Monday, October 26, 2009

Real estate agencies all for clarity and transparency

I COMMEND last Saturday’s helpful Forum Online letter by Mr Ng Kwong Yee, ‘Crux of property brokering that needs clarity’.

We agree with Mr Ng that most complaints about estate agents arise from a lack of mutual understanding, specificity and even transparency in the relationship between the consumer and the realtor.

We further concur with his suggestion to make it mandatory for the estate agent to explain the transaction process, the scope of estate agency services, commission payable and thereafter secure the consumer’s written agreement. This will surely reduce the number of complaints and disputes between consumers and estate agents acting for them.

For example, Britain’s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published the Blue Book, which is essentially an estate agency guide for realtors and consumers to raise professional service standards and improve consumer experience in home buying and selling. Estate agents who are members of RICS are required to provide prospective clients with a copy of the Blue Book which, among other things, details the sale and purchase process as well as the role of the estate agent. Prospective sellers and buyers familiarise themselves with the Blue Book so the duties of the agent and expectations of the consumer are adequately matched.

Likewise, Singapore realtors should ensure that consumers who appoint them for their services know what the transaction entails and precise service offerings. Then there will be true meeting of minds, with satisfied consumers and agents paid promptly. The Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies’ downloadable Seller’s and Buyer’s Guides on its website can be useful resources in this.

Finally, it should be made mandatory for accredited estate agents or salesmen to co-broke with one another when necessary and not deal with ‘unlicensed middlemen or runners’ as the latter operate ‘below the radar’, are not subject to any professional code of conduct and may expose consumers to unnecessary risks.

This will avoid the emergence of an unregulated group in the industry. Alternatively, this group of ‘middlemen or runners’ should comply with accreditation requirements stipulated by the Government in the new regulatory framework and seek to be accredited.

Dr Tan Tee Khoon
Chief Executive Officer
Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies

Source: Straits Times, 26 Oct 2009

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