Buyers entitled to see what they are paying for

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am

Just when the subject of Hong Kong's shrinking flats seems to have been exhausted, it gets a new lease of life. Despite recent moves to ensure more transparency in marketing, property developers continue to try to convince us that less is more.

There has been progress. First their own industry body, the Real Estate Developers Association, stepped in with guidelines for sales brochures for uncompleted developments that banned misleading artists' impressions of such things as green features and grand clubhouses, and required disclosure of nearby residential developments and unpopular facilities such as landfill sites, petrol stations and cargo working areas.

Then, from this month, the government required developers to state the saleable floor area and its price per square metre or square foot when uncompleted flats go on sale, instead of after a sale is completed. Previously the price had been listed only in terms of the gross floor area, including common areas, which brings down the per-square-foot price.

Once inside the front door of a show flat, however, it remains buyer beware of shrinking flats, as shown by our report yesterday on the marketing of uncompleted projects by several big developers. They included designer space 'enhancements' such as the replacement of solid walls some 10cm thick with thin glass partitions, the removal of walls between a master bedroom and a study, shallow wardrobes capable of taking only children's clothing, and the removal of front doors and balcony railings. In the case of the missing walls, one prospective buyer realised that once they were restored, the bedroom door would clash with the bed.

Developers say they are just presenting design ideas without purporting to show the actual size and layout, which they say are available on plans at the show flats. That even the developer says a brand-new flat could do with some renovation to make it more liveable speaks for itself. Buyers are entitled to see what they are paying for without reference to plans, or to disclaimers that the show flat accurately represents the one they will be buying.