House sales failures prompt warning

HANK SCHOUTEN
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2013
Kevin Sangster
KENT BLECHYDEN/Fairfax NZ

SELLER BEWARE: Kevin Sangster outside his home in Whitby.

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A house vendor who was one of many caught out by a string of failed sales deals believes real estate agents need to do more to check out the reliability of buyers.

Steve Okeby agreed a deal in January to sell his home in Plimmerton to Christopher Ryan, also known as Mike Ryan, but the deal fell over after payments were repeatedly delayed.

Mr Okeby said Mr Ryan signed a contract to buy his home for $960,000. The contract was signed on January 1 and settlement was to be on January 18. Nothing happened. Two further extensions were requested, but still nothing happened.

Mr Okeby said a backup offer was made by another buyer, but he was not prepared to accept it because he would have had to pay a second agent's commission of $33,000.

He said agents needed to do more checking of buyers, should insist on a deposit before a sale went unconditional, and could maybe even accept a lower deposit as a sign of good faith.

Since Mr Okeby's case a string of similar failed deals has emerged involving Warior Group, a company whose directors include Mr Ryan and Ross Miller.

The pair say 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 had since lost contact with the company and said they feared they may have been victims of a scam. They would not say whether they had advanced any money to the company, which they would not name but which agents were told was Baran Engineering.

Real Estate Institute local representative Euon Murrell said there was a limit to how much checking agents could do on would-be buyers.

The deals involving Warior Group were a "one-off situation", he said.

"We are very careful, but there are limits as to how far we can go. If we question people's integrity, we leave ourselves open to complaint.

"We asked questions like ‘Have you got your finance sorted?' and agents had to take it on trust when buyers said they did."

However, he said he "smelled a rat" when Mr Miller asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement before telling him he wanted to buy four properties in Mana and Paraparaumu for Baran Engineering.

Several other agents and vendors have said the behaviour of the buyers raised their suspicions too.

Tommy's Wellington agent Jill Harden said she became wary after a buyer who identified himself as Chris Andrews - believed to be another name used by Mr Ryan - asked to be shown around a $2m-plus home two weeks ago.

She was surprised when he said he was prepared to make an unconditional offer for the full asking price.

"I got the distinct feeling that there was something about this that didn't stack up."

Whitby resident Kevin Sangster said he was suspicious of the offer made on his Navigation Drive property right from the start.

When he tried to check out the name of the company listed on the contract - Baran Engineering - it did not look right, he said, and the signatures were indecipherable.

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His suspicions were confirmed when the deposit was unpaid after a week.

The buyer sought a 10-day extension but that also came and went without payment.

Mr Sangster, whose house is still for sale, said it was fortunate he had not made any commitments in anticipation that the house might have been sold.

- The Dominion Post

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