Developers cashing in on Homebush properties

Former Homebush resident Mark Wang lived at his Loftus Crescent home for more than 16 years. It was the perfect spot for him to raise his young family, close to public transportation, some of the state’s best schools and good amenities.

But three years ago, Mr Wang received a knock on his door from a real estate agent with an offer for his property.

It was the start of what he considers a nightmare becoming increasingly common in a Strathfield suburb earmarked for massive growth.

Things have become so concerning, NSW MP Jodi McKay has issued a warning and called for greater awareness.

“This area of Homebush is heavily under development and the issue is that residents, especially the elderly and young families, are being taken advantage of,” said Ms McKay.

“And the thing about the Homebush area is that there are a lot of sick and aged residents who have been there for decades and they do not want to move out.

“The residents are being bullied and there needs to be greater awareness of what’s happening in the area.”

Urban Growth NSW, which handles many of the state’s biggest projects, told the Scene: “UrbanGrowth NSW is aware that some people have been pressured to sell their property by agents or developers. These people cannot force you to sell your home.

“It has been stated by some that homes have been rezoned. This is not true. The Parramatta Road Urban Transformation Strategy is a long-term plan, it is still a draft and will be subject to change. If you are uncertain about what to do, take skilled advice from someone you can trust. This might be your solicitor or a friend who understands the NSW planning system.”

Ever since the NSW Government announced Homebush – a neighbourhood renowned for its village atmosphere, proximity to transport, shops, schools and Olympic Park – was earmarked for massive growth, it has been the centre of a property goldrush.

The announcement kick-started a hunt to create development land parcels. Last year’s soaring prices helped produce the perfect environment for big money deals. 

While the Parramatta Road growth corridor is well known among construction companies and real estate agents, many residents didn’t understand the link between the new high-rise apartments and the sudden demand for their own homes. There was little warning and no-one was charged with keeping them informed.

Many have told the Sceneduring a special investigation that they have been harassed and harangued by real estate agents and developers on the prowl for large profits.

Some are elderly, sick or have young families.

Agents looking to build land parcels have been door knocking streets, offering below-market prices – and warning that if they weren’t accepted, residents would find themselves living on a building site with no chance of selling their homes.

They have been told to try to persuade their neighbours to join them, and option-to-purchase documents we have seen include get-out clauses if adjourning properties weren’t included in the deal. At least one resident said the result has been to turn neighbour against neighbour.

The Loftus Crescent precinct has been earmarked by the state government as a crucial hub to accommodate Sydney’s growing population. The Homebush/North Strathfield precinct alone is set to house an additional 60,000 new homes due to its proximity to three railway stations and distance from the Sydney CBD.

But all of this will come at a cost to the existing residents. Everyone accepts the area will change. But those wanting to cash in and get out need to beware, according to those who have had experience of how the market is operating.

“I was approached by a real estate agent. He first offered me $600,000 for my property and then $700,000 and then $750,000 and then $800,000,” Mr Wang told the Scene.

“I was harassed constantly. The agent would sometimes knock on my door at 7.30 at night. He said that if I didn’t sell up, the developers would just build around me.

“I have two young children under the age of five and I was scared for them. I was scared for their safety. So I consider I was forced to sell.”

Mr Wang finally sold his property for $1.027  million – an amazing $427,000 above the first offer.

“Under the terms of settlement, I wasn’t paid the full amount I sold my property for until 18 months later.

“I had to rent for several months because I didn’t have the money to be able to buy a house.

“And when I finally got the money, I wasn’t able to afford a house around Homebush. I was completely priced out because the cost of the houses in the area had increased so much.

“I was finally able to buy a semi-detached house in South Strathfield, which wasn’t ideal, but it will do. I wanted to buy some land for my children to be able to play in.

“But I guess I was lucky. One of my neighbours sold her property for only $800,000 while my other neighbor was able to negotiate $1.2 million. I feel we are being ripped off and taken advantage of.”

Gary lives on Knight Street in a block of four apartments. He is one of the residents who refused to move out.

“My neighbours and I have been told that the developer will just build around us. Well so be it. We’re not moving,” he told the Scene.

On Parramatta Road, Tony Mattar has owned his shop for more than 30 years. He now runs it with his son George. Mr Mattar said he and his neighbours have been harassed.

“We have received four offers to my family, the first starting at $500,000,” says George Mattar. “I got a valuation for the property three months ago and I was told it was valued at $1.5 million. The most we were ever offered is $800,000 during the height of the boom.

“It is insulting what is happening to the residents and business owners in the area.

“The agents even tell us to not speak to our neighbours and pit us against one another so they can get the best price.”

The Scenespoke to six families for this story.

Many were so worried about the fate of their most expensive investment, they asked us not to publish their names.

They claim developers are prepared to pay big bonuses to those who bring them good property deals at low prices.

Tony Papas from Emerald Realty has been dealing in property in the area for some time. He has sold several properties around the Loftus Crescent and Knight Street area. Most of the vendors, he says, are happy with the outcome.

“I’m very honest about everything and I have many happy vendors that I’ve dealt with. But you can’t make everyone happy. What people don’t realise that if the vendor doesn’t get the best price, then I won’t get the best price either,” he said.

“I work to get amalgamated land parcels and I am working in the vendors best interest. I work with Lebanese, Chinese and local developers so I’m not bound to just one developer.

“But I never charge both the vendors and developers commission because that would be highly illegal. I’ve been in the business a long time and I would never do that.”


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