Three agencies tie up to launch property platform

(From left) ERA Realty CEO Jack Chua, SoReal chief technology officer Jeremiah Ng, PropNex Realty CEO Ismail Gafoor, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and Huttons Asia CEO Goh Kee Nguan at the launch of SoReal.
(From left) ERA Realty CEO Jack Chua, SoReal chief technology officer Jeremiah Ng, PropNex Realty CEO Ismail Gafoor, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and Huttons Asia CEO Goh Kee Nguan at the launch of SoReal.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Service will have portal and two apps to provide real-time information for agents, buyers

The three biggest estate agencies here have launched an online platform to provide real-time information for agents and buyers, and to also try to overcome some of the issues on existing property portals.

SoReal Prop, as the collaboration is called, was first raised 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 These included duplicated listings, high subscription fees and outdated information that was not refreshed in real time.

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

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

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

RealAgent 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.

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

TRANSPARENT, FAST INFORMATION

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

ERA REALTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE JACK CHUA

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 the testing stage and its initial phase could be made available in the next six to eight weeks.

ERA Realty CEO Jack Chua said at the initiative's launch yesterday: "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 in 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 in the industry to ride the transformation wave," he 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 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."

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 in-depth market knowledge to advise clients effectively, Mr Gafoor added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2018, with the headline 'Three agencies tie up to launch property platform'. Print Edition | Subscribe