Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Time to set up agency to regulate property brokering

I THINK it’s high time for the Government to set guidelines for the property industry. It is long overdue and radical change is needed to put things right to protect property buyers and sellers.

Two years ago, a relative of mine got a property agent to sell her Housing Board flat, but she realised that at every viewing, the buyers were accompanied only by her own agent. We suspected the agent was trying to earn commissions from both the seller and buyer.

I suggested that she ask the agent to hold an open house but she was given all sorts of excuses on why it was a bad idea. In the end, I posed as a property agent and called the agent, but was told that the unit was on hold. I was shocked that this agent did not want to co-broke with other agents. It meant that fewer people would have a chance to view the flat and present an offer. We fired the agent immediately. I later placed an advertisement for the flat and it was sold within a week.

Two years later, things are still as bad. I am currently engaging an agent to look for a unit for me; at the same time, I have also been checking the newspapers for units and getting my agent to arrange viewings for me.

There have been certain units that I selected which could not be co-broke by my agent, and were either “on hold” or “already co-broke”. However, when I called personally to ask about these units, I was told by the seller’s agent that they could arrange viewings at the times I wanted. This is really unprofessional.

In such cases, isn’t it better to set a guideline that an agent should not represent both parties as there is a conflict of interest especially when a dispute occurs?

Furthermore, if an agent is found to show unprofessional sales ethics, there should be a board for sellers, buyers or even agents to complain to and, upon verification, such agents should be barred from practice and fined.

The Government should step in and put a stop to all these unethical practices. If the insurance industry can be regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, why not the real estate industry by an independent government agency, instead of just the Institute of Estate Agents, whose members are mostly made up of those in the industry?

Roger Lim

Source: Straits Times, 23 June 2009

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