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In at ground level | The West Australian

Even in times of economic uncertainty, a bargain can be a powerful motivator. Such was the case at 34 Lawler Street, South Perth, which was purchased in 2003 by an investor from Hong Kong.

Over two decades, the home was never lived in, nor was any maintenance performed – though the power, water and rates bills were paid.

When the owner passed away earlier this year, the neglected property was suddenly on the market, and RWR Real Estate Director Mark Robinson said in 35 years of real estate, he had never seen anything like it.

“I’ve never seen a modern home – because this was only built in the 90s – allowed to deteriorate so far,” he said.

“Everyone will do maintenance. A house probably needs two to five grand in maintenance a year, and if you don’t do it for 20 years, you’ve saved $100,000. But you can clearly see where they should have spent it.

“This was just a unique owner who was happy to leave his property and hope one day it would be valuable no matter what.”

While the damage was mostly cosmetic, Mr Robinson believed there was easily between $100,000 to $150,000 worth of repairs required. The carpet had to be removed due to water damage, the kitchen and bathrooms needed replacing and even the curtains had become shredded.

“The air-conditioning hadn’t been serviced on the roof for 20 years, so that would have been rusted out,” he said, adding the hot-water system was similarly dilapidated.

“There was bougainvillea right over the house, two storeys high. There was chocolate brick paving underneath an inch of dirt. We didn’t know a brick shed existed until the gardeners came in for three days to prune and cut it all out and said ‘there’s a shed in there’.”

34 Lawler Street, South Perth before the gardeners were called in.
Camera Icon34 Lawler Street, South Perth before the gardeners were called in. Credit: Supplied.

Initially the property was listed in March on the exact weekend coronavirus restrictions were announced. With home opens and auctions off the table, Mr Robinson decided to delay putting the home on the market.

“We wanted to auction it because it was a deceased estate, and the connotations are you get a big following because everyone’s after a bargain,” he said. “So we just canned the idea of putting it on the market.

“And then, when we got the lifting of the restrictions, it went to market and was trampled with activity.”

The first week, Mr Robinson had an unprecedented 35 groups through the home open, about 60 to 70 people. Then, the government announced the $25,000 renovation grant.

“It was that busy we would have had probably 20 emails a day, 20 phone calls a day. I would say probably 180 through the property,” he said.

“It was unbelievable considering we’ve had a restriction in the market.”

On June 27, the day of the auction, the entire road was blocked off to accommodate attendance of more than 100 people, Mr Robinson said. The home sold for $760,000.

“It flew from 500 to 600, to 700,” he said. “When I spoke to some of the bidders, they said, ‘we got blown away. We never got a chance to put our hand up’.”

According to Mr Robinson, there is always a bargain to be had when something is poorly presented, and this home presented a fantastic opportunity.

“The average buyer for this property was thinking, ‘how do I get into South Perth at entry-level?’,” he said.

“Anything that is four-bedroom, two-bathroom on 309sqm in a good location is $900,000-plus.

“The buyer was very astute and owns quite a bit of property. They saw it as a project to undertake in a great location.

“They got a very good buy.”

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