Realtors Back Move to get Tough on Property Agents
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Posted 5/6/10
The Estate Agents Authority is to amend existing guidelines and introduce new ones from May 14 - with the support of leading property agencies.

Director of operations Anthony Wong Wai-fung said yesterday the more significant rules include a ban on loans to buyers, the presence of a controller to oversee a first-sale site, and written notification to a prospective buyer explaining who an agency is acting for.

Agents will also be barred from taking deposits from buyers without the developer's authorization, and arranging deposits without buyers' written consent.

Centaline, Midland, Ricacorp, Hong Kong Property, and Century 21 - with about 30 percent of the total 28,000 local agents - agreed to the rules at a meeting yesterday, Wong said.

In addition to realtors' cooperation and official investigation, chief executive officer Rosanna Ure said public complaints will be important.

The EAA received a total of 123 complaints in the first quarter, four relating to primary sales, Ure said.

This compares with 10 out of 159 complaints a year ago.

Ure believes the extra staff the EAA hired this year will be able to meet the administrative requirements.

Investigations would be launched on a case-by-case basis, including sting operations if necessary.

Wong said 14 practitioners from two agencies are under investigation due to the EAA's sting operation into unauthorized deposit taking and an incorrect floor plan handed out at a project in Ap Lei Chau.

Both Centaline managing director Louis Chan Wing-kit and Hong Kong Property chief executive Richard Lee Chi-shing said the new guidelines won't cause too many problems.

Lee explained some agents help buyers who are slightly short on money to pay deposits, while Wong said Centaline has a slim margin and hence does not lend money.

Lee said many agents from other regions go to first-sale sites, so the provision of a staff list a day before any launch may require some work.

Both Centaline and Hong Kong Property said written consents from developers will solve the deposit issue.

Expecting few new launches amid a raft of official property policies in the mainland and Hong Kong, Chan expects primary sales to drop 75 percent to around 500 in May - compared to an average of 2,000 in the first four months - and secondary sales to fall 37.5 percent from 12,000 to 7,500.

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?we_cat=11&art_id=97951&sid=28147312&con_type=1&d_str=20100507&fc=8
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