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Cunnamulla council becomes its own real estate service to tackle housing crisis


An outback Queensland council is playing the role of matchmaker in Cunnamulla, but it’s not bachelors and spinsters they are trying to unite in the small town.

Faced with a shortage of housing stock and dozens of empty homes falling into disrepair, Paroo Shire Council took action 18 months ago — and it’s paying off.

“We’re a little bit like a dating agency for properties,” said economic development officer Shelly Holland, who’s been driving the council’s special social media project.

“People come to me looking for a property or investment opportunity, and we can actually match them up with someone who’s got something to sell.”

A big, old, blue, orange and yellow Queenslander sits on stilts behind a purple bougainvillea
This old Queenslander was on the market for $125,000.(Supplied: Shelly Holland)

Ms Holland said without a permanent real estate agent in town, the council saw an opportunity to help with the housing crisis.

“We decided to set up a free community service and put it on a Facebook page called Cunnamulla Real Estate to help people find their dream homes.

“We started off finding people to purchase the older properties, and many of them are from deceased estates that have been sitting with families who’ve been unsure what to do with them.”

A woman with dark hair in a blue shirt smiles in front of a modern building.
Ms Holland says houses range in price from $37,000 to $300,000.(ABC Western Qld: Melanie Groves)

Ms Holland works with the parties as they contemplate whether to develop or renovate the properties.

“In many cases the owners do want to sell them on so they can perhaps put the money back into their own house and do that up as well.”

Destination Cunnamulla

Homes in the town are still bought and sold through the “bush telegraph”, but the council’s free real estate service is being credited with bringing a surge of investment and new blood to the region.

A woman, man, and child lean on the front of their ute in front of a brick house.
The Stones bought the 550-square-metre ex-RSL building in the centre of town.(ABC Western Qld: Melanie Groves)

Julie Stone from the Whitsundays more than 1,000 kilometres away moved with her husband and son to Cunnamulla after seeing one of the council’s social media posts.

At the time they didn’t even know where the outback town was but fell in love with the old RSL building that they are now restoring to its former glory.

“We’ve been renovating the unit so we’ve got somewhere nice to live, and then we will progress into the RSL section of the building,” Ms Stone said.

She said the renovation plans were not finalised but might include beauty services, accommodation and a bar or cafe depending “what the town needs”.

And with plenty of work to be done amid a trade and material shortage, the couple has been resourceful in order to renovate their large space.

Tapping into small-town community spirit, they’re helping paint another local’s house in exchange for getting the floors sanded in their unit.

“We absolutely love it,” Ms Stone said.

“There’s no airs and graces, it’s just relaxed and everyone’s happy to help each other out.

“It’s really friendly, we really like the town and the good community feel.”

New energy, new blood

The Stone family is among investors, renovators and home owners who have bought into Cunnamulla this year, bringing the potential of new business while increasing the cash flow of existing ones.

Council chief executive Cassie White welcomed the new arrivals.

“We’re seeing lots of new energy and new blood coming to town,” Ms White said.

“New blood tends to bring new ideas and families into the community.

“That’s desperately needed, particularly since the industries have changed and drought has caused a lot of families to disband out of the area.”

An old room, with dilapidated furniture and fabric strewn across the room.
The properties range from empty blocks to homes that just need a lick of paint.(ABC Western Qld: Melanie Groves)

Boosted by the creation of the Facebook page in April, Ms Holland said council had helped facilitate the sale of more than 30 properties, even luring interstate buyers.

“If we’d managed to have sold two properties and got them done up and put back onto the rental market, we would have considered that a really big win,” she said.

“One post I put up, within four or five hours it had reached 83,675 people and it was a house that couldn’t currently be lived in.”

Ms Holland said the council hoped to increase the town’s population by 10 per cent within five years.

“Looking at the interest and those properties that are being turned over, we may well and truly increase that target as well.”


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