Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Sometimes you get your priorities wrong. Not intentionally but you occationally forget what is important and then get jolted back to reality with a sharp push in the back.

That is what happened on Sunday after that slight sprinkling of rain (or The Perfect Storm as it was in our lovely house with the Southerly aspect....).

We have two cats. We rescued them when they were about 8 weeks old - they were born wild in someones garden and we like to think we saved them from certain death. They are just moggies; no pretending they are anything but that but we love them and have had them with us since 1995. When we moved to NZ, they had to come. No question about it. Well traveled cats these.

They have been with us throughout every move whilst we waited for our house. We've moved 5 times in the last 3 years and each time they have adjusted well and been content to settle back into a life of sleeping and eating and sleeping some more.

Harley Davidson (named as he will back into you until you grab his ears like handle bars at which point he will purr like a large HD) is well adjusted. He made the move from the UK with no fuss and is very friendly to our eldest, Ms R.

Gizmo (named as he has stupidly large ears) is scared. I don't mean just scared, he is terrified and paranoid. He is convinced that his tail is trying to kill him and spends most of the time looking over his shoulder only to discover that damn black tail is still there, taunting him. That is before we got here and moved him around. Now he is convinced that his tail is in league with his ears.....

Now Gizmo has disappeared several times only to come back a day later a bit sad and covered in cobwebs. Harley never disappears. He is dependable. Ms R calls him "the cat that loves me" 'cause he doesn't leap into the air and freak at the slightest noise and will cuddle.

Poor Harley vanished on Sunday. We panicked on Monday afternoon as this is most unusual. Mrs R rang vets today and posted a lost item on Pets on the Net. I always joked that if one of them died I'd get a nice pair of slippers with ears after the amount they'd cost to get here.

It is funny how you take things for granted. With kids you often ignore pets and forget that they need a little stroke and loving too. It took the loss of poor Harley to remind us of what he had been through and that he had stuck with us all these years.

After the panic of the last few days we opened the laundry door tonight and in ran Harley, slightly thinner but as loving as ever. Gizmo hovered in the shadows for a bit to make sure he wasn't followed...... They can sleep on the bed tonight - first time in many years. Gizmo might sleep under it, just in case.....

Monday, April 25, 2005

Are we there yet?

So here we are at the end of my tale. Better give a very quick recap for you.

We bought a house, off the plan, on a nice little section.
After 3 years, we only had a frame and a roof and then the developers' company was put into liquidation after he had spent all our money and a whole heap lent to him from a finance company.

The finance company took over and, due to the extraordinary losses that they incurred, all of the creditors, us included, ended up with nothing.

We had a caveat over the land which we though protected us as we had a financial interest in the section.

The finance company then told us that they were transfering the whole project back to one of the original developers from the failed company.....

Net result:
Creditors = Nil
Finance Company = $few million
Dodgy Developer = FOC

We were told in February 2005 that the Finance Co had no interest in dealing with us and since we were not prepared to meet their demands, they were going to court to remove our Caveat. Our lawyer advised that this process was expensive (about $20k) and that there was no guarantee of us winning.

As I've said several times, said Finance Company were not acting illegally, just unethically, in our opinion. We felt strongly that the court would find in our favour as there was a strange deal going on here with the creditors effectively wiped-out to cover someone elses losses. Nonetheless, we could not afford to lose any more money and had no choice but to bow out.

The caveat was removed. Our contract was gone. All rights were lost.

So ends our story but there is more....

We found another house and have moved on but there are still a group of people still affected by all this. What, where, I hear you say? Well, there are a group of existing residents around the development who have also endured 3 years of turmoil as their gardens were ruined and lives disrupted by this whole sorry development.

The landscape, that was once native bush (and was supposed to have stayed native bush), now resembles Mordor....

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The End is Nigh

We are nearly there. Our story is almost finished. For those of you that have read along and added your kind words of sympathy, thank you.

An interesting thing happened yesterday. miramarmike asked why I was writing this blog, why was I bothering to engage with the faceless corporate and during my reply I found myself defused and some of the rage extinguished. He is right of course. There can be no happy ending for this tale so why bother. It was never about the money (although it would have been nice to have it back as it is damn hard to come by!). It was always about us putting our experience into writing to see if it was as ridiculous in print as it was in real life. Did other people think we got done or were we blinded by our anger and unable to see the other side? Did our anger make us irrational?

