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Fair trading
21/06/2003 Published in NST-PROP A Buyer Watch Article by National House Buyers Association

Since the late 1990s, when real estate fairs first began to take root as a feature of our property market, their objectives have all been the same - to promote and sell property stock and and financial products.

Such intention is not inappropriate. In fact, it is lauded because if the properly conducted, a campaign can bring about great benefit to both house builders and home makers as it avails a wide range of choice under one roof.

We at the National House Buyers' Association have participated in several of these events over the past two years and are indeed grateful to their organisers for giving us the venue to create awareness of house buyers' rights.

However, while at the campaigns, we couldn't help but notice some unhealthy practises adopted by developers which we feel need to be addressed.

Some have resorted to employing questionable sales gimmicks; some have exhibited their products without conforming to the various regulations, such as displaying their developerís licenses; some have even cunningly side-stepped the Housing Development Act by designating their condominiums as service apartments.

Many sales brochures also continue to paint distorted images of their products, by either omitting certain elements because they might be considered unattractive, or by misconstruing the location of a property in relation to a landmark.

Such ploys can cause potential house buyers to be misled, making them feel short-changed and unhappy with what should be the most blessed investment they will make in their lives.

Our independent surveys in the campaigns tell us there are sales staff who are ignorant of the products they are promoting.

This is where we feel the campaign organisers should step in. They should vet through the various sales techniques of the participating developers and either teach them how to effectively and honestly market their stock, or decline accepting those which do not conform to a prescribed standard of integrity.

Are we asking too much? We would say no. The HBA has received complaints from aggrieved buyers who have bought properties at these sales carnivals, and they are beginning to question the ethics and even sincerity of the organisers.

As such, organisers should address the issue before it is raised to the next level. The house-buying public learns fast, and for such events to remain attractive, they must be built on principles. The public should be made to realise that a property bought at a campaign is a good buy. Anything short of that could be destructive.

While we are on this subject, we would also like to comment on the participation of related governmental agencies in the campaigns. We notice several have displayed beautiful brochures highlighting the activities of their various departments, which is good as it gives prospective buyers easy access to vital information.

However, these government participants should also exercise their regulatory roles. By moving around an expo and keeping their eyes open, their officers would be able to pick up some of the anomalies and breaches of industry regulations.

In our view, this is the best place to undertake enforcement because there is such a large gathering of vendors under one roof. Furthermore, by doing so, these government agencies could not be accused of ignoring any breaches of the law that happen right under their very noses.

The National House Buyers Association is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organisation manned by volunteers.


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