Real estate agencies in flood-ravaged northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland have urged others to set aside some profits every month, with their ‘rainy day’ disaster funds now coming in handy.
With thousands of properties across Australia’s East Coast damaged or uninhabitable as a result of recent torrential flooding, agencies are now missing out on the management fees that form a decent chunk of their revenue.
In Brisbane, Harcourts Ascot Director Jacqui Bartholomeusz said 120 rental properties were flood damaged, including some they had to reduce the rent on, while four were completely uninhabitable.
“That comes at a time when you’ve got more staff working too,” she explained.
“Our part-time and casual staff are working more hours.
“We’ve only had four evacuated but we’ve had rent reductions on others as parts of the property was not able to be used.”
But Ms Bartholomeusz said a savings strategy she implemented at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was now providing a safety net.
“When Covid hit I made a point of keeping about 5 per cent of the monthly rental income in case we had long periods of reduced management fees,” she said.
“That’s a discipline I’ve continued so it didn’t really worry me when we were hit with the floods and had to give out rent reductions.”
Ms Bartholomeusz said she hadn’t tapped into the safety net fund just yet, but it provided great reassurance that her business was protected.
“If Covid taught us anything, it taught us that life can change pretty quickly,” she said.
“I’m responsible for 31 families, staff, and I’d hate to make a decision that could compromise them. It’s our responsibility as business owners to do what we can to protect our businesses.”
As the Director of the Elders Lifestyle Group, which has 12 offices in the NSW Northern Rivers and mid-north coast, David Gray also noted he had funds set aside in case of emergencies like the recent flooding of his Lismore office.
Over 200 properties on the Elders Lifestyle Group rent roll were impacted by flood waters, with many properties now uninhabitable.
“There are good days and bad days running a business,” he explained.
“It’s a bit like being a farmer, not every year will be a good year and now’s the time I need to give back.”
Mr Gray noted the funds he had set aside in the good times would now be used to ensure he could support his staff emotionally and retain his entire team, despite fewer properties under management.
In the interim, he and his team are working to help affected landlords and tenants to ensure those properties will come back to their agency when they’ve been repaired or rebuilt.
Mr Gray noted he also intends to work with his suppliers to seek assistance where it’s available.
“We’ll be tight, we’ll be sensible and we’ll get back before the next harvest,” he said.
“There is no talk of lost income. We’re in a financial position to ensure no team members are lost, that the business is sound, and that we’ll come back from this.”