An investor who bought a sick pensioner's home after calling at her house with a basket of food treats is "shocked and distressed" at claims he took advantage of the vulnerable cancer sufferer.
Widowed great-grandmother Sarah Ewe's house has been saved today after a successful last-minute legal bid on the back of Herald coverage.
The 72-year-old, who has stomach and lung cancer, was due to leave her modest family home of 52 years at the end of the week and faced moving in with grandchildren or into a caravan.
Her family claim Peter Lee took advantage of Ewe by sewing up a quick sale - at a price about $100,000 below various market estimates - without her receiving independent advice from her family or lawyer.
In a statement this afternoon released through a PR company, Lee confirmed he is the owner of house trading companies Auckland House Buyers and PropertyWise, which purchase homes privately for "fair offers" with no commission and no marketing fees.
He said Ewe had been considering selling her home when she responded to an unsolicited PropertyWise flyer.
After negotiations Ewe "agreed on a price to sell her home".
"A sale and purchase agreement was finalised as far as the company was concerned. Mrs Ewe understood otherwise, but this was not known to Mr Lee."
Lee said he was "well versed with the process of home buying and complies with the law in all respects". Vendors were "fully able to seek legal advice and valuations".
"But for whatever reason Mrs Ewe did not."
Lee said he believed he had conducted himself "ethically and fully within the law" during the sale process. He was "shocked and distressed by the accusations made about him and his business in media reports".
"As a result of discussions today, the parties have reached a confidential agreement in which Mrs Ewe will retain ownership of this property."
The Weekend Herald revealed on Saturday that Ewe had signed her house away in under three hours after Lee visited her property in November.
She claims she did not realise she was signing a sale and purchase agreement for $560,000.
QV estimates the property is worth $660,000 and homes.co.nz puts its current value at $680,000.
Her family launched a last-ditch legal bid to save her home on Friday, hiring lawyers to challenge the sale contract.
Doug Cowan Barristers & Solicitors immediately wrote to Lee's solicitor giving notice that Ewe was cancelling the agreement.
The parties met this morning to discuss the family's demands, when Lee agreed to abandon the contract.
Ewe's lawyer, Callum McLean, confirmed the matter had been resolved and a confidential settlement reached.
He was unable to comment further but thanked the Herald for its coverage of Ewe's plight.
Ewe could not be reached. But a family friend said she was thrilled with the outcome.
"That's absolutely fantastic isn't it. That's wonderful. She was looking so sick so that's amazing. I feel really good."
Labour Housing spokesman Phil Twyford labelled such companies the "real estate equivalent of clothing trucks and finance companies".
He said today's developments were a good result.
"Mrs Ewe should never have been put at risk of losing her house. Good journalism exposed this case to public scrutiny but the Government should still look at whether there needs to be better regulation to protect the vulnerable."
Ewe was nearing the end of 12 rounds of chemotherapy when she responded to Lee's flyer. He turned up at her home that afternoon.
"That's how friggin' dumb I am," Ewe said through tears last week.
"I'm so embarrassed by what I've done."
Lee's companies are not subject to real estate industry code of conduct rules or regulations under the Real Estate Agents Act.
Auckland House Buyers' website was deactivated after Saturday's story, and PropertyWise deleted information on its team members and links to online tutorial videos by PropertyWise's advertised director, William Watson.