Developers defend gross area flat figures

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 January, 2011, 12:00am

Buyers need to know the gross floor area of a flat, otherwise they cannot compare the leisure and green facilities of different estates, the Real Estate Developers Association says.

Association secretary general Louis Loong Hon-biu said it objected to the proposed ban on using gross floor area to describe a flat, arguing it should be stated with the internal - or usable - floor area.

But Dr Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, a spokesman for the Institute of Surveyors, said the association's argument was self-serving, adding buyers did not need to know the gross floor area of a flat because developers used different definitions.

'There is no universal definition of [gross floor area],' Poon said. 'Developers can include whatever items in the common areas they want and flat buyers have no way to verify their size. This will make law enforcement impossible.

'Two sets of figures describing the size of a flat will confuse buyers, especially when they are under stress in a sales office with agents urging them to buy the flat or not.'

Gross floor area usually includes the unit's internal floor area and its share of common areas.

Loong defended its use as essential. 'If there are two projects, one with a clubhouse and other amenities and the other without, how do buyers differentiate when you only know the flat's internal area and not the gross floor area?' he said.

'We feel ambivalent about the use of saleable area: it is all right if gross floor area is given side by side.'

A government-appointed committee preparing draft legislation to regulate flat-sale practices is considering ending the use of gross floor area in sale brochures, price lists and promotion materials.

Developers could only use 'saleable area' - the internal area of a flat without bay windows - as the standard of flat size. In the past, some unlikely items - a watchman's office and private roads, for example - were found to be included in some calculations, which buyers had to pay for.

'Without gross floor area figures, flat hunters will still be able to find out how many tennis courts and swimming pools you provide. They don't have to know the exact figures,' said Poon, who is also a member of the draft committee.

Meanwhile, advocacy group Green Sense has called for tighter control over the sale of flats, warning the prevailing system fails to protect buyers of developments governed by so-called 'old land leases', usually those issued before the 1960s.

Those built on sites with such land leases do not need government approval for the pre-sale of incomplete flats. This contrasts with those coming under the Lands Department consent scheme, which approves applications by developers to sell flats in projects that have not been completed.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong said: 'This reflects the lack of control over the sale of non-consent scheme projects.'

Tam also said it was unreasonable for the sale of flats to be under two systems of regulation.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said a government panel was working to improve regulations over the sale of new flats and hoped it could submit a report later this year.

The Icon, developed by Winfoong International, hit the headlines last week after a buyer accused Winfoong of failing to honour the transaction. She completed the purchase deal last month but when she went to inspect the flat last week, she found that electricity cables and water pipes had not been fitted, the flooring was missing and building materials were in the area designated for the kitchen.

She paid HK$9.7 million for the two-bedroom flat measuring 691 sq ft and was planning to sue the developer for compensation.

The Icon is a 17-storey residential project, with 68 flats of 690 sq ft to 781 sq ft, according to the developer's website.

Louis Chan Wing-kit, managing director of Centaline Property, declined to comment yesterday.

A spokesman for Winfoong International could not be reached for comment last night.

House rules

Changes in future private residential developments

Features likely to disappear
Covered walkway
Noise barrier
Bay window
Owners? corporation office
Rainwater/grey water recycling system
Swimming Pool

Water and drainage pipes, currently concealed in ducts at lift lobbies, would be exposed on the external walls

A large circular ramp in underground car parks if site is on a slope

The government proposes buildings be 15 metres the centre of a road. Developers say that in the transition period this will create an uneven appearance

1. New buildings will be built further back

2. Older buildings further forward will make street alignment uneven

3. Goal is to have all buildings level