Complaints of misleading property ads on the rise
Proposed changes to rules will curb such ads and ensure showflat accuracy

While an advertisement for Cardiff Residence showed an artist's impression of the development shrouded in lush greenery, it will actually sit among low-rise private housing in Cardiff Grove. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM
By Jessica Lim

A RECENT advertisement in the paper showed an artist's impression of the newly launched Cardiff Residence shrouded in greenery and lush green fields.

It also touted the property in Cardiff Grove near Serangoon Gardens as 'My Resort Condominium'.

In reality, the 99-year-leasehold condominium sits amid low-rise private housing.

Complaints about such advertisements, as well as other misleading property claims, have been inching up in recent times.

In 2009, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) received 12 complaints. So far this year, 16 complaints have been made.

These range from misleading property advertisements, some of which name MRT stations near the condominiums when the stations have not been confirmed by the authorities.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which is working on proposed changes to the Housing Developers (Control & Licensing) Act and Housing Developers Rules, developers are required to ensure that there is no false or misleading information in their advertisements for housing projects.

Its spokesman said: 'For pictorial representations in advertisements, developers would usually include a caveat to indicate that the picture is an artist's impression of the project, as in the case of the advertisement for Cardiff Residence.'

No rules have been broken in this case, he added, as the developer had added a caveat to indicate that the picture was an artist's impression of the project.

The proposed changes to the Act tackle a range of issues, from the accuracy of showflats to pressure selling by sales agents and misleading advertisements.

By the first quarter of next year, for instance, developers will be required to provide additional information on housing projects to buyers before the issue of the Option to Purchase.

Among other things, the developers have to give buyers a drawn-to-scale location plan showing the amenities and facilities around the project.

However, some house-hunters The Straits Times spoke to said that the advertisements should be reined in.

Mr Clinton Goh, 49, an engineer, said: 'It's really disappointing when the property and the area look so peaceful. Then when you go there, you see flats around it or dilapidated buildings.'

'There should be more of a caveat,' he said, adding that the font size of the words 'artist impression' on the Cardiff Residence advertisement was too small.

However, property developers said they want to highlight a property's ambience in advertisements.

Views, they said, are a deal-clincher and they want to portray their property in the best possible light - usually as though they are sited in park-like locations.

Ms Xuan Chin, 37, senior sales and marketing executive of World Class Land, the developer of Cardiff Residence, said: 'Basically, what we wanted to show is the overall feeling of the area.'

She added that the property is located in a peaceful neighbourhood.

'We were also worried it would be misleading, so we included the words 'artist impression',' she said, adding that they will look into increasing the font size of the words.

Developers such as Mr C.K. Ching, who heads Hume Homes, said that Singaporeans are sophisticated shoppers and will not buy a property based on an artist's impression.

'I also take ads out on most of my properties. In these ads, I only portray the building I am focusing on to sell,' said the developer of condominiums like Viva Vista in Pasir Panjang.

'Developers won't put other buildings in an ad to complicate things.'

He added that deliberately misleading buyers by giving false distances from the MRT, for instance, is unethical.

The increased number of complaint cases, said Case and ASAS in a joint statement to The Straits Times, is likely due to the rising number of advertisements on property and the rise in the number of private properties on sale.

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