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Unique Estates placed into liquidation

By David Gordon

“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 today.

“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 contract 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 times 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.

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.

( Story credited from )

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