Underquoting reforms set for early 2016.

Victor Dominello, the Minister for Better Regulation, has said that reforms to rules surrounding underquoting would provide “clarity” for agents, vendors and buyers.

NSW Fair Trading defines under-quoting as making “a statement in the course of advertising a residential property for sale that is less than the agent’s true estimated selling price as recorded on the agency agreement”.  Currently penalties for engaging in underquoting are fines of up to $22,000.

Estate Agents Co-operative (EAC) has been working with and provided advice to the Real Estate and Property division of NSW Fair Trading on the new reforms.

The new reforms, which have been introduced to parliament and are expected to commence in early 2016, will see stricter rules for agents in regards to the estimated selling price in their agency agreements.  Agents who do not adhere to this estimated price in advertising will face losing fees and commissions.  Further to this, phrases such as “offers over” or “offers above” or any similar phrase will also be prohibited in advertising.

The proposed underquoting reforms will ensure any estimated price communicated to vendors and prospective buyers represents what an agent actually expects a property to sell for.

Under the proposed reforms, an agent must:

  • Include their true estimate of a property’s likely selling price in the agency agreement (also called the sales agreement).
  • Record the evidence that informed this estimate and provide it to the vendor in writing.
  • Ensure a price range is no greater than 10% of the bottom figure (eg. $500,000-$550,000).
  • Record all price estimates (quotes) provided while a property is marketed.
  • Ensure their price estimate remains realistic by updating it and advising the vendor in a timely manner if they are aware – or should reasonably be aware – of evidence or circumstances that changes it. The agent must advise the vendor of their revised selling price estimate and the evidence on which it is based in writing (eg. email) and amend the agency agreement. They must also update, as soon as feasible or practical, any marketing of the property that reflected the old estimate with the new selling price estimate.

Agents will not be able to:

  • Provide any price estimate less than what they have assessed a property is worth (as recorded in their agency agreement with the vendor). This applies whether the agent is advertising the property or in any communication with prospective buyers about the property’s likely selling price.
  • Advertise vague price information, including any statements such as “offers above” or “offers over” an amount, or “plus” a particular price (eg. $500,000+), which could misrepresent or obscure a property’s estimated value. Also, an agent must never indicate a selling price estimate that does not match the agent’s true estimate.
  • The reforms will introduce stronger penalties to deter underquoting. This includes fining agents up to $22,000 if they breach the new requirements. Agents could also have to forfeit their commission and fees if found guilty of underquoting. These commissions and fee payments will go towards the Property Services Compensation Fund, which supports consumers who have experienced financial loss as a result of property agent misconduct.

Mr Dominello’s office has also made clear that there have been 263 complaints about underquoting in the past two financial years.  With 63 of these complaints being made in March 2015.

In light of a volatile market agents should be reviewing their estimates and any marketing to reflect any change to the price estimate as a result of market or vendor feedback. We welcome the reforms announced by the Minster and feel they will make clear to agents as well as to consumers, the responsibilities when making these estimates.

The new legislation is currently in Parliament and would appear to be held up by opposition to some of the changes. Personally I believe the proposed changes can only assist the industry in being more professional in dealings with consumers both vendors and potential purchasers.

THE BEST OF THE BEST IN NSW AUCTIONEERING

Estate Agents Co-operative and Real Estate Institute of Australia have once again hosted the NSW heats of the Australasian Auctioneering Championships. 10 of the top auctioneers in the state fought it out for a place in the National Championships.

The competitors in this year’s heats included:

Andrew Cooley – Cooley Auctions
Briannan Crawford – Cooley Auctions
Clarence White – McGrath Estate Agents
Damien Cooley – Cooley Auctions
Edward Riley – McGrath Estate Agents
Gavin Croft – Bresic Whitney Estate Agents
Joshua Larsen – McGrath Estate Agents
Leon Axford – Axford Auctions
Lucas Cannan – Think Real Estate
Will Hampson – My Auctioneer

The winner in this year’s final was EDWARD RILEY of McGrath Estate Agents (pictured) with the runner up DAMIEN COOLEY of Cooley Auctions.

