The Unconditional Blog

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Architecturally designed or designed by an architect

Posted on: June 11th, 2010 | Filed in Agent Tips, Architecture & Construction, Featured, Online marketing

Warren_&_Mahoney_House_of_lightIn the world of real estate marketing, as with any form of marketing creating standout is critical so as to generate awareness and interest. When it comes to homes, the design style is so important and this is often what is highlighted by real estate agents in the marketing description.

However as is ever the case with all marketing – accuracy is key and this is why I am happy to post this open letter from the Chief Executive of the NZ Registered Architects Board – Paul Jackman who naturally has a concern to ensure that in describing homes for sale as “architecturally designed” or “designed by an architect”, that they are just that.

I took the time to review some of the over 600 listings on the site today that include the keyword “architect” in the description – the vast majority do reference the name of the architect in question or in some cases use the word in contextual description, ie “bring along your architect” or “sits amongst architectural homes in the area”. That having been said the important note of Paul’s letter which was published recently in the Real Estate Institutes monthly member magazine is key – an architect is a professionally qualified individual who is bound by professional standards and this is at the heart of the professional industry, to have the term “architect” misused is of concern to the profession.

Was the architect an architect?

Every profession lives or dies by its reputation. If the public perceives a profession to be honest, they assume its members can be trusted. This confers huge benefits when doing business. But if a profession is perceived as dishonest, every member of that profession pays a price in lost business.

For a long time now architects have been deeply frustrated by real estate advertisements claiming that properties for sale were designed by a named architect when actually the person named is not an architect at all. These advertisements potentially deceive buyers, given that a house designed by an architect may carry a price premium. Typically puffery is used like, to quote a real case, “Immaculately detailed, the house was designed by renowned Christchurch architect Ray Hawthorne.” Mr Hawthorne may be renowned, but he is not an architect.

Only about 5 per cent of New Zealand’s residential properties are designed by architects. The rest are designed by others, sometimes called architectural designers, who either are trained in drafting or self taught.

In some cases the vendor is deluded about his or her house. The vendor thinks the house must have been designed by an architect because it has some unusual features or looks funky. The real estate agent is told this and blithely places the advertisement. In some other cases the real estate agent may be just trying to talk up the price.

Either way, this will not do. The Real Estate Agents Professional Conduct and Client Care says (6.4) A licensee must not mislead a customer or client, nor provide false information.

Also, under the Registered Architects Act 2005 it is an offence for anyone to claim to be an architect who designs buildings unless he or she is registered. Only architects are entitled to use that title. A person pretending to be an architect can be fined up to $10,000.

Real estate agents need to check before placing advertising claiming that a named person is an architect. This can be done in seconds via the online New Zealand Architects Register at A search facility allows you to enter any name and then find out if that person is registered in New Zealand. There’s also a listing of former architects, incase the person who designed the house is retired or deceased.

Real estate agents should take this seriously. The NZRAB has laid complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority and the Commerce Commission. At the time of writing, the Real Estate Agents Authority was also investigating a breach and further complaints will be laid whenever more breaches are detected.

Architects work hard to gain their professional recognition, and so naturally they get grumpy when others try to cash in on that. Also, they fret when houses of, as they see it, dubious merit are falsely credited to their profession. Architects are asking real estate agents to show the same care as one would expect from any professional group.

Paul Jackman

CE New Zealand Registered Architects Board

Article Discussion

  1. Tim Harris says:

    I sympathise with Paul Jackman’s position and will check any name given in future.
    Interesting question would be to what extent it is a real estate salespersons duty to check the validity of a vendor’s claim. For example, a current vendor claims Mr Architect designed the home – who has the burden of proof – does the vendor have to provide proof before I can use the information, or do I have to check the validity of the claim?
    Does any else have any thoughts or know the answer?

  2. Alistair Helm says:


    Appreciate the question which I am sure has been or may well be asked in the future. As you know I am neither a lawyer or a real estate agent, however I in the role of a buyer would expect that if the advertising stated that the property in question had been designed by a registered architect then it would have to be verifiable.

    Similar to a statement with say buying a piece of memorabilia stating that a previous owner was someone famous elevates the value so the perception of a property is elevated by the implied uniqueness and value of an architect designed home.

    I can certainly see the potential difficulty in validating any such claim, although logic would prevail such that the more famous the architect, the more value attributable to the property, the more likely that records would be kept of the build or improvement.

    Anyway be interesting to see others comments.

  3. Mark Bailey says:

    An ‘architectural designer’ can also be a talented designer who went through the whole architectural education process, got some great experience, but for what ever reason has decided not to become registered (hey, I did it). Just as there are also bad ‘architects’. I think that a person needs to stand on their own merits, and there are some stunning ‘architectural designers’ out there. But yes, I also think that there needs to be more careful use of the designation of ‘architect’ in any marketing of a property. As for who is responsible for checking it out? Well if I was writing the marketing copy for a property and the owners said to me, “Oh it was designed by XYZ”, then I would not hesitate in spending the 2min it would take to search in google or, or even

  4. Alistair Helm says:


    Thanks for that valuable feedback from someone within the real estate industry. As you say why would you not spend 2 minutes verifying the input from a vendor to ensure accuracy of representation.

  5. Sol Atkinson says:

    Very interesting discussion especially Tim Harris’ comment about the burden of proof.
    I dont know what the realestate rules are but surely if a specific element of the property is being used to advertise a property – eg Architect designed, asbestos free, all work having been signed off by the council, Gold ore seam running through the property – the burden of proof would sure be on the person in charge of the sale?
    As anyone can call themselves an architectural designer would the reference to a member ship with the Architectural designers New Zealand be usefull (if a member) eg Joe Blogs ADNZ. They have a similar register to the RAB (however in not mandatory) which can be used to comfirm memberships.

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