Many Singaporeans buy, sell and lease their properties. You can choose to handle a property transaction on your own or engage the services of a property agent.
But there might be many questions in your mind:
- Should you hire a property agent in the first place?
- What should you look out for when engaging one?
- What is a fair commission to pay?
- How to resolve if there are disputes between you and the property agent?
Here are five practical tips for you if you need to engage a property agent.
Understand the Terminology in the Industry
In Singapore, property agent is a “salesperson” of an “estate agent”. Sounds confusing? Unfortunately, it is. It is just like the confusing terms used in the financial advisory industry.
Under the new Estate Agents Act,
- “Estate agents” means estate agency businesses (sole proprietors, partnerships, and companies)
- “Salespersons” means individuals who perform estate agency work.
Estate Agents are granted a licence by CEA and the salespersons of the estate agents are registered. They can perform estate agency work only if they have a valid licence or registration.
To make things simple, let’s just refer the “estate agent” or “salesperson” to a property agent.
Tip #1: Check if the property agent is registered with CEA in the Public Register
Always ask the property agent to show you his/her estate agent card and verify the information on the card against CEA’s Public Register. Do not respond to flyers that only displays a name and contact number of a property agent but not his/her registration number.
CEA is Council for Estate Agencies. Through their public register, you can:
- Check whether a real estate agent is a licensed estate agent;
- Check whether a person is a registered salesperson;
- Know whether a real estate agent or salesperson has been disciplined by the Council within the last three years.
- Know whether any awards have been conferred on a real estate agent or salesperson by the Council
You can also access the Public Register and CEA Consumer Resources on the go via CEA@SG Mobile Application which is available in both Apple store and Google Play store.
- You can search Salesperson by Name, Registration number or Mobile number.
- You can search Estate Agent by Name or Licence number
You can report to CEA at 1800-6432555 or firstname.lastname@example.org when you encounter any person not listed on the Public Register but carrying out estate agency work illegally.
Tip #2: Understand what your property agent is supposed to do for you
Typically, your property agent is responsible for the following services:
- Promote and safeguarding your interest in a property transaction.
- Offer you professional advice in the transaction process and act in your best interest.
- Represent you in negotiations and promptly update you on all offers and proposals from potential clients.
- Forward to you all offers and expressions of interest from potential parties or their salespersons or estate agents.
- Assist you to enter into a binding agreement and reasonably explain to you all relevant forms.
- Explain clearly to you about co-broking so that you can make an informed decision. Co-broking involves two or more property agents in a property transaction. It widens the exposure of property to all and you may be able to get the best deal.
- Declare to you immediately any conflict of interest and all external sources of income/referral fees.
For HDB property transactions, your salesperson is also required to:
- Advise you on your eligibility to buy, sell or lease the flat.
- Explain and go through with you the resale checklist, if you are selling or buying a resale property and check whether renovations made were authorised by the relevant government agencies.
- Assist you to submit forms, documents and/or important information required by HDB to process the transaction.
Tip #3: Understand what your property agent should NOT do
- Introduce or recommend you to licensed or illegal moneylenders
- Represent both the buyer/tenant and seller/landlord in the same property transaction
- Handle transaction monies, such as option fee, downpayment and others.
- Insist that you engage a property agent (Don’t forget you can choose to handle the transaction yourself)
Tip #4: Always negotiate the Commission Rate with your property agent
Most of the time it is possible to negotiate the commission. But you should only negotiate the commission rate with your salesperson before signing any agreement and clarify if GST is factored into commission amount.
Nevertheless, I do advocate that consumers should be reasonable when it comes to commission negotiation. Most property agents do provide professional services and it is hard work. Click here if you want to find out how much an average property agent earns.
You should only pay commission after the transaction is completed, and you only pay commissions to your estate agent and not to your salesperson directly.
Tip #5: Dispute resolution with your property agent
You should always use CEA’s prescribed Estate Agency Agreements to negotiate the commission payable, terms and conditions with your salesperson.
In the event of a dispute, if you have used CEA’s prescribed agreement for the appointment of your licensed estate agent. you can make use of CEA’s dispute resolution scheme to resolve disputes.
You can read more about CEA’s Dispute Resolution Scheme here.
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