Putting the house in order

The current buoyant property market is creating a new set of problems for would-be buyers and tenants.

We now hear of unscrupulous agents. Many are becoming greedy. They do not want to work on a co-broke basis, be it a sale or rental. They want the commission from both parties for themselves. Moreover, there are instances of agents acting against the interests of buyers by pitting one buyer against another with jacked-up prices. This leaves buyers and tenants at their mercy.

A friend of mine, who lives overseas, had his rent increased by 68 per cent some time ago. He was considering the option of moving to Singapore and renting a place here instead. After three weeks of negotiating with the agents, however, he decided to return home despite his higher rent. He had simply had enough from the agents here.

Many are seeing the buoyant market as a chance to make money and it is drawing numerous new players, as reported in the media. Lest we have a situation similar to that of the mid-1990s, when unqualified people were selling properties, it is perhaps time to regulate property agents.

There are two associations — the Institute of Estate Agents and the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies Scheme — representing property agents in Singapore, but it seems they only provide guidelines that are not mandatory.

Hence, an agent need not follow the recommendations of the associations on issues such as the amount of commission payable. This has resulted in agents calling the shots, flouting the norms — and not having to account for their misdeeds.

If insurance agents and financial planners have to be licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, why not property agents by the Ministry of National Development? There is a dire need for professionalism in the industry and I believe this can only come about when the authorities take control of the registration and conduct of the agents.

Source: Today, 11 July 2007

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