THE average price announced yesterday by Playmates Properties Holdings for its upcoming Village Garden sale is a farce. First, it says in its announcement that the average asking price for the initial 10 homes in Happy Valley on offer will be $5,700 per square foot. But from the price list, the average figure works out at $6,132 per square foot, about 7.5 per cent more. But that figure is misleading, too. Playmates says in its brochure it will give the first 10 buyers of the '$5 million' homes a $500,000 cash-back bonus on completion of the transaction. In other words, buyers will be expected to pay a standard 30 per cent downpayment if they commit themselves at the pre-sale this weekend. This works out about $1.5 million. They will then have to line up a mortgage for the remaining $3.5 million to be executed when the flats are completed and handed over by the developer. Because the flats are virtually ready now, buyers will get $500,000, or about a third of their downpayment, back in cash when they get the keys to the flats in about month. That means the flats were never really $5 million in the first place, but $4.5 million. After stripping of the gimmicks, the true net average is about $5,500 per square foot - not $5,700 as the company says, nor $6,132 as calculated. Playmates could be accused of misleading the public, but potential buyers are hardly likely to complain. The whole purpose of this number-juggling would appear to be to slide past the 30 per cent downpayment guideline when taking out a mortgage. That is not all. Hang Seng Bank is offering an additional discretionary 10 per cent top-up private financing loan to buyers, depending, of course, on their credit-worthiness. At the end of the day, some buyers will have to produce 10 per cent of the lump-sum downpayment out of their own pockets. What Playmates and Hang Seng Bank have managed to do is invent yet another way of ridiculing the Hong Kong Monetary Authority's 70 per cent maximum mortgage lending ratio guideline. That the 30 per cent downpayment guideline is being so widely abused by all and sundry, is it not time it should go?