Victoria’s real estate industry is embroiled in another scandal. This time, the body at the centre of the scandal is the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (the REIV) and its CEO, Mr Enzo Raimondo.
The REIV is an industry association whose members comprise around 80 per cent of the state’s 6,000 estate agents. The REIV’s purpose is to protect the interests of its member agents. One of its aims is to convince the public that REIV agents are honest and ethical. It’s a tough task.
Since the turn of the century, Raimondo has made a constant series of embarrassing public blunders as he has sought, in many cases, to defend the indefensible.
Back in 2000, when the dummy bidding scandal was at its peak, Raimondo told an ABC Radio interviewer, “I’m not sure what is meant by dummy bids. I haven’t heard anyone explain to me what a dummy bid is.” The interviewer explained it to him, “Someone in the audience pretending to be a real bidder when they are not.” Raimondo immediately hit back with this gem of wisdom, “The auction process has been around for a long, long time.”
When Raimondo tried the same logic on Radio 3AW, the interviewer said, “Enzo, you are treating me as an idiot here.”
And therein lies the problem that has plagued the Victorian institute this century. Enzo Raimondo’s response to many scandals is to make an idiotic statement. In doing so, he not only damages his own credibility, he tarnishes every agent – good or bad – in the entire state.
It seems, finally, however, that Enzo Raimondo may have made one blunder too many.
In this latest scandal, the REIV auctioned one of its own properties. The property was quoted as being for sale at a price “in excess of $3 million”. At the auction, however, an offer of $3.5 million was rejected. The property later sold for $3.75 million.
Raimondo’s excuse this time was “miscommunication”. It was an idiotic excuse that led one high-profile buyers’ agent, David Morrell, to describe the REIV as “a circus” and Raimondo as “a clown”.
“Enzo Raimondo proffering the excuse of miscommunication is pathetic. This example shows the legislation is not working, is not policed and purchasers are being misled,” Morrell said.
In November 2007, Consumer Affairs in Victoria (CAV) introduced new laws which stated that agents could not advertise a “plus” price or use the term “in excess of” to quote a price. In an astonishing display of arrogance, Raimondo reportedly told agents to ignore the CAV’s legal requirements. Just do it the REIV and Raimondo’s way. Never mind the law.
Under Raimondo’s leadership, the REIV acts as a law unto itself. Not only does it condone unethical conduct, it has also been accused of manipulating property statistics. In 2006, one of Australia’s most respected real estate researchers, Louis Christopher, slammed Raimondo as “a disgrace” and accused the REIV of “grossly unethical behaviour”.
Yesterday, another leading Australian property researcher – who declined to be named for fear of retribution (Raimondo is known to send lawyers after his critics) – claimed that Raimondo and the REIV “have been fudging the figures for years”. He said, “They have rigged the system so that it creates the best possible result for their own purpose.”
Last week, David O’Callaghan, a well-regarded board member of the REIV, resigned. He had lost confidence in Enzo Raimondo. Another respected agent said that Raimondo “has been making us all look bad for years. They should fire him. And whoever hired him.”
A Melbourne journalist recently sent a joke text message. It read, “The REIV has billboards in Melbourne with just the word ‘ethical’ on them.” Very funny.
If the REIV is serious about improving its public image, it has to do better than just comical billboards. It has to change its leadership.
If Enzo Raimondo wants to help Victoria’s real estate industry, he should resign immediately as the chief of the REIV.
In my opinion it would be his most intelligent decision.