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BUILDING & ENGINEERING | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore
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Singapore's 50 largest real estate agencies in 2016

For property agencies, winter may soon be ending.

The market slowdown in the past couple of years has forced agencies to lay off and agents to hibernate, but signs point to brighter times next year.

After Lynn Er Say Ling left her job as an accounting manager for a multinational fast-food chain to join ERA as a property agent, she spent the next seven years honing her expertise and client service skills – an advantage that is helping her through the dry spell of 2016. Property industry analysts are pessimistic that the second half of the year will see improved buying sentiment, but the market should stabilise in 2017, encouraging more agent hires and easing the pressure on veterans like Ling.

“The challenges that agents are currently facing are working within the framework of the cooling measures and uncertainty of global economies. Further, we have to sellers and buyers, and agents have to constantly upgrade their knowledge to serve clients professionally,” says Ling whose major transactions include luxury condominiums, landed houses, and high-class bungalows in Districts 9, 10, 11, and 21. “Real estate is a service-oriented business. Customers will always be able to tell and appreciate it if you put efforts to help and put their interest first. With this, you will have more and more referrals for potential business. With my experiences in this industry, I’m very positive about the future of real estate,” she adds.

Reduced demand for agents Aggressive and competent agents like Ling may be the ones who remain and weather the 2015 to 2016 storm, says Ong Kah Seng, director at R’ST Research, which has been marked by subdued hiring and even layoffs in some agencies. Ong expects reduced demand for property agents in the second half of 2016 due to prolonged weakening of the property sector in terms of buying interest and leasing interest. But agencies with a more strategic mindset are continuing to hire to prepare for further expansion overseas and a local market rebound in 2017.

Some agencies are also taking advantage of the local market slowdown to hire new agents, and train them rigorously on how to make and close deals. “In a market upswing, there won’t be much time for training. Hence the forward-looking and financially strong agencies can afford to recruit more agents and pump in more resources to train agents to relentlessly seek deals in this downturn, and prepare them for market recovery,” says Ong.

 

Return of seasoned pros

While hiring will remain muted for the remainder of 2016, the prospects of property agents will improve in 2017, says Ong, on the back of rosier market sentiments and reduced supply of private residential completions. This will, in turn, drive up dealmaking activity and draw out agents that have gone on hiatus this year. “The sector is going through a difficult time. Some may diversify to other areas and will come back to the sector when the market recovers,” says Jeff Foo, president of Institute of Estate Agents, Singapore. He reckons many property agents have since left the sector but they still hold on to their registration, and some are simply waiting for the opportune time to get back to the property game.

“We can expect to see some agents or real estate professionals who dropped out in 2016 for a sabbatical break, to return in 2017, although a proportion of these dropouts might have progressed to their new chapters, including endeavours outside of property practice,” says Ong.

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