Sharon Peach of Ray White Lane Cove.
Article originally published FEBRUARY 7, 2005 –Reviewed and approved.
By Neil Jenman
Sharon Peach owns a Ray White real estate franchise at Lane Cove.
Last week, Sharon was described (on her web site) as having “the highest standards of integrity.”
This week, she is making national headlines as the first agent in NSW to be fined for underquoting the price of a property.
In 2004, Ray White at Lane Cove sold a home for $1.535 million after apparently telling buyers that the home was likely to sell between $1.1 million and $1.4 million.
Words such as honesty and trust have been replaced with misleading and false when it comes to describing Sharon Peach. In addition to fines of more than $14,000, Ms Peach must suffer an even harsher punishment – that of being labelled a liar and a cheat.
Sharon Peach doesn’t look like a cheat. She is a well-presented woman with an engaging smile. It is easy to see why she would be a more appealing choice for homesellers than those stereotypical males in their dark suits and shiny coupes who permeate the Sydney real estate scene.
So, it’s entirely possible – even quite probable – that Sharon Peach is not the villain she appears to be. Yes, she has been found guilty of underquoting the selling price of a home and yes, she is a supporter of the auction system.
But her case illustrates an important point in the real estate world – it is almost impossible for even the most honest person to do an honest job in a dishonest system.
In the fiercely competitive Sydney market thousands of agents use false quotes. To win the sellers, they quote a high price and to attract the buyers they quote a low price. It’s a well-known property saying, “Quote ‘em low and watch ‘em go. Quote ‘em high and watch them die.”
From real estate institutes to major franchise networks to high-profile agents-cum-trainers, most of them teach methods that, at best, could be called creative and, at worst, downright deceptive.
Into this industry, nine years ago, stepped Sharon Peach – fresh and eager from the cosmetics industry. She didn’t invent false quotes, auctions, dummy bidding, profile advertising or any of the dozens of real estate tricks.
While she might deny it (to protect her industry colleagues), Sharon was almost certainly doing what she had been taught to do. She was swimming with the sharks.
The NSW Minister for Fair Trading, John Hatzistergos is using the Sharon Peach case as a warning to all agents not to engage in false quoting. “If we get the appropriate information coming to us and we can act on it, we will,” he said yesterday.
Why is Sharon Peach the only agent to be prosecuted? Why is she being treated as the only villain? “It’s very very unfair,” she reportedly told The Sunday Telegraph.
As far back as July 2002, Money Magazine reported that 91 per cent of the property auctions in Australia involved false quotes. In Sydney, the average disparity between the price quoted to buyers and the price at which a property sold was a whopping $122,000.
In November 2002, The Sunday Telegraph surveyed more than 40 auction properties and found that almost all of them were being falsely quoted. The Real Estate Institute of NSW responded by saying that false quoting was “not widespread”. Liars.
Anyone who gives even a passing glance to the real estate industry will see that false quoting – either in writing or verbally – is as common as double-breasted black suits and oily hair.
One of those most shameful aspects of real estate is how agents offer up their sacrificial lambs. “We’ve caught the baddie who is disgracing the rest of us,” is their response when an agent is fined for doing what most of them do.
Most agents have been (or are still are) up to their necks in false quoting. And yet not one of them is likely to come forward and say that Sharon Peach is just doing what most of them do. And quite probably to a lesser degree. After all, she doesn’t look like your typical agent and there have been no known complaints about her before today.
She looks like a goldfish caught in a pool of sharks who have now abandoned her. It’s enough to make you want to give her your business.
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