Waubra resident Emma Morvell needed a valuation of her Settlement Road home.
“I wanted to see if we had enough equity to buy a block of ground and build away from Waubra,” the 27-year old shearing contractor said. “Windfarms don’t worry me, we just wanted acres.”
Ms Morvell and husband, Brett, have lived on the four-acre property for six years. It was the former home of Mr Morvell’s grandparents.
“We had two agents visit,” Ms Morvell explained. “One valued us at $300,000 and he said we’d have trouble selling because of the turbines.” He said 75 per cent of people are not interested in Waubra.
“The other agent valued our property at $275,000 but because of the turbines he said he could only put $245,000 on it.”
Ms Morvell said a bank valuer put $310,000 on the place.
“The valuer said, depending on the location and proximity to turbines, there was at least a flat 5 per cent discount.”
Ms Morvell said she and her husband had since decided not to sell. The couple have two small children and the nearest turbine is a couple of kilometres away.
“It’s not worth losing 40 or 50 grand over it,” she said.
“I wasn’t against the turbines, but I am now.”
Property values near turbines have become the new battleground in the rapidly escalating windfarm war.
Turbine developers say stories like Ms Morvell’s are anecdotal and one-off, and not supported by research.
Meanwhile, a burgeoning number of vendors and agents are becoming more strident in their claims that living near proposed or actual windfarms is not good for financial health.
At Chepstowe, 35 km west of Ballarat, Margaret and Mal Leontic have been trying to sell their 22-acre hobby farm for 10 months.
They’ve had three offers, all accepted, but the sales fell through when the potential buyers found out about the pending Chepstowe and Stockyard Hill windfarms.
“We felt compelled to tell them, of course,” Mrs Leontic, 70, said.
Mrs Leontic said their house is 2.5km from the nearest planned Chepstowe turbine and about 7.8km from the nearest planned Stockyard Hill turbine.
“We’re both in our 70s and we need to be somewhere in town for health reasons.”
Mrs Leontic wrote to Premier Ted Baillieu about the matter.
“I am quite bluntly terrified that my home will be devalued to such a state that we will not be able to afford an aged care retirement village unit,” she wrote.
But for the Clean Energy Council, representing the alternative energy industry, the value of properties goes up and down for a wide range of reasons, and turbines can’t be named as a factor.
Policy director Russell Marsh said: “Supply and demand, proximity to amenities and infrastructure, housing affordability and the desirability of the location can all have an impact.” If someone is having trouble selling their property and it is near a wind turbine, there could be half a dozen other reasons to explain why this is the case.”
Mr Marsh quoted a study prepared for the NSW Valuer-General in 2009 that found no discernable adverse effects on the value of real estate near wind farms, including Waubra.
Mr Marsh said it was not an issue that the research was undertaken well before the health effects controversy at Waubra had taken off publicly. He called any claims about adverse effects on adjoining property “speculative at best”.
But maybe it is rural real estate agents who are best equipped to comment. They are, after all, at the coal face of the rural wind farm real estate market.
But they are, it seems, least likely to speak up. Several local agents marketing property at Waubra either declined to comment or didn’t return calls.
One agent agreed it was common practice now to market Waubra property as being “Ballarat district” because the wind farm’s name was not seen as a positive.
In an email to a client, a Melbourne-based national sales manager for a rural real estate group said wind towers were seen by the majority of the market as “repulsive”.
The sales manager compared turbines to high voltage lines, rubbish tips, piggeries, hatcheries and sewerage treatment plants.
“If buyers are given a choice, they choose not to be near any of these impediments to value,” he said.
A spokesman for the Real Estate Institute of Victoria said sales data for Waubra, as well as nearby Addington and Evansford, was too small to draw conclusive evidence about price trends.
One local realtor was prepared to speak out.
Neville Dooly has been an agent for 23 years, and with PRD Jens Gaunt for three.
He said PRD Jens Gaunt was the dominant agent at Waubra, probably handling about half the number of sales in the township and surrounding hills.
He said the market remained buoyant and people were moving in and out of the community for “normal” reasons, not related to the wind farm.
“Certainly not in the township,” he said.
But up in the hills, near the turbines, and for smaller lifestyle properties, it was a different matter.
“If it’s visual and in your face, you can say yes. The turbines have an effect on price. It’s like high voltage power lines or mobile towers.” And the price outcome? “Offers on properties close to towers are usually at a 10 to 15 per cent discount on value,” he said.