By Chang Kim Loong
ALFRED walks into a property expo at an esteemed convention centre looking for his dream home after saving enough money. As he meanders through aisle upon aisle of booths packed with visitors, he is attracted by one developer's set-up.
The booth is impressively designed, showcasing one of the most comprehensive range of property developments on offer within and outside the Klang Valley.
After scrutinising the brochures and exhibits on the properties on offer, Alfred visited the developer’s sales gallery which has a mock-up unit. He finally picks a condominium unit, after being impressed by the colourful digital images, perspectives, scaled model and walk-through video presentation.
Alfred is convinced he has found his dream home and happily signs the sales and purchase (S&P) agreement with the developer’s lawyers.
From showroom to actual unit
Alfred eagerly waited for construction to complete, followed by a certification of compliance from the developer’s architects to attest that the condominium is deemed fit for occupation.
He soon finds out the harsh reality when he takes delivery of vacant possession of his unit, because what he saw (at the showroom) was not what he anticipated.
Upon entering the unit, he found it was not as spacious as depicted in the images or walk-through video. Without furnishing, the living room and dining areas did not look half as impressive.
He suddenly notices an odd protrusion at a corner. It is a boxed up rainwater pipe in the otherwise perfectly rectangular living room. Within the dining area is an unsightly sanitary elbow which the plaster ceiling does not cover up. And the bathroom ceiling level is lower than that shown in the images.
There is an unsightly sprout pipe sticking from his balcony; the scupper drain was so shallow that it is at the same level with the balcony slab, which means the balcony will flood whenever it rains heavily.
The list of mismatched expectations goes on... and Alfred has yet to include the defects.
When he complained to the developer, he was told that the box for the rainwater pipe is a construction necessity and industry standard practice. Whereas the position of the sanitary elbow is due to the proximity of the washroom on the unit above.
The developer said the difference in ambiance is due to the furnishing and since Alfred did not purchase the furnishing package, he cannot expect such ambient surroundings. As for the perception of the condo being spacious, the visuals are generated by digital software based on actual dimensions.
When Alfred further complained about the disparity in expectations, they pointed out the artist impression clause in the fine print of the brochure which many purchasers are unaware of.
On making references to the show unit, Alfred was told that it was demolished at the end of the promotional sales. The developer’s sales agent remarked: “A disclaimer of liability is posted on the main door of the show units. We are not responsible for any alleged misrepresentation.”
Replicas show the way
Is there a way to achieve what you see is what you (actually) get? The most effective way is for developers to provide a mock-up replica for each type of property on sale. Scaled models, digital images and walk-through video are supplementary at best.
It is in the interest of developers to provide replicas so that purchasers can experience the actual ambience of the property, furnished or not. Buyers will know exactly what they are paying for and expect.
Show units should be complete with the actual specifications such as building materials as well as sanitary, plumbing and electrical fittings as outlined in the S&P agreement.
The mock-ups could then be displayed as a base unit with bare finishes or an optional enhanced unit complete with full furnishing. This will leave no room for subjective interpretation of the packages on offer.
At present, it is not compulsory for developers to erect show units. But then, these replicas will enhance their sales and marketing. So, this provision ought to be regulated under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966, perhaps termed Show Units: Regulations and Compliance.
The regulations will ensure that show units are built according to specifications approved by the local authorities as well as those stated in the S&P agreement, with punitive action to be taken against non-conforming developers and sales agents who entice purchasers through false representation.
These show units can either be built on the actual premises or kept at the developer’s sales gallery for a stipulated period after the delivery of vacant possession, so that purchasers could benchmark them against the delivered units. Any dispute over discrepancies could then be addressed promptly. In this way, purchasers will not be too far away from what you see is what you get.
(This article was first published in Star Biz7 on October 28, 2023.)