Homeowners who thought they had sold their houses have been left in the lurch after a buyer linked to an international company failed to stump up the money on settlement day.
Contracts have been signed for a string of homes between Tawa and Pukerua Bay in recent weeks on behalf of Warior Group by its directors, Ross Miller and Chris Ryan, sometimes known as Mike Ryan.
However, Warior Group has failed to pay for any of the properties, including one that was bought at auction and others that were bought unconditionally. Deposits were promised but never paid.
Mr Ryan said yesterday that "it seems that we may have been scammed, for what reason we do not know", and "we are significantly out of pocket".
Some vendors have been left paying for two properties after making commitments based on a sale. In one case, the real estate agency stepped in and bought the home as "our vendor needed to move on".
A Whitby homeowner, who did not want to be named, said his family were caught high and dry and facing a lot of stress, as well as thousands of dollars in legal costs.
The sale of the family's $600,000-plus home was to have gone unconditional on April 26 and they moved into rental accommodation in anticipation of the deal going through.
"We've been left in a very awkward position, paying for two properties, and we can't move on as we can't afford to."
He said Warior Group appeared to be a genuine buyer. It had commissioned a building inspector to do a report on the property, and had outbid another buyer to secure the contract.
That was particularly frustrating, because if they had accepted the other buyer's offer, the sale would now have been done and dusted.
Philip Whearty, of DoubleWinkel Real Estate, which failed to get settlement on the unconditional purchases of two properties, said: "What we can't understand is what would motivate somebody to do this. One option is that [they] have been scammed themselves."
Mr Miller and Mr Ryan said Warior Group was commissioned in February by an overseas company offering to pay $13.85 million for 16 properties to house executives and "riggers" who worked for what "appeared to be a large, reputable company with offices worldwide".
They would not name the company, citing a confidentiality agreement. However, agents say the pair told them the group was acting for a firm called Baran Engineering.
Mr Ryan said Warior Group had now "lost all contact with our buyer".
"The whole saga has caused considerable personal embarrassment to us, and we are significantly out of pocket.
"It has been the source of frustration, time-wasting and ill-will for us and the vendors."
He said the overseas company first made contact by email, but he would not say whether the group had advanced money to it.
Mr Miller, who said he was a journalist, said earlier: "Please appreciate we are the meat in the sandwich at the moment and must be very careful about what we say on anything."
There are at least two Baran engineering companies. One is the Baran Group, based in Israel. It did not respond to questions from The Dominion Post.
The sole director of Tauranga-based Baran Engineering said his company was inactive, not looking to do any business, and not buying any property.
Home sellers who lose out when unconditional contracts are not completed can pursue legal action, Harcourts principal Eliot Falconer says.
But he cautioned that it could be pointless, take a long time, cost a lot of money and ultimately not succeed "because you can't get blood out of a stone".
- The Dominion Post