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Agents face probe after ‘misleading’ house ads

Source: NZ Herald  Date: 16th February 2011  Author: Anna Leask

Some real estate agents face investigation for allegedly falsely claiming that houses were designed by architects in an apparent bid to add lustre to their adverts.

The New Zealand Registered Architects Board has laid 23 complaints against agents after discovering a number of adverts they say make misleading claims.

In the adverts, agents tout the houses as being designed by architects, when, in fact, the people who designed them are not registered in New Zealand as architects.

The term architect is restricted to those registered with the NZRAB under the Registered Architects Act 2005.

“Sometimes the advertisements describe the properties for sale as ‘architect-designed’ and yet an inquiry to the agent reveals that the designer was never an architect,” said NZRAB chief executive Paul Jackman.

“Other advertisements name a person as the architect, when the person named is no such thing … These false references add lustre and market value to the properties being sold, potentially enriching agents and vendors at the buyers’ expense.

“People perceive a house as valuable if it has been designed by an architect.”

The Herald found a number of properties on Trade Me that agents claimed had been designed by specific architects.

One house in Tauranga was said to be designed by a man who does not appear on the register. He does, however, run a local architecture firm.

The real estate agent said last night she had not realised the man was not a registered architect and would be amending the advert.

“It wasn’t done purposefully,” she said, adding she had not checked the NZRAB register before listing property. “This issue has only been highlighted to me in the last month or so.”

Similarly, another agent’s advertisement for an apartment in Auckland listed another man as the architect. According to NZRAB records, the man is not a registered architect.

The agent in that case said the reference to the man was an innocent mistake and not a case of being deceiving or misleading.

“I will be amending the ad if that is the case,” he said.

Mr Jackman said he had no criticism of the people named as architects in the listings, but it was unacceptable for agents to label them as such.

“Ninety-five per cent of houses in New Zealand were not designed by architects. Most are designed by architectural designers or draughtsmen. There is a massive difference.

“Under New Zealand law anyone can design a house. But only a registered architect is entitled to use that title.”

Real Estate Agents Authority spokesman Dan Ormond said a decision would be made on Friday whether to investigate the 23 complaints.

“Any complaint that the authority receives is referred to a complaint assessment committee. That committee will decide whether to investigate the complaint or not,” he said.

Mr Jackman believed the issue was widespread and he had only scratched the surface.

“There will be a myriad complaints.”

He welcomed the REAA’s decision to review the complaints.

The Real Estate Agents Code of Professional Conduct and Client Care clause 6.4 says: ‘A licensee must not mislead a customer or client, nor provide false information, nor withhold information that should by law or fairness be provided to a customer or client.’

“Real estate agents have no excuse. The REAA has repeatedly warned that their advertising must be truthful,” said Mr Jackman.

He said any agent could find out instantly whether a person was an architect – current or former – by looking on the NZRAB’s website.

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NZ Herald – Rental Market Madness – Rental properties in high demand.

Source: NZ Herald  Date: 7th February 2011  Author: Lincoln Tan

Demand for rental property in Auckland is at crisis point, with some houses now attracting as many as 200 would-be tenants.

Desperate tenants are often having to spend months searching for a place to live, and some even engage in bidding wars. Landlords are sitting pretty.

Rental agents say they are receiving hundreds of inquiries for listings, especially for stand-alone houses close to Auckland’s central business district.

An agent who listed a four-bedroom property in Balmoral said he received 200 inquiries on the property before letting it out last weekend.

A property in Ethel St, Kingsland, attracted more than 200 would-be renters during a half-hour open-home.

“It’s going to be very easy to rent it. Narrowing down the list of tenants is going to be the hard part, to be honest,” landlord Dave Smith told TV3.

Rental agent Darryl Goode said in the current market, it was not uncommon for hundreds of people to register their interest in a property.

“Give me another 10 or 20 three-bedroom houses and I could let them all out in a couple of days.”

Mr Goode said there was a “severe shortage” of stand-alone houses to let in the city-fringe areas, and the market was the tightest he had seen in his 12 years in the industry.

Real estate agency Crockers recently reported that the average weekly rent for a three-bedroom home in central Auckland was $580 in December, up 16 per cent in a year. For Takapuna/Milford it was $670 (up 26 per cent) and Remuera $690 (up 25).

The Herald on Sunday has reported that Auckland rental property listings on Trade Me in January were down 24 per cent on the same month last year.

Demand was also outstripping supply in Northland, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury, although nowhere near as badly as in Auckland.

Agents say the economic slowdown is the main contributor to the rental market being at crisis point.

More rental properties are being sold by investor landlords who want to cash up, and hard times are forcing homeowners to also sell and become renters themselves.

Landlord Lourdes Sudianto said he had to sell his two central Auckland rental properties after his trading business was hit by the global recession.

