Judge steps in on seaside property dispute between parents and son

A family dispute over a seaside home expected to sell for more than $2.3 million led to an Auckland couple taking their son and daughter-in-law to the High Court.

Retirees Trevor and Sue Gregory, accountant son Michael and his wife, Simone, could not agree on any details of the sale, so a judge decided everything, right down to ordering the auction be held on site on a Saturday, coinciding with the tide being in.

Between them, the two couples own three homes at the end of Wright Rd in Pt Chevalier, a quiet cul-de-sac with expansive views over the Waitemata Harbour. The properties are together valued at $5.2 million, although that was set three years ago when prices had slumped.

A 1930s weatherboard home at No 44, the biggest of the trio, is at the centre of the wrangle. It has five bedrooms, a self-contained flat and a 111sqm storage unit at the back, and sits on a 875sqm section. The couples bought it in 2005 for $1,513,000.


The younger Gregorys live there with their three children and also own an adjacent $1.6 million home. The older couple live next door to that in a $1.73 million home they have owned for more than 30 years and where they raised Michael and his sister.

Trevor Gregory told the Herald yesterday that the couples had talked about knocking down the three properties and building apartments.

But his son decided he wanted to buy the house they own together.

The couples could not agree on the price so decided to put it on the market. Michael and Simone could bid on it at auction. "I think the fair way to sell is at auction," Mr Gregory said. "I don't think I'm being unreasonable."

The court decision shows the couples disagreed on the reserve price, what should happen if the property was passed in, who the real estate agent should be, how the property was to be prepared for marketing and arrangements for inspection by Trevor and Sue.

They have also fought about maintenance and rent paid by Michael and Simone.

Justice Kit Toogood said there was a "high level of mistrust", with the older Gregorys concerned the others would discourage third-party buyers so they could obtain the property for themselves.

He made 23 orders, including that because "the property is by the sea, the auction is to be held on site on a Saturday coinciding with the tide being in".


Mathew Ockleston, a property lawyer with Kensington Swan, said of the judge's order: "I presume what he's thinking is an auction on site helps people visualise the property, rather than having it in the auction rooms ... so the auctioneer can talk up whatever feature he's pointing out. And if it's a coastal property and the sea view is a selling point, I'd imagine at low tide it's not going to look very pretty.

"What the judge is trying to do is making sure the parties get the best price ... If I was trying to buy out my co-owner, I'd want the auction for half an hour on a Wednesday lunchtime so I could be the highest bidder. The last thing you'd want is an extensive marketing campaign on site that might attract other bidders."

Justice Toogood also ruled that if the property doesn't sell, it should be vested in the names of the younger Gregorys, who would pay the parents half of its value.

Sue Gregory had a "close association with Barfoot & Thompson" and wanted Paul Donovan from the firm's Mt Eden office to sell the home. The younger couple wanted to use Unlimited Potential, although were willing to "compromise" and use a Barfoot Pt Chevalier agent.

Justice Toogood ruled that Mr Donovan be appointed the listing agent, but seek assistance from the Pt Chevalier office.

Trevor Gregory said he was disappointed the judge had ruled that his son be sold the property if it passed in, as he wanted the option of trying again to sell it.

Despite the court action, he hoped to restore the relationship.

"Time heals everything. In my mind, there's no great rift."

Michael Gregory said he did not want to comment as it was a "private family matter".

Judge's orders: Sell by the seaside

A selection of the 23 orders Justice Kit Toogood issued on the sale of 44 Wright Rd:

As the property is by the sea, the auction is to be held on site on a Saturday coinciding with the tide being in.

On or after May 5, a sign be erected on the outside of the property with colour photographs describing the characteristics of the property.

A gardener is to be employed by the parties (maximum spend $500) to tidy up the grounds.

Each couple to contribute $3,500 towards marketing costs.

The property be advertised in the NZ Herald, Property Press, Look Local and agents' websites.

Open homes be held on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 1pm.

If the property is passed in, the agent shall not negotiate with the highest or any other bidder.

Each couple can bid for the property.

If the property is passed in, it shall vest automatically in the names of Michael and Simone, who will pay Trevor and Sue half the sum of a recent valuation.