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‘Due diligence’ dilemma More buyers questioning real estate agents

In light of recent coverage by the Times-Age over Mt Munro property buyers claiming they were misled about a wind farm development close to their houses, two other parties who recently bought in the area claim they are in the same boat.

Chris Davies and her husband Dave Berry moved from Waikato to Eketāhuna in 2021 because they wanted somewhere quiet.

Davies said they made the offer in December 2020, offered the vendors “top dollar”, and had finalised the sale by January.

“We loved the block,” Davies said.

“We wanted to go somewhere quiet, to get out of the hustle and bustle.”

They moved onto the site permanently later that year, and Davies said that at the end of 2022, they had a new property shipped to the site from Waikato.

“We love the serenity of the place, and we love the views,” Davies said.

“We positioned the new house with the bedroom facing those ridges. If the wind farm goes ahead, we’ll be staring directly at it.

“If we’d known all of this beforehand, we wouldn’t have gone offering the money.”

She said they had reached out to the agent who sold them the property, who had told them he had no knowledge of the wind farm at the time of purchase.

“The question is, who’s responsibility is it?” Davies asked.

“You put your trust in your real estate agent, and how do you know what questions to ask if you don’t know what’s going on?”

Another resident [who wanted to stay anonymous] bought his land in September last year and said there was no mention of wind farms from the agent verbally or in writing.

“I was told on a number of occasions to do my due diligence, but no clues or ideas or anything to look for,” he said.

“All I was told was that the river flooded, so I did my homework on that.

“Now I think that was a red hearing.”

Now armed with the knowledge that Meridian’s proposed wind farm for Mt Munro has been in the pipeline for years, he said he feels misled.

“When I viewed it, it was peaceful. Looking out from anywhere on the property was just green hills and no interruptions,” he said.

“But now there could be a honky tonk windmill in my face, which is a big letdown.

“It feels like there’s been deceit from the agents.”

After finding out about the proposed project, he said he asked the agent if finding that information should have been buyer due diligence and that his question was evaded.

“I’m starting to regret the purchase,” he said.

“If I had known, it would have put me off. I’m all for renewable energy but to have it on the back doorstep is a bit much.”

Formal complaints about the conduct of licensed real estate professionals can be made to the Real Estate Authority [REA].

Chief executive Belinda Moffat said that since there were previously reported parties considering making a complaint, REA could not comment on the situation.

“It is not appropriate for REA to comment on a specific situation that is or may become the subject of a complaint in order to preserve the integrity of the complaints process.”

She recommended the REA’s website for general information about disclosure.

“Please note that the application of the rules will always turn on the facts of the case.”

REA’s website states that a licensee is not required to discover hidden or underlying defects in land but must disclose known defects to a customer under rule 10.7.

Rule 6.4 dictates that a licensee must not mislead a customer or client, provide false information or withhold information that should by law or in fairness be provided.

“This rule addresses the other information you may need to share about a property that is broader than physical defects, for example, a development happening in the neighbourhood, or whether there has been a violent crime in the property.”

A spokesperson for the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand [REINZ] said it didn’t comment on individual situations of this nature.

“Buyers are recommended to seek legal advice on any purchase or transaction of this type.”

They said regarding Mt Munro, there wasn’t finalised guidance for buyers or sellers, but they recommended all licenced agents follow the Real Estate Agents Act.

Results from a 2011 study from Massey University indicate there was no significant impact on residential property value from wind farm visibility, however, cases used in the study had a distance of two and a half to six kilometres between the wind farm and houses.

Should the Meridian proposal go ahead, some Hastwell residents would be living less than one kilometre from the development.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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