NEW: Simon Lloyd

Sometimes real estate agents don’t intend to bend the truth – they let their computer’s spellchecker do it for them.

Where’s the proof?

My regular readers (both of you) will probably recall several weeks ago a rant of mine to do with property advertising. If you missed it, let me quickly recap.

I was seeking to warn anyone selling their property, owner-occupiers and investors alike, to pay close heed to the common law area of “truth in advertising”.

I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms, especially when it comes to real estate advertising, but it is nevertheless an issue that can turn sour if you’re not careful.

Just last week, my good friend Sheena Hyena and I noticed one horrendous mistake by a local agent (no, it wasn’t McMansion & Hovel – although Sheena’s been known for the odd cock-up, it must be said).

This was an ad placed by a very large national real estate chain, which shall herein be nameless because I’m too sweet to tip buckets publicly on my rivals (privately is an entirely different story).

“FANTASTIC BUY UNDER $400” the headline screamed. Now this was for a 3-bedroom house on a 700 square metre block, and even though it’s located in a suburb so crime-ridden they have a 9pm curfew, Sheena and I still thought “under $400” was a bargain.

So Sheena called the agent immediately and said she’d like to buy the property for cash, sight unseen, for $399.99.

Funnily enough, the agent treated this offer with some scorn and told Sheena to stop trying to be clever. Or at least that’s the polite gist of what she said.

Sheena and I chuckled and ordered another latte: we’re not the sort of vindictive sharks who would take something like that any further. Unlike a lawyer we know who is very upset he can’t buy this property for under $400 as the ad told him he could, and he’s considering suing.

Wonder what the agent and her seller will have to say then?

Of course this debacle could easily have been avoided if the sellers had obeyed a simple rule. Always demand to see a proof of your property’s ad from the real estate agent.

Why? Because even agents who are more than semi-literate (and that’s not many) are harried and hurried creatures at the best of times, and believe me, proof-reading is not a skill required by the Office of Fair Trading before agents can start plonking ads in newspapers.

And it’s not just the possibility of litigation you’ll be neatly sidestepping if you insist on approving an ad before it’s given the go-ahead to print. It’s also a good way to avoid you, your property and your agent looking just plain dumb.

Take this ad copy. It’s the all-time favourite of Sheena’s and mine, which appeared late last year as the ultimate illustration of why you should never trust your agent’s ability to see past a spellcheck…

“Here’s a property that has to be seen to be believed. Making optical use of space, this vulnerable old home sits on a large, fat block of land and positively excludes charm. There’s no doubt it will remind you of a bygone area.”


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