Victoria underquoting laws start May 1

Victoria underquoting laws start May 1
Victoria underquoting laws start May 1

Victoria will bring into force underquoting laws from May 1 as a measure to bring more transparency into property transactions and crack down on dodgy real estate agents.

The changes to the Estate Agents Act 1980 will require estate agents or agents' representatives selling residential property to set an estimated selling price that is reasonable and takes into account the prices of the three most comparable property sales in the area.

The agents must “consider the standard, condition and location of the property and the date of sale, when selecting the most comparable property sales” says a note on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.

They are also required to inform the seller and update the sales authority if the estimated selling price changes.

Potential buyers will receive a statement of information that has an indicative selling price, which must not be less than the estimated selling price or the seller's asking price, or an amount already rejected by the seller, which is essentially underquoting.

The statement must also have details of the three most comparable property sales and the median house or unit price for the suburb.

Agents have also been directed to advertise properties with a single price or a price range that does not exceed 10 per cent.

In addition, they cannot also use qualifying words or symbols, such as 'from', 'offers above', or '+', when advertising a price or price range.

Advertising needs to be updated as soon as the seller rejects a higher written offer to buy the property, says CAV.

The penalties for underquoting can be more than $31,000 (200 penalty units) and loss of sales commission.

The new laws will only apply to properties for which the seller signs a sales authority on or after May 1.

The changes come amid recent action against erring real estate agents by the regulator through its Taskforce Vesta operation.

Hocking Stuart’s Richmond office was fined $330,000 and ordered to pay up to $90,000 in costs in October for underquoting on 11 properties.

Similarly, CAV also lodged claims against Hockingstuart, Doncaster agency for alleged underquoting. Victoria’s consumer watchdog alleges the Hockingstuart agency underquoted on nine properties in legal action launched against the office late last year.

Legal action was launched against Fletcher & Parker, Balwyn, in December for alleged underquoting on 25 properties — the largest amount under the current crackdown.

Manningham Property Group, trading as Hocking Stuart, Doncaster, and its directors Kenneth John Chappell and Anastasios John Adgemis, have also fronted court over nine homes.

Former REIV chief executive officer Geoff White had said earlier that the changes would create a more transparent market, providing clear information to all stakeholders.

“A key objective of the new laws has been to ensure that they are effective in a rising or a falling market, and we believe they have delivered on this objective," he said. 

Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Joseph Walton was cited by as saying that the body had worked with the Victoria government to develop the legislation.

“The REIV and Consumer Affairs Victoria have commenced delivery of detailed information to agents to streamline the introduction for agents across Victoria,” he said.

Underquoting Victoria

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