Bogus architect claims inflate house values

By Susie Nordqvist

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The real estate industry is again under fire amid allegations some agents are inflating the value of houses by claiming they are architecturally designed, when they are not.

The Real Estate Agents Authority today found two Hamilton agents guilty of unsatisfactory conduct after they marketed homes as being designed by 'award winning architects'.

The complainant in both cases - New Zealand Registered Architects Board chief executive Paul Jackman - claimed the agents used misinformation to enrich themselves and the vendor at the expense of prospective buyers.

Jackman said earlier this year the New Zealand Registered Architects Board had laid complaints with the Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) against 23 agents for making the claim.

One of the agents, David Cashmore of Hamilton agency Success Realty, said the vendors in both cases had assured him the homes were designed by an architect, but admitted made no checks to verify the statements contained in advertising material.

In one of the advertisements Cashmore described a property as being 'designed by award-winning architect Noel Jessop', while another advertisement contained the line "innovative design by Murray Price'.

The Real Estate Agents Authority said the advertisement was misleading and Cashmore's conduct was likely to bring the industry into disrepute.

"The issue is not a complicated one: and where a Licensee is unable to ascertain, by whatever means, whether or not a person is or has been an architect, they have an easy choice: do not run an advertisement describing a home as designed by an "architect"." the real estate authority said.

In the case of the second agent, Terrence Ryan of Hamilton real estate firm Lugton's Limited, the Real Estate Agents Authority said his behaviour fell short of the standard of conduct a member of the public would expect of a licensee.

Ryan also described a property as being designed by 'award-winning architect Noel Jessop'. A search of the New Zealand architect's register reveals that Jessop is not an architect, but that he has a certificate in drafting.

Ryan rejected the claim his conduct was misleading, saying members of the public use the words 'architecture', architecturally' and 'architect' interchangeably.

He added that buyers either like a house or not, and they are not influenced by who designed it.

The authority rejected Ryan's claims, saying: "If the use of the word architect has no value, as the licensee appears to suggest, then why bother to use it in an advertisement? No-one can be misled by words that are commonly used interchangeably."

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