Company Director of Unique Estates Nicolette van Wijngaarden is pictured at one of the properties that she is selling, Cedar Springs at Possum Creek. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Company Director of Unique Estates Nicolette van Wijngaarden is pictured at one of the properties that she is selling, Cedar Springs at Possum Creek. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

Staff unpaid as luxury real estate agency collapses

A BYRON Shire born estate agency which specialised in luxury high end properties has collapsed, leaving at least 35 staff out of work.

Unique Estates was founded by PR and marketing specialist Nicolette van Wijngaarden in 2008.

Ms van Wijngaarden reportedly sent a personal email to staff on Wednesday saying that wages could not be paid yesterday, as bank accounts were frozen and there were no funds.

The email stated that the business was headed for liquidation, and insolvency firm McGrath Nicol had been appointed, The Australian reported.

"I'm sorry it has come to this," Ms van Wijngaarden reportedly wrote.

Most staff were based in the company's main offices in Byron Bay and Sydney. 

The Northern Star understands several local subcontractors of the company will be out of pocket as a result of the collapse.

Just before folding Unique Estates had finalised the production of its latest 200 page glossy promotional magazine, Unique Luxury.

One source close to the company said the recent increase in government regulation on foreign property buyers may have hampered Unique's sales strategy of marketing properties internationally.

Apparently the company had tried several new marketing strategies last year as the lead times on selling high end property continues to lengthen. 

The company's entry on the Domain website says the Byron Bay office had sold 19 properties in the last 12 months, with an average sale price of $2.6m, and average time on the market of 341 days.

The highest recorded sale price was $4.3m for a two bedroom home at 12 Brownell Drive, Byron Bay.

It still has 31 listed properties across the Byron Shire, Gold Coast and Noosa, and Far North Queensland, and a $25 million coastal retreat near Albany in Western Australia.

Ms van Wijngaarden originally entered the real estate game to help her partner, who had spent seven years building his home and had no luck selling it.

 

Unique Estates Company Director Nicolette van Wijngaarden received awards for best real estate agency marketing in Australia and best real estate agency website in Australia at the prestigious Asia Pacific Property Awards in Kuala Lumpur. Photo Contributed
Unique Estates Company Director Nicolette van Wijngaarden received awards for best real estate agency marketing in Australia and best real estate agency website in Australia at the prestigious Asia Pacific Property Awards in Kuala Lumpur. Photo Contributed Contributed

She entered the home in the International Property Awards and it won Best Property - Australia 2008, an award which became the centrepiece of a successful marketing campaign to sell the home.

This strategy of entering vendors' homes in prestigious property awards and capitalising on the resulting media attention was repeated for other homes on the agency's books.

The agency went on to open up six offices across Byron Bay, Sydney's Double Bay, the Gold Coast, and Melbourne, and Hong Kong.

The company had also launched a rentals business, and more recently a yacht and jet charter division.



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