Deceptive, unscrupulous techniques in property marketing

Posted on November 11, 2014 by | 3 Comments
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An article by Jonathan Barrett – AFR

Asking prices for houses in the ­Pilbara town of Port Hedland have dropped 40 per cent, but a local agent tells investors “demand for new dwellings will continue unabated”. In Collins Street, Melbourne, a commercial agent reckons buying the office he is selling represents the “best investment” in the city. Both statements are probably untrue, but are they illegal?

Stephen Meagher, from the West Australian government’s Consumer Protection department, said the law discerned between subjective ­statements and those that could be ­quantified.

This means that the local fast-food shop advertising “the best hamburger in Brisbane” would get away with it because the brag is subjective and almost impossible to test. The legal term for such a subjective ­statement is “puffery”.

Similarly, a real estate agent that claims to be “Sydney’s best” would probably be safe under the Australian Consumer Law. But if the agent said it was the “number one selling agent”, then it had made a claim that could be quantified, and it would need to back it up with evidence.

Consumer advocate Neil Jenman said he was amazed at some of the mischief he saw in the property sector. “My daughter went to a home open, where the advertising pictures had showed it had a brushwood fence. There was no brushwood fence. It had been Photoshopped,” he said.

While there appear to be clear examples of agents making untrue – and quantifiable – claims, prosecution isn’t necessarily straightforward.

Consumer Protection in WA ­prosecuted a case where a Bunbury property was advertised for between $1.5 million and $2.5 million, even though the owner had said he would not accept an offer below ­$2.2 million. The prosecution failed because it didn’t prove the target audience – buyers – were misled.

So, do the Port Hedland and ­Melbourne claims break consumer law?


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  • Tanya Bytschkow says:

    I’m not sure if this is the right spot to make a complaint in regards to the deceptive photos advertising rental properties… but this is the best I’ve found. I have been looking for a rental property in Wodonga, Victoria. Generally speaking the aspect ratio is frustratingly inaccurate, which is bad enough because I have a long lounge suite and a king sized bed. It wastes my time seeing properties that give you the impression that your furniture will fit and the reality is, it won’t. I start a new job on the 6th January and have to pack an move from Bendigo. I dont have time to be decieved. You have to see the property before you apply so you are going to see it anyway! Whats the point in lying! (The property) looked ideal online. It was dirty and unkept inside and out, the lounge smelt of dog pee and the garden was brown and dead. Complete deception. A lady inspecting the property at the same time I did had 2 days to find a house and 4 children and was bitterly disheartened and disappointed. Do real estates realise the impact their lies have on people? Do they care? I don’t trust any real estate agent and generally speaking, communities don’t. There needs to be a shift in the industries integrity. I have 2 inspections next week and I dread them because I know I’ll be decieved.
    I’m disgusted.
    #sellbuyrent #realestate #rentalproperties #deceptiveaspectratios #lazylandlords

  • Anna Roy says:

    Fortunately I choose to invest in Mauritius, a small island in West Africa. They had much proper guidelines about real-estate advertising. I could easily find a house to rent.

  • Steven Goutzioulis says:


    My real estate agent refuses to release me from the exclusive agreement.

    My property went to Auction on the 16/12/2017 and there were no bids. According to the agreement the Auction was to be held on the 9/12/2017.

    It is now the 8th of January 2018, I have requested an exit from the contract and the real estate agency refuses to release me from the contract.

    They have been extremely lazy and have no interested buyers for my property.

    I want to sell my property privately as i can do a better job than the real estate agents.

    Given they haven’t sold my property am I still bound to the exclusion agreement. Is the contract still valid or has it been breached given the Auction was held on the 16/12/2017 and not on the 9/12/2017 as per the contract?

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