Singapore’s Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) has brought charges against Tan Yang Po for allegedly acting as a real estate agent without being licensed by CEA. This is the first prosecution relating to alleged unlicensed estate agency work involving the sale of overseas properties in Singapore.
Under the Estate Agents Act, an estate agent must be licensed with CEA before it can market local or foreign properties in Singapore.
According to a statement by CEA Tan, trading as AZEA Personal Coaching (APC), faces a total of five charges for acting as an estate agent without being licensed as an estate agent.
CEA’s allegations against Tan are that APC had first advertised to invite members of the public to attend its free property investment seminar. Those who attended the seminar were encouraged to enrol in a two-day investment course, with a fee, to learn about investment strategies. The course participants were awarded membership to a property club of AZEA.
APC introduced its client, Sterling Camden LLC, a foreign property developer to members of the property club. Tan allegedly informed members that the developer was selling apartments in Houston, Texas, costing about US$49,000 to US$60,000 each, with a guaranteed investment return of 8 percent plus net rental yield for two years.
Thereafter, Tan allegedly facilitated the sale transactions for the said foreign properties and for each successful sale, collected commission for the sales from the foreign property developer. At all material times, APC acted as an estate agent while it was not licensed as an estate agent with CEA.
Each charge is punishable with a fine not exceeding S$75,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.
CEA’s advice for consumers is that they should only engage licensed estate agents and registered salespersons. They are advised to check the CEA Public Register of Estate Agents and Salespersons at CEA website http://www.cea.gov.sg or use the “CEA@SG” mobile app to verify whether the estate agent is licensed with CEA or the salesperson is registered with CEA.
Consumers should exercise due diligence when buying foreign properties. They should find out pertinent details such as their eligibility to buy the particular property and all the costs involved, such as taxes, maintenance costs, foreign currency fluctuations, etc. Consumers should be wary of claims of high returns and low initial down payments. They should conduct their own research, look at the viability, pricing and terms and conditions of the purchase, and not rely solely on the advice of representatives of the developer of the foreign property.
For tips on buying foreign properties, consumers can refer to the CEA’s online guide