The Aussie island with a catch for “outsiders” buying houses

We look at the one place in Australia where it’s almost impossible to buy a house.

Residz Team 3 min read

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“Remember, there’s always another house to buy,” were the words of wisdom often repeated by my great-aunt Mary.

In other words, don’t get too emotional when buying a house. Do your research and move on to the next property if you miss out.

But, there’s one place in Australia where it’s almost impossible to buy a house, no matter how much you can pay.

It’s Lord Howe Island, which lies north-east of Sydney (in line with Port Macquarie) between Australia and New Zealand.

Look! No real estate agent

Despite there being 235 private dwellings (ABS Census 2021), there is no freehold title on Lord Howe Island and no real estate agent either!

And, there’s a good reason for this. According to local resort Pinetrees Lodge, when land is offered for sale (under a lease or licence arrangement), it is offered to island people first, at a price determined by the NSW Valuer General.

If no islander wants to buy the land, it can be sold to non-islanders.

But, there’s a catch!

Life-changing condition of lease

It is a condition of the lease that the new owner makes the island his or her permanent home.

“There are no holiday houses on Lord Howe,” explains Pinetrees Lodge. “This system is an important part of maintaining a viable community. If the homes were only used for a few weeks a year by holiday-makers, we wouldn’t have a school, a hospital, a post office or a regular shipping service.”

Pinetrees is run by Dani Rourke, one of the sixth generation of the original family who settled on Lord Howe Island in 1842, and her husband, Luke Hanson.

They say the early settlers were squatters who had no title to their land.

When the Lord Howe Island Act was passed in 1953, islanders received leases and licences to use the land.

There are leases in perpetuity for residences, special leases for agriculture or grazing for a maximum term of 10 years and permissive occupancies which give a bare right to occupy the land.

Despite the insecurity of title, many families have lived on the same land for generations.

Say again! How many properties are for sale?

It’s a fascinating thing to try to search for a property for sale. Type Lord Howe Island into,, or and you’ll find ZERO properties offered for sale. Incredible!

According to the only place sold in recent years was a 3-4 bedroom home nestled in secluded Kentia palm forest in 2016 (pictured above). No agent represented the property, instead it was sold through “For Sale By Owner.”

No McMansions here

Due to the high cost of building on islands, people on Lord Howe mostly live in relatively small, simple houses built of lightweight materials.

According to the Pinetrees website, land is rarely for sale and it’s common for adult children to live with their parents or in a small flat or house on the same property as the family home.

It says that after a planning process in the early 2000s, the Lord Howe Island Board granted permission for eight new dwellings to be built on existing family blocks. There are also plans to release some vacant land for sale to islanders.

On top of this curious and unique real estate enigma that is Lord Howe Island, there’s another twist.

The streets on Lord Howe have names, but no house numbers.

“The older houses are well screened from the road – you won’t even see them,” explains Pinetrees Lodge website. “If you’re new to Lord Howe, it can be a challenge to find a house unless you’ve been there before.”

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Photo by Dylan Shaw on Unsplash