Now, Mrs R and I are not dumb. We're both pretty educated. Mrs R thinks I am smarter than her (and I let her 'cause it gives me delusions of adequacy) but she is really the smart one. I am impulsive and she is measured. I always look for the good in people and she is more reluctant to give her trust; I am the puppy dog and she is the cool cat. She has the ability to stop me dead with blinding flashes of reason and common sense. I ignore her at my peril; it was my decision to go with this damn house and developer - she came along for the ride - never once has she said "this is your fault, dickwad" although we both know it is I who must live with the loss.

So what is this Blog all about? Well, we know that our lovely developer is still out there building and selling houses in Wellington. He is still supported by LJ Hooker, and is still charming people with his little tales. The agents are still telling lies about his past knowing full well that he has a string of failed deals behind him and poor people, who think that they are buying their dream, are about to embark on a nightmare. So I guess this Blog is for them. On the offchance that one of them Googles either Paul Hewitt, David Monro, Lombard Finance or LJ Hooker and stumbles in here. Maybe they'll think twice and save themselves the 3 years of crap that we went through.

We thought we had every base covered in our little adventure (For Wanda, if Hi-5 had a song about our mess, it would be called "Shafted" and Nathan would do his little shoulder drop thingy and wiggle his hips in a provocative way to the lyrics "they were shafted, yup shafted, spin around and do it again...." ). There ain't nothing you can do if someone is an out and out liar or crook. If the guy you are dealing with can look you in the eye and lie, you simply do not have a chance and the law will not and cannot help you. This doesn't mean you should become paranoid and suspicious of everyone, but it does mean I'll bring in Mrs R every time for her natural caution.

If I could bottle her magic I would. If I could sell it to you, the price would be $78k.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Fair Go.....

The house market went up (of course it did - if it had gone down I am pretty sure the Finance Co would have tried to hold us to the contract that they biffed-out) so we added a bit to make our offer what we thought of as reasonable. Remember, they would not give us a estimate and left it up to us. They simply said "market value" whatever that means. So we took off the cost of the excavation work that had gone on so far, the fact that the house frame was up and that the roof was on. We came up with $610,000 (ouch), which would wipe out all of our New Zealand savings and leave us with a large mortgage - we figured that this number combined with the lost $78,0000 that they were getting the benefit of, to be more than fair.

Surely they would be fair.
They knew how long we had waited.
They knew of our contract when they got involved in this scheme.
They knew we had paid this money to the developer.
They didn't even reply to our offer. Nadda. Not a word.
We put an expiry on our offer. It expired.

Things got nasty after that. I rang them and told them that I thought they were being greedy and that I was going to write to Fair Go. Below is what I got back.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Come on down

Competition Time

Lets play guess the bid............do do dee do do do dee doo. Bloggers everywhere, COME ON DOWN.......

Todays question. You buy a house in 2002 for $580,000. You pay $58,000 up front and a further $20,000 in 2004. Now, I'll give you a hint (and no helping from the audience), house prices went up in 2003 and 2004 but in that time your money has been used to build a frame and put a roof on. You've also paid for design work and have ordered a nice new kitchen.

OK people. What will you bid me? Go on, have a guess. I'll make it easy. The answer is not $502,000. Closest one to the actual bid, and for a bonus point, the actual asking price requested by our lovely sponsors, those generous people from Lombard Finance and their pals Paul and Dave the Developers, wins an all expenses paid trip to The Bahamas.*

*Terms and Conditions apply. The offer of an all expenses paid trip does not include any expenses or indeed a trip of any kind. The reference to The Bahamas is in fact a spelling error that we did not notice until after publication. The correct spelling of this word should have been "My Arse". In fact, if you are declared the winner, the organisers reserve the right to use your toilet at their convenience at any time and after eating any foodstuffs of their choice including such items as vindaloo curry, baked beans, and any type of Kebab. Always read the small print.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Show Me The Money.....

Well, we put in a second offer to buy "our" house. We spent a few hours with our lawyer and drafted a new agreement, same as the old but with one nasty difference: more wonga, spondoolics, dosh, green beer vouchers, dough, lolly, bread, moolah or just plain cold hard cash.

First let me tell you we are not rich, never have been and have no master plan (short of robbing a bank..hmmm there's an idea for me to talk to
half-pie about). What we did have when we arrived was some reasonable savings. Mrs R and I worked hard for 10 years in London - I worked long hours, traveled a lot and got paid well for 12 hour days and sweating blood. We had fun, some great holidays, a nice placid life. It all changed when Ms R was born (two weeks after 911). This little bundle blew us away and after the rush rush rush of the last years we both stopped dead in our tracks.

