Monday, March 30, 2009

Real estate agencies fully back govt review

I REFER to last Wednesday's report, 'Regulation of property agents under review'.

The Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies (SAEA) is fully supportive of the Government's move towards a more effective way of regulating housing agents.

The housing agent industry is largely fragmented and unregulated. The current basic requirement is to pass the Common Examination for House Agents and apply for a house agent licence from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras). This licence is issued to agencies - that is firms and not individual agents. Once licensed, the proprietor usually recruits many associates (not employees), who work based on an agreed shared commission. So many agencies recruit agents indiscriminately, many without proper qualifications.

Therefore, the industry ends up with more than 30,000 agents and most without sound understanding of real estate practice.

We believe professionalism arises from, first, basic certification of skills and knowledge with continuing professional development training; and, second, a code of practice which agents follow.

This can come about only if there is mandatory licensing and accreditation of individual realtors and a body familiar with real estate practice that is sanctioned by the Government to be a watchdog.

We understand the Government has always encouraged the industry to self-regulate. This is feasible if the industry is in the first place regulated. To exercise control on an industry which is unregulated is indeed daunting. Nevertheless, the SAEA scheme was officially launched on Nov 11, 2005 by the then Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua. When launched, this scheme was supported by the HDB, Iras and Ministry of Finance.

As a result, there are now more than 300 accredited agencies and 6,000 accredited agents and salesmen, sharing the common vision of raising professional standards in the industry by certified competencies and compliance to a professional code. We believe this is a good scheme and leaders of all our accredited agencies, which comprise 23,000 agents in total, will endeavour to work with government bodies to build a better real estate agency force in Singapore.

Peter Koh, Chairman of Executive Committee, Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies

Source: Straits Times, 30 Mar 2009

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