Tag Archives: Property Agents

Property agents who broker short-term leases may lose licence

Some agents are facilitating short-term rentals due to the sluggish housing market.

Property agents who violate the rules against short-term leases of residential properties for less than six months may lose their licence, according to the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), reported The Business Times.

“Property agents have to be mindful at all times that they are required to comply with the Estate Agents Act (EAA) and its regulations when conducting estate agency work. They should not do anything that abets or facilitates anyone to breach any law or regulation,” said Acting Deputy Director for Licensing, Chua Geck Siang.

However, there are some agents who facilitate short-term rentals due to the sluggish housing market, even though the commission for facilitating such transactions is not as high as brokering sales. They usually receive half-a-month commission per year of tenancy.

Some agents were found to be referring potential clients for stays of under six months at St Thomas Lodge, Devonshire Apartments and Oxley Thanksgiving Residence, even though none of the three have been granted permission to be operated as a serviced residence.

“Agents who engage in these activities are either desperate or not well-informed. If they want to earn this kind of money, they might as well drive (for) Uber to earn money legally,” said Eugene Lim, Key Executive Officer, ERA Realty.

However, enforcing the rules against short-term leases is tough, especially for private properties. To skirt the rules, some landlords use a standard contract of six months with early termination clauses.

Further exacerbating the problem is the popularity of short-term rental portals like Airbnb and Homeaway, as well as the significant supply of studio and shoebox units, coupled with the strong demand from foreigners who work or study for a few months in Singapore.

As such, Century 21 Singapore CEO, Ku Swee Yong, is urging the various government agencies to work together to define the laws and increase enforcement against short-term leases.

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More property agents quitting the industry

The Council for Estate Agencies’ (CEA) October-to-December licence renewal period saw several property agencies lose many of their real estate agents, reported The Business Times.

In fact, 22 of Singapore’s 30 biggest agencies are now left with fewer agents than last month, with HSR International and ECG Property registering the biggest drop in percentage terms.

The CEA’s aggregated statistics on the number of salespersons and agencies will be released later this month or in early-February.

Meanwhile, ERA Realty and PropNex Realty are still the two biggest agencies even after their agent numbers dropped by 6.6 percent and 8.9 percent to 5,947 and 5,506 agents respectively.

A distant third is Huttons Asia, which witnessed its agent numbers fall 10.7 percent to less than 3,000.

Nonetheless, some firms grew their agent pool. These include Onehome Property (started in 2014 by former ECG Property agents), OrangeTee.com, Century 21 (Asia-Pacific) Realty (part of the Century 21 franchise network and former UPG International), and Real Centre International.

According to Arthur Zhang, Key Executive Officer of Onehome Property, the multi-fold increase in agent strength – from 20 last year to 197 agents this month – is due to the service support provided by the company to its agents via digital platforms, in-house telemarketing as well as a customer service team which liaises with tenants and landlords.

“We offer free-of-charge handyman services for all landlords and tenants who conduct their transaction through us. This helps all parties, as our agents are not inundated with maintenance-related issues, and landlords and tenants get quicker and easier access to maintenance and minor repair services,” he said.

OrangeTee Managing Director Steven Tan revealed that his company takes advantage of communication and information technology in order to recruit new agents, while investing in branding and training to retain existing agents. OrangeTee’s agent pool increased by 5.3 percent from last month to 2,328 this month.

Meanwhile, HSR International and ECG Property lost the most number of agents at 25.3 percent and 30.8 percent month-on-month respectively to 578 and 146 this month.

While the city-state possibly has one of the biggest number of agents, the CEA noted that one-third of these registered agents have other jobs, of which a third is inactive in estate agency work.

However, the current external environment is unsupportive of property agents planning to get out of the industry, said Ku Swee Yong, Chief Executive Officer of the Century 21 Singapore franchise and the Key Executive Officer of International Property Advisor.

“In the 2009 down-cycle, some agents could find jobs in tourism when integrated resorts came onstream, but now, there are not many options for them to move on to,” he said.

Fortunately, on-demand private-car hire services Uber and Grabcar “have become welcome platforms to see these people through,” he added.