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askST: Can one sell one's house without appointing a housing agent?

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 (HDB) flat owner, you should first check your eligibility to sell your unit.

You must have lived in the flat for the Minimum Occupation Period. When finding a buyer, sellers should make sure the buyer is within the Ethnic Integration Policy and Singapore Permanent Resident quota for their block or neighbourhood.

Once you have ascertained your eligibility, you should visit the HDB website to get the most up-to-date information that would help you through the sale process.

The site has a sample timeline, details of each step of the process, 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 as the form of contract in the transaction.

Any other agreements relating to the sale or purchase of the flat are not valid under the Housing and Development Act. The HDB-prescribed OTP form can be downloaded from its website.

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 of the unit. You can check the resale transacted prices for the past two years via the Resale Flat Prices e-Service to help you make an informed decision.

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 the option period, which is 21 calendar days from the date of granting the OTP.

After the buyer has exercised the option, both sides must submit separate resale applications via the e-Resale Service. A resale 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, adding that not all agents are willing to do that.

Another consideration is that if you list your flat for sale independently, you might receive a lot of enquiries from housing agents offering their services, rather than from actual 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, with sessions in English, Mandarin, Malay or Tamil. The next resale seminar in English will be held on March 5, April 2, May 7 and June 4, according to the website. The next seminars for the other three languages have yet to be announced.

If you are selling a private property, you can get by without an agent - but it is recommended to hire a lawyer, said Mr Mak. "You cannot do without lawyers for private transactions, unless you are legally trained in real estate conveyancing."

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, to protect their interest in the property. 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.

janiceh@sph.com.sg

Information on selling a flat without engaging an agent is available at the HDB website 

More askST stories here.