Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rules should cover concerted action by agents

I REFER to Thursday’s report, ‘Thumbs up for ending estate agents’ dual role’.

The Ministry of National Development’s (MND) proposal to ban agents from representing both seller and buyer in the same property transaction is a step in the right direction. However, the proposal is silent on agents who may act in concert in the same transaction, such as agents from the same team of the same agency.

Under the proposed framework, teams could continue to represent both seller and buyer in property transactions. Agents may continue to profit handsomely by attaining exclusivity from sellers and dealing only with associated agents, to the exclusion of all others. Such uncompetitive market structures would give agents strong pricing power when negotiating fees as well.

Agents operating in teams are a common feature of Singapore’s property market and so the proposals by MND should extend beyond the regulation of single agents to include that of teams as well.

Otherwise, agents may continue to follow only the letter of the law with regard to safeguarding both buyers’ and sellers’ interests, disregarding its intent.

Ho Kah Chuen

Source: Straits Times, 28 Nov 2009

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