When 'private sale' means anything except private
Don't think you will be given a special price or priority in choosing a flat when you are invited to private sales arranged by developers - as these 'private' sales are no longer private.
A 'private sale' actually meant something eight years ago, under government policy at the time. Developers could invite only a limited number of buyers to private sales, where they would be given priority selecting flats at a discounted price.
At the same time, developers were required to sell some of their flats through public sales. Buyers had to queue up at the site or take part in a 'lucky draw' in order to choose a desirable flat.
But the controls on private sales were lifted in November 2002, when nine measures to stimulate a declining property market were announced by then secretary for housing, planning and lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung. Developers were given the freedom to determine sales arrangements that suited them.
Tactics such as 'private sales', 'internal sales' and 'priority sales' emerged in their dictionary - but none have been clearly defined.
'Sales for most of the development projects under study were promoted as 'private sales', but the flats concerned were found to be open for sale to the general public,' the Consumer Council said in its report released yesterday.
'Accepting a deposit and promising a priority status is to no effect where multiple deposits are accepted, because the multiplicity of deposits lessens any notion of exclusivity,' it said.
Describing the sale of flats as 'private' sales when they were available to anyone was a 'deceptive ploy', as buyers were given the illusion that they were getting priority in choosing flats and that the flats were cheaper, the council said.
It urged the government to reinstate an upper limit, 5 per cent for example, on the flats available for private sales - and to require developers to inform buyers which ones were reserved for private sales.
Developers should also correctly explain the status of the flats - whether they had been withheld by developers or sales agents for their private clients before public sales, the council said.