A realtor provided a false property valuation, going so far as to use the letterhead of a real company, to legitimise his purchase of a house at auction.
Nick Hoogwerf didn’t show up to a hearing of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal in Auckland on Wednesday to face charges of disgraceful conduct.
The tribunal found Hoogwerf guilty of the charges relating to a house in Mt Eden he wanted to buy in late 2021.
Hoogwerf visited the property on October 24 after making an inquiry by text, the charging documents state.
Two days later the vendors signed a consent form allowing him as a realtor related to their listing agent, either through work or personal circumstances, to “acquire an interest in the property”.
It essentially meant Hoogwerf could bid on the property; however, for the consent form to be valid, Hoogwerf needed to supply the vendors with a registered valuation of the property.
That same day, Hoogwerf won the house at auction.
The following month Hoogwerf sent the vendors an email with the valuation report in it. However, it contained multiple errors and the vendors sent it back to him.
In total, Hoogwerf sent four emails with incorrect information including photos that were not of the property, the wrong vendor and agency details, missing information in relation to the certificate of title, and an incorrect reference number.
It was alleged Hoogwerf prepared the valuation document himself and used the letterhead of a legitimate property valuation company.
That company - which was granted name suppression by the tribunal - said Hoogwerf never contacted them for a valuation and it never provided one for the property in question.
The listing agent for the property raised the issue with his manager but it was the valuation company that made a complaint to the Real Estate Authority.
When contacted by NZME for comment Hoogwerf said: “I was young with not much experience at the time.”
“I sincerely apologise for any harm that my actions have caused. I realise the gravity of my actions and I am committed to learning from my mistakes.”
The lawyer for the Complaints Assessment Committee prosecuting Hoogwerf in front of the tribunal, Sarah Farnell, told the panel on Wednesday he had submitted the false valuation in an attempt to convince the vendors he had contracted a third party to do it.
Farnell said he’d told the authority when questioned about it that he “took it upon myself to produce a valuation that may be acceptable” and that he’d then said: “I wrongly consulted a report I had paid for previously of a size and value similar to the subject property”.
However, Farnell said this was “implausible” because the incorrect details in the valuation he sent didn’t contain his name or the agency he worked for.
“There were glaring errors in the different versions,” Farnell told the tribunal.
Farnell said text messages between Hoogwerf and the listing agent for the property showed there was mounting pressure on him to secure a valuation.
“He continually tells the listing agent that yes it will be done and he’ll send it when it’s complete and says that in multiple instances in these text messages.”
She said the valuation reports were altered and supplied to the vendor and amounted to disgraceful conduct for a licensed real estate agent to engage in.
Hoogwerf valued the Mt Eden property in his false valuation report as being $1.4 million, which was lower than what he ended up paying at auction.
Farnell said Hoogwerf had omitted certain pages from the valuation document in order to support the number he picked.
Hoogwerf didn’t attend the tribunal hearing on Wednesday and panel members noted he asked for it to be adjourned the day before. He did not provide the tribunal with a reason for his absence.
The tribunal would issue its full decision, including any penalty, in writing in the next month.
Jeremy Wilkinson is an Open Justice reporter based in Manawatū covering courts and justice issues with an interest in tribunals. He has been a journalist for nearly a decade and has worked for NZME since 2022.