by Peter Mericka B.A., LL.B
Real Estate Lawyer
Qualified Practising Conveyancer Victoria
Director Lawyers Real Estate Pty Ltd
It is fitting that the logo of Max Brown Real Estate should depict the estate agent as a shadowy faceless figure, as it suggests the level of responsibility the estate agent assumes when “advising” vulnerable consumers. By the time the consumer realises that he or she has received dodgy advice, the estate agent has melted back into the shadows, leaving the lawyer to pick up the pieces.
A client of ours recently received advice from an estate agent employed by Max Brown Real Estate of Main Street, Croydon, but fortunately she didn’t let the matter rest:
“Recently my partner Chris and I went through an ordeal, which we can only describe as traumatic and heart wrenching. I am writing about our experiences not to relive the heartbreak but so others can learn from our experiences and about the tricks of the trade in real estate.
We had found our block of land where we thought we could build our dream home (though on a budget!). We were convinced by the real estate agent to put a holding deposit on the block while we researched into it further. This we did and in the mean time contacted our builder for him to look into the block and do appropriate soil tests and cost analysis. A week later and we were told the block could no longer be held for us and we would need to sign contracts if we wanted to keep the block. Scared we would lose the opportunity Chris and I went into the Max Brown (Real Estate Agent) and signed the contract for the block. The real estate agent, Noreen, told us both that the vendor would not be able to sign til Thursday or Friday as he was overseas.
In the meantime we received back our soil test results and information from the builder. The builder felt we should try to find another more suitable block, for several differing reasons. After a little research and contact with the council over these issues Chris and I decided that we would prefer to find a more suitable block.
On Thursday morning (prior to 9am) I went into Max Brown to discuss changing to another block (more expensive) as both blocks were selling through the same agent. The second block we had chosen would eliminate the issues that we were looking at with the first block. I spoke to the manager Greg, I explained about the vendor being away and that we wanted to change to a different block, he told me it shouldn’t be a problem and he would look into it and get back to me.
At 3pm Thursday afternoon after not hearing from Greg I called him. He was not available to take my call but rang back at 4:30pm. He told me that it would be ok to swap blocks, that the vendor had signed but we could now exercise our 3 day cooling off period. I asked what I should do now and he told me Noreen would ring me the next day to make all the arrangements but in the meantime he would hold the new block for us.
We were really excited, went to look at the new block and thought it was perfect for our new home! The next day Noreen called me to only say “you can’t do that” and that there was nothing we could do, our cooling off period had expired and basically it was bad luck…