Mrs R's subtle hints to bring her home to NZ got less subtle in the weeks after (that is if you call "Take me home cockstrap" subtle. So I quit, we sold up and were in sunny Nelson within 6 months.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Heads you win, tails I lose

What would you do?
You spent $78,000 getting this far and you own nothing and have no "legal" right to anything. Would you walk away?
Would you say "Oh, shucks, there will be other houses" or "Hey, no big deal".
You have just put your family through 2 1/2 years of disruption and moved from rental to rental, each time thinking it is the last move and each time thinking that your (now) three year old daughter doesn't notice the strain or feel the stress.

The good part of this whole story is that my family are now permanantly settled in a lovely 1960's traditional kiwi house that we found late in 04 and moved into in Jan of 05. It has everything we always wanted from the "one that got away" and we are happy. Me, I am still full of rage under the surface for how our lives were screwed with by people who never had any respect for anything but how to save their own sorry butts from their incompetence.

We had to fight on. We had to put in that second offer for what we rightfully considered "our" house. We had stood on that patch of dirt for over 2 1/2 years at that point and I damn well felt it had my name on it.

The effect on Ms Reasonable (my 3 year old) has manifested itself in her compulsive collecting and stockpiling of anything from plastic packaging to stones for the simple reason "she doesn't want to lose them because she might never see them again". Its as if she can feel that we lost something valuable to us and she is unsettled but doesn't know why. She has boxes full of paper, twigs and strange items that we can't throw away as she knows where absolutely everything is. We are gradually throwing things away as we feel we can. Her boxes are precious to her and I am sometimes not always sensitive to her desire to keep the wrappers from McDonalds toys....

Friday, April 15, 2005

Wanna buy a used house?

Our lawyer suggests we put in a new offer as our old contract is only useful for lining the cat box. We are a bit annoyed but decide we have no choice. Maybe they'll be fair and take into account that we have already paid a shed full of cash and sat back for two years whilst Tweedle-Dee and his half-assed brother Tweedle Dummer put up the frame, and put on a roof, and even put some pipes in for the toilets and showers. Maybe, my arse. But wait. Who actually owns the project now? Is it Lombard Finance? Well they put the guy under and are the mortgagee so it must be them?


It is one of the original developers.....What you talkin' about, Willis [cue music].

So let me paint an interesting financial picture for you:
  • Developer and his partner are crap and lose or steal all the money through incompetence or just being crooks;
  • Finance company pull the plug and wipe out all the creditors 'cause they are owed soooooo much money - way in excess of the actual value of the project;
  • We are told that a new company now owns all the land and one of the directors of the new company is......wait for it.......one of the directors from the failed company;
  • It gets better. The same Finance Co that had the original mortgage are the backers to the new company.

So to really make this clear, my dear friends, Lombard get ripped off by apparently lending too much cash without checking the numbers. They then give the same guy some more money to finish the job with a brand new shiny company. Why would they do that? Well, I guess they get a large tax write-off and get to reduce some of their loses by, in my opionion, stealing my half finished house and land that we have a contract to buy and that we funded for the last 2 years. Ouch.

So we now have to go through the expense and hassle of putting together a new agreement to buy the house that we built, with the same guy that we originally bought the house off, and for more money....

This tested our marriage I can assure you. It is only because my wife is the wonderful person that she is that the stress didn't end us....we both cry when our daughter asks us why she can't have Christmas in her new pink bedroom......

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Ever had the feeling you were about to get badly screwed and I don't mean in a nice way!
You can see it coming but you can't do a damn thing about it. Bit like a car crash in the wet. Everything goes in slow motion and you can see yourself just sliding towards a whole heap of trouble with no way out? We had an expression for it from the trading floor in London. The cry was BOHICA....Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. Grown men would cry as the realisation of a major cock-up popped its mean little head up a shot you in the ass.

Well that is exactly what happened next in our little saga.

So here we are. A contract. No developer. No builders. No idea. Time to get a decent lawyer. The one we had used so far was about a useful as an umbrella in Wellington (note: for those of you not from this fine city, you don't see many brollies around for the simple reason everyone who has opened one, usually disappears over the top of Te Papa and beyond).

We got a great lawyer. He got right onto it and dug up all sorts of stuff. None of it good I am saddened to say.

First off, our plumber friends (who were looking to put the company into liquidation) were out of luck. Those friendly fellows from Lombard Finance were gonna get there first. They had the mortgage over the land and they were about to pull a fast one and every creditor was gonna get a good BOHICA, us included. You see, as I mentioned the other day, they had lent serious cash and the assets of our little developer were nowhere near enough. The result was that the shortfall in the debt to them was a good few million more than the land and houses leaving absolutely nothing for anyone else.

