Nowadays, the internet and mobile devices have become a necessity in our daily life. Due to the impact of COVID-19, even more businesses are conducted through digital means.
To keep up with the digital world, the estate agency industry has also adopted various tools to cater for the changes in consumers’ behaviour. For example, many estate agency companies have applied virtual reality (“VR”) technology to provide online flat tours, launched promotional videos through YouTube and utilized different social media platforms to attract potential clients.
However, consumers should always pay attention to the details and should never solely rely on the information they see on their computers or mobile phones. For example, consumers should conduct physical inspection of a property and should not make any purchase decision based on information shown in a VR video or photos only.
In addition, consumers should also ensure that the estate agents/estate agency companies concerned are licensed by the Estate Agents Authority (“EAA”) before appointing them. Licensed estate agents/companies are required to comply with the Estate Agents Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation, the Code of Ethics and all applicable guidelines issued by the EAA. The public can ascertain whether a person or company is currently licensed by the EAA through the EAA’s website (www.eaa.org.hk/en-us/Licence-list).
Sometimes, consumers only communicate with estate agents through instant messaging applications on their mobile phones, including entering into the estate agency agreement (“EA agreement”) with their agents. However, please note that regardless of the format adopted for signing an EA agreement (in paper or digital format), estate agents must explain all the details and terms regarding the property and the EA agreement to their clients before signing it. As the EA agreement is a legally binding document, any party to an EA agreement cannot cancel or amend the agreement without obtaining the consent of the other signing party, consumers must pay attention to the particulars in the EA agreement (such as its validity period and whether it is an exclusive or non-exclusive agency, etc.).
Digital services have undoubtedly brought us a lot of convenience. However, as property transactions involve a huge amount of money, I would like to remind all prospective property purchasers to be more careful and meticulous before making any purchase decision in order to protect their interests.
Chief Executive Officer
Estate Agents Authority