Tuesday May 5th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Black mark for Raine and Horne?

Sadly, a house near us was repossessed earlier this year. Quite what went wrong, we don’t know. The family had bought it years ago, there has been a price boom since, and even though prices may have edged back more recently, their purchase price must have been well below today’s figures. But one never knows.

Raine and Horne was the agency appointed to handle the sale; repainting and other repairs were done, and everyone in the street was looking forward to the auction, whose date was set for last Saturday, 2 May. Publicity was prepared.

(Picture from the Raine and Horne website)

Auctions are great events – the neigbours turn out to find out how property values are going, there is hope, fear, triumph, desolation, and sometimes illumination.

But just a day or two before the auction, a “SOLD” sign was put up. To our surprise, I must say. The common understanding is that sales of repossessed houses are required by law to go to auction – perhaps we misunderstand. So my plan was to have a look over the road anyway at the due time, 10:00am, to see if I could find out what happened, and of course most of all to see if I could learn the price it had fetched.

But what did I find? Nobody from the agent, not even an office junior, had been sent to field the disappointment of anyone who turned up mistakenly. True, there were not many of those. I spoke to just one couple. They told me that they, at an early stage, had asked if they could make an offer, but were told that this was not legally allowed – the property was required to go to auction. Somewhat later they received a phone call from the agent, telling them that it would be ok after all to make an offer if they wanted. They chose, however, to attend the auction. As I spoke to them in front of Number 52 they tried to ring the agent’s office – no luck. They tried to ring the responsible contact, Elizabeth Casamento – no luck there either, just an answering service telling them to ring again some other time. We agreed to call it very bad form.

As a further twist, it should be noted that even after the date for the auction-that-wasn’t, the agent’s website had not been changed to show the house as sold, but continued to display the auction time and date. On the following Sunday, the day after the auction did not happen, the new owners were seen, proudly looking at the outside, saying that they had exchanged contracts just a day or so before the auction. And now, on Tuesday 5 May, their website states that the house was sold yesterday, 4 May, which is to say after the auction date that is displayed further down the page. This, perhaps accidentally, creates the false impression that the auction might have taken place but failed to achieve a sale, yet that a sale had later been negotiated with one of the bidders. That is not an uncommon story at auctions, but it is not what happenend here.

So not only is the form bad, but there are questions that could do with answers. I have invited Raine and Horne to comment on this post, and will make any explanations they offer available here.

PS: I have received a reply from the agent. The full text is as follows:

   Property has been sold for $640,000

I leave everyone to draw their own conclusions about the main issues I tried to raise.

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