Nicolette van Wijngaarden "very sorry" Unique Estates placed into liquidation

Jonathan ChancellorFebruary 13, 20180 min read

"Bank accounts are frozen and there are no funds," was the blunt message to staff at a leading Australian estate agency today.

McGrath Nicol has been appointed joint managers by the NSW Department of Fair Trading over the national boutique estate agency, Unique Estates. 

Staff got an email from its founder informing them of the agency collapse.

"It is with great sadness that I inform you that Unique Estates is going into liquidation today and you are to stop work straight away," founder, Nicolette van Wijngaarden emailed staff.

"Wages can not be paid tomorrow," she told the staff, telling them to contact McGrath Nicol senior accountant Jordan Trovato, who has yet to confirm the official status of the estate agency.

"I am very sorry it has come to this," she wrote.

The website ceased operating today, with listings from Hamilton Island to Cressy in Tasmania disappearing.

Staff, its 32 vendors, recent sellers and their solicitors were dismayed at the move, although had fears of its deteriorating situation for some time. The agency was showing signs of eratic decision making along with heightened staff departures.

The estate agency was founded in Byron Bay. Unique Estates operated seven offices including Albert Park, Double Bay, the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Hong Kong.

Unique Estates was founded in 2009 as a specialized company for dealing with VIP clients and luxury properties.

Van Wijngaarden also ran rentals ranging a night to $NZ20,000 a night for one property in New Zealand’s Queenstown.

She recently launched a yacht and jet charter division.

The agency published the glossy Unique Luxury Magazine, a quarterly property and lifestyle publication distributed to Qantas Airways Chairman's, First Class & Business Class Lounges both nationally and internationally. Ads cost $4500 per page.

Its previously indefatigable founder Nicolette van Wijngaarden only entered the real estate game to help her partner, who had spent some frustrating time with established estate agents trying to sell his own Byron Bay hinterland property.

"Thankyou all so much for your tireless efforts to build our brand," she told the team of up to 42 staff today.

"Please know that I did everything I could to prevent it," she concluded her email.

The agency won a string of awards over the years including the Best Real Estate Agency Website for Asia Pacific 2017-2018 at the International Property Awards Grand Final Ceremony held in London recently. It had previously won awards in the categories of Best Real Estate Agency Website, Best Real Estate Agency Marketing and Real Estate Agency in the International Property Awards.

No reason was given for the collapse, but the sale of trophy home properties have slowed to a crawl across Australia, amid low vendor listings.

The Domain website indicated the team at Unique Estates had sold 19 properties in the last 12 months, with an average sale price of $2.6 million. 

The team sold 17 houses and 2 blocks of land and rural properties by private treaty.

These properties were on the market for an average of 341 days.

Last September van Wijngaarden noted the biggest challenge facing her market was government restrictions on foreign buyers.

The highest recorded sale price was $4.3 million for 12 Brownell Drive, Byron Bay, a 2-bedroom house which sold by private treaty on last November having been on the market for 230 days.

Their longest and dearest offering was the south WA coast property, Maitraya set on the picturesque coastline of Nanarup, near Albany.

It is on 263 hectares fronting three ocean beaches.

The farmland property comfortably sleeps 30 people across an eight-bedroom sandstone manor, five-bedroom fisherman’s lodge and two-bedroom pilot cottage.

Rick Fenny, the Perth businessman, had been seeking to sell his holiday retreat for $25 million. It had been listed since May 2015 with agent Nicolette van Wijngaarden, from Unique Estates.

Van Wijngaarden splits her time between a home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs near the harbour, a city apartment on the Yarra River in Melbourne and an apartment on the Gold Coast beach.


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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