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Published January 30, 2007

Luxury project launches leave some unhappy

Those left out complain of unfairness, poor handling of launches


(SINGAPORE) The strong buying at recent luxury property launches may have been welcomed by developers, but some would-be buyers and agents are unhappy at being left out in the cold.

Strong interest: A crowd of about 200 buyers and agents turned up at One Shenton on the first day of its soft launch

They complain that the principle of first-come first-served was thrown out the window at some hot launches.

There was also ambiguity over the so-called 'VIP' list for sought-after projects like Marina Bay Residences, City Developments' One Shenton and BS Capital's Lumiere.

The agents told BT that being on the list was crucial to secure a choice unit, as all the three developments were launched to private invitees first.

They said that at certain launches, priority was given to agents holding the greatest number of cheques. For example, an agent with 10 blank cheques from prospective buyers would be allowed into the showflat to book units before an agent with one or two cheques - regardless of who got there first. Agents collected blank cheques ahead of launches so they could book units quickly for clients once they were let into the showflats.

City Developments told BT it strove to ensure fairness and order at the launch of One Shenton. 'Under overwhelming and unrelenting crowd conditions, we did our best to maintain crowd control in an orderly fashion and we will continue to make improvements to best serve the needs of our customers,' a spokeswoman said.

The way some launches were handled also came under fire.

BT understands that in one extreme case, a potential buyer who failed to clinch two units at Marina Bay Residences during the launch in December last year has sent lawyer's letters to developer BFC Development - a consortium comprising Cheung Kong Holdings, Hong Kong Land and Keppel Land - and marketing agent CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).

The thwarted buyer alleges that the CBRE associate agent marketing the project asked for a commission in return for securing two units. Industry practice - aimed at preventing conflict of interest - is that agents only receive commission from sellers.

Asked about the alleged incident, a CBRE spokesman said: 'There was a lot of activity at the Marina Bay Residences sales office during the launch, and in the process, a prospective buyer mistakenly thought she was entitled to buy two units. 'Subsequently, we received a complaint from her stating that the two units were not sold to her because she was unwilling to pay our agents any commission. We have responded to her, stating that her complaint is without basis.'

On the flip side of the buyer's claim, market watchers say some overeager buyers at some projects were willing to pay agents to get units.

In the CBRE case, all units in the 428-unit 99-year leasehold project were snapped up while the disgruntled buyer was negotiating with an agent.

Market watchers say that with the luxury property segment so buoyant, further charges of unfairness could arise as the atmosphere is like that at the Great Singapore Sale where everyone is out to get the best bargain.