ATO owed $933,000 after Unique Estates Australia collapse

Staff reporterJune 14, 20180 min read

The ATO is the biggest creditor after the collapse of the leading Australian boutique estate agency Unique Estates.

The agency ceased trading earlier this year with PPB recently appointed liquidator. 

BMW Leasing is the second highest of the known creditors, owed $351,000.

Express Commission Australia was owed $180,000, among the 27 creditors owned a $1.6 million total.

It was February when McGrath Nicol had been initially appointed joint managers by the NSW Department of Fair Trading with staff getting 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.

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

It had operations in Sydney, Melbourne and Byron Bay with 32 employees, whose creditor details are yet to emerge.

There is some concern on the quorum at the meeting of shareholders appointing PPB, so in order to resolve the matter, PPB have instructed solicitors to make an application to the NSW Supreme Court confirming their appointment as liquidators.

Creditors have been advised in early June the director is in the process of preparing a Report as to Affairs (RATA).

"The books and records of the Company are held by the Joint Managers and we are in discussion with them to obtain the books and records for our investigations.

"The director has co-operated with our enquiries into the company’s affairs," PPB noted. 

The website listings extended from Hamilton Island to Cressy in Tasmania, all disappearing many now at other agencies.

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 and had recently launched a yacht and jet charter division.

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

Its 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.

"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.


Staff reporter

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