Edward and Damien will now go onto the National Championships in the hope of securing a place at the Australasian Championship in Melbourne 1 – 3 September 2015.

“Both Edward and Damien I’m sure will do NSW proud at the National Championships,” said Dale Whittaker, Chairman of EAC. “The absolute best in NSW auctioneering came to compete today, so Edward and Damien should be very proud and I look forward to watching them compete in Melbourne.”

“I would like to thank all the competitors for their entry into this year’s competition, I wish you all the best and I think that it is great to see the number of high quality entrants in this year’s heats,” said Neville Sanders, President of REIA.

EAC and REIA would also like to thank the major sponsor of the NSW heats, AON. AON is a sponsor of the REIA and was recently announced as the Insurance Partner for Estate Agents Co-operative.

New South Wales top auctioneers are now set to find out who will be the top auctioneer in 2015

Entry to the New South Wales Heats of the Australasian Real Estate Institutes’ Auctioneering Championships has now closed.

This year sees Gavin Croft who took out the NSW competition for last two years  as well as the runner-up from the 2014 Clarence White back to try to take out the title for the chance to join the other winners from around Australia & New Zealand at the finals which are being held in Melbourne on the 1-3 September 2015.

Gavin Croft from Bresic Whitney Estate Agents  said “Both the NSW heats and the Australasian Championships are always fiercely contested. By the quality of this year’s entrants, it appears 2015 will be no different.”

The entrants in this year’s heats include:

Alex Pattaro – LJ Hooker

Andrew Cooley – Cooley Auctions

Ben Horwood – LJ Hooker

Briannan Crawford – Cooley Auctions

Clarence White – McGrath Estate Agents

Damien Cooley – Cooley Auctions

Edward Riley – McGrath Estate Agents

Gavin Croft – Bresic Whitney Estate Agents

Joshua Larsen – McGrath Estate Agents

Leon Axford – Axford Auctions

Lucas Cannan-  Think Real Estate

Will Hampson – My Auctioneer  Sydney

The CEO of REIA, Amanda Lynch, said: “NSW has a strong and proud history of auctioneering reflected in the record weekend auction clearance rates. One of the finalists could very well be the auctioneer who snatches the Australasian trophy from New Zealand this September as Scott Kennedy-Green did for NSW in 2006.”

Personally I would like to thank all the competitors for their entry into this years competition, I wish you all best and I think that it is great to see the number of high quality entrants in this year’s heats.  It would be good to see a New South Wales Auctioneer make the finals or even better take out the title at the Championships in Melbourne this later year.

We would also like to announce a new major sponsor for the New South Wales heats this year AON. AON is a sponsor of the REIA and was recently announced as the Insurance Partner for Estate Agents Co-operative.

2015 NSW Awards for Excellence Date Announced

Estate Agents Co-operative Ltd (EAC) and the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) is pleased to announce the New South Wales Awards for Excellence recognising the real estate industry’s top performers from the NSW Affiliate Council Members of the REIA.

The 2015 awards will be held on 27th of October 2015 in Sydney.

The awards are a brilliant way to recognise the professional efforts of agents and property managers.  The awards allow award winners from NSW to also be recognised and compete at the National Awards.

Details on entry to the awards will be released in the coming weeks.

NSW Fair Trading to release data on consumer complaints

Last year NSW Fair Trading received over 40,000 complaints about traders across various industries including retail, motor vehicles, telecommunications, travel and real estate.

Consumers in NSW will soon be able to make more informed choices with Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello today outlining plans to establish a consumer complaints register using data held by NSW Fair Trading.

“This data is currently under lock and key within the bureaucracy and we want to change that by amending the Fair Trading Act 1987 to give the agency the power to publish its complaints data for the first time,” Mr Dominello said.

“Consumers should have the right to know which traders have high numbers of complaints against them so they can take this into account when purchasing goods and services. We want to create a fairer and more competitive marketplace through open data.”

The proposed register would provide information regarding the number of complaints received about individual traders and is expected to act as an incentive for businesses to improve the way they deal with consumer issues and I believe that this is a good idea.

Open data is a key feature of the NSW Government’s ICT Strategy which encourages public sector agencies, where appropriate, to make high-value datasets available to industry and the community. Later this year this will include the Property Sales Information provide to many third parties including Estate Agents Co-operative.

