I APPLAUD the Government’s recent steps to improve the professionalism of the real estate industry. The market has long awaited the move to ban agents representing both buyer and seller in an HDB resale transaction.
It is also in the interest of consumers to have an accreditation scheme to sieve out unethical agents, as well as an independent tribunal to mediate in the event of a dispute.
On top of the moves and plans announced by the Ministry of National Development (MND) so far, I would argue that one reason for the high number of complaints is that the role and fee of the agent is not clear from the start of a property transaction. I suggest that MND should make these mandatory at the start of the sales process:
- Agent to walk through his role to either buyer or seller and document this; and
- Agent to communicate his fees and document them.
Another reason for the high volume of complaints is that many of the consumers who do not want to engage the services of agents are either not aware that it is possible to do it oneself, or not sure how. MND can hold more public education campaigns to show consumers how to do it oneself, although one needs to manage the marketing and paper work.
If consumers who are able and want to handle sales themselves are differentiated from those who prefer the convenience of having agents handle their transactions, it is only logical that expectations will not be mismatched, resulting in more happy consumers and a more vibrant and professional real estate industry.
Lastly, it is an open secret that many transactions are done on a co-broke basis (sometimes with unlicensed middlemen and runners). It is pertinent that the regulators take a stand on the rules of engagement with middlemen and runners, so that the licensed agents these middlemen and runners work for will have a greater need to exhibit higher standards of professionalism in the course of their business.
Ng Kwong Yee
Source: Straits Times, 24 Oct 2009