Ginger and Bob
say they are "bewildered", "disgusted"
and "devastated". Shirley and Leon say they are
angry and horrified by "unethical and immoral" conduct.
Both couples dealt with the same agency which has sued them
for commissions and marketing expenses for properties which
failed to sell. In both cases, the homeowners have refused
to pay and, assisted by the HHPF, have committed to defending
the matter "to the bitter end".
The cases read like a catalogue of the worst real estate practices:
||Over-quoting of the
likely sale to win the listing
auction was the best and only method of sale
||Extraction of thousands
of dollars for newspaper advertising
||Under-quoting of the
likely sale price in auction advertisements
||A series of Open House
days to create an impression of "activity"
||A persistent campaign
of "conditioning" to achieve a lower
||Auction day pressure
on the sellers to lower their price
||Failure to achieve
a sale by auction
||Damage to the sellers’
home value and personal reputations through inappropriate
comments to prospective buyers and others
||Demands for payment
of marketing costs, despite the failure of
||Demands for payment
of commissions, despite there being no sale
||Intimidation of the
sellers through threats of legal action
||The lodging of caveats
on the sellers’ homes
Ginger lives with her husband Bob in the suburbs. They say
they are shocked at the treatment they have received because,
in the beginning, their agents seemed friendly and concerned
for their welfare. Now, the agency is demanding $16,492 in
commissions and marketing costs for a property that has not
A legal document was delivered to the owners demanding payment
by 10am the next day. When payment was not made by this deadline,
a caveat was lodged on the home. They describe the situation
Ginger’s and Bob’s problems started when the agent,
'T’, visited them to discuss the sale of their home.
They told T they wanted $600,000 for the property. Ginger
said: "T indicated to us verbally that this price was
achievable and at no stage did she indicate that this price
Ginger and Bob signed the agency agreement because of T’s
confirmation of the sale price and because "she seemed
friendly, gave the impression that she cared about us and
gave positive comments about the features of our home".
T strongly recommended an auction - to take place as part
of an evening of multiple auctions in a local hotel.
Their faith in their agent changed when they saw the newspaper
advertisements. Ginger said: "My husband and I were absolutely
disgusted and bewildered that advertisements which were placed
within the newspaper stipulated bidding from $350,000 ...
When we raised our concerns with T about the ridiculously
low advertised price, she dismissed our apprehensions and
indicated that this was normal practice as it attracts more
buyers and exposes the property to a wider market.
Regular reports from the agency followed the open inspections,
with numerous references to buyers who could afford between
$300,000 and $450,000 or expected the house to sell in that
price range. Ginger says: "I believe it was T’s
intention to manipulate the market by conditioning us down
On the evening of the auction T asked Ginger and Bob to nominate
their reserve price and was told firmly that it was $600,000.
There was only one bid at auction - $405,000 - and a verbal
offer of $410,000 soon after the property was passed in. Ginger
says: "We were devastated by the failed auction; however,
we half expected it because the wrong market had been enticed
to inspect the house."
Ginger claims the agency "lost all interest" in
their property after the auction and their refusal to compromise
on price: "When we did speak with T, she was often rude,
disrespectful and was now constantly talking about the negative
aspects of the house."
Subsequently, four couples visited the home, saying they were
interested in the property but were unable to contact T who
did not return their calls. Another person told them that
she spoke to T about the home and was told "Ginger and
Bob are always drunk and are impossible to communicate with".
Neither Ginger nor Bob is a drinker.
Ginger also said: "A friend of mine has told me that
while in the agency, this person overheard T talking about
Bob and I to another couple. This person heard T state: Don’t
worry - the bank is about to foreclose on the house. You can
have it for $300,000."
Ginger said: "I have subsequently heard from my bank
manager that T has been liaising with him, stating that we
refuse to accept and sign legitimate Contract for Sale documents.
If you call a verbal offer of $410,000 and an incomplete Contract
for Sale for $450,000 - no purchaser signatures and subject
to a $400,000 finance loan - legitimate offers, then I am
guilty. However, our asking price was $600,000."
Ginger said T had been hired to sell the home for the best
market price. "We didn’t hire her to advertise
bait pricing; attract the wrong market; damage the value of
our home; mislead, deceive and tell lies to potential buyers;
and tarnish our good name and reputation".
A Statutory Declaration made by Ginger was delivered to the
agency. Five days later a letter arrived from the agency’s
lawyers. It stated: "You are indebted to our client for
the agreed commission and marketing costs of $16,492."
They were given until 10am the next day to pay.
This included an invoice for commission for $12,825. The couple
had not previously seen or been told of this invoice. The
other invoice was for $3,667 in marketing costs. Ginger said,
"Please tell me how an agent can claim a commission for
not selling our home?"
Ginger and Bob were advised that the agency had lodged a caveat
on their home because of their refusal to pay these invoices.
The HHPF has taken Statutory Declarations from Ginger and
Bob, and legal representation has been organised to help them
apply to have the caveat removed. Official complaints have
been forwarded to various State and Federal authorities.
At this stage Ginger has not paid the commission and the caveat
is still in place.