Going, going, gone for real estate price guides

News publishers will be prevented from revealing price guides for properties for sale in Queensland – either in print or online – under new legislation currently being reviewed by a Queensland Parliamentary Committee.

Under the proposed Property Occupations Bill and the Agents Financial Administration Bill 2013, introduced in November last year, real estate agents who provide details to journalists about price expectations for properties going to auction face hefty penalties, including loss of their licence.

The legislation would mean agents are only able to provide a comparative market analysis, or a written opinion of what a property is worth, to a “serious buyer” if the request has been made in writing by the buyer  – and only then if the action is approved in writing by the vendor.

Agents will be prohibited from even discussing prices with potential buyers.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, who introduced the bills, emphasised that the legislation sought to establish consistency in real estate practice.

Mr Bleijie cited numerous cases currently before tribunals regarding incorrect price guide listings by real estate agents.

“This change will protect both buyers and sellers,” he said.

News Corp Australia national real estate editor Kylie Davis described the legislation as a breach of freedom of speech for newspaper publishers, and said it would foist hefty redevelopment costs on to real estate websites.

“Under this legislation, any agent who even speaks to a journalist about what an auction property might go for is in breach of the law,” Ms Davis said. “It’s the most regressive piece of consumer legislation in the country.

“It claims to be protecting the rights of buyers, but the legislation keeps them in the dark.”

She said research from Realestate.com.au found 66 per cent of buyers simply walk away from a property if no price is indicated. Under the legislation, property websites such as domain.com.au and realestate.com.au will need to remove all auction properties for Queensland from price search functions.

Brad McLeod, state sales Manager at Fairfax Media Real Estate in Queensland, described the changes as counterproductive to consumer trends around visibility. “It’s reverting back to pre-online times when agents held all the information about a property,” he said.

Mr McLeod said it would force changes to online search criteria that would diminish an effective search experience. “We’re a time poor society,” he said, “and consumers are going to turn up to properties for inspection that are out of their price range. It is not effectively utilising the time of either buyers or agents.”

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