Our lawyer then worked with the appointed liquidator and confirmed that our deposit was not in fact in trust with the real estate company but was long gone. Worse was to come. Lombard Finance were not interested in honouring our contract. They told us that as house prices had gone up over the last two years (like we didn't know that!) they would be quite prepared to deal with us if we made a new offer. We asked how much? They wouldn't say but stated that the $78k we had lost so far (which had been used to half build the house that now stood on the site) was not their problem and to forget about it. That is a serious amount of cash to forget. I am pretty sure even Donald Trump would be slightly ruffled at losing $78k.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

OK, enough tears, lets cut to the chase....

So, enough already. The story so far. We signed a deal to buy a complete house on a great section. Everything that could go wrong did. The developer was out of his depth. Our contract wasn't worth a dime.

2 1/2 years after signing we got conned into making a progress payment. Over a few weeks, there were guys all over our house. A roof appeared, windows turned up. It all looked like finally we were going to get our dream home. We bought furniture, we picked colours. Our three year old got to choose her own colours and duvet for her bedroom. We wrote a cheque for $20,000......

YOU DID WHAT?! We look back and ask "were we insane?". You have to understand, we had been in this for the long hall and there were builders on site, I mean REAL builders with real tools and they knew what they were doing. We had a great meeting with the developer. He assured us that everything was now sorted and the house would be finished in about 8 weeks. He convinced us that absolutely nothing could go wrong at this stage. I actually questioned his finances and he looked me in the eye and said that "there are no problems whatsoever".

Within a week, the builders disappeared. The plumber disappeared. The developer disappeared. To say that panic set in would be an understatement. We found out that the builders weren't paid. The plumber wasn't paid. Our cheque had long since been cleared. I believe that it probably holds the record for fastest banked cheque.....he must have moved like Superman on his way to the toilet after a particularly bad Kebab from Courtney Place.....

Worse was to come. The plumbing firm applied to have the developers' company put into liquidation. However, this was the least of our worries. The developer had recently refinanced the project with those delightful people at Lombard Finance who had lent him a seriously large amount of money. In fact they had lent him significantly more than you could honestly believe and he had dutifully spent it somewhere else we guess 'cause it sure wasn't anywhere to be seen. We were a bit confused. We couldn't quite reconcile the millions, yep millions, that they had given him to the mess that was our development.

Now this is when it gets interesting and you just will not believe the events that came next. If you thought our developer was a crook, you ain't heard nothing yet......

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

20 months and still no roof. Full air con though!! This was March 2004..work began in June 2002! Posted by Hello

It's life Jim, but not as we know it....

So here we are with a shiny new contract to buy a piece of land with a new house on it. We think all is well as it OK'd by our lawyer and the Real Estate people seem very confident about the developer. We hear lots of good stories about the quality of his work...we failed to check references of previous houses. THAT WAS DUMB. However, we thought we were covered for two reasons:
  1. We had a contract with a penalty clause for late delivery;
  2. Our 10% deposit of $58,000 was held in trust.

UUUUURRRRPPP. Do not pass go and do not collect $100. Just so you know, a penalty clause ain't worth shit. It is basically unenforceable. If you need to call on it, then it's too late 'cause the cash is gone.

Furthermore, don't trust anyone. A simple lesson is people DO lie. Maybe not straight out lies but it is what they don't say that gets you. In our case, we specifically asked for our deposit to be held in trust and thought that this was the case. We hadn't realised that the agent had slipped a small paragraph into our documents releasing all funds, IMMEDIATELY, to them and the developer. That's right. Within 24 hours of signing, our deposit was gone; mostly to the realtor but some to the developer. Hmmmm, sounds like a conflict of interest here.....We didn't find out any of this for over 2 years when the liquidator thied to find our money. One consolation is that we spent the 2 years of hell completely oblivious to the lost cash merrily believing that we would be able to at least recover our deposit.

Got lots of pictures to follow of the slow and painful process - a sort of Chinese Water torture - as literally nail by nail our house was built. I think we hold the World Record for the slowest house builders ever. I swear that some days they pulled nails out so that they could spend the next week putting them back.......

Oh, just to save my ass from being sued, I repeat my message from a few weeks ago, that nobody broke the law here; they justed acted like dogs and pissed all over common decency. Remember the names, Paul Hewitt and Lombard Finance. Good honest people. Lovely New Zealand companies.

Oh well, better go before the rage takes over......just going to go drown my sorrows with a good ole dependable bottle of German beer. Gotta love that Heiny...