Rate My Agent boss defends award to underquoter Tim Heavyside

Rate My Agent boss defends award to underquoter Tim Heavyside
Jonathan ChancellorDecember 7, 2020

Tim Heavyside was "doing the best possible job for vendor clients," RateMyAgent co-founder Mark Armstrong said in defence of the website's controversial naming of the underquoter as RateMyAgent's 2018 agent of the year.

"Underquoting works! That’s the reality," Armstrong said.

"To market a property effectively and auction it for the highest possible price, the agent must pitch the advertised price below the level they believe buyers will be prepared to pay in an openly competitive arena," he said.

The 2018 agent of the year winner, Tim Heavyside is a director of Fletcher & Parker, which was slapped with a $880,000 penalty by the Federal Court last December.

The Federal Court judge pinpointed Heavyside as involved in 15 of Fletchers’ 22 proved underquoting contraventions which resulted in the state's record fine against an estate agency.

Rate My Agent boss defends award to underquoter Tim Heavyside

The Federal Court ruling concluded Fletchers’ directors and sales consultants in its Canterbury and Blackburn offices acted with a "cavalier disregard for legal obligations that they well understood."

But RateMyAgent co-founder Mark Armstrong said in a blog that "like it or not, buyers have conditioned themselves to the practice of underquoting."

"Applying misleading and deceptive conduct provisions to the widespread pre-auction practice known as underquoting is fraught with problems," he said.

The website launched in June 2014. It recently launched into the US market.

The RateMyAgent Agent of the Year Awards are designed to recognise agents and agencies who provide excellent client service.

It’s based on the number of positive client reviews posted on RateMyAgent as a proportion of each agent’s total sales for the previous calendar year.

Armstrong noted the fine related to 22 of 2,004 available sales files over the period of investigation back in 2014–2015.

"In other words, just one per cent of sales at Fletchers during that time incurred a fine," he said.

"The fines could cause a disproportionate level of misunderstanding amongst the public, when in fact Tim Heavyside and other agents are doing the best possible job for their vendor clients," Armstrong suggested.

"We now have the ridiculous scenario of two principles of consumer law working against each other.

"On one hand, a selling agent is contractually obligated to the vendor, not the buyer. 

"At the same time, putting the onus on agents to advertise the expected selling price gives them a de facto responsibility to advise buyers – a clear contradiction."

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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