Watchdog may rehear house claim

Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014
Elizabeth Barbalich
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TOP DOLLAR: Skincare entrepreneur Elizabeth Barbalich complained the sellers of a high-end Karori house got $250,000 more than she had bargained for, based on the word of real estate agent Nicholas Reeve.

Nicholas Reeve
SUED: Nicholas Reeve
Elizabeth Barbalich
OUTRAGED: Elizabeth Barbalich

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The Real Estate Agents Authority could consider a fresh complaint by Antipodes skincare entrepreneur Elizabeth Barbalich against a real estate agent she claimed misled her in the leadup to her paying $2.78 million for a Wellington home.

The authority dismissed her first complaint in March against agent Nicholas Reeve, of Leaders, Wellington City.

Barbalich said Reeve misrepresented the competition for the Karori property in February last year, telling her there were two other tenders and later that there was another offer "just as good" as her own.

She told a judge in the High Court at Wellington this week that Reeve's statements caused her to increase her planned offer of $2.53m to $2.7m in the tender document and to $2.78m when the sellers counter-offered at $3m.

Later, she learned that hers had been the only tender for the Mallam St house, which was being bought in her name as a family home for herself, her husband Zoran Barbalich and children.

Reeve said he told Barbalich accurately that two other sets of tender documents had been sent out, but denied saying there were other tenders or that there was another offer as good as hers.

It was also claimed that Barbalich's planned offer of $2.53m would have been unlikely to succeed in any event.

The High Court hearing of Barbalich's $250,000 claim against Reeve for misrepresentation is due to be completed in court later this month.

She had also complained to the Real Estate Agents Authority. The High Court heard that in a decision in March, the authority dismissed Barbalich's complaint but said that if further information became available as a result of the High Court case, Barbalich could file a new complaint.

Zoran Barbalich said yesterday they would consider doing that because the authority did not have as much information as the High Court. They were heartened by the support they had received since details of the case were reported.

Reeve's lawyers had not wanted the authority to hear the complaint until after the High Court had ruled.

In a decision that did not name the parties, the authority said the High Court proceedings were perhaps more "robust" in some ways, but also had a different focus.

The authority decided the case on letters and written statements. It had to consider what was more likely than not to have occurred.

In a "he said, she said" scenario the authority said it did not have enough information to support Barbalich's allegations. It found Reeve's evidence coherent and plausible.

The authority said it applied the Real Estate Agents Act rules, which stated an agent must not mislead a customer or client, or provide false information. Also, an agent should not fail to provide information that by law or fairness should be provided.

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