Over the last six weeks, my attention has been drawn to two separate incidents reported on EYE where Rightmove has asked agents to amend their listings because the initial price included a Help to Buy discount.
In the first instance a property was advertised on Rightmove as being £228,000 when in fact its true price was £285,000.
In the second case, a two-bedroom home was first advertised at £220,000, and although the description made it clear that the full asking price was actually £275,000, advertising the lower price could be considered misleading.
So, if a property is available as part of ‘Help to Buy’, at what price can it be advertised?
Taking into consideration Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team’s guidance on property sales, I want to draw agents’ attention to the following issued Primary Authority Assured Advice.
It states that where a property is available to be purchased outright, then the price advertised should be the actual selling price.
However, if ‘Help to Buy shared ownership’ or a similar shared ownership scheme applies to the property then the reduced price can be displayed alongside a clear explanation of the shared scheme.
This reduced price should be the actual price payable under the scheme. An explanation of this scheme should appear in the particulars.
If a property can only be purchased as part of a shared ownership scheme, then the reduced price can appear as the headline price, providing that it is clearly marked as a shared ownership property.
An explanation of the scheme should appear in the particulars.
Where prospective buyers may be eligible for an approved loan scheme, for example a Help to Buy equity loan, the headline price should still be the full selling price. This is because the property can still be purchased outright, without assistance, so potential buyers must be shown an accurate price.
Other questions, such as which price can be advertised when a property’s price is variable dependent on the length of lease, are also addressed in the same Assured Advice and can be read in full here:
The advice provided by Warwickshire Trading Standards service will come with an assurance that it will be respected by all local regulators preventing inconsistent interpretation of regulations and applies regardless of where TPO members are based.
* Katrine Sporle is the Property Ombudsman