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Selling home without engaging an agent

Do your research and be prepared for lots of paperwork; hire lawyer for private property

Reader Margaret Seet asked ST: "Can we sell our house on our own without appointing a housing agent? If yes, what are the things to look out for?"

Housing reporter Janice Heng answers.

The short answer is: Yes, you are legally allowed to do so, although it will involve a lot of paperwork.

If you are a Housing Board flat owner, you should first check your eligibility to sell your unit.

You must have lived in the flat for the Minimum Occupation Period.

You can then visit the HDB website for information on the selling process.The site has a sample timeline, details of each step, and forms needed for the transaction.

Before you market your flat, go through HDB's official resale checklist. This checklist must eventually be submitted online at least seven days before you grant the Option to Purchase (OTP) to a flat buyer.

Seller and buyer must use the HDB-prescribed OTP, which is available for downloading on the website. Any other agreements are not valid under the law.

There are several stages involved in the sale of an HDB flat.

First, seller and buyer have to negotiate and decide on the resale price. You can check transacted prices for the past two years via the Resale Flat Prices e-Service.

When you have decided to sell your flat, you may grant the buyer an OTP. If the buyer wishes to purchase the unit, he has to exercise the option within 21 calendar days from the date the OTP is granted.

Both sides must then submit separate resale applications via the e-Resale Service. An application is considered complete only when the HDB receives both portions.

Generally, a smooth resale transaction takes about six to eight weeks to complete, from the date of the HDB's first appointment with the seller and buyer. This first appointment usually takes place four to five weeks after the resale application is submitted.

The fees involved in the sale of a flat include the administrative fees for the resale application, legal fees, property tax, and service and conservancy charges.

SLP International Property Consultants head of research Nicholas Mak said that paperwork can be the most onerous part of the process.

"Some sellers market the flat themselves but get an agent just to settle the paperwork," he said.

Furthermore, if you list your flat for sale independently, you might receive enquiries from housing agents offering their services, rather than prospective buyers, Mr Mak added.

Besides information on the HDB website, there is additional help for those who plan to do it themselves.

"Sellers can also register for HDB's resale seminars to learn about our resale policies and procedures," said an HDB spokesman.

These seminars are held regularly in English, Mandarin, Malay or Tamil.

Those selling a private property can also get by without an agent - but it is recommended to hire a lawyer, said Mr Mak.

This is because private property transactions often involve the lodging of a caveat - a legal document - with the Singapore Land Authority.

This is not mandatory, but buyers may lodge a caveat after the OTP is exercised or the Sales and Purchase Agreement is signed. Doing so prevents further transactions on that property.

Sellers will then receive a caveat notice, and may need a lawyer's help to interpret it.

•Information on selling a flat without engaging an agent is available at the HDB website at www. hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/residential/ selling-a-flat/ways-to-sell

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Selling home without engaging an agent'. Print Edition | Subscribe