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Looking to buy a property in Dubai? Are you scanning through web portals and classified advertisements in search of your dream property?
Here is a word of caution from realty experts: check the genuineness of a listing before making a decision.
''Many times agents put up fake property listings on websites just to get calls from potential buyers,'' says Mario Volpi, Managing Director of Ocean View Real Estate. ''They even fabricate listings to get more inquiries.
''For a layman, it is hard to differentiate between a genuine and fake listing, and those who are new to Dubai and unaware of market trends can be easily fooled.'' Volpi advises buyers to check the price of the listed property. If it is going really cheap, it's probably a ruse to attract interested parties.
Moreover, you should determine the market price of similar properties and check the price difference. ''If it is a huge number, don't bother calling as there is a good chance the agent is faking the advertisement,'' says Volpi.
Photos also give away fake property listings, he adds. Some agents use generic pictures of a property in an advertisement if the unit is tenanted and the tenant does not allow agents or prospective buyers to view it.
''In this case, we take a picture of the property, lobby, swimming pool, gymnasium and other building facilities just to beef up the advert. This is fine,'' says Volpi. ''But if you see a Burj Khalifa apartment listing and there is a picture of Burj Al Arab with it, then there is something wrong.''
Misuse of regulations
Dianne Crabtree, Senior Property Consultant at Sherwoods International Property, says there are rules and regulations stipulated by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) that govern property listings on the internet.
''But not all agents follow the norm,'' she says. ''One of Rera's criteria is that only three agents should sell and advertise a property. Sellers have to enter into a formal agreement and sign the Rera-stipulated document to allow only these agents to handle the unit. The seller and the agent agree on a time frame to sell the property and on the selling price.
''All necessary documents such as a copy of the title deed have to be given to the authorised agents selling the unit. If all the stakeholders of a property follow this system, it will help advertisements to be monitored and regulated by agents themselves, leaving no room for fake listings.
''Unfortunately this is not the case and sellers give their properties to several agents, who freely advertise them online and through newspapers.''
As agents pass around leads to other agents, there is a possibility of multiple print and online advertisements of the same property with different prices. Some agents also start advertising property without permission from the seller. Moreover, dealing with many agents complicates the sale process as they all start fighting over the commission.
''Sellers, therefore, must conduct due diligence and offer their property only to select agencies that can guarantee that their listings will not be mishandled,'' says Crabtree.
Websites have a method to keep an eye on property adverts, says Volpi, but there isn't enough done to check up on fake listings. ''Newspapers only check if the picture corresponds with the advertisement and do not go into the finer details,'' he says. ''On the other hand, web portals do have procedures in place, but these tend to be [implemented] after the advert has been placed.
''There is nothing to stop web portals from publishing a listing, and they don't check the authenticity of an online advert. If any policing is done, it is by other agents who report a wrong listing to the portal.''
Agents are required to provide company details and their broker registration number to advertise a property online. Without the registration number, agents and their companies can be fined by Rera. Volpi points out another trick: ''The agent's telephone numbers are hidden to encourage buyers to click on the advert and search for details on the property.''
However, Crabtree says Rera officials do check web portals to keep a tab on errant real estate agents and fake listings, but firms and their agents must play a bigger role in controlling unethical and unprofessional behaviour within their ranks.
Source: Anjana Kumar, Special to Property Weekly