As was reported in the Sunday Mail, the proposed axing of sustainability declarations in the buying process is welcomed by all REIQ accredited agencies.
The declarations, while good in theory, were flawed from the outset. And the complex nature of the original declaration resulted in it being simplified to such an extent that it became almost meaningless.
Another issue with the declarations was that the data that was collected about home sustainability features was never collated or analysed in any way by the State Government so the vast majority of declarations simply ended up in the filing cabinets of real estate agencies.
Research conducted by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) at the end of 2010 recorded widespread disengagement with the sustainability declaration process from sellers, and even more so, from buyers. Despite this, sellers were legislatively required to complete these forms to their best knowledge prior to the property going to the market.
The QUT research found that despite not being asked directly for the declaration, 43 per cent of agents provided this declaration to potential buyers with the initial property details; 39 per cent advised the declaration was not provided unless requested, with the remaining percentage advising the declaration was provided just prior or at the signing of the contract. This means that almost 40 per cent of the declarations provided by sellers were never presented to a potential buyer and remained only in the hands of the selling agent.
In 2011, there were about 75,000 sales of houses and units in Queensland so if an agent printed just one copy of the declaration for each sale that actually took place that means that – rather ironically – 75,000 extra pieces of paper were wasted in the name of sustainability.
The QUT research also found that 96 per cent of survey respondents did not consider the sustainability declaration to be an important factor in the house purchase decision making process.
In fact, a huge 95 per cent of survey respondents reported that during the open house inspections they have carried out over the past 12 months hardly any of all potential buyers requested a copy of the form.
So we ended up with a form that has to referenced on marketing materials, despite the fact that very few people ever asked to see it, with penalties of up to $2,000 for non-compliance.
The sustainability declaration is just one example of the additional burden of red tape that is weighing down small businesses, including real estate agencies.
While we accept there is a certain amount of “must do” administration that we all have to complete as small business owners, paperwork which complicates an already complex transaction, such as the purchase of real estate, serves no purpose but increased stress levels for everyone involved.
The REIQ hopes that the removal of sustainability declarations from the residential real estate transaction process is the first step towards simplifying a practice that has become unnecessarily unwieldy.