DAVID Lawrence has a suggestion for dealing with the problem of rogue housing agents whom the government is trying to rein in: by introducing legislation.
Either the Ministry of National Development or Housing and Development Board could set up a separate statutory body and give it exclusive rights to deal in resale HDB flats, he says.
Such legislation may be difficult to apply retroactively for the existing flats, he notes. But when HDB sells new flats, it could write in the agreement that when the lessees wish to re-sell their flats after the five-year minimum occupation period, they will have to go through the new stat body.
'If you wish to sell your flat, all you'll have to do is to list it with this new stat body,' Mr Lawrence, who is chief executive of Wheelock Properties (Singapore), told BT in a recent interview. 'The new body would not have to be involved in the pricing. People can put their own price, as in a free market. If it doesn't sell within three months, then they've priced it too high,' he said.
The proposed new stat body would employ agents who have been screened and found suitable. 'The commission charges could be low but it will still pay for this stat body to handle all these sales,' Mr Lawrence said.
The body would have an approved panel of lawyers and valuers with all money going through proper controls, he suggested. 'That will cut out crooked agents ripping off some of the old people on HDB estates and taking double fees. I don't agree with all that nonsense.'
According to Mr Lawrence, since HDB built and sold the flats, he sees no reason why a public sector body such as the one he is suggesting should not be sole agent for their resale.
On another front, Mr Lawrence says he is not alarmed by the recent increase in HDB's resale flat price index. Viewed over a 10-year period, the index has risen 34 per cent, which works out to an average increase of 3.4 per cent per annum. He describes this as 'fairly gentle capital appreciation' that is good for the 82 per cent of the population that live in HDB flats.
Source: Business Times, 31 Oct 2009