Saturday, March 2, 2013

More sign up as agents in bustling property market

Rise in number with tertiary education, raising service standards

The Straits Times  |  Mar 02, 2013

The red-hot property market has led to a surge in people signing up to be agents, including a greater number who have at least a tertiary education.

Last year, 4,567 applicants passed qualifying examinations to be certified as agents, compared to 2,733 in 2011, according to industry regulator, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).

This represents an increase of about 70 per cent.

Among the newbies, the number holding a degree or diploma rose from 2,213 to 3,425 in the same time period.

Industry watchers said the new blood will help boost the level of professionalism in an industry once deemed by many to be plagued with substandard agents.

Chief executive Mohamed Ismail of PropNex, which has more than 4,600 agents, said the clean-up of the industry and record-high prices in the public and private housing sectors that can yield hefty commissions have lured more qualified people.

"More people are recognising this as a career choice and this can only benefit consumers in the long run," he added.

CEA started regulating the industry in October 2010 amid rising complaints from consumers. While anyone could have signed up with any of the 1,500 property firms operating here before the new rules kicked in, new agents now face more stringent criteria.

They must have at least four O-level passes and clear the entrance exams.

Mr Jeff Foo, president of the Institute of Estate Agents, which has 2,000 members, said many past practitioners were part-timers and some of them have quit.

The attrition means that there were 31,040 registered agents as of January this year, compared to 31,169 two years ago, according to data from the CEA.

"They could have been moonlighting as agents, and since this was not the only career for them, they were less in tune with the industry's needs and policy changes," Mr Foo said.

Knowledge of developments is vital, he added, given the many rounds of cooling measures introduced recently.

Changes include reduced financing for those buying second properties and higher taxes to deter speculators who unload properties quickly after the purchase.

Property consultant Chris Koh, who also conducts training courses for agents, said those entering the sector now are more committed to making it in the profession.

"The entire process to become an agent can easily cost more than $1,000 and take up five months. To survive, you'd also need to advertise your properties. This is a recurring monthly cost that can run to the thousands," he added.

Even then, bringing home a steady pay cheque is not guaranteed since the agent must have properties to transact. The CEA also does not prescribe commission rates as it wants market forces to prevail in the industry.

Former business owner and aspiring property agent Daphne Chew, 36, said the job will give her more time with her two kids. "Not only would I be able to gain more knowledge, I would also have more flexible hours," said the university graduate.

Soon-to-be agent William Tan, 26, added: "This is a profession where hard work will pay off exponentially."

Property investor Mary Kuo, 48, said better-qualified agents will inspire more confidence among customers. "I could probably look at properties on my own but it seems too much of a hassle. Someone who knows the ins and outs of the market will likely give me a better deal," she added.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C

Senior Sales Director
DTZ Property Network Pte Ltd (L3007960A)

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