‘Left in limbo’: $650k dream home hell

Four Brisbane families have been dealt a devastating blow after a “greedy” developer pulled out at the last minute, leaving them “in limbo”.

Lisa Johnson and her husband started planning their ‘dream home’ in February 2021 – but just 15 months later, that dream is in tatters.

The nightmare started early last year when the Johnsons and three other families decided to buy a divided plot of land on Elizabeth St in Brisbane’s Everton Hills.

The contract was signed and a deposit was paid in February 2021, with the couple being told at the time that it would only take a few months to complete the paperwork, after which construction would be “good to go”.

But months of delay followed, with the potential homeowners asking for an extension of the so-called “sunset clause” – which allows parties to terminate the contract after its stated expiration date.

Along the way, the four families say they were constantly assured that everything was in order, but earlier this month the unthinkable happened, with a legal email stating that the developer had pulled out at the last minute.

While the families are entitled to have their down payments refunded in full, Ms. Johnson said the couple would be left with “thousands and thousands of dollars” out of pocket after they paid for items and services related to construction.

But even more devastating is the fact that the real estate market has gone through the roof in the past 15 months, effectively paying the family over the time their project languishes.

The mother of two even said her family would have paid about $850,000 to build their brand new four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom family home — but a similar home would cost up to $1.5 million today, a price far beyond the family’s reach is and represents a loss of approximately $650,000.

“The developer can just walk away and wash their hands,” an emotional Ms Johnson told news.com.au.

“My husband and I are in our 50s – we have about 15 years to go (before we retire) and that was our chance to have our home.

“Not only did they take that away, but they took every opportunity we had to get to the market now.

“That’s why it hurts – they have tied us to our hearts, and the law is there to protect them; there’s nothing to protect the little people, the warriors desperately trying to get a home to live in.”

The social worker said the families were not given an explanation as to why the developer, LHI One Pty Ltd, had terminated the contract, and that she believed it was because they realized that prices had exploded since the first contract was signed, meaning that the developer can greatly increase their revenue by canceling and resale.

“Something has to change because these developers are greedy,” Ms Johnson said.

“They can turn around and sell the land for at least $200,000 more for each block, and leave us penniless with no chance of getting anything.

“It’s just heartbreaking – I’m a pretty resilient person, but this really touched me. It’s a real kick in the ass.”

Julie Lyne, who was contracted on a block next to the Johnsons, told news.com.au what happened was “wrong”.

“Why would you help us through that mental instability and financial struggle and then turn us around and take the pin out?” she said.

“It is wrong to be used as a backup plan. We work hard and don’t ask for much – we just wanted a house.

“Our lives were in limbo and we were just put on hold… as each month that went by, the price of houses went up and up and up. We are absolutely devastated.”

The affected families have sought legal advice and been informed that the situation was a “grey area” and that they should consult a lawyer, making the fight too expensive to continue.

They said they had heard many similar cases across the country since then and said a change in the law was needed to protect hard-working families.

News.com.au tried to contact the developer through their attorney, but received no response.

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