S'pore real estate firms axe thousands of agents ahead of new MND regulations
By Joanne Chan 27 July 2010
SINGAPORE: Real estate firms in Singapore have axed thousands of agents, ahead of the regulatory framework to be implemented by the National Development Ministry.
The framework seeks to professionalise the industry, with the introduction of a new statutory board, known as the Council for Estate Agencies, and enhanced regulatory guidelines.
Channel NewsAsia understands that a Bill for the framework could be introduced in Parliament as early as October.
When contacted, the Ministry would only say that a Bill will be introduced in the second half of this year, with the Council operational by year-end.
Director of Dennis Wee Group, Chris Koh said: "It's going to be difficult for agents with a full-time job while moonlighting as an agent. Because the moment the employer goes into this public registry, the employer will know that you are an agent, and you stand to lose your existing full-time job."
Earlier this month, Dennis Wee Group's (DWG) housing agents were called back to their office to update their personal information and be briefed on the requirements of the new regulatory framework. The information collected was then submitted to the National Development Ministry, to be part of a new central registry of all agents.
1,500 of 5,000 agents were axed as a result of the exercise - mostly inactive or part-time staff.
Under the new guidelines, agents will also be required to pass a mandatory industry examination. Only those who already have industry certification will be exempted.
Rather than wait for the new examination, DWG has asked all its agents to get themselves certified with either the Certified Estate Agent Course or the Common Examination for Salespersons.
Another firm, PropNex, terminated 1,200 agents at the start of this year, either because they were inactive or unwilling to take up personal indemnity insurance.
The insurance covers any financial liabilities arising from housing transactions.
Agents associated with money-lending were also released.
CEO of PropNex, Mohd Ismail said: "Any PropNex agent who has a money-lending licence will not be allowed to practice. He or she will have to make a decision, because we do see a conflict of interest. We have terminated an agent who has been very active, however, he wanted to maintain both and that was not acceptable to us."
ERA, which has about 3,000 active agents, says it removes about 100 inactive agents from its database every month.
Associate director of ERA Asia Pacific, Eugene Lim said the company has also been conducting training to prepare their agents for the Common Examination for Salespersons.
To date, more than 2,500 ERA agents have taken this exam, with some having to do retakes for the paper.
HSR, which represents some 7,000 agents, says it regularly checks its database for inactive agents who are then put on a passive list and sent reminders to go for retraining.
There are an estimated 30,000 housing agents in Singapore.
The National Development Ministry has also been in consultation with various real estate firms to standardise documents used in the trade.
These include documents governing an agent's exclusive right to sell a property.
Currently, each agency has its own terms and conditions, which can be confusing for consumers.
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang