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Real Estate People Profit From Separations

Filed under: General — Ministry of Men's Affairs @ 10:19 am Sat 6th May 2017

This article describes a video for property investors etc encouraging them to target ‘divorcees’ among others and to employ tactics such as working together with others to add credibility to low offers. While this is not exclusively a men’s issue, men should be aware of it.
Real estate people, property investors (including anyone looking to buy) and those wanting to get bargain chattels will fly in like vultures when they are alerted to a marital or relationship separation. Others such as tradesmen or workers employed to prepare a property, relatives, and of course lawyers may also seek to exploit the separated couple who will almost always be vulnerable and will have their judgment impaired through grief, anger and other emotions:

– a man may be keen to get out of the house where memories now cause frequent grief and pain;
– he may be keen to get rid of matters that still require him to have something to do with the ex, and/or be so focused on moving on to a new situation that dealing with the property is a distracting hassle;
– he may feel so hopeless about life that nothing matters any more and he may as well dispose carelessly of everything that used to feel important;
– he may hate the idea that the ex continues to enjoy the property, perhaps with a new lover, that he worked to create or develop;
– he may be so depressed and poorly functioning that he is an easy target for profiteers scheming in numerous possible ways;
– as mentioned in the article, one partner may wish to reduce any profit that the ex might take out of the property, and be prepared to ‘cut off the nose to spite the face’;
– one partner may want to demonstrate to the other the consequences of abandoning the relationship (“see what you’ve done…”).
Is anyone aware of other ways in which people, particularly men, are vulnerable to exploitation after relationship separation or family destruction?
We recall a man who hired a cleaner to help prepare a house for handing over to a purchaser. At the time the man was clearly upset and anxious about the whole process. The cleaner recognized the man’s weak state and found something that might have been related to illicit drug use and tried to extort the man for a higher fee than quoted, by threatening to take the item to police. The cleaner seemed skilled in this ploy which he may have used before, a nasty bastard. The man knew there was no issue with the item but due to his weakness of spirit he did not take the cleaner’s extortion attempt further and even agreed to pay the cleaner somewhat more on the claim that the job had taken longer than the cleaner had expected (even though the cleaner had quoted a price beforehand). The man just wanted to get rid of the cleaner and wasn’t strong enough to deal with yet another conflict.
Friends and family often feel uncomfortable about the separation and/or may feel unconfident about what to say etc so avoid the couple, leaving one or both partners to feel very alone.
So what can men do to protect themselves in such situations? It may be possible to get a trusted person to take over the process of selling the property and other business related to the separation. It may be helpful to have sessions with a counsellor who is capable of identifying and confronting any destructive or unsafe thinking and behaviour, but beware that many counsellors are not competent to do so and many are man-blaming feminists who will not be helpful. Can anyone think of other ways to stay safe from exploitation?
We believe that our laws should provide more protection. For example, a delay could be required following separation before any relationship property can be sold (unless a case to sell earlier is put to a state-provided reviewing body that agrees on the reasons for an earlier sale).
The state encourages, facilitates and financially rewards people, mainly women, for separating from committed relationships and depriving their children of their family units and especially their fathers, so it’s more than reasonable to expect the state to fund some services to protect vulnerable ‘divorcees’ during the most risky period following separation.


  1. MOMA. I can answer some of the assumptions and questions you have put forward.
    I hold a full real estate licence (not a salesperson licence). There are but one in ten agents who are actually agents. I have near 20 years experience.

    I deal with divorce sales all the time. They are very time consuming and difficult because the people selling most often do not agree. In many cases there is an unresolved child custody situation. One person wanting to buy the other out at a low price and refusing to sell it to any other person.

    Once I had a man who did not have access to his children. In this circumstance i could not tell the man where his children were. The dad asked in a soft and concerning voice if his children were in a safe warm house, fenced from the road and had a play area. The dad wanted to know if they looked happy. It was the most disturbing divorce i ever did. I was near tears for the man’s awful situation. At least pasted this information back to the dad that his kids looked well and happy.

    The rules governing privacy are daily drilled into agents, branch managers and salespersons. When a buyer asks for the sale reason the standard response is “I can tell you anything I know about the house but nothing about the people selling the house or their circumstances unless I have instructions to.”

    On some occasions the order to sell comes from the court. It can order the registrar can sign the authorisation to sell documentation and any other associated papers on behalf of the sellers. This only really happens if there is a complete breakdown in communication between the sellers.

    In a lot of cases the the sale comes years after separation and divorce because the children are well under 18. I tend to find some divorce house sales no one want to invest time to tidy the property up or even clean them.

    Salespeople have no idea or way of targeting people who are about to get divorce. They simply do not know unless the parties tell them or if they pick up on it during the listing.

    Sometimes each party tells us what the other did wrong in the relationship. But again we do not pass on confidential or personal information. I get affected from harrowing stories but there is nothing I can do or say.

    I always ask the person in the house… “when this house sell, where are you going to live?”. The answer is often “I don’t know”. That answer really sets me off. Particularly if there are kids. I always suggest a long settlement to allow plenty of time so the sellers choices are not narrowed.

