Feedback from public in past two months rivals two years' worth of cases
THE recent rush to buy properties has spawned a record rush of complaints about housing agents - but it has also become obvious that some homebuyers have been setting aside caution in their eagerness to buy.
"We have received complaints even from educated people who sign off at the end of forms without reading them and with nothing filled in. It's just like signing a blank cheque," said Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies (SAEA) chief executive, Dr Tan Tee Khoon.
In the last two months, the SAEA received a record 141 public enquiries, feedback and complaints - almost equivalent to the 144 it received for 2006 and 2007. Dr Tan attributes this spike in feedback to recent exuberance in the market.
About 20 per cent of the 76 cases reported to SAEA last month were commission disputes. Another 20 per cent were complaints regarding the behaviour of property agents.
Of the latter group, half pertained to agents who did not give buyers a financial plan. But regardless, many of these complainants would have signed the Resale Checklist from the Housing and Development Board (HDB), which confirms that the agent has gone through various procedures with them - such as informing them of their eligibility to buy and what they need to take up a HDB or bank loan.
"Consumers need to know that they should not just sign off on the form without reading or understanding it," said Dr Tan.
"It becomes difficult for us to confront the agent for any dereliction of responsibility when the consumer endorses the forms."
One gripe from buyers, in particular: When the indicative valuation that the agent gives them is higher than the official valuation that comes later, this throws the buyers' financial plan off, as they may have to fork out more cash.
The bulk of such complainants, said Dr Tan, claim they only find out about the difference in valuations at the first appointment with the HDB - after they have signed documents committing them to the transaction.
Institute of Estate Agents (IEA) president Jeff Foo, too, concurs that consumers should be better educated and prepared before they sign any papers. "Not all the blame falls on the agent. We suggest that consumers do their own diligence before buying."
Still, Mr Foo concedes that many agents are "too pushy" and keen to get clients to sign on the dotted line so as to close a sale. The IEA receives some 15 enquiries (including complaints) a day from the public.
Both industry associations are pushing for a standardised framework and compulsory accreditation for property agents to raise standards. One issue the SAEA said it would raise, is to define the role and responsibilities of an agent.
Meanwhile, buyers should take control of their own transactions. After all, "they are not buying a computer but a property and their life savings go into it," said Dr Tan.
Source: Today, 4 Sep 2009