SINGAPORE: Property agents are gearing up to serve more home buyers who want to view showrooms and resale residential units in person, in Phase 2 of Singapore’s post-“circuit breaker” reopening.
Potential buyers were unable to do so for more than two months due to COVID-19 restrictions, prompting some of them to turn to virtual viewings instead.
Since Phase 2 started on Friday (Jun 19), Mr Benjamin Poh, division director at ERA Realty Network, said his team of 20 agents closed eight HDB resale flat transactions over the weekend. That’s almost triple the number they would sell on a regular weekend before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Poh told CNA that demand to view HDB resale flats was higher compared to new private launches because potential buyers want to check on the condition of the flat.
“When a property is there, people want to see it,” he said, adding that for flats which are not brand new, potential buyers are worried about issues like water leakage that they will not be able to detect over video viewing.
His strategy over the weekend therefore involved setting up as many HDB resale viewings over Saturday and Sunday – 14 a day - with each potential buyer getting half-an-hour.
“We scheduled those who already had their loans and full calculations in order. We can’t cater to too many groups because of the safety measures,” he said.
There is a pent-up demand for properties post-circuit breaker, said Mr George Tan, managing director of Savills Residential Projects Sales & Associates.
“We have received many requests for appointments to view the properties since clients were not able to do so during the circuit breaker,” he said. “Many clients have done virtual viewings and Zoom presentations. But nothing beats the physical seeing and experience of the actual show flat and property.”
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Many agents at ERA Realty Network reported fully booked appointments for the first weekend of Phase 2. According to the firm’s key executive officer Eugene Lim, potential buyers and tenants who had seen the properties through virtual viewings are requesting for in-person tours.
“They want to ensure that the property meets their lifestyle and space requirements. These are keen buyers and tenants and we take the request for in-person viewings seriously as it is a sign that they are ready to commit,” Mr Lim said.
The resumption of physical viewings will “certainly prop up sales numbers”, said Ms Christine Sun, head of research & consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie.
“There are many potential buyers who may still prefer to view showflats physically to have a feel of the space, environment and ambience before making a purchase decision,” she added.
PREPARING FOR AN INCREASE IN DEMAND
Property firms said they have been preparing for an expected increase in demand.
Savills’ Mr Tan said that his firm has an ongoing process of keeping the clients updated during the circuit breaker through webinars, featuring project presentations, property updates and talks on the market outlook.
“Agents are also kept busy by training through webinars, small group training, tactical session on how to operate during the circuit breaker. All these activities made sure that as soon as Phase 2 starts, we are ready to move into action,” he said.
Similarly, JLL’s senior director of research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui said that agents remained in touch with potential buyers and sellers during the circuit breaker, updating them on market developments and transactions opportunities so that arrangements could be made promptly once they are allowed to resume.
As for developers, they have been cleaning and sanitising showflats in preparation for the Phase 2 reopening, noted Ms Sun.
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When CNA visited the Jadescape condominium showroom on Sunday, potential buyers could only view by appointment, and in groups of no more than five people - including the agent.
Each showroom also had a limit on how many people could be inside at any one time, with one person for every 10 sq m.
According to guidelines by the Council for Estate Agencies, property advisers have to log the particulars of everyone who enters a showroom or a seller’s place of residence – whether or not they are occupied.
ERA Realty Network has applied for and obtained more 7,000 SafeEntry QR codes for its agents over a few days, Mr Lim said.
At PropNex, its head of research and content Wong Siew Ying, said that after a briefing was held for agents the day before Phase 2 started, PropNex received more than 9,000 applications from its agents for SafeEntry QR codes to conduct property viewings.
“Despite the high number of applications, it must be emphasised that we do not expect a huge rush on the part of agents to conduct viewings all at once,” she said.
Many of the agents are likely to have made the applications in advance, as part of their preparation work to facilitate future viewings in the coming weeks, she explained.
While home buyers look forward to physical viewings, virtual viewings are here to stay, said PropNex chief executive Ismail Gafoor.
“Generally we believe that majority of property buyers and investors will continue using the virtual platforms for their property journeys,” he added.
“We expect them to do research and narrow their selection online, before heading down for a physical viewing.”
Savills’ Mr Tan said all the connections built via technology have laid the ground for in-person transactions.
“All the preparation during the circuit breaker and Phase 1 gets translated into more physical action once Phase 2 starts,” he said. “The resultant impact is there is will likely be a surge in transactions which already was steadily increasing through Phase 1.”
Additional Reporting by Melissa Goh.