$1 reserve for red-zone house auction

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014
Phyllis and Michael Thorn
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON

HOUSE FOR $1: Phyllis and Michael Thom are auctioning their red-zoned house with a $1 reserve.

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A Christchurch couple will auction their uninsured red-zoned home with a $1 reserve to help recoup costs after being left financially devastated by the city's earthquakes.

Michael and Phyllis Thom, both in their late 60s, took a $400,000 hit when their New Brighton property was written off by the Government.

They hope to make enough from the auction to fix up the leaking house they live in now and help some of their family.

The couple's troubles began when they missed paying their insurance premium while out of town caring for a sick relative and their policy was cancelled.

They could not get new cover after the September 2010 quake, so when the house was red-zoned after the 2011 quakes, their $81,500 Government payout was based on half the land value.

"It took me a long time to get over that I didn't pay the insurance bill. I've had to stop beating myself up over that or I couldn't cope," Phyllis Thom said.

"All our lives we've worked hard and had insurance and been independent. We've always been good citizens but we couldn't get any help."

Without insurance, they could not afford emergency repairs and Phyllis Thom contracted pneumonia from living in the draughty, leaking house. She had to give up her job as a caregiver for the elderly.

With family help, the couple bought a home in as-is-where-is condition, which they share with their son, who was red-zoned from nearby Bexley, and his children.

Phyllis Thom said it was a lovely home, but it leaked and flooded each time it rained.

Their troubles do not end there. The couple have had four family bereavements and are helping care for a young grandson with leukaemia.

"This has all been such a shock and financially it's been very difficult," Phyllis Thom said.

Real estate firm Harcourts Grenadier suggested auctioning the old house with a $1 reserve and will waive the fees and commission.

Other businesses are meeting marketing costs for the auction.

The Thoms, who have a history of voluntary work with local youths and the elderly, had planned to give away the house's fixtures and fittings to anyone in need.

They now believe the auction might "bring closure" and "help us heal from the losses we've had in the last few years".

Although the land is now Crown-owned, the Thoms are legally entitled to sell the "salvageable remnants" of the modern brick house. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will clear what is left behind.

The house will be auctioned on June 26.

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- The Press

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