(SINGAPORE) The Ministry of National Development (MND) plans to introduce new regulations to make sure that developers build showflats that accurately represent the actual units in a project, sources told BT.
The move is meant to ensure that buyers are not misled by the interior design work at some showflats, which developers use to entice buyers before a residential development is completed.
Developers have been known to leave out structural walls and columns when building showflats in order to make apartments seem more spacious. Another common tactic is to avoid clearly marking where a balcony starts, which makes living rooms appear larger.
With the new rules, developers will be prevented from leaving out structural walls and columns from their showflats if completed units in the development will have these structures.
In addition, structural walls in showflats will have to be of the same thickness as those in the actual homes. Non-structural walls will have to be clearly marked out. Showflat ceiling heights will have to be accurately reflected as well.
The transition from the living room to the balcony will also have to be clearly demarcated, although how this can be done is still being finalised.
MND could also mandate that other essential elements such as bomb shelters and service balconies have to be present in showflats, sources added.
The ministry is likely to launch a consultation exercise within the next few weeks before finalising the new regulations. The new rules could then be implemented in the second half of this year, BT understands.
Developers BT spoke to said that the problem of misleading showflats is not all that common in Singapore.
'The bigger boys don't really do it (build misleading showflats),' one developer said. 'But it happens, especially with so many new entrants in the market.'
Of late, a few developments - including those offering mostly small, 'shoebox' units - have come under criticism for having showflats with ceiling heights that are 'not real', extending living room spaces into balconies, and extensive use of glass and mirror walls in the place of structural walls.
In one extreme case, an entire wall which was supposed to separate one unit's living room from the next apartment was replaced by just masking tape on the floor - albeit high-end masking tape.
Sometimes, even sales agents who walk prospective buyers through such showflats do not know that they are not accurate representations of the completed units.
Analysts welcomed the planned regulations, which are seen to be in the interest of genuine owner-occupier homebuyers.
'This ought to have been done some time ago to weed out unscrupulous developers,' said Knight Frank chairman Tan Tiong Cheng.
'The whole idea of building a showflat is to illustrate the possibility of what can be done with the actual unit. If the interior design work is misleading - such as when structural walls and columns are left out - then the point is lost; you can't do that with your own unit,' Mr Tan said.
Added Ku Swee Yong, chief executive of International Property Advisor: 'A showflat should fully represent the location and thickness of the walls and pillars. Ceiling heights also have to be accurate. This will give a much closer representation of the space that an investor will enjoy when he receives the keys to his apartment.'
Mr Ku added that investors who are concerned that showflats may not fully represent the actual product should consider completed properties instead.