Mandatory accreditation for all real estate agents could be introduced soon

Accrediting all real estate agents and setting up a tribunal to handle disputes are some of the proposals which could be introduced soon to help improve the standard of the real estate industry.

The suggestions came after the Ministry of National Development consulted industry players from September 10 to October 1.

From October 13, the public can give their feedback on the proposed regulatory framework for the real estate industry via this website The public consultation exercise will take one month.

The number of complaints against real estate agents has gone up recently. Last year saw over 1,400 complaints while six years ago there were only 400.

To beef up the professionalism of the real estate sector, the government plans to introduce some changes.

The proposals include setting up an independent body to ensure compulsory accreditation for all property agents, introducing a demerit point system to penalise errant agents and agencies and having a public central registry which lists agents’ qualifications, employment history and track record.

Eugene Lim, associate director, ERA Asia Pacific, said: “We do encounter agents which are double or triple agents, that means at one time they’re agents with not only one company but sometimes with two or even three companies. So with a central registry system, we’ll be able to stop this.

“And those that are double and triple agents, we’ll be able to know who they are and these people will be taken out from the industry. Also another industry problem that this central registry can help to solve is checking on agents’ past performance.”

Industry players welcome the idea of a tribunal to handle disputes.

Jeff Foo, president, Institute of Estate Agents, said: “However, the people who are going to be sitting on the tribunal has to be people on the ground, who know about real estate transactions and subject matter experts.

“You can’t simply put somebody there to mediate, to solve problems if the person doesn’t really understand the nuts and bolts of the real estate industry.”

But there’s something which industry players hope the government will consider and that is licensing individual agents.

Mr Lim added: “Licensing seems to be more serious, something which the individual agents would be more careful of because now they carry an individual license and if they don’t meet the service standards or if they don’t perform or if they do something wrong, then their license may be suspended and they may not be allowed to practice.”

For a start, the framework is likely to focus on residential property transactions because that’s where the bulk of complaints come from. If need be, the government said the framework will be broadened to include other real estate transactions like commercial properties.

The government said the key elements of the framework will be announced as early as December this year and the legislation should kick in by mid next year.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 12 Oct 2009

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