Three biggest property agencies band together to form online platform for agents, consumers

ERA Realty chief executive Jack Chua: "We wanted to create an effective platform that can provide transparent and fast information that would be beneficial for consumers, salespersons and even property developers."
ERA Realty chief executive Jack Chua: "We wanted to create an effective platform that can provide transparent and fast information that would be beneficial for consumers, salespersons and even property developers."PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The three biggest property agencies here have launched an online platform to provide real-time information for agents and home-seekers that also attempts to overcome some of the issues seen on existing real estate portals.

SoReal Prop as the collaboration is called was first discussed in early 2016 by the chief executives of PropNex Realty, ERA Realty and Huttons Asia after agents alerted them to the challenges they faced when subscribing to property portals.

These included duplicated listings, high subscriptions, increasing fees and outdated information that is not refreshed in real-time.

When their SoReal initiative was announced to other agencies last Friday, seven companies opted to sign up - Savills, C&H, HSR International, SRI, Global Alliance Property, CBRE and SLP International. Talks are underway to bring other agencies on board.

The 10 agencies as well as the Singapore Estate Agents Association, Institute of Estate Agents Singapore and the KEO Connect signed a partnership agreement with SoReal Prop.

The service will have two apps - RealAgent app and RealHome app - and the SoReal Prop portal.

Its RealAgent app will allow agents to retrieve more real-time information and also generate detailed property reports, manage client queries, schedule appointments and even request to attend open houses online.

Sharing property information, listings and documents can be done seamlessly via the portal.

The app has also incorporated the recent checklist for the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism, which agents can use for transactions.

Access to the RealAgent app will be free for all agents for a year and then priced affordably.

Property buyers and sellers can use the RealHome app to search for listings, connect to respective agents and even review or rate the agents after a transaction. This app is still at testing stage and its initial phase could be made available in the next six to eight weeks.

ERA Realty chief executive Jack Chua said at the initiative's launch on Monday (March 12): "In times of digital disruptions, the three of us knew that the time is right to work together, embrace innovation and add value to industry stakeholders.

"We wanted to create an effective platform that can provide transparent and fast information that would be beneficial for consumers, salespersons and even developers."

While the top three agencies have put seed capital into SoReal to kick-start the initiative, other agencies can also invest to become joint-venture partners.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee noted at the event that this is a timely move given the surge of property-related online portals and services that are disrupting traditional players.

"It is also a good indication of the kind of healthy ground-up initiatives that are taking place and shows the strong desire of players from within the industry to ride the transformation wave," Mr Lee added.

Huttons Asia CEO Goh Kee Nguan said it is important that agencies embrace technology as many players within and outside the industry are trying to disrupt them and "hound their rice bowl".

PropNex CEO Ismail Gafoor also stressed that the initiative "is by no means trying to be in a monopolistic position to out-beat or destroy other property portals".

"New players will still come after this. What is important here is what is rightfully owned data of ours and we can give it back to you with a different motive.

"Our motive of SoReal is not going back to count what is the valuation or PE (price-to-earnings) of this company so that we can list. The objective of this portal is for sales people to be part of the disruption, to keep pace with disruption, to be disrupted together accepting that disruption will take place.

"We don't want to be in denial stage."

It is also no longer sufficient for agents to just tap digital platforms alone but to perform a more advisory role. This means they need to have in-depth market knowledge to advise clients effectively, Mr Gafoor added.