Dishonesty by agents common, says boss

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am

Property agents often embellish the truth to steal a march on rivals, the head of one of the biggest real-estate groups said, calling for improved training and a raising of the bar for entry to the profession.

Shih Wing-ching, chairman of the Centaline Group, was speaking a day after the Estate Agents Authority revealed it had fined one of the firm's branches $100,000 for maladministration and misleading advertising, suspending one of its agents for two months.

The branch, in Sha Tin, claimed last year to have exclusive rights to handle secondary-market transactions at the Belair Gardens estate. An investigation by the authority found the claim to be false.

Mr Shih said: 'We have already laid off the property agent. I believe that the public will still put their faith in our group because we have a well-established reputation.'

He believed more cases would be filed against dishonest property agents, saying exaggerated claims had become common practice in the highly competitive industry.

Fines and punitive measures should be imposed on property agents who provide misleading information, he said.

'I am glad that the authority is stepping up efforts to regulate the industry. We have to put a stop to such malpractice and encourage fair play,' Mr Shih said.

But Centaline would continue giving agents a free hand in providing market information to clients.

'The market is ever-changing, and it is impossible to provide the most updated information in a centralised way,' he said. 'However, there is a need to improve the quality of property agents, most of whom are Form Five graduates without much training. They have to pass the Estate Agents Authority tests to get a licence, but the test papers are very easy.'

Legislator Abraham Razack, who represents the real-estate and construction industries, said the authority had yet to explain how it monitors property agents' work.