New guidance, published earlier this month for the new homes sector, will help home builders to advertise their products without potentially misleading consumers.

A new Advice Online entry on Property: New build and off plan homes has been published by CAP following an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling into an ad for a new build home that showed images of a top spec bathroom, upgraded from the standard package. The ASA considered that consumers would expect the ‘from’ price to include a bathroom of the type shown in the ad: because it did not, it was misleading.

Following publication of the ruling, CAP worked closely with the industry trade organisations – the Home Builders Federation and Homes for Scotland – to understand the nature of marketing new build homes and to produce pricing guidance for new build home ads.

The new homes industry explained that house builders often sell homes well in advance of physical completion, sometimes as early as ‘off plan’ and that this makes it very difficult to advertise real images of a specific property. Even if a similar home had been built on another site, the specification and detailed design may not be the same. Show homes, by virtue of the fact that they are completed early in the development process, will often display a premium specification, and may be used for producing attractive marketing images.

Specification upgrade options vary across house builders and developments, and some show home images may not represent the standard specification available to home buyers, however they may be available at an additional cost. CAP’s task was, therefore, to find a method to ensure consumers were aware where show home images have been used, and where the specification shown within an image may have potential additional cost to the consumer.

CAP’s new Advice Online entry outlines an agreed industry approach. If an advertised image shows upgrades not included in the ‘from’ price, the following disclaimer should be added next to the image:

- image includes optional upgrades at additional cost

If the ad includes more than one image showing upgraded features, the disclaimer should state:

- images include optional upgrades at additional cost

This should be positioned next to the ‘from’ price.

The qualification makes clear that the price statement relates to a new build home; it is equally clear that if the consumer wants a room of the type shown in the ad, he or she will need to pay an additional cost.

Launching the Advice Online entry, CAP Secretary Shahriar Coupal said:

“We’ve worked closely and effectively with Homes for Scotland and the Home Builders Federation to produce guidance that will help ensure ads for new build and off plan homes are clear and up-front with consumers. Advertising that is better trusted by potential buyers is in turn good for business and will directly benefit the new homes sector”.

Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland, Philip Hogg said:

“Following positive collaboration, Homes for Scotland welcomes the proportionate position which has been successfully established with regards advertising practice for new build and off plan homes. This approach has resulted in a balanced, pragmatic strategy for implementation, to the benefit of both the home buyer and seller.”

Head of Communications at the Home Builders Federation, Steve Turner said:

“Advertising new build homes, on developments with a mix of house types, which haven’t been yet built poses a unique challenge. We have worked closely with CAP to ensure the ASA ruling is implemented in a balanced and sensible way that allows developers to market their new homes effectively in a clear and transparent way to potential customers.”

The new guidance is intended to help advertisers, agencies and media owners interpret the Advertising Codes and avoid being subject to an upheld ASA ruling. Practitioners should also take advantage of CAP Advice & Training, a range of training and advice resources to help them get their ads right.

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