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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    High up above and deep down under

    Default Agent 'wasted buyers' time' - Wellington

    Agent 'wasted buyers' time'
    16 May 2006

    A leading Wellington real estate agent is accused of wasting buyers' time by advertising a "buyer inquiry over" price that was well below the sellers' bottom line.

    Tim Whitehead has pleaded not guilty to nine charges of making misleading representations in advertisements for a house in the Wellington suburb of Northland in April and May 2004.

    It is alleged the sellers of the Sydenham St house wanted at least $400,000 "in the hand", after paying the $10,000 commission negotiated with Whitehead.

    They eventually accepted $405,000 $5000 below their bottom line.

    Whitehead, who works as a team with his wife Kaye, was a top-grossing commission salesman for two consecutive years while on contract to Celestine Realty, trading as Harveys, prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk told Wellington District Court yesterday.

    The advertised buyer inquiry over $380,000 was misleading because it made prospective buyers think that an offer of about that amount would have a chance of success, he said.

    Whitehead was being prosecuted for wasting people's time, Mr Vanderkolk said.

    AdvertisementAdvertisementWhitehead's lawyer, Andrea Challis, has indicated he will give evidence at what is expected to be a four-day hearing.

    Judge Bridget Mackintosh was told the buyer inquiry over $380,000 advertisement surprised the seller, who would not seriously have considered an offer at that level.

    Mr Vanderkolk said the sellers first tried a private sale at $450,000, but then turned to Whitehead, with whom one of the owners had previously worked. At first advertisements quoted the ratable value of $400,000 but then changed to buyer inquiry over $380,000.

    The Commerce Commission took the prosecution after lawyer Wayne Chapman, a consultant with Buddle Findlay, complained on behalf of one of his clients.

    The client, Kathleen Moar, said she put in three offers, the highest $390,000, and spent about $400 on a builder's report to make the highest offer unconditional. She said she had first dismissed the house as being out of her price range but when it was advertised at $380,000 she thought the sellers were being more realistic.

    She thought her final offer would at least have got a response with a reasonable expectation it would be accepted but after a delay it was rejected without any attempt to negotiate.

    The real estate agent who placed the offers on her behalf, Michele Sutherland, said that after the last offer was rejected Whitehead told her the sellers would not accept below $400,000. That was the first indication of a firm price expectation that she knew.

    Under cross-examination she repeated that Whitehead had told her the figure, but agreed it could have come from someone else.

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx


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