by Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B
Would you believe that a real estate advertisement in the Gold Coast Bulletin saved a Melbourne couple’s bacon? John and Robyn Christiansen of Hampton, Victoria were fully telemarketed, flown-up, conditioned and stitched up Deep North property investors until they read the advert on their flight home from Queensland.
The cooling-off provisions of Queensland’s Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act enabled them to opt out of a Gold Coast townhouse contract.
While on the Coast Christiansens received mandatory cooling-off warning notices, signed a swag of finance, contract and statutory documents then caught their return flight. Within days they had successfully cancelled what was a dud more than a done deal.
Of course nothing in the law, and less in the paucity of local or interstate consumer education from the Office of Fair Trading, kept this mature-aged couple with professional qualifications from being smoothly sold a profiteered property at Lot 18 “Chateau Europa”, Fortuna Place, Parkwood, on the Gold Coast – along with a neat package of financial, investment and legal services.
The Christiansen’s venture began one night at home. They took an unsolicited phone call inviting them to a free seminar on retirement investment through negative gearing. “We decided to go along,” they explained, “because we were interested in real estate and securing our retirement income”.
After a convincing presentation on tax savings they took the next step, a personal assessment by a Stamford Lyon International Realtors’ representative called William.
Although the Christiansens had heard of suspect investment schemes targeting southerners, they believed they were in control and at no risk. After all, it was stressed finance would be arranged through a separate and reputable company, Australian Financial Management Corporation Pty. Ltd. With hindsight they realised William almost choked when he saw the equity they had in their own home. His message to base, they later felt, must have been: “Put into maximum mark-up category.”