'Insensitive' detail in listing for boarding house destroyed by fire

·3-min read

A detail in the sale listing for a Newtown boarding house where an inferno killed three people earlier this year has outraged community members.

The property at 117 Probert Street went up in flames in March after a former resident allegedly set the building alight.

Eight people managed to escape the fire, with three of them rushed to hospital with injuries. A 45-year-old man has since been charged with three counts of murder and one charge of destroying property by fire.

On Wednesday night, the fire-damaged, 12-room boarding house went up for sale, with its listing description quickly raising some eyebrows, with a local community group telling Yahoo News Australia it is "disrespectful" to the victims.

The fire-damaged property at 117 Probert Street, Newtown where three people died.
The property at 117 Probert Street went up in flames in March after a former resident allegedly set the building alight. Source: Romani Estate Agents

The 191sqm corner block has been described as a “fire-damaged blank canvas” that needs some “inspiration and creativity to bring it back to life”.

“It offers an outstanding opportunity for buyers or investors to secure a supremely spacious, versatile property and capitalise on its many possibilities,” the listing on realcommercial.com.au says.

“The building is in need of major renovation work, but with a prime Newtown address and a premium corner position, it presents a rare opportunity with many possibilities.

“It’s a virtual blank canvas that’s now ready for some inspiration and creativity to bring it back to life and take advantage of such an appealing position, easy strolling distance to Camperdown Memorial Park, local cafes and King Street dining.”

The fire engulfing the Newtown boarding house. Source: 9 News
Eight people managed to escape the fire in Newtown that claimed three lives. Source: 9 News

The "bring it back to life" phrase seemed off to some people given the loss of three lives.

One NSW real estate agent told Yahoo News Australia he believed the wording was a step too far.

“It's inappropriate and not sensitive to what’s happened,” he said.

“They’re obviously trying to be as creative as possible with this listing but they’ve failed.”

Liz Yeo, CEO of the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, told Yahoo the not-for-profit group finds the description "insensitive and disrespectful in the context of this tragedy”.

“Three people lost their lives and many people lost their home and their community,” she said.

The Newtown Neighbourhood Centre advocates for boarding house residents and helped the victims who survived the fire on Probert Street find new homes.

NSW Fire and Rescue officers and NSW Police investigate the scene of building fire in Newtown, Sydney, Tuesday, March 15, 2022.Source: AAP
The 12-room boarding house went up for sale on Wednesday night. Source: AAP

Newtown property's real estate agent responds

Joe Vigorito, the real estate agent for the property, told Yahoo he was aware of the deaths at the boarding house, saying he “respects the people who did lose their lives there”.

He said the listing was written by a copywriter and was not meant to offend anyone.

“It’s very unfortunate, and we can never say anything that will bring those three lives back.

“We have mentioned that it’s been fire damaged. I’m not hiding that fact and I think everyone is aware what actually took place there.

“Unfortunately, it’s a catch-22 situation,” Mr Vigorito said, referring to the colourful language often used in real estate listings when homes need work.

The agent said he would sit down with his co-workers to review the listing description and consider altering it. It remained unchanged as of Friday afternoon.

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