SINGAPORE: Local property search portal PropertyGuru's decision to increase prices for property agents to list on its platform has sparked a backlash among some real estate agents.
A notice sent by PropertyGuru to its subscribers on Monday showed that the prices of its four new agent packages will range from S$880 to S$9,880 per year from Friday (Aug 4).
According to figures publicly available on its website, PropertyGuru has three packages that cost between S$630 and S$2,240 per year. A fourth package, which currently costs S$11,200 per year, is available on its official platform for agents, it said.
These packages also include the number of concurrent listings an agent can have on its site, and a pool of credits agents use to put up their listings, or “boost” it such that it appears at the top of the page.
More than 3,000 agents have joined a Telegram chat group called “No to Propertyguru” to discuss the issue, with some calling for a switch to other similar portals once their subscription with PropertyGuru ends.
Agent packages on 99.co, another real estate portal, cost between S$388 and S$588 per year, while rates on SRX Property are between S$499 and S$4,299 a year, according to their websites.
Mr Jeff Koh, the agency relationship director at 99.co, said his platform does not have a credit system. Instead, agents can click a “refresh” button every 12 hours on a listing so that it comes up on the site’s front page.
CHANGES MADE TO 'IMPROVE EXPERIENCE': PROPERTYGURU
PropertyGuru told Channel NewsAsia that the changes were made in order to “improve the property seeker’s experience”, which will “ultimately deliver more leads to the agents”.
The portal reduced the number of concurrent listings an agent can have in order to reduce “duplicate listings on PropertyGuru”, said Mr Lewis Ng, the site’s chief business officer. This way, consumers will be able to find their desired listing faster, he added.
Agents will also be able to upload floor plans to each listing, unlike what is offered under current subscription plans, Mr Ng said.
He added that to help newer entrants, PropertyGuru will offer a 40 per cent discount on packages for first-time subscribers starting Sep 1. The company also said there are "onboarding training programmes" to support their businesses and a 30-day money-back guarantee on the entry-level package for first-time subscribers.
Dr Sing Tien Foo, director of the Institute of Real Estate Studies at the National University of Singapore, said the increase in prices could attract new players into the real estate portal market.
“The barrier of entry is quite low … but of course, it depends on how fast you can build up the same kind of brand awareness and reputation,” Dr Sing said.
He added that PropertyGuru probably raised its fees as the company saw itself as the dominant player among all real estate search platforms in Singapore, but that the increase will be “justified” if it adds more features to their services and agents close more deals via the portal.
According to PropertyGuru, there are about 15,000 agents using its platform. There were 28,397 property agents in Singapore as of Jan 1, according to the Council for Estate Agencies.
Mr Ng said that since 2015, the company has increased the number of enquiries agents received by 70 per cent to more than 550,000 every month.
LESS EXPERIENCED AGENTS MORE LIKELY TO BE AFFECTED?
However, real estate agents Channel NewsAsia spoke to said they were unhappy with the price hike, particularly as PropertyGuru is the most popular site among clients, with a majority of their enquiries via real estate portals coming from there.
A 29-year-old, who declined to be named because she belongs to a well-known property agency, said the price hike might make it harder for agents with fewer years in the industry like her to reach potential clients.
The “top producers” will continue to receive queries from house hunters as they have the capital to spend on online listings, she said, while younger agents will have difficulty “getting on the front page”.
“We do not have that much spending power, so our listings don’t get pushed up as much, and therefore it will affect the chances of us reaching to the consumers out there,” the agent, who has been in the industry for two-and-a-half years, said.
Another real estate agent, 61-year-old Jeff Foo, said he was “unhappy” about the price changes as it was “beyond many people's expectations”.
Still, the key executive officer of Jeff Realty and immediate past president of the Institute of Estate Agents admitted that he will not see a huge impact to his income.
“I’m lucky because I get referrals, but what about agents who don’t get referrals, who are solely depending on the portals to get responses? (Now) they have to pay a very high cost to do so,” Mr Foo said.
Editor's note: In an earlier version of this story, the current annual cost of PropertyGuru's agent packages was stated as S$630 to S$2,240, based on publicly available information on its website. PropertyGuru has clarified that a fourth package, which currently costs S$11,200, is available to its agents.