Controls loom for showroom flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 April, 2010, 12:00am

Developers may be forced to provide an unfurnished flat in showrooms in the future so buyers can judge how big a home they are going to get.

'There is room for improvement in the few showrooms we have visited recently,' housing minister Eva Cheng said after inspecting two show flats of Cheung Kong's Festival City development in Tai Wai yesterday. She also visited mock-up properties for the company's Meridian Hill and for Henderson's Paramount last month.

Buyers are confronted with mock-ups missing the front door and external walls, glass used as partitions, and ceilings higher than the actual height, which Cheng said would give them a wrong concept of the actual flat space.

She noted that visitors were banned from taking photos and measurements in the mock-up flats. 'Improvement is needed, as these are basic rights of consumers,' she said.

Developers should also label which furniture in a showroom would be in the real flat. An unfurnished flat would accurately indicate the actual size, she said.

Cheng's findings coincide with the findings in a South China Morning Post report in December, which detailed the features used in showrooms by the five major developers. These included extra-shallow wardrobes, encroachment on public space outside, the merger of two rooms, and a ceiling higher than the actual one.

The Consumer Council would welcome regulations on mock-up flats. The council has received one complaint in each of the years 2007, 2008 and this year. The complainant in the most recent case found the partitions in the real flat different from the showroom.

In the 2007 case, the buyer found only two television sets were provided in the real flat. He thought - without referring to the sales brochure - that he would get four as seen in the show flat. In the remaining case, the buyer was forbidden from taking photos and measurements.

One woman who visited the show flats for Festival City yesterday said she backed legislation for restrictions on such flats and on the selling of uncompleted flats.

Having visited many different showrooms recently, she said the materials used in show flats were of very good quality, which might be different from the actual property a buyer would get. 'And the furniture should not be too small,' she said, or that would give buyers the wrong impression of space. She said it would be best if the developers were required to show unfurnished units to prospective buyers.

Midland Realty said it welcomed such a proposal, as it would reduce disputes between buyers and sellers and give buyers more confidence to invest. Dr Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, of the Institute of Surveyors, said measures for mock-up flats were long overdue. Developers should be prevented from using glass partitions - usually thinner than the real ones - to make flats look more spacious.