Deceptions not confined to property brochures

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 October, 2009, 12:00am

The purchase of a home is a big commitment that demands attention to detail and emotional detachment. Anything that helps buyers make informed decisions is therefore welcome. Guidelines issued by the Real Estate Developers Association on what should and should not appear in developers' sales brochures are a step in the right direction. But they are more about ending some dubious practices than a new deal for homebuyers.

Developers who stick to the guidelines - for sales of uncompleted residential properties - will no longer include misleading artist's impressions of such things as green features and grand clubhouses in their brochures. And their location maps will have to include nearby residential developments and unpopular facilities, such as landfill sites, petrol stations and cargo working areas.

This follows criticism that one of the big developers failed to show a landfill site opposite a new project and that another failed to disclose the obstruction of sea views by a nearby development.

The guidelines tackle a feature of sales brochures that has long been a joke, but is misleading nonetheless. It would not take long, however, for a diligent prospective homebuyer to spot at least a couple of shortcomings in them.

First, they are not legally binding. It will be interesting to see the first developer to break ranks when competition for sales gets hot. Second, the guidelines do not go far enough. They do not stop the use of misleading graphics and images in fliers and television advertisements, or compel greater disclosure of what common areas buyers are paying for, or give buyers more time to read brochures.

The government continues to rely on self-regulation by the property industry and the discipline of market forces to protect homebuyers.

True, consumers are responsible for doing their own homework on marketing and promotion. But self-regulation was never meant to be a euphemism for 'buyer beware - or else' and developers should not stop at curbing misrepresentation in brochures alone.