The proposed register would provide information regarding the number of complaints received about individual traders and is expected to act as an incentive for businesses to improve the way they deal with consumer issues.

The Minister will establish a stakeholder roundtable to consider what form the complaints register will take, how regularly it will be published and how the information can be best utilised by consumers, traders and the media.

CHOICE, the Australian Retailers Association and the Business Council of Australia are among the industry groups which will be invited to participate in the roundtable.

Mr Dominello said a Bill would be introduced in the new Parliament which would create a statutory power for NSW Fair Trading to publish its complaints information.

 

Loose-fill asbestos insulation in residential properties guide released for NSW

In January EAC met with NSW Fair Trading and Workcover to discuss the ongoing issue of Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos.

At this meeting a discussion took place regarding the need to clearly outline to agents, property managers and consumers the steps that they need to take regarding Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos in properties.  EAC has worked in conjunction with WorkCover in the development of a factsheet regarding Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos.

“Agents and Property Managers cannot be expected to make a qualified assessment of whether asbestos is present in a property,” said Geoff Hunter, EAC Industry Liaison Officer.  “That is why this factsheet is so important, to give them clear steps and guidelines on how to deal with Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos, and to make clear their obligation to properly inform property owners of their associated obligations.”

There are a number of obligations imposed on real estate agents by law in relation to Asbestos located in the properties agents are engaged to sell, lease or manage.

These obligations include:

  • a duty of care to the client and workers engaged to carry out work on the property.
  • a commitment to act honestly, fairly and professionally.
  • a responsibility to disclose certain matters to prospective buyers and tenants.

It is reasonable to assume that properties constructed before 1980 may contain Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation.

The problem confronting all agents and property managers is that the presence of Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos is a “Material Fact.”  Therefore, the factsheet outlines the steps that principles, agents and property managers should take in relation to properties they lease and/or manage, or are engaged to sell.

“The protection and representation of NSW agents and property managers is of the utmost importance to EAC, That is why it is so important that we have worked with NSW Government departments on this issue and will continue to do so at every turn.

This factsheet is now complete and ready to be viewed here.

NSW Government vows to crackdown on under quoting – Politics at it’s best!

I am sure that many of you like myself saw the reports in the media on the weekend with the NSW Premier Mike Baird and the Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason Cox vowing to crack down on agents that under quote if re-elected at the NSW election being held on 28 March 2015. This was also confirmed in this article on the Liberal Party website.

If we look at the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 (the Act) in this regard:
Section 72 of the Act prohibits an agent from making false representations with respect to the agent’s true estimate of the selling price of a property to either a seller or prospective seller of residential property.

Section 73 of the Act prohibits an agent, by any statement made in the course of marketing a property pursuant to an agency agreement for the sale of a residential property, falsely understating the estimated selling price of the property.

Section 75 of the Act extends the provisions of sections 72 and 73 to ‘estimated price range’ in the same way as it applies to ‘estimated price’.

The maximum penalty for a breach of the provisions is $22,000. It is interesting to note that there have been no fines issued or prosecution of agents for this practice in recent years.

EAC has been in discussions with Fair Trading Officers with regard to, what appears to be, an increase in the incidence of “under quoting” by some agents and the impact of significant price escalation driven by unprecedented consumer demand. This market activity and selling price increases has made the task of estimating future selling prices extremely difficult.

The comments made by both the Premier and the Minister fail to recognise the existing legislative requirements and the impact on consumer expectations of the agents if properly enforced. The greater majority of agents understand their responsibilities. For the few that don’t the law is already in place.

With the election looming I believe that the attack on estate agents was a “knee jerk” reaction and was purely for political gain (read votes) and not in the best interests of consumers or agents. The reality is that many well researched and well prepared estimates of selling prices by agents are often overtaken by buyer competition and market forces, factors outside the agents control and not readily predicted.

EAC enjoys a healthy working relationship with NSW Fair Trading and will continue to work with them to ensure that the interests of the industry and consumers are protected.

