Property: Mobile apps to review property agents and histories


mobile app to show property agent reviews and property transaction histories


In a move to make transactions within the real estate industry more transparent, and allowing easier access to crucial information regarding real estate agents and property transaction histories, key industry players are rolling out apps with user-friendly interfaces to benefit both the agents and homeowners.   

The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) is working with agencies to publish property transaction details - such as the price, location and the agent who closed the deal - and "TripAdvisor-like" customer ratings of the 28,000 property agents. It said this will allow consumers to find an agent who best fits their needs.

The initiative will be implemented in two phases, starting with Housing Board transactions from the end of 2018, and for private residential transactions from the end of 2019.

The measure was announced on Thursday (Feb 8) as part of the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map, which seeks to transform the facilities management and property transaction services sectors amid disruptive technology, rising consumers' expectations and a manpower crunch.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said there were two key thrusts to the map: embracing innovation and strengthening professionalism.

To do this,  the Council for Estate Agencies is leading a new Digitalised Property Transactions Workgroup to make property transactions more seamless, efficient and secure.

Formed last month, one of the cross-industry, inter-agency workgroup's goals is to share government property-related data, so that firms can automate time-consuming administrative processes, such as checks on whether an owner has fulfilled the five-year minimum occupation period for HDB flats.

By doing so, agents can focus on higher-value work, said Mr Lee, adding that such data sharing will be made progressively available from this year onwards.

The workgroup will also develop standard, digitised contract templates - such as for sales and rental transactions - and checklists for consumers and property agents by the early 2020s, to facilitate fully digitised and more secure transactions.

The council will also provide support to 100 property agency businesses to adopt IT solutions by 2020, so that they can reduce manual and time-consuming processes.

Other changes include revamping the Continuing Professional Development framework - under which agents must fulfil a minimum number of hours in order to renew their licence - by end-2018.

The review will ensure that agents gain deeper technical knowledge to perform duties in different segments of the property market and remain relevant in a changing environment. The goal is to train 4,000 property agents by 2020.

The facilities management sector will also benefit from using technology to ensure that building performance is at an optimal and sustainable level. This is especially so as the city ages, Mr Lee said.

"Current procurement practices focus more on reducing costs than enhancing service delivery," he said, adding that this gives little incentives for the sector to invest in smart solutions such as real-time monitoring or predictive maintenance systems.

To that end, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will form a tripartite committee that will, among other things, encourage agencies to adopt smart solutions to improve productivity.

Consultants will also be encouraged to design buildings with facilities management in mind from the get go and minimise the need for expensive retrofitting or labour-intensive maintenance later.

The J-Ops Command Centre, an integrated building and estate operations command centre overseeing about 20 JTC Corporation buildings, has allowed JTC to save more than 15 per cent in energy leakages and improved productivity by 15 per cent, Mr Lee noted.

To strengthen professionalism and upskill the workforce in the facilities management sector, the BCA will ensure that skills imparted at institutes of higher learning or under the Continuing Education and Training framework stay relevant.

The BCA is also looking to implement an industry accreditation scheme.

Estate agency ERA Realty Network (ERA) said it will fully embrace the changes, amid concerns that jobs in the industry could be affected.

Executive officer Eugene Lim said: “It is the beginning of a new journey. As a big company we will embrace this and move together.”

He added that agents will need to upgrade their skills: “It is no longer a ‘tour guide’ business with an agent simply showing people around houses. Agents need to become consultants and advisers.”

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, guest of honour at ERA's Asia-Pacific Business Conference, said the Government is not setting out to take away jobs, adding: “It is to improve the quality of lives for all Singaporeans by making property transactions more pain-free and efficient.”

He added that agents should embrace technology and “run with it”. 


Article by Rachel Au-Yong and Derek Wong originally appeared in The Straits Times