Tribunal exonerates Queenstown agent and firm


Queenstown’s New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty and agent David Penrose have been exonerated after an unusual complaint by a seller.

Despite his initial complaint being rejected by an assessment committee, seller Paul Weber appealed to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal – faring no better there.

“We are unable to find any failure [by Penrose or Sotheby’s] in terms of the issues,” the tribunal’s recently-released judgment says.

“We find no merit in [Weber’s] assertion [the agents] hindered him achieving a higher price from the neighbour in the circumstances,” the tribunal says.

In July 2010, Weber listed his Arthurs Point property with Penrose at $1.195 million.

Weber claimed he also stipulated that if an unnamed wealthy neighbour showed any interest, the asking price would be increased – a suggestion that Penrose vigorously denied.

Weber believed his neighbour would pay over market to prevent the property being subdivided. 

The tribunal says: “Frankly, we consider [Weber’s] concept of having two prices for the property i.e. one for the general public and a much higher one for the neighbour, was unrealistic, uncommercial and unworkable.”

Soon after Weber’s property was listed, fellow Sotheby’s agent Julian Brown approached the wealthy neighbour – Penrose said in evidence he was unaware of Brown’s approach.

The neighbour presented an offer of $1.075m signed “Margaret Scott on behalf of Pop Properties Ltd” – again, Penrose was unaware who was behind the offer.

Weber, described as “a leading American cancer surgeon”, counter-offered $1.139m.

The tribunal notes: “In NZ it’s common for a property purchaser to be the family company of a person, or even a front or nominee for the purposes of confidentiality”. Weber’s lawyer could have done a company search, which would have confirmed the offer was from his neighbour, the judgment says.

In evidence, Penrose said he had no idea the neighbour was behind the offer until Weber’s lawyer emailed to ask him. 

Penrose then talked to colleague Brown, and Brown talked to the neighbour-buyer, who agreed to lift confidentiality.

Beforehand, Penrose said, he didn’t know who the purchaser was – the tribunal specifically says it was satisfied about that. 

When Weber discovered who’d made the $1.075m offer, he upped his $1.139m counter-offer to $1.2m – $5000 above his listing price.

Agent Brown told the tribunal “he’d never experienced a vendor seeking more than the advertised list price”.

Nevertheless, Brown persuaded the neighbour-buyer to go to $1.195m and Sotheby’s cut $5000 off their commission, effectively meeting Weber’s $1.2m.

“A very good and fortunate price in terms of the state of the market”, the tribunal says.

The judgment also points out Weber ended up with $61,000 more than Weber’s own first counter offer of $1.139m – “and an excess over his listing price”.