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COMMERCIAL PROPERTY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Singapore's 50 largest real estate agencies 2015

Property agents get shoved as clients turn to self-service

If you ask Singaporean real estate agents (RES) what their biggest frustration is thesedays, chances are you will get the response: “Everyone thinks they can do our jobs.” Property owners are beginning to rely less on RES to buy and sell to cut down on fees, and the wealth of available information online is further emboldening their self-service decision.This trend has hurt RES demand and income levels, but industry insiders reckon that property owners will find it well worth their money to hire an RES once the market rebounds.

“With consumers being more knowledgeable with Internet accessibility and information that is readily available on the internet or property portals, they will be requiring the services of estate agents much less,” says Jeff Foo, president of Institute of Estate Agents, Singapore.

“More HDB flat owners who have to sell their flats are adopting the style of selling the unit by themselves, to save on agency costs. They hope to save on agency fees because times for HDB resale flats are weak, and the prices have cooled off,” says Ong Kah Seng, Director of R’ST Research.

But Ong reckons that not all those that pursue the selfservice approach meet success. After a couple of months, where the owners themselves are unsuccessful in getting home buyers, many sellers engage agents to help them.

Toughing it out

Aside from the loss of revenues from clients that are attempting to close deals by themselves, property agents also face a slower market filled with more choosy buyers. But Ong is bullish that the property agency career will remain appealing.

Still, hanging on is easier said than done for RES, given its variable compensation – top agents can receive $1 million or more commission annually but low performers earn only a small fraction of that -- and have steep professional costs. Foo says the costs for property agents are relatively high, factoring in the annual renewal fees, professional indemnity insurance, portal subscription, advertisements, and continuous professional development courses. This means that only the RES that keep their eyes on the prize and tough it out will get to enjoy the good times. “With the information technology age, many predict that we will be redundant in the near future. I just don’t see it happening. You don’t buy a property just by looking at pictures and videos online. There are a lot more emotions and considerations in such a major decision,” says Eric Tng, division director at ERA Realty Network.

“RES, as a true professional, should be able to advise on real estate investments, calculate and help maximise investment returns and finally, manage clients’ real estate portfolios. Also, they should be familiar with overseas property markets in this age of globalisation. This career is only suitable for people with an entrepreneurial mindset, motivated and able to work independently.” he adds.

Who made it to the SBR’s list?

In its third year of ranking real estate agencies based on total number of real estate agencies, SBR expanded the list to the top 50. ERA Realty Network maintained its top position with a headcount of 6,036. The list welcomes four new entries in the top 30 this year, namely Shenton Realty Homes, Square Yards Singapore, Miracles Realty Group, and Knight Frank Asset Management.  

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