After a series of high-profile building scandals over the past five years, the NSW government launched a forensic ratings tool to help consumers buy apartments with confidence and re-establish trust in the building sector.
Now, the resultant iCIRT certification has become hot property among developers and apartment buyers - more than any luxury unit itself.
But, it's a case of buyer beware, and those about to sign on the dotted line are advised to do their own research, as one buyer found out when inspecting a Kiama apartment, bought off the plan.
A catering staff member who was providing refreshments at a purchaser inspection day for the Ridgewaters Kiama development mistakenly told a buyer that the project had received the coveted five-star iCIRT rating from the NSW Government.
Unfortunately for the developer, St Trinity Property Group, that buyer was property columnist Jimmy Thomson, who has written about strata living for more than a decade.
Mr Thomson wrote about the experience in his column, published in the Australian Financial Review, and the story made its way to NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler who named the developer on his LinkedIn page.
Both Mr Thomson and a representative for the developer have told the Mercury the mix-up was a genuine mistake, and the miscommunication was soon rectified, but the episode shows how valuable the iCIRT ratings are, and why it's worth buyers doing their own research.
iCIRT ratings have become an in-demand seal of approval for developers, following numerous high-profile apartment defects.
Companies can apply to be reviewed by global ratings agency Equifax and those that achieve three stars or more are included on the iCIRT register.
A spokesperson for the NSW Office of the Building Commissioner said since its launch in 2020, the tool gives consumers a trust indicator for builders, developers and other construction industry players.
"While backed by the NSW Government, the tool is not a regulatory instrument and has been designed to deliver transparency in the construction market through an independent operator," the spokesperson said.
"It has been designed so those seeking to purchase a home or apartment in NSW can view a construction industry player's proven track record from a governance and financial stability viewpoint."
According to Mr Chandler, not all companies have been happy with their results after an independent reviewer has dug through their operations.
"Be assured, developers and financiers now see iCIRT ratings as an important part of managing risk," Mr Chandler wrote.
"Ratings do not guarantee there will be no defects, but they do point to a high likelihood of developers and or builders returning to fix them."
Buyers can search the registry at www.icirt.com/rating/registry.
Daniel Chadrawy, business development manager at St Trinity Property Group said the miscommunication had been rectified and the company had set the record straight with buyers, including Mr Thomson.
"During the AGM with all the purchasers on Tuesday, all purchasers were satisfied and positive with the outcomes and the clarification that the developer did not at any time represent that it has ICIRT and that it was a catering contractor that was onsite who misspoke to one of the purchasers."
For his part, Mr Thomson said the miscommunication was a genuine error and that the development is "as good a development as I have seen".
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