Singaporeans may soon be able to rate the city-state’s nearly 30,000 property agents in much the same way they assess restaurants and Uber drivers. The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), a government body that regulates the industry, announced plans to collect and publish customer ratings of real estate agents, and to make property transaction histories available to the public.
The CEA will publish property transactions closed by agents to enhance professionalism in the industry and transparency to consumers, said the regulator.
Ratings System Kicks Off This Year
The council aims to work with the industry to gather and publish clients’ ratings of agents over the long term, in an effort to improve accountability, CEA said in the statement. The rating system will be applied to the island-state’s 28,571 registered property agents as of the beginning of this year.
The initiative will first be implemented starting with government-subsidised residential transactions from year-end, and later private residential transactions from the end of 2019. The transaction details to be disclosed will include price, location and the agents responsible for the deal, according to local media.
Getting Ready for Proptech Disruption
The proposed measures are part of the council’s Real Estate Industry Transformation Map, an initiative to transform the real estate industry to be “future-ready” amid disruptive technology, rising consumer expectations and slowing manpower growth.
Koh Poh Koon, a member of Parliament from Singapore’s Ang Mo Kio neighborhood, earlier commented on the real estate industry reform plan via his Facebook page that, “By working with our real estate partners on this journey to develop the real estate ‘Industry Transformation Map,’ I’m sure we can build a stronger industry.”
Government agencies involved in the property transaction process are to help out by building a platform for the industry to access government data related to real estate. The measure is designed to help firms automate administrative processes, including routine due diligence checks on matters such as the legal ownership of a property or whether a foreign tenant has a valid working permit.
The government will digitalise contract templates and checklists for use by property agents and consumers by the early 2020s.
Singapore Agency Industry Consolidates
Singapore’s real estate agency industry is undergoing consolidation, with the total number of property agents shrinking by 691 last year, from 29,262 in 2016. There are now 1,269 property agencies, 100 fewer property agencies than two years ago — a drop of 7.3 percent, CEA’s figures show.
Heng Whoo Kiat, CEA’s director for policy and licensing, said early last year that the declining number of agents “could point to a slight consolidation of the industry given the current property market sentiments,” according to The Straits Times. Heng also noted then that “with technological innovations, consumers’ lifestyles and preferences in handling their property transactions are changing, and this could shift demand for real estate agency services.”
In the face of low-profit margins and rising competition, the industry has seen a number of high-profile mergers and acquisitions. Last June, PropNex Realty merged with Dennis Wee Group (DWG) to form the country’s largest property brokerage with around 7,000 agents. The move was followed by two further mergers in August, OrangeTee with Edmund Tie and SLP with Scotia.
“We are seeing signs that the real estate market is bottoming out and this is the best time for consolidation and expansion,” Francis Tan, executive director of the newly-formed SLP Scotia said in an interview.