BresicWhitney faces losing licence for underquoting

The regulator has warned buyers to be wary about receiving verbal advice from agents after a leading Sydney office was charged with underquoting.

BresicWhitney in Darlinghurst will face Parramatta Local Court on 24 April to answer two charges of underquoting.

The agency could be fined up to $22,000 for each alleged breach and could have its licence cancelled, according to NSW Fair Trading.

Fair Trading served the court notices following investigations as part of Operation Belaya, which targeted inner-Sydney compliance in November.

The regulator alleges BresicWhitney twice provided selling estimates that were less than the estimates in the agency agreements it signed with vendors.

BresicWhitney told Real Estate Business that one of its directors, Shannan Whitney, was the only person who was authorised to comment on the allegations. Mr Whitney was unavailable for comment before publication deadline.

BresicWhitney has previously revealed that its Darlinghurst office made $732.1 million of sales in 2013/2014 after selling 657 properties for an average price of $1.11 million.

The NSW government announced earlier this month that it would instigate the “biggest crackdown on real estate underquoting in over a decade” if it is re-elected on 28 March.

Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe warned buyers to be on their guard when dealing with agents.

“Consumers should be wary about receiving verbal advice from agents and, wherever practical, insist on receiving advice in writing,” Mr Stowe said.

“In particular, consumers can and should specifically ask the agent what is the vendor’s price expectation. If the agent’s answer is less than the estimate in the agency agreement, they may have committed the act of underquoting.”

Mr Stowe told buyers that before inspecting a property they should research all the comparable sales in the area.

“Prior to purchasing people should seek independent professional advice, such as from a property valuer or agent who is not involved in the sale,” he said.

[Related: Fair Trading targets 114 offices in ‘compliance blitz’]

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