Estate agent censured for outbidding client

Last updated 05:00 28/05/2014
Margaret Lindsay
‘‘UTTERLY BETRAYED’’: Real estate agent Margaret Lindsay and her husband outbid Richard Finn by more than $100,000.

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An Eastbourne, Lower Hutt, real estate agent who bid on a property she had been showing to a client has been ordered to take a course in business ethics.

Margaret Lindsay, who is employed by Harcourts Eastbourne, was working with Whitireia stage and screen arts director Richard Finn in early 2012 to find a suitable property in the area.

After Finn was unsuccessful with tenders on two properties she had found for him, he was shown through 32-36 Rimu St.

Finn told the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal that he expressed his interest and possible plans for the mixed commercial/residential space to Lindsay after the viewing.

But on the deadline date for the tender, less than an hour before it closed, he was told Lindsay and her husband were interested in the property and had lodged their own tender.

A stunned Finn was referred to another agent, and lodged a tender for $950,000. Lindsay's tender was for $1 million. The owners rejected both offers, so Finn increased his to $965,000, but the property was eventually sold to Lindsay and her husband for $1.1m.

In her defence, Lindsay claimed she was not interested in the property until three days before the tender closed, and did not firmly decide to make an offer until the final morning.

She said she could not remember having a conversation with Finn about his plans to develop the property.

She never discussed his budget with him, and said she was under the impression he was not going to make an offer on the property because of concerns about GST costs. She admitted that, in hindsight, she should have disclosed her interest immediately.

Lindsay said she tried to contact Finn the day before, and at 9am on the day of the tender, to check his interest but could not reach him. He called her back at 11am and asked her to submit a tender on his behalf.

When asked why she did not leave a voice message or send an email disclosing her interest to Finn, Lindsay said it was because she and her husband were not sure until the "last minute".

Finn said both he and his wife felt "utterly betrayed" by what had happened.

"We've brought several houses over the years, and something like this has never happened before.

"We've chatted with other agents and they have been in agreement that you just don't do that - compete with your clients? We are decent people and were treated badly."

In a written statement, Lindsay reiterated that she believed Finn no longer had any interest in the property and that she had received no information from him that helped with her tender.

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She and her husband had paid more than $1m for the property, and it would not have sold if Finn's offer had been the only one entered.

"The outcome of our bidding for the property was that the vendor got the best price available for the property, which is the result a real estate agent is supposed to achieve."

In a decision released yesterday, the tribunal found Lindsay not guilty of misconduct but guilty of unsatisfactory conduct.

Waiting for three days until less than an hour before deadline to inform Finn of her intention to submit a tender was unacceptable, it said.

"We can understand that the complainant feels gazumped, or out-manoeuvered, by a licensee who he thought was his trusted adviser and negotiator."

Initially the tribunal indicated a $2000 fine but, after an objection from the Real Estate Agents Authority, it raised it to $4000 and ordered Lindsay to formally apologise to Finn, and to complete a business ethics training course.

- The Dominion Post

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