, and said a change in legislation was needed to protect hardworking families.
News.com.au attempted to contact the developer via their lawyer but a response was not received.