by Eynas Brodie (Australian Property Investor Magazine – September 2013)
After 24 years in real estate, Chris Warren thought he’d seen it all but nothing prepared him for the bizarre discovery he made at a house he was selling just three days before settlement.
It was a a day that started out like any other for Chris Warren of Remax Colonial in Annerley, Brisbane. He was due to meet the buyers of a house he’d sold for a pre-settlement inspection three days before handing over the keys. There had been a problem with the dishwasher and the buyers wanted to make sure it had been resolved.
As he routinely does, Chris drove out to the property ahead of time so that he could do a quick walk through and make sure everything was in order.
“I just walked into the house as normal and I thought ‘I’d better make sure the water is running okay for the dishwasher’,” he says.
He turned a tap on inside the house, but nothing happened.
“I knew a plumber had been out to fix the pool so I thought he might have turned the water off,” Chris says. “So I went and turned the water on from the mains outside, but then I heard water gushing at the front of the house.”
Alarmed, Chris turned the mains off and rushed over to where the gushing sound had come from.
“There was no tap at the front of the yard,” he says. “I went out the back and there was no tap there either!” The taps in the external laundry had also disappeared.
“I could see how all the pipes had been cut off,” Chris says. It was at that moment that the husband and wife buying the property arrived for their inspection, forcing Chris to explain what had happened. The husband, who was shorter than Chris’ six feet, volunteered to crawl under the house and inspect the rest of the plumbing.
“He went under and called out ‘they’ve taken more than the taps – the hot water service is gone too!’” The trio worked out that all the copper piping from under and around the house had been stolen.
“I rang the owner in Sydney and he was aghast,” Chris says. “With our legislation in Queensland being the way it is, the responsibility fell on the buyers because they had to take insurance out over the property when they signed the contract. They knew, and the owner knew, that once we got the insurance company involved, it would be a nightmare because of the excess on the policy, police reports and a delay in settlement.”
Although the police were immediately notified that a theft had occurred at the property, the hassle of making an insurance claim and having to postpone settlement was avoided when the seller agreed to take $1000 off the sale price the next day.
“The buyers were happy with that, as they had intended to install a solar hot water service anyway,” Chris says. “Funnily enough, we found out from one of the neighbours that a young guy had walked the street asking for a set of tools because he was moving house,” he adds.
“Someone in the next street had lent him his tools and he never got them back.” Not only that but a few hours after the theft had been discovered, the buyers saw two men wheeling a hot water service on a trolley down a side street. They confronted them but the suspects told them they owned the hot water service and were taking it to be traded in. The buyers felt sure the pair were lying but were powerless to do anything.
A nearby scrap metal dealer also confirmed two young men had been in to sell some copper piping for $50, but again the buyers couldn’t prove a connection to the theft.
“I’d been at the property the day before just to make sure the house was vacant and it was all okay, so it must have been that night that it happened,” Chris says.
While the experience, which Chris describes as the “most bizarre” he’s seen in his 24 years of selling real estate, initially left the buyers with a few reservations about the neighbourhood
they were moving into, Chris says the friendliness of the neighbours who helped them doorknock houses for information allayed their concerns.
It was just one of those things that can happen to anyone anywhere, Chris says. “It could have been a huge drama, but I had the right buyers and the right sellers and settlement just went
through smoothly. “The buyers knew it wasn’t the owner’s fault. “Luckily the thieves didn’t get inside the house.