A woman being sued for reneging on the sale of her Otahuhu property came to this country as a refugee and believes her real estate agent "conspired" with the eventual purchasers to buy her home.
Thi Kim Chu Nguyen took the stand yesterday in the High Court at Auckland on the second day of a civil hearing into the December 2013 sale of her property at 42 Church St, where she still lives.
She told the court through a Vietnamese translator that she spoke virtually no English and had little understanding of the documents she signed when her house - which she co-owned with relative Vinh Hgoc Nguyen - went under the hammer.
It was bought for $450,000 by Auckland academic Dr Marewa Glover and husband Steve Piner after their pre-auction offer of $440,000 was accepted and the auction brought forward.
But Barfoot & Thompson agent Ricky Yap received a text message from the vendors four days later that read: "Hi Ricky, I don't want to sell my house any more. Please cancel."
Dr Glover and Mr Piner want the court to enforce their sale contract and award hefty penalty payments.
Their family-owned company SM & T Homes bought the house as an investment.
But their borrowed $44,000 deposit remains in a trust account while the case is settled and they say they have lost tens of thousands of dollars in rent and interest payments.
Ms Nguyen told the court she asked Mr Yap twice to cancel the auction because the offer price was too low and she was not told what the reserve price meant.
"I was not happy with that price but I signed because Ricky said it was only a starting price. He never explained to me that if no one bid then that is what the house would be sold for.
"I believe the agent and purchasers conspired to stop me from cancelling the auction and ensure the property was sold to them."
Ms Nguyen said she rang Mr Yap the night before the auction to try to call it off but he insisted it go ahead as he had four potential buyers.
On auction day she was shocked to learn her house had been sold for only $450,000. She felt "dizzy and faint" and recalls signing a document but said she did not know what it was.
"I can't recall how I got home after the auction. I think I signed a piece of paper but I don't know what kind of paper it was."
Breaking down in tears, Ms Nguyen told the court she had listed the property for sale after the 2012 death of her eldest son in a car accident.
"Every time I walked into my son's room I cried. Everything in the house reminds me of my son. The pain became so big that I couldn't bear it any longer so I decided to sell." Barfoot lawyer Tim Rea said the truth was Ms Nguyen changed her mind a few days after the auction and told Mr Yap in a subsequent telephone conversation she needed his help to cancel the contract.
Mr Yap disputed claims he was asked to cancel the auction, saying the first time he became aware the vendors no longer wanted to sell their house was the text message.
Mr Yap told the court he had presented the couple's pre-auction offer to Mr and Ms Nguyen and clearly explained the $440,000 figure would be the reserve price.
"I certainly did not tell Thi the Church St property would fetch much more than $440,000."
After receiving the text he contacted the vendors and told them they had signed a legally binding document and should seek immediate legal advice.
In response to claims he colluded with the purchasers to ensure they bought the property, he said: "This is an astonishing allegation and is not true. I don't know Mr Piner or his wife personally."
Cross-examined by the vendors' lawyer, Noel King, Mr Yap repeated Ms Nguyen had been happy with the $440,000 offer and seemed pleased with the final sale price.
The case continues before Justice Rebecca Edwards.