Property market hacks for Singaporeans
So, you’re thinking of purchasing a resale flat. Or perhaps you’re thinking of selling your current crib for an upgrade. But you have no clue about the procedures, and are considering getting a property agent to do the legwork for you.
Engaging a property agent doesn’t mean you can just sit back and wait for a house to fall into your lap, though. Whether you’re buying, selling, renting, or leasing, knowing what to ask your agent can save you serious money and protect you from illegitimate posers.
So before you put your name on the dotted line and say your housing vows, here are 9 things about engaging property agents that only housing lao jiaos would know.
1. Your property agent has to be registered with the CEA
Don’t let the swanky business suit and fancy name card fool you - a property agent’s not legit until he’s registered with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA). It’s a statutory board, so there’s no other way for an agent to be certified.
But if you’re worried about the finesse of questioning an agent’s legitimacy to his face, fret not, because the CEA has a nifty public register that lists all the registered agents in Singapore.
2. Your agent should know how long the property has been on the market
The apartment you’re looking at is right beside the MRT station, and it’s surrounded by luxurious shopping malls. The floor is marble tiled, the doorknobs are bejewelled, and the kitchen taps appear to be made of the purest gold.
Before you rush to sign that contract, take a step back and ask your agent how long the property has been on the market. If it’s been sitting out there for three months or longer despite a reasonable price, chances are, there’s a catch somewhere.
3. An agent cannot represent both the buyer/tenant and seller/landlord at the same time
Just like those petty disputes back in school where your friends made you pick a side, your property agent has a choice to make here. In order to prevent a conflict of interest, each agent can only represent one party in every transaction.
That means no pocketing commissions from both parties. So if you’re the one paying the property agent, you can be sure that he’s on your side!
4. There is no standard market rate for commissions - it's negotiable
Unlike our GST, an agent’s commission rate isn’t fixed. And there is no “standard market rate”, so before you engage a property agent, don’t be shy about discussing the fee.
5. There are 2 important forms you must sign when transacting – the estate agency agreement and the Customer’s Particulars Form
Image credit: Forry Law Group
These days, nothing is official without a contract. If you want to take things to the next level with your property agent, you should fill out CEA’s prescribed estate agency agreement.
This nifty piece of paper contains the agent’s duties, agreed commission rate as well as a declaration of any conflict of interest, so you’ll want to read through this carefully before putting your name on the dotted line.
Then there’s the Customer’s Particulars Form. Since property transactions involve large sums of money, they could potentially be used to launder money or finance terrorist activity. This form is a way for agents to verify your identity so they’ll know you’re not involved in such criminal activity.
6. You can choose to be exclusive with an agent or shop around with a few
You’d think that engaging multiple agents at the same time would mean a faster sale or lease, but that’s not necessarily true. Since most agents advertise on the same platforms, they’ll likely receive the same buyers.
Conversely, by signing an exclusive agreement with an agent, he’s likely to dedicate more time and effort to your property. This is because the agreement lasts only for a limited amount of time, so he’ll want to land the sale and the commission before time is up.
If you prefer non-exclusive agreements, you can appoint a number of property agents. Only the one who helps you complete your transaction needs to be paid, but it can take a bit of coordination work with the agents. Offers can also come in at different times from different agents, so you may not have the full sense of what’s on the table when making a decision.
You’ll need to evaluate your own situation and decide which approach is better for you.
7. Ask about recent transactions nearby
The house looks super chio, and it’s reasonably priced too. But before you hit the “checkout” button, it’s a good idea to ask your agent about the recent transactions in the area. This will give you a good gauge of the valuation of the property you’re looking at.
8. Your property agent shouldn’t handle money related to your transaction
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
A little trust goes a long way, but so does a hundred thousand dollars. While most property agents are trustworthy, there have been cases of a few who made off with their client’s money.
It’s illegal for agents to handle certain monies - such as rental fees or sale proceeds. So when it comes to property transactions, make sure you handle the money yourself. Pay the payee directly using verifiable modes of payments, such as crossed cheques and bank transfers.
9. Agents have their own focus areas
Nobody goes to a math teacher with a chemistry question. Just like teachers, real estate agents tend to focus on certain locales or property types/transactions.
If your property agent’s expertise is in a specific property transaction type, say rentals, you can expect he’ll be better equipped to meet your needs if you’re looking to rent out your house. Other agents focus on certain neighbourhoods, and they’ll have in-depth knowledge, like the property prices in the vicinity or future government development plans for the area.
So before you engage an agent, be sure to check out his current listings and past transactions to get a better understanding of his area of focus.
Get a legitimate property agent
While it’s possible to handle real estate transactions yourself, having the experience of a property agent on your side really counts, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the dealings of the market.
If you’re unsure how to work effectively with a property agent or just want a little more information, you can always visit Council for Estate Agencies’ (CEA) website. After all, the CEA is Singapore’s regulatory body for estate agency work conducted in Singapore, so they’re the best people to ask!
This post was brought to you by the Council for Estate Agencies.