Estate agents are dressing down houses displayed on websites to look like mortgagee sales so they will entice bargain hunters.
Gary Brunsdon, a director of North Shore valuers Sheldon & Partners, said many website advertisements used terms such as "not for mortgagee auction".
This ensured they came up when bargain hunters entered the term "mortgagee" in searches.
But banks were often not calling the shots on the sales, and some properties were not even being sold because the vendors were in a difficult situation.
A website search yesterday by the Weekend Herald found many ads using the sought-after terms.
A $359,000 Mangere property came up prominently because its advertisement contained the keywords "urgent" and "mortgagee" even though the agent said it was neither. The main text of the ad did not contain the words.
Ricky Singh of The Professionals in Papatoetoe, who is selling the property, said his manager told him it was all right to advertise like this.
It's only listed in the keywords. I checked with my manager and he told us to do that," said Mr Singh.
"It's just to get more hits on the property. People are looking for mortgagee auctions so I do get calls, but people are aware this is not a mortgagee auction. I'm using the term to get more people to look at the ad but I tell them this is a normal sale."
A Mt Eden house was advertised as a "pre-mortgagee sale", although no evidence of this was provided.
A $599,000 Te Atatu South house also came up, in an ad saying people were keen on forced sales - but this was not one.
"There is a misconception that good property deals are only found at a mortgagee sale. However this house is well worth checking out," said the ad.
Advertising Standards Authority executive director Hilary Souter was concerned to hear of the practice.
No complaints had been made about mortgagee auctions, but she said agents should be aware of the rules.
"If we got a complaint about this, we'd certainly look at it," she said. "If agents are making a claim then it has got to be true."