Care urged when selling 'architect designed' home

While agents who falsely promote properties as ‘architecturally designed’ can face fines of up to $22,000 in NSW, the head of the state’s Architects Registration Board said she would prefer to educate the industry about the benefits of understanding architecture.

Kate Doyle, registrar of the NSW Architects Registration Board, told Real Estate Business that her organisation has had cause to caution agents about how they use the title ‘architect’ – or similar terms such as 'architecturally designed' – when marketing a property that hasn't been designed by a properly accredited architect.

Yet, in each case, she has found most agents “very obliging” when notified of their error.

In one case she said it was the vendor who was pushing the agent to claim the house they were selling was designed by an architect, when in reality the homeowner had no idea who had designed it.

Only skilled and experienced professionals who are registered with the NSW Architects Registration Board may use the title architect. Ms Doyle added that each architect must be able to produce a four digit registration number to verify their status in NSW, and similar rules applied in each state and territory across Australia.

While Ms Doyle said the NSW Architects Registration Board has, under the auspices of the NSW Architects Act 2003, the power to prosecute offenders in local court – with fines ranging from a maximum of $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for corporations – she emphasised that her organisation was focused on educating agents rather than taking punitive action against them.

Ms Doyle’s comments come shortly after a case in New Zealand where eight agents, originally charged with misusing the term “architecturally designed” to promote homes they were selling, were acquitted upon appeal.

According to a report in The New Zealand Herald late last week, the country’s Real Estate Agents Authority's Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that agents can describe a house as architecturally designed even if the plans were prepared by a person who wasn’t registered with the Registered Architects Board.

According to the article, the Tribunal said the true test was based on whether the designer had the required skills to design the house.
The decision earned the ire of the New Zealand Institute of Architects' Auckland chairman Richard Goldie, who told the The New Zealand Herald that the decision undermined the word ‘architect’.

Ms Doyle, who has been in her role since 2004, said she’s keen to help real estate professionals learn about how an understanding of architecture, and related disciplines such as urban design, can give them a broader range of benefits to use in advertising materials.

Ms Doyle added that she was keen to establish closer ties with the industry to help get this message across to agents. As part of this push, a website –  – has been set up to help consumers and professionals understand architecture.

More information about using the title ‘architect’ can be found here.

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