Call for brochures to spell out common areas

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 June, 2010, 12:00am

Developers should spell out in sales brochures every single bit of common space that flat buyers have to pay for, the Council for Sustainable Development says.

Developers are not required to provide buyers with an exhaustive list of a building's common areas and their location, and there is no law to limit the amount that can be included in the advertised gross floor area of a flat.

Apart from the more obvious items such as clubhouses, lift lobbies and visitor car parks, common areas can also feature things such as emergency vehicle access routes, pathways to car parks, private streets, pedestrian walkways, pump rooms, workspace for watchmen and even decorative architectural features. These common areas can take up as much as 30 per cent of, for example, a 1,000 sq ft flat in a new residential development, leaving the flat's internal area at just 700 sq ft.

Some developers in the past said giving an exhaustive list of common areas was not feasible as it would make sales brochures too technical for the public to understand.

But 'times have changed', council chairman Bernard Chan said. 'People want to know everything about a product they buy. A flat is much pricier than any other product. I can't see why the Real Estate Developers Association (REDA) cannot increase transparency in this aspect.'

The council has recommended the government require developers to include in sales brochures for new developments a breakdown of the common areas apportioned to each flat and their proportion of the price of the flat in a way easily understood by potential buyers.

'There can't be just a lump sum of the common areas. Buyers must know what exactly they are paying for,' Chan said.

The council had not discussed the idea with the REDA, Chan said, and he hoped the administration would accept the recommendation to address Hongkongers' demands.

Green Building Council director Wong Kam-sing agreed on the need for better disclosure. 'The existing practice is too mysterious and confusing,' the architect said. 'Outsiders have no idea how developers count the common area. And different developers have different formulae.'

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, of environmental group Green Sense, said such disclosure would help but the government should also make a standard definition of 'common area' to improve transparency.

The council also proposes the government require developers' sales brochures to disclose the gross floor area concessions the developer received for features, such as balconies and utility platforms, which can be inside or outside the flats.

The government has already decided to publicise on its website the concessions, but the council said it would be more beneficial to buyers if brochures carried the information.

Sleight of hand

The proportion of a flat's gross floor area accounted for by common areas can be as high as: 30%