A former real estate agent commissioned to sell a couple's West Auckland home sold it to a developer before buying it himself through a company named after his cat Marmalade.

Aaron Drever onsold the property two years later for an additional $160,000, without ever disclosing the apparent conflict of interest to his original clients, Maryanne and Paul Statham.

He is now under investigation by the Real Estate Authority (REA) after a formal complaint.

But Drever is defending his actions, telling the Weekend Herald he was under no legal obligation to inform the Stathams and was not "an active agent" when the deal settled.

Advertisement

"If they are upset I really am sorry. But there was no requirement under REA rules to get a valuation or signed form. It was perfectly legal."

Ray White, which Drever sold the house under, is refusing to refund the couple's commission, saying "the employment relationship was severed" with Drever several weeks before his purchase so it shoulders no responsibility for his actions.

"They thank you for providing the information which has come as a complete shock to them," a November 2017 letter from Ray White's lawyer to the Stathams' lawyer states.

"If it is any consolation to your clients, Mr Drever has caused my client considerable aggravation and expense and you will note that Mr Drever has had his ability to sell real estate removed after he was struck off."

The professional couple have sought legal advice about potential civil proceedings and are now speaking out to help protect other vendors.

Paul and Maryanne Statham had their home purchased by their real estate agent. Photo / Nick Reed
Paul and Maryanne Statham had their home purchased by their real estate agent. Photo / Nick Reed

The Stathams paid more than $36,000 in commission and marketing costs to Drever and his firm.

"We paid him to buy our house," said Maryanne, 38, a business analyst.

"It annoys me that we put our trust in these people yet they just abuse it for their own selfish gain.

Advertisement

"It's not fair, we've been taken advantage of."

The couple said they would never have agreed to their agent buying their house, given the obvious conflict of interest.

They felt they'd been deceived and believed that both Drever and Ray White's now-defunct Pure Realty franchise were in fundamental breach of their fiduciary duty and professional obligations.

Ray White declined to comment while the matter is under investigation.

The couple, who have two young children, had lived at the property for four years when they decided to sell in 2015. The 1348sq m section was ripe for subdivision under the Unitary Plan, so they agreed to contract a licensed expert from a reputable firm.

Drever was then one of Ray White's top-selling agents, and claimed to have a large database of developers.

He presented an offer from Harper Michell Investments of $1.05 million, which they accepted after the property passed in at auction.

The company is caught up in another REA investigation involving Drever, after Avondale Bowling Club land was sold twice in one day for a huge mark-up in December 2016.

Property records show that only months after selling the Stathams' house to Harper Michell, Drever bought it himself for $1.06m through his company Marmalade Property Trust.

The two sales settled within days of each other in January 2016.

On December 4 last year the property was transferred to another Drever company, Speedway Track Promotions, before selling on the same day to Solution Street for $1.22m.

It means Drever pocketed $160,000 plus his cut of the Stathams' commission.

Aaron Drever sold the home of clients to a developer then bought it himself without disclosing the apparent conflict of interest. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Aaron Drever sold the home of clients to a developer then bought it himself without disclosing the apparent conflict of interest. Photo / Brett Phibbs

He was let go by Ray White on October 12, 2015 - just five weeks before signing a sale contract on the Stathams' property.

The couple only learned Drever had bought their house when they saw it re-listed with Ray White in mid-2016. They did a property records search and realised it was owned by Marmalade, which they recognised as the name of Drever's cat.

Drever was stripped of his licence in November 2016 after clocking up a record nine adverse disciplinary findings. Though the Stathams googled Drever before commissioning him as their agent, his record was clean at the time, they said.

The REA declined to comment, but said that under the Real Estate Agents Act, a licensee wishing to acquire a client's property must disclose their conflict of interest in writing and get informed consent. They must also provide an independent registered valuation to the vendors.

The Stathams say neither of these things occurred.

Drever maintains he did nothing wrong, and that his conduct was not in breach of REA regulations.

"The transaction was a private sale after the original purchases [sic] decided to pursue other projects," he said in a statement.

"I was not an agent at the time the transaction settled and was not in breach of any of the REAA rules.

"The purported $160,000 does not take into consideration holding costs, damages occurred, legal fees, agents' fees over the two-year period."

He added that on-sales were common within the industry, but as his purchase was done outside Ray White, it was a private transaction and therefore not subject to normal procedures.

Asked if he thought buying his clients' home was ethically and morally okay, he replied: "That's an interesting question. In hindsight if you're telling me they were upset, they should have been advised. I agree."

Drever - whose failed The Grocer venture is in receivership - was unsure if he would ever return to the industry.

"At the moment I'm just grieving for my dad."

TIMELINE

44 Ambler Ave, Glen Eden
Transfer 1
Maryanne and Paul Statham to Harper Michell Investments
Agreement date August 1, 2015. Settled January 20, 2016
Sale price $1,050,000
Transfer 2
Harper Michell Investments to Marmalade Property Trust
Agreement date November 19, 2015. Settled January 21, 2016
Sale price $1,060,000
Transfer 3
Marmalade Property Trust to Speedway Track Promotions
Property records incomplete. Transfer date recorded as December 4, 2017
Transfer 4
Speedway Track Promotions to Solution Street
Agreement date May 11, 2017. Settled December 4, 2017
Sale price $1,220,000

- Source: Auckland Council