The Advertising Standards Authority has ordered the company Homewise not to use misleading wording following two complaints about one of its listings on Rightmove.
Homewise suggests on its website that its clients - who must be over 60 - could pay up to 40 per cent less than market price for a home by using its ‘Home For Life’ plan, which allows the company to effectively own the property while allowing the plan applicant to stay in it for life.
However, the firm came unstuck with the wording of property listings on Rightmove.
The first was headed ‘£234,000 Guide Price’ with additional text stating ‘OPEN HOUSE SATURDAY 9TH MAY 2015 - by appointment only. PRICE REDUCED FOR THE OVER 60's UNDER A HOME FOR LIFE PLAN (lifetime lease) subject to property criteria ... Alternatively this property can be purchased without a Home Fo [sic] Life... More details …’.
The second listing was headed ‘£234,000 Guide Price’ and the text below stated ‘Key features. Over 60's only ... PRICE REDUCED FOR THE OVER 60'S UNDER A HOME FOR LIFE PLAN (lifetime lease) subject to property criteria. Call for your personal quote ...’.
Two complainants challenged the headline price claims.
One complainant challenged whether ‘Guide Price £234,000’ in the first listing was misleading, because he understood that the property was considerably more expensive than £234,000 if purchased not using the Home For Life scheme.
The other complainant challenged whether ‘Guide Price £234,000’ in a second advertisement was misleading, because he understood that the property would be significantly more expansive than £234,000 for him as he was only just over 60 years of age.
Homewise Ltd told the ASA that the Rightmove listing contained a formatting error which had led to the description of Homewise services not being placed at the start. It said it had taken steps to rectify the error and pointed out that, had the ad been formatted correctly, text at the bottom stating ‘Alternatively this property can be purchased without a Home For Life Plan for the full asking price of £X from [another agent]’ would have been visible on the portal.
It explained it could only sell the property through the Home For Life Plan to the over-60s, but that it could be purchased for the full asking price through another agent and it believed that was made clear in the ad. It explained its properties were listed as retirement properties on Rightmove.
Homewise also told the ASA that under its Home For Life Scheme, the price of the property depended on a person's age, circumstances and property criteria, and the guide price reflected a mid-range price. The price could be higher or lower than the price quoted depending on those factors.
Homewise pointed out the ad stated ‘Call for your personal quote’ and believed that indicated that the price varied, depending on the individual.
However, the ASA upheld both complaints and told Homewise that the listings must not appear again in their current form, and that in future the guide prices quoted in ads must not be misleading, and that future qualifying text must clarify rather than contradict headline claims.