Industry players back idea to regulate property agents

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 13 July 2007 2017 hrs

SINGAPORE: Industry players have given the thumbs-up to the idea of regulating property agents.

The suggestion follows letters to Singapore's newspapers on how agents are cashing in on the property boom and that it is time to license them.

Singapore's property market is red-hot, and the conduct of some real estate agents has left a few consumers red in the face.

In the first six months this year, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) received 49 complaints against agents and their companies, compared to 28 in the same period last year.

But industry players said the increase in complaints could be due to the rise in transaction volume.

Still, they were all for regulating property agents and that it should go beyond the current accreditation scheme under the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies where companies must ensure agents pass a professional examination and keep to a strict code of ethics.

Mohamed Ismail, CEO of PropNex, said: "What is the point of having any form of accreditation when it's only a minority - 20% support the idea while 80% still do not abide by whatever the guideline there is. Therefore, for the industry to progress positively, I honestly think there must be a regulatory body."

Industry watchers, like the Institute of Estate Agents (IEA) and Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies, supported the move.

They said that there was no rising trend on cases pertaining to professional misconduct among members.

Complaints were usually related to service levels and commissions, but IEA hopes to rally the industry and government to enhance professionalism.

It is also going all out to recruit more members and educate consumers about engaging agents registered with IEA.

Chandran Pillay, Honorary Secretary, Institute of Estate Agents, said: "Sit down with us, talk to us and we (will) come up with a framework, minimum entry criteria, minimum standard and some kind of a tracking system, that's why we are proposing the individual licensing.

"We have already started with our CRS - Central Registry System - database which proved to be very good. Because we have a lot of duplicate data, now the company bosses realise that there are some agents that are actually listed with more than one company....we are regulating, but we just need more support from government authorities and a bit more power."

Still, industry players say buyers and sellers must also play their part as well by being better informed about the property market.

They should also exercise prudence and be realistic about transaction prices.

Agents also warn buyers against going into a bidding war as this will drive up prices and could overheat the market. - CNA/ir