Potential investors weighing up the Macau property market should first learn the rules, and step one is to realise that the sector is less tightly regulated than Hong Kong. Gregory Ku Ka-ho, managing director in Macau for Jones Lang LaSalle, said interested buyers should begin by looking at the background of the developer and scrutinising any claims made in brochures. 'In Macau, there are no rules to govern pre-sales, and maybe the building works are not yet approved,' he said. In Hong Kong, you can only do pre-sales after first getting the required building approvals and completing a certain percentage of the development. Hong Kong's legal system was also based on common law, while Macau used continental law. This means that sales and purchase agreements could be 'pretty simple', but also that they were essentially private contracts between buyer and seller, with limited recourse to other authorities should a dispute arise. Regarding property management issues, Mr Ku said it was important to understand what arrangements were in place for maintaining the building's common areas. In Hong Kong, specific ordinances governed the deed of mutual covenant, which was binding on all owners of a multi-unit property and set out rules for the management of the building. But in Macau, it was common for owners to sign a 'private' agreement with the relevant company. '[If something goes wrong], you can only sue the other party, so it is not very effective in terms of cost and time,' Mr Ku said. Buyers should also talk to the banks well in advance if they need financing. 'In Hong Kong, you can usually get 70 per cent of the bank valuation, but some of the banks in Macau are very conservative,' he said. Mr Ku said the Macau government was considering new regulations for the sector. One was to set up a real estate authority to oversee the rules and regulations for agencies. 'At the moment, anyone can offer real estate agency services, including lawyers and architects,' Mr Ku said. He said setting up a central registry would also make it easier to check transactions and promote greater transparency.