Fair Trading losing the war

By Bailey Compton 27 Oct 2023

Good law. Poor policing.

In spite of their efforts, Fair Trading are losing the war against underquoting.

Although there are laws prohibiting an agent from overestimating a price to a vendor and underquoting a purchaser, this practice of underquoting is still rife across Sydney.
We, ourselves, are currently involved with a sale of a property in the inner city.

We were advised by an Agent that, although the price was worth X, we should put on the Agency Agreement Y. The reason for this was that, they needed to advertise it at a price below the market value. This was for the purpose of attracting potential buyers as a means of creating competition in the auction.

We advised them that this was illegal under section 72A(1) of the Property and Stock Agents Act 2002. The Agent said bleakly, “We know. But we have no choice. The other agents are doing it and we cannot compete. If we continue to advertise at a market price, we won’t even get lookers”.

This is a timely reminder that, cheats do prosper, even in a regulated marketplace.

In the current market, if an Agent decides to comply with the rules, they will not be able to effectively represent their client. Since everyone else are advertising low, you end up doing the same, just to ensure your open houses are filled with potential buyers. Ultimately, if one Agent succeeds by lowballing the marketplace, others will follow.

While current laws are perfectly sufficient to protect vendors and purchasers. These laws are only as effective as the policing body. Fair Trading have not yet found a way to effectively police underquoting. As they struggle to police it, the practice continues unabated. Specificity of Laws don’t necessarily change anything! Penalties also do not change anything unless a person has a genuine fear of being caught.

Will the government follow the Victorian model as a means of addressing this problem?

In Victoria, all agents are required to issue a Statement of Information (SOI) in a prescribed form. In essence, the agent needs to use a Fair-Trading form that requires the agent to identify the properties used in their CMA. It probably falls short of forcing the agent to show its workings, but is a documentary start to making agents prove where they are drawing their data.