Barry Plant Manningham

PHOTO: Barry Plant Manningham

A real estate firm faces charges of allegedly underquoting a townhouse in Melbourne’s north-east, which fetched 40% more than its highest estimated selling price at auction.

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The property, located at 3/27-29 Kenilworth Parade in Ivanhoe, was initially listed for $900,000 to $950,000 but was later adjusted to $1 million to $1.1 million based on buyer feedback. Eventually, it sold for $1,538,000 in July.

Consumer Affairs Victoria initiated an investigation following buyer complaints, leading to criminal charges against Manningham Sales Pty Ltd – trading as Barry Plant Manningham – for failing to provide reasonable estimated selling prices on two occasions. Among the charges is the assertion that the agency claimed an inability to find comparable properties sold in Ivanhoe.

Barry Plant CEO Lisa Pennell refuted the underquoting allegations, attributing the high sale price to unexpectedly competitive bidding at the auction. She explained that the sale exceeded both the vendor and agent’s expectations due to aggressive bidding by buyer advocates, despite the property’s perceived drawbacks.

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The townhouse was marketed as a “Beautiful Townhouse on Breathtaking Parkland,” emphasizing its proximity to Nellie Ibbot Park and its scenic views. Barry Plant could face fines exceeding $38,000 per breach under the Estate Agents Act, along with potential penalties under Australian consumer law for misleading conduct.

Despite the allegations, Pennell maintained that the property was appropriately quoted, and the office would cooperate with Consumer Affairs Victoria’s investigation. The crackdown on underquoting continues, with Consumer Affairs taskforce officers monitoring auctions across Melbourne to ensure compliance with estate agent regulations.

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Since its establishment in 2022, the taskforce has monitored over 700 auctions and issued fines exceeding $1.1 million to non-compliant agencies. Consumer Affairs Victoria’s director, Nicole Rich, reiterated the commitment to provide accurate pricing information to buyers while house-hunting.

Renter advocate Jordan van den Berg, known as Purplepingers on social media, noted the prevalence of underquoting and the taskforce’s impact on improving conditions for buyers. However, he emphasized the need for similar enforcement to protect renters, urging the government to fund Consumer Affairs Victoria to address real estate compliance issues affecting renters.