It took less than an hour for Harcourts Ascot to go from being one of the most stylish offices in the group to being a metre under water.
At 12pm on Sunday, 27 February, the agency in Brisbane’s north east looked pristine, but by 1pm water from the nearby Brisbane River was lapping at the top of the agents’ desks.
Harcourts Ascot Director Jacqui Bartholomeusz said she was alerted to the rapidly unfolding crisis by her son.
“We have a coffee cart in our courtyard area and my son was sitting there having coffee at 12pm and then at 1pm the coffee man called him and said, ‘There’s a metre of water through the office’,” she said.
“Everything was perfectly OK at 12pm but by 1pm it was very different.
“The trouble was, the water came down the street and took all of the bark from the park, which then blocked up all the drains.
“Once that was cleared the water disappeared as quickly as it came, but the damage was done.
“We had a metre of water right through the shop, up to the top of the desk.”
But there’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the best in people, and Jacqui said within minutes the team and their extended families, along with some clients, had arrived to start the clean-up.
She said it was a shock to see the office, which only opened in 2020, in such a state, given it had not long ago won the Office Presentation of the Year award for Harcourts.
“Now we’ve got the challenge in front of us to win that award twice,” Ms Bartholomeusz said with optimism.
“We got the whole place gutted and the carpet pulled up and everything done by Sunday afternoon, which I think has saved our walls and an awful extra lot of work.”
Ms Bartholomeusz said her other offices at Clayfield, Nundah and Banyo were all unaffected and phones had been diverted to Clayfield, while extra office space had been set up at that agency too.
“There’s been zero business interruption,” she said.
“We knew that come Monday, everything would have to be about all of our tenants and owners, so that’s why getting everything else done on Sunday was so important.”
Ms Bartholomeusz said about 120 of the agency’s rental properties had been flood affected and now the property managers were fielding calls about damages, repairs, and finding some tenants new homes.
But she said the number one task was to “listen to people”.
“That’s our top priority, to listen to people,” she said.
“We’ve got extra staff in and part-time staff are working full-time to field all of the calls, to listen to people and to get back to people.
“Communication is so important, it’s the tenant’s home and they are anxious about wet carpet and all of those sorts of things.
“We’re getting dryers in and we have a fantastic band of tradespeople that we work with that are doing an amazing amount of work.”
But Ms Bartholomeusz said there was one awful situation she could do little to change and yet it still weighs heavily on her mind.
“It’s the heartbreak of only being able to lease one property to one person and to have five families that have all lost their homes,” she explained.
“They all want that one property and we can only give it away once.
“That’s something I had forgotten from the last Brisbane floods, but I’ve remembered it very quickly because there are people with tears in their eyes because we didn’t give them a property.
“All of the applications are equally deserving but literally only one family can have it.”
Ms Bartholomeusz said she expected there to be more cases like that in the coming days, especially considering there were already low vacancy rates.
“That’s the hardest part, you just want to help everyone and there’s only so many properties available,” she said.
“On top of that so many investment properties were sold over the past 12 months so there is going to be a real struggle for appropriate housing, especially in areas with schools and where families live.”
Ms Bartholomeusz said the ramifications of the floods would be felt for a while yet. She said some tenants had been unable to vacate on time as roads were cut, while others were unable to move in for the same reasons.
She said the key in the coming days and weeks would be communication, patience and understanding as property managers, landlords and tenants worked together.
Ms Bartholomeusz paid homage to her team’s dedication, especially given some of them had suffered flood damage at home as well.
“I’ve also had messages from other Harcourts business owners from Mackay to the Gold Coast offering to get on the phones or log into our system to help us,” she said.
“The support you feel in times like this is amazing.”