The slowdown has also forced many landlords to return from overseas to re-occupy their properties.

Harcourts rental manager Lesley Whiting said her Browns Bay office recently lost to returning landlords about 10 of the 300 properties it was managing, and was currently listing only two rental dwellings.

“It’s got nothing to do with landlords wanting to capitalise from the World Cup, but the economic crisis which is forcing more people to come home and stay home,” Ms Whiting said. “Who knows how long this is going to last, but it’s really reaching crisis point for people looking to rent today.”

Last year, net migration of 16,500 was the highest since 2003, driven mainly by fewer Kiwis heading to Australia to work.

“The economic recession has had a significant impact on the number of New Zealanders leaving for Australia, with a 27 per cent decrease in trans-Tasman departures over the last 12 months,” Immigration New Zealand said in its latest migration trends and outlook report.

Changes to tax laws last year, which restrict investors on what they can claim in depreciation, have deterred people from investing in rental properties, says the Property Investors Federation.

Vice-president Andrew King said costs were also rising faster than capital gains, and rental returns were not matching up with mortgage rates, leaving many would-be investors feeling “it’s not a good time to buy”.

A lack of new houses being built also meant supply was not keeping up with demand fuelled by population growth.

“It’s usually a seasonal thing, but the big drop in supply of rental homes in Auckland this year is somewhat unprecedented,” Mr King said.

“The situation is more pronounced in Auckland, felt more at this time of the year because it’s when people relocate, decide to move houses, and international students start coming back,” he said.

Mr King said the situation could change if rising rents resulted in better yields for landlords, and more people started investing in rental properties again.

“It will help to meet the demand, but I do not see rents going anywhere but up.”
What’s causing the crisis?

*More investment homes are being sold by owners wanting to cash up.

*Hard times are forcing homeowners to sell and join the rental market.

*More overseas-based landlords are returning home.

*Changes to tax laws.

* Fewer houses being built.

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NZ Herald – Property – Bidding wars as rentals in crisis

Source: NZHerald.co.nz   Date: Saturday 23rd January 2011   By: Abby Gillies

The Kiwi dream of owning a home is long out of sight for many people, and now the chances of even renting a quality house are fading fast.

Demand for tidy, central rental properties in Auckland is reaching crisis point, with supply unable to keep up.

Listings on Trade Me for the start of January show a 24 per cent decrease compared with the same period last year, with demand up 8 per cent.

With up to 60 people turning up to viewings, renters are resorting to extreme measures to beat the competition. Many arrive early to open homes, while others turn to bidding wars, say real estate agents.

“In terms of year on year, certainly supply is down in Auckland and particularly Auckland city,” said Trade Me head of property Brendon Skipper. Supply for January was also down in the Bay of Plenty, 22 per cent; Canterbury,1 per cent; and Northland 14 per cent.

In the Waikato and Wellington, supply has increased slightly. Barfoot and Thompson rentals operations manager Helen Hodgson said this year had seen a new level of demand.

The Birkenhead office reported a “crazy” two weeks, with often 30 people turning up to open homes.

In Mt Eden, crowds of young professionals were snapping up three and four-bedroom villas for $500-$600 a week.

First National property manager and letting agent Faith Zollinger said competition was fierce. Agents received 90 calls about a recent listing for a two-bedroom home in Mt Eden and up to 60 people turned up to open homes for popular properties. “For some of the properties we get 100 calls a week – there’s just not enough properties.”

Keen renters are also offering more than the asking price.

“For one in Mt Eden the rent was $430 and someone offered $450. For a two-bedroom apartment in town one person offered $10 or $20 more,” she said. High numbers of Kiwis returning from overseas and new immigrants were pushing up demand for rentals.

“I think it’s also people who previously would have bought but banks require 20 per cent [deposit] now – it’s out of people’s reach.” Changes to tax laws last year, which pegged back what investors can claim in depreciation, have increased nervousness for landlords, according to the Property Investors’ Federation.

Vice-president Andrew King said a federation study indicated 31 per cent of investors who were planning to buy more rental property had since decided against it.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley said a lack of building activity was another problem, with building not keeping up with population growth.

Beat the crowds
* Call rather than email real estate agents about properties you’re interested in.
* Talk to the agent at open homes. This will help you to stick in their minds when they are choosing from a pile of applications.
* Arrive five minutes early. This shows you’re reliable.
* Show interest by asking questions.
* Follow up with a call once a day to see where your application is at, but don’t call more frequently.

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Wishing all my real estate clients and friends a Merry Christmas

On behalf of myself, Auckland real estate agent Rob Ashton and the team at Remuera Bayleys, I would like to wish all my clients and friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2011. 

If you need any assistance in selling your home or finding a new home over this period, I am available on mobile.

Mobile : 021 63398

With best wishes

Rob

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