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A whistleblowing real estate agent who has campaigned against deliberate underquoting of prices and bait advertising has been dismissed from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria's ethics committee.Industry sources say Macedon Ranges agent John Keating was dumped from the committee on which he served for eight years - sometimes as its head - because of his struggle against misleading price quotes.Institute chief executive Enzo Raimondo said that was incorrect but would not say why Mr Keating was removed as it was an internal matter.''We encourage members to have their own views and debate them within the committee structures of the institute,'' Mr Raimondo said.Mr Keating, who still is a member of the institute and won the 2008 president's award for outstanding service, is fighting to be reinstated to the ethics committee he helped establish''While I'm disappointed, I will continue to have input wherever possible through the institute to raise the ethical standards of the profession,'' he said.The development comes amid growing buyer anger about the gulf between advertised quotes and final sale prices.AdvertisementBuyers have repeatedly contacted The Age this year to complain about agencies that quote properties at hundreds of thousands of dollars less than their eventual auction price.Bernadette Wyer said that two weeks ago she bid on a Yarraville property that was advertised for between $650,000 and $700,000, but was passed in at $745,000The agent then offered it to her at $780,000.''There were other young couples bidding on this property who were very disappointed,'' she said''This type of advertising should be stopped because it is such an emotional ride for people investing in family homes.''Mr Raimondo said the industry did not have a problem with underquoting, saying it was difficult to predict prices in the current market.''We encourage our members to comply with the law and give the best estimate they can,'' he said, ''but the market ultimately determines prices and they are exceeding everyone's expectations at the moment.''Buyers advocate David Morrell said deliberate bait advertising was common.He said Consumer Affairs Victoria has failed to rein in agents who flouted laws banning bait advertising and underquoting.Only one court action and a number of compliance orders have followed a highly publicised raid on city agents last year after an examination of 1000 sales found 20 suspected cases of underquoting and another 90 where the price information was missing.''Consumer Affairs has been pathetic at holding the grubby guys accountable,'' Mr Morrell said''Despite all the rhetoric and hype, nothing has been achieved to protect the consumer from wasted time and moneyIt happens a thousand times each weekend.''Underquoting is hard to prosecute because of its narrow legal definition.It is the difference between the advertised price and an agent's estimated price (or vendor's reserve), as stated on their sale authority contract.Agents and vendors can sometimes conspire to state a price lower than the reserve or leave that part of the contract blank until the sale result is available.Mr Raimondo said Mr Morrell was not a member of the institute and ''we would not have him as a member''.Mr Keating, of Keatings Real Estate in Woodend, made headlines last year when he suggested the only way to eliminate bait advertising was legal reform that would force vendors to advertise their reserves in advance.His motion to recommend his plan to the state government was defeated 9-3 at an REIV meeting.Critics of his plan said most vendors did not know their reserve at the start of an auction campaign, and that publishing a reserve in advance would hinder competition.
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