Ensuring Property Buyers Get What They See: The Need for Mock-Up Replicas in Real Estate

Real Estate Malaysia

Imagine walking into a property expo at an esteemed convention centre, looking for your dream home after saving enough money. As you meander through aisle upon aisle of booths packed with visitors, one developer’s set-up catches your eye.

The booth is impressively designed, showcasing one of the most comprehensive ranges of property developments on offer within and outside the Klang Valley.

After scrutinizing the brochures and exhibits on the properties on offer, you decide to visit the developer’s sales gallery, which has a mock-up unit. Finally, you choose a condominium unit, impressed by the colorful digital images, perspectives, scaled model, and walk-through video presentation.


You are convinced you have found your dream home and happily sign the sales and purchase (S&P) agreement with the developer’s lawyers.

From showroom to actual unit

You eagerly wait for construction to complete, followed by a certification of compliance from the developer’s architects to attest that the condominium is deemed fit for occupation.

You soon find out the harsh reality when you take delivery of vacant possession of your unit because what you saw (at the showroom) was not what you anticipated.

Upon entering the unit, you find it is not as spacious as depicted in the images or walk-through video. Without furnishing, the living room and dining areas do not look half as impressive.

You suddenly notice an odd protrusion at a corner. It is a boxed-up rainwater pipe in the otherwise perfectly rectangular living room. Within the dining area is an unsightly sanitary elbow which the plaster ceiling does not cover up. And the bathroom ceiling level is lower than that shown in the images.

There is an unsightly sprout pipe sticking from your balcony; the scupper drain is so shallow that it is at the same level as the balcony slab, which means the balcony will flood whenever it rains heavily.

The list of mismatched expectations goes on… and you have yet to include the defects.

When you complain to the developer, you are told that the box for the rainwater pipe is a construction necessity and industry standard practice. Whereas the position of the sanitary elbow is due to the proximity of the washroom on the unit above.

The developer says the difference in ambiance is due to the furnishing, and since you did not purchase the furnishing package, you cannot expect such ambient surroundings. As for the perception of the condo being spacious, the visuals are generated by digital software based on actual dimensions.

When you further complain about the disparity in expectations, they point out the artist impression clause in the fine print of the brochure, which many purchasers are unaware of.

On making references to the show unit, you are told that it was demolished at the end of the promotional sales. The developer’s sales agent remarks: “A disclaimer of liability is posted on the main door of the show units. We are not responsible for any alleged misrepresentation.”

Replicas show the way

Is there a way to achieve what you see is what you (actually) get? The most effective way is for developers to provide a mock-up replica for each type of property on sale. Scaled models, digital images, and walk-through video are supplementary at best.

It is in the interest of developers to provide replicas so that purchasers can experience the actual ambience of the property, furnished or not. Buyers will know exactly what they are paying for and expect.

Show units should be complete with the actual specifications such as building materials as well as sanitary, plumbing, and electrical fittings as outlined in the S&P agreement.

The mock-ups could then be displayed as a base unit with bare finishes or an optional enhanced unit complete with full furnishing. This will leave no room for subjective interpretation of the packages on offer.

At present, it is not compulsory for developers to erect show units. But then, these replicas will enhance their sales and marketing. So, this provision ought to be regulated under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966, perhaps termed Show Units: Regulations and Compliance.

The regulations will ensure that show units are built according to specifications approved by the local authorities as well as those stated in the S&P agreement, with punitive action to be taken against non-conforming developers and sales agents who entice purchasers through false representation.

These show units can either be built on the actual premises or kept at the developer’s sales gallery for a stipulated period after the delivery of vacant possession, so that purchasers could benchmark them against the delivered units. Any dispute over discrepancies could then be addressed promptly. In this way, purchasers will not be too far away from what you see is what you get.

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