EAC Chairman Dale Whittaker is also disappointed with the approach that the government took on the weekend and he believes that the approach that NSW Fair Trading should be taking is to raise the entry level standards for the industry and through quality ongoing training.

Apple releases the long awaited iOS 8.2

Apple iOS 8.2 (build number 12D508) has now been released. This is a major release, the largest since iOS 8 was released and contains many bug fixes and is available for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. To download this update you will need to use iTunes or WiFi. The update on my iPhone 6  that was on version 8.1.3 was 476MB.

Before running the update I recommend that you backup your device including any purchases and then once the update has run I always perform a hard reset and check for any updates to applications in the App Store.

Below is the iOS Official 8.2 change log that was released by Apple.

Apple Watch support
New Apple Watch app to pair and sync with iPhone, and to customize Watch settings
New Activity App for viewing fitness data and achievements from Apple Watch; appears when Apple Watch is paired
Available on iPhone 5 and later

Health App improvements
Adds the ability to select the unit of measurement for body temperature, weight, height, distance, and blood glucose
Improves stability when dealing with large amounts of data
Includes the ability to add and visualise workout sessions from 3rd-party apps
Addresses an issue that may have prevented users from adding a photo in Medical ID
Fixes units for vitamins and minerals
Fixes an issue where Health data wouldn’t refresh after changes data source order
Fixes an issue where some graphics showed no data values
Adds a privacy setting that enables turning off tracking of steps, distance, and flights climbed
Stability Enhancements
Increases stability of Mail
Improves stability of Flyover in Maps
Improves stability of Music
Improves VoiceOver reliability
Improves connectivity with Made for iPhone Hearing Aids

Bug Fixes
Fixes an issue in Maps that prevented navigating to some favorite locations
Addresses an issue where the last word in a quick reply message wasn’t autocorrected
Fixes an issue where duplicate iTunes purchased content could prevent iCloud restore from completing
Resolves an issue where some music or playlists didn’t sync from iTunes to the Music app
Fixes an issue where deleted audiobooks sometimes remained on the device
Resolves an issue that could prevent call audio from routing to car speakers while using Siri Eyes Free
Fixes a Bluetooth calling issue where no audio is heard until the call is answered
Fixes a timezone issue where Calendar events appear in GMT
Addresses an issue that caused certain events in a custom reoccurring meeting to drop from Exchange calendar
Fixes an certificate error that prevented configuring an Exchange account behind a third-party gateway
Fixes an issue that could cause an organizer’s Exchange meeting notes to be overwritten
Resolves an issue that prevented some Calendar events from automatically showing as “busy” after accepting an invite.

Requirement for Pool Owners to obtain a Compliance Certificate extended until 29th April 2016.

In NSW, the owners of properties with a swimming pool and/or a spa pool are required to register their pools and spas on the NSW Swimming Pool Register. The Provisions of the Swimming Pools Act 1992 requiring pool owners to obtain a Certificate of Compliance before selling or leasing their property will now commence on 29 April 2016.

In a media release sent out by Paul Toole, Minister for Local Government last Thursday 26 February 2015 it was advised that “pool owners will be granted a 12-month extension to make sure they have a valid compliance certificate before the property can be sold or leased.” This means that if you are selling or leasing your property you do not need to attach a Swimming Pool Compliance Certificate to the Contract for Sale of Land until 29 April 2016.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole stated that “The evidence showed there was a high failure rate for initial inspections and a heavy demand to make pools compliant”

We have received several calls from Members in regards to the change and it is interesting to note that despite the announcement the NSW Government Swimming Pool Register website still states the 29th April 2015 as can be seen below.

NSW Government Swimming Pool Register

Further to this when you go into the Register your pool section on the NSW Office of Local Government it mentions nothing of the change nor does the downloadable Swimming Pool Register – FAQ document which still references 29 April 2015. It is not until you navigate to the section on Selling or leasing a property with a pool or spa that you will find the change.

There was no communication of this change to EAC despite being involved in discussions in the past. I would have thought that the supporting websites and documentation would have been updated at the same time as the announcement had been made but obviously this has not been the case and I have expressed this view and requested that the sites be updated in calls to the Office of Local Government and the contact for Minister Toole.

The Media release can be viewed here.