PHOTO: Queenstown. FILE

According to STUFF a savvy overseas buyer and a fall-out over a luxury Queenstown house sale have led to a couple being ordered to pay their real estate agent almost $130,000 in commission.

Ross and Nona James listed the Alpine Retreat home for exclusive sale with Terry Spice at Luxury Real Estate Ltd in 2017. It sold for $3.15 million.

However, as the relationship between the couple and their agent deteriorated, the agent swore and spoke “in an aggressive manner”, before refusing to work with Nona James.

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After the property sold, Luxury Real Estate sent the couple an invoice for $125,787.50, which they did not pay.

The company sued Ross and Nona James in the District Court for not paying the commission and were awarded $128,325.05, plus interest.

The couple appealed that decision to the High Court. Justice Rob Osborne dismissed the appeal, in a judgment on May 10.

The judgment says the James’ claimed Luxury Real Estate was not entitled to payment because it had cancelled the agency agreement and that Spice’s behaviour was misleading or deceitful.

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They sought $100,000 in damages, as they believed they would have achieved a higher sale price without the breaches by Luxury Real Estate.

While the property was on the market, Singaporean resident Chivukula Bharadwaja became aware of it from his friend, Madhujeet Chimni, who was a neighbour of Ross and Nona James.

The view from Alpine Retreat, near Queenstown.
The view from Alpine Retreat, near Queenstown.

On February 17, 2017, he flew to Queenstown to view the property and again the next day.

Spice was unavailable to assist with the viewing and price negotiations started between Ross James and Bharadwaja.

The couple kept Spice informed of these discussions.

Bharadwaja verbally offered them $3.25m for the house but on February 22 presented them with a signed unconditional agreement for $3m.

The couple were disappointed and felt they had been “played” by Bharadwaja.

They asked Spice to negotiate directly from Bharadwaja, but Ross James continued to communicate with him.

At the same time, Spice encouraged the couple to initiate a multi-offer process as he had at least two other potential purchasers who were likely to make offers on the property and he believed he could get a price of $3.3m.

Despite Bharadwaja’s solicitors insisting he would not pay more than $3m, they presented an unconditional offer of $3.15m at the end of the multi-offer period. No other offers were made.

Spice advised the couple and Bharadwaja that he was the only buyer remaining, as he believed it was the ethical thing to do.