SINGAPORE: Home buyers and sellers can now contact property agents and rate their service using a new mobile app called RealHome.
A beta version of the app was launched on Monday (Mar 12), and when it is fully rolled out in a month's time, users will also be able to search for property listings in real-time as well as schedule viewings with agents handling those units.
The app, which is available for download for free on Google Play Store and Apple's App Store, was officially launched by Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee. It is part of efforts to improve transaction services, under the real estate industry transformation map which was unveiled last month.
Spearheaded by ERA Realty, Huttons Asia and PropNex Realty, the RealHome app aims to improve industry standards by allowing consumers to rate and review agents after a successful transaction.
Each review will also include information such as the transaction identification, a brief property address, as well as the type of transaction, to ensure that the reviews are "legitimate and credible", according to the agencies.
"The online ratings and testimonials ‘reward’ well-deserving salespersons who performed to the best of their abilities," said CEO of Huttons Asia Goh Kee Nguan.
"Through this transparent sharing, it will inadvertently raise the level of professionalism among salespersons who will strive for better reviews from their clients on the portal.”
As for whether agents have reason to be concerned about ratings and reviews by users, Mr Kevin Lim, chief agency director at ERA Realty said: “I think agents will be worried because things might surface. So I guess agents at large who are positive will take it well. There’s always good and bad apples.
"Hopefully the agents who are more on slack will be on their toes, and agents who are doing good will be more than willing to ask for feedback. I think this will increase the efficiency and transparency of the industry."
At the launch, Mr Lee reminded industry players that innovation is key to the transformation of the industry.
“In recent years, we have seen the emergence of many property-related online portals and services, disrupting traditional players in the real estate transaction services sector," said the minister.
“Property agencies in Singapore have found the need to embrace this shift towards online services, and find new ways of delivering value to consumers by constantly innovating, and doing so relentlessly,” hed added, noting that do-it-yourself transactions for public housing resale flats increased from 11 per cent in 2010 to 28 per cent last year.
APP FOR AGENTS PROVIDING REAL-TIME PROPERTY REPORTS
An app for property agents was also launched by the three agencies, under a not-for-profit consortium set up to manage the online platforms.
Using the RealAgent app, agents will be able to receive real-time transaction data and updated reports of specific properties.
The aim is to help them with challenges such as advertising costs and access to market information. Currently, agents can choose to subscribe to various property portals for their business.
“There are many apps and portals in the market, so if an agent wants to be top notch and subscribe to many portals, it will be very costly,” explained Cijay Tew, advisory branch district director of PropNex. “If they want to have good apps to work on, they can easily spend S$2,000 to $3,000 per app. Some of them are meant for boosting purposes and can easily go up to $10,000 per subscription.”
The three agencies spearheading the initiative said access to the new app will be "priced affordably", after one year of free access.
Property information and listings on the apps will be provided by more than 16,000 agents from the three agencies, which currently capture more than 60 per cent of residential property transactions in Singapore.
A partnership agreement between 10 real estate agencies, members of Singapore Estate Agents Association, Institute of Estate Agents Singapore, as well as members of KEO Connect, a group for key executive officers in the real estate industry, was signed on Monday, with talks underway to bring other industry players on board.
The leaders of the three agencies are also sitting on a new digitalised property transactions workgroup set up as part of the real estate roadmap, led by the Council for Estate Agencies.
Mr Lee said that the Government will make it easier for the industry to access property-related data later this year, in a bid to help automate administrative processes that make up a property transaction.
“Our goal is for agents and property portals to be able to automatically certify key details, such as whether a seller is the legal owner of the property or whether a potential foreign tenant has a valid work pass in Singapore - all with the click of a button,” said Mr Lee. “This will be an opportunity for firms to undertake significant process innovation to become more productive.”