SINGAPORE: A new HDB resale portal to be launched in January 2018 has the potential to simplify HDB resale transactions and shorten the time taken to complete the deal by as much as half. But there is still an important role to play for real estate agents in resale flat transactions, analysts noted on Thursday (Oct 19).
The new HDB Resale Portal aims to reduce the transaction time for buying and selling HDB flats by up to eight weeks, down from the current 16 weeks it takes to complete a transaction. Under the new, streamlined process to take effect from January, buyers and sellers of resale flats will also only need to attend only one appointment with HDB, instead of two.
In response to media queries, HDB noted that the proportion of resale flat buyers and sellers who carried out their own transactions has increased from 11 per cent in 2010 to 27 per cent in the first half of this year. There is also a “clear and increasing trend” of flat buyers carrying out their transactions on their own, it added. “This upward trend could be due to the fact that resale flat buyers are generally younger and more tech-savvy than resale flat sellers.”
However, despite the streamlined process and shortened transaction time buyers and sellers will enjoy with the new portal, HDB reiterated that there is no change to the role of estate agents. “Flat sellers and buyers can continue to engage the services of estate agents to advise and assist them with their transactions, if they wish to do so.”
REAL ESTATE AGENTS STILL PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE: ANALYSTS
Analysts like co-founder of property consulting firm HugProperty Ku Swee Yong noted that some real estate agents may not be ready to go completely digital.
“Once everything is put online, there will definitely be challenges to property agents, especially those who are averse to form filling on the Internet due to connectivity or lack of flexibility, he said. “I am concerned that the less technologically savvy ones may not be ready.”
“Being creatures of habit, many of us still find it easier to print and physically fill out the forms,” he added.
However, despite the streamlined portal, Mr Ku also warned buyers and sellers against thinking they can do without an agent entirely.
“Doing everything online gives people a false sense of promise that they are empowered,” he said. “For example, a property needs to be put up for sale due to divorce, inheritance or financial hardship, and the court papers are not finalised, the sellers may fail the eligibility checks. In such cases, the guidance of a lawyer and a very experienced agent would be needed to settle such things.”
CEO of PropNex Realty Ismail Gafoor said there might be a percentage of consumers who might not need the services of a real estate salesperson. “Nevertheless, we believe that a bulk of consumers today will still need to be guided by a professional real estate salesperson who knows the intricacies of real estate transactions, including the changing property cycles, updated real estate policies, availability of housing grants and financial assessment that will help in a successful property transaction,” he said.
ERA’s key executive officer Eugene Lim added that the core of an agent’s job is to market the property. “This still remains unchanged with the new process, and sellers may need the help of an agent to reach out to a wider pool of prospective buyers or to effectively market their flat.”
He added that agents can still remain relevant by offering personalised advice and services to their client. “After all, every case is unique and every buyer or seller has a different objective.”
Mr Ku also suggested that agents broaden their scope of work, so they are not “stuck in any one segment of the market.”
“For example, if the industrial market collapses, we have to be flexible enough to do retail, commercial or even residential. We may also look abroad for opportunities, and export our knowledge and capabilities overseas,” he said.
And while new technologies and online tools can enhance productivity and increase transparency amongst consumers, Mr Ismail stressed that there is still a place for technologically savvy agents and those who constantly upgrade themselves to remain relevant in the real estate industry.
“It takes thorough understanding of the market and in-depth financial assessment to ensure that consumers get the best property deals based on their unique needs and wants,” he said. “This is where the role of a professional salesperson is important; someone who understands the market and be able to utilise technological and online tools available to analyse and ascertain the right properties for their clients’ property purchase.”
“Real estate salespeople who are merely middlemen and handle only the administrative parts of transactions may find their days numbered if they do not keep up with the evolving times.”