Published April 12, 2010

It's back to school for real estate agents

Many are hitting the books in preparation for more stringent industry standards


(SINGAPORE) Real estate agencies are gearing up for tighter rules in their industry by sending agents back to the classroom.

Several are getting their agents to take existing accreditation tests before the government introduces a mandatory industry examination sometime this year. To improve their chances of passing the tests, agents have been attending preparatory courses.

The talk is that agents who already gained accreditation would not have to take the new examination later.

'It's only safe' to do so since no one knows what the exact rule changes will be, Dennis Wee Group director Chris Koh told BT.

In October last year, the government revealed a set of proposals aimed at lifting the standards of real estate agents. The rising number of complaints against agents was a major reason for the move.

Some of the suggestions focused on the setting up of a new accreditation body and the introduction of a compulsory entrance examination for agents. Details of the changes were due to be out early this year.

The new entrance examination would have considerable impact on the industry, given that it is currently not compulsory for property agents to pass any standard test before starting work.

Typically, new agents attend courses run by their agencies or receive training from their managers.

Agents who choose to gain accreditation can take their pick from the Common Examination for Salesperson Scheme (CES), Common Examination for House Agents (CEHA) or the Certification for Estate Agents (CEA) course.

Real estate agencies are now encouraging their agents to take one of these three tests before the new industry framework kicks in.

For instance, ERA Asia-Pacific has sent about 2,000 agents to take CES since September last year. It has some 3,000 active agents in all.

The government has sent out a clear message about getting agents assessed, said ERA's associate director Eugene Lim. 'There is more urgency now than previously.'

The Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies body administers CES. According to the CES website, candidates have to pass two papers, on topics ranging from property rights and agent responsibilities to real estate financing.

C&H Realty has sent at least 250 agents, out of a total of some 1,000, to obtain the CES or CEA certification. There are other agents who have decided to wait for the new entrance examination, said the agency's managing director Albert Lu.

Over at Dennis Wee Group, agents have been preparing for the CES, CEA or CEHA tests. Mr Koh said that about half of the firm's 4,000 agents have taken the tests.

Agents at these agencies have been going for courses to get familiar with the test topics. The cost of some of these courses are subsidised by the Workforce Development Agency.