    Male salespersons have to be particularly careful around vulnerable woman. I insist on presenting documents with a second staff member with me.

    What I can confirm is divorce estate sales can sell for less if the house is not prepared form sale. I confirm anything that reduces the sale price of a property regarding condition of the property or access I report to both parties and their respective solicitors. If one of the sellers tells me about a situation or circumstance that could reduce the final sale price I always tell them to communicate that with their solicitor.

    I get a bit ticked off how real estate agents are thought of. Holders of a full agents licence are highly skilled business people. They manage staff, PAYE, trust accounts, rental properties and tenants, legal documentation. They are experts in property law, the commerce act and about a dozen other acts including the privacy act. We deal with very sensitive information from people getting separated, deaths in families, suicide, murders, people who have gone to prison and just about every other nasty family situation you can think of.

    To hold a full license you have to study and obtain either.

    A National Diploma in Real Estate (Agent)(Level 5)


    Graduate Diploma in Business Studies (Real Estate) Massey University


    Schedule 3 university degree and ITO assessment

    and have 3 years practical experience.

    Agents today are social workers. Take some consideration of the awful situation agents carry home but cant tell anyone about.

    Comment by Lukenz — Sat 6th May 2017 @ 8:41 pm

  2. Thanks Lukenz, it’s good to learn more about the ethics that real estate agents are supposed to follow and good on you for following them. If as you say only 1-in-10 are ‘actually agents’ then perhaps it’s the less qualified ones who are responsible for some of the exploitation of vulnerable people after separation. We did not mean to disparage all real estate people or indeed all property developers, but the ‘vulture’ analogy is consistent with the experience of a number of people who have shared their stories with us. We stress the importance of protecting people during their vulnerable, anxious, depressed and often more than a bit crazy state following separation.

    The long settlement period that you speak of is no solution to the issues we raised. The decision to sell during a time of impaired judgment is the important issue. We know of cases in which fathers have signed the sales agreement and specified a long settlement date as advised by the agent, then when their minds had settled a month or more later they realized selling had been a bad idea and they tried unsuccessfully to reverse the sale. Different cases involved different reasons for it being a bad idea. Some had not been able to consider the possibility and advantages of keeping the family home and protecting the children from that huge disruption and insecurity. Others realized that they had not done adequate market research and that their trust in agents’ estimations of the value of their property had been misplaced (and some of those cases appeared to involve other agents putting in lower offers to convince the vendor to accept the initial one). Others had agreed to sell under pressure from their ex, the ex’s lawyer threatening expensive Court action, or out of some hope that cooperating with the ex’s wishes would keep the door open to reconciliation.

    Real estate agents of course cannot be expected to be counsellors but any caring involved in recommending a long settlement date seems somewhat weak given that the agent’s commission has been secured perhaps because of a decision that it would have been truly caring to warn the vendor(s) against or to advise the vendor to seek advice or therapy.

    While real estate agents may well feel burdened by the situations they are confronted by, they are most certainly not social workers. They have no duty or code of ethics to act as social workers or helping professionals, their central aim being to secure a sale and the associated commission.

    We continue to call for greater protection in law to prevent people from making rash decisions about (usually) their largest asset following separations.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Sun 7th May 2017 @ 11:22 am

  3. Another big danger with long settlement dates is that a person agrees to sell a property at today’s valuation, gets that money some months later when the value of the property has risen considerably, then at the time of the separation agreement finds the ex demands half the increased value of the sold property which is much more than half what the property was sold for. Believe us, this happens frequently.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Sat 10th June 2017 @ 1:05 pm

  4. LukeNZ forgot to mention the “grandfathering clause” when they created the ACT that allows those who have bee practicing as fully licensed before the ACT to automatically have the licence – so not necessarily having the quals that he mentions. I know this as I worked in establishing the REAA. As LukeNZ why the Authority was established in the first place?!

    Comment by martin — Sat 10th June 2017 @ 6:36 pm

  5. Oh yes, apparently real estate agents fees in NZ far only just behind those of New York, but lead the rest of the world.

    Comment by martin — Sat 10th June 2017 @ 6:38 pm

  6. MOMA @3

    I find that hard to swallow, there is a contractual arrangement and therefore as no one receives until settlement date NOBODY can add value to the deal, use of money interest or otherwise.I have first hand knowledge of this.

    Comment by Buster — Sun 11th June 2017 @ 12:05 pm

  7. Buster #6: Sorry, we made an error in describing the problem.

    The problem we were thinking of involves two properties. Parties agree to sell one with a lengthy settlement period, and as part of that agreement one of the parties will take over and occupy the other property, paying out the ex after settlement for the first property. The arrangement is based on the values of the properties at the time of sale of the first one. By the time a separation agreement is on the table the second property has increased in value significantly so the party who takes it has to hand over a much larger proportion of what was received for the first property.

    Thinking further about the problem, it’s related to increase in property values over the period before settlement. For example, even if there is only one property sold with a long settlement date and the market increases significantly during that time, both parties end up with a much lower amount of money relative to the current property market.

    The point is, there is danger rather than protection in long settlement dates.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Sun 11th June 2017 @ 10:10 pm

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