Would-be buyers and sellers of Housing Board flats can now find out their property agent's track record online.
Yesterday, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) launched on its website an initiative that shows the HDB resale transactions completed by real estate agents in Singapore in the last two years.
Called the Property Agents' Transaction Records Initiative, it publishes information including when a flat changed hands, where it is located, and whether the agent represented the buyer or the seller.
"The additional information can provide people with a clearer understanding of the agent's experience, in terms of how active he has been in the last two years in closing HDB resale transactions and in which HDB towns, and whether he was acting for the buyer or the seller," said the CEA.
The records are only of transactions done in the past 24 months, so that people can see the agent's most recent deals. Older records are available at data.gov.sg
Previously, the CEA website had only information that confirms whether an agent is registered with the agency.
Number of agents up for second straight year
The number of property agents here rose for the second year in a row, even as the industry continues to face challenges.
There were 29,146 agents as of Tuesday, 575 more than last year, according to the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).
Despite the uptick - last yearhad seen 174 more agents than the year before - CEA director for policy and licensing Chia I-Ling said that the industry continues to face challenges, with rising consumer expectations and technological disruption.
The industry has to continue to transform itself and improve in terms of professionalism to remain relevant, she said.
While there are more registered agents, the number of agencies continued to dwindle. There were 1,229 licensed agencies as of Tuesday, 40 fewer than last year.
Observers have said a more sustainable number of active real estate agents would be around 15,000 to 20,000.
The new initiative is among the recommendations made in the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map in February last year. It can be found at: www.cea.gov.sg/ public-register
Having verified records of their experience would help agents build and sustain consumer trust, said the CEA.
But prospective sellers were divided on the usefulness of the new addition.
Housewife Amy Soh, 56, who hopes to sell her Jurong East flat in the next six months, said: "My mailbox is always full of agents' fliers and this means only that they are good at promoting themselves, not that they are effective sellers. With the website, I can check if they are really that good."
Another potential seller, a 44-year-old tutor who wanted to be known only as Mrs Lim, said it would be "much more intuitive" to host the agents' records on the HDB website, so that users do not have to "flit from one site to another".
She added that some real estate agency websites give "much more details" than the CEA website.
ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said his firm's website FindPropertyAgent.sg, launched two years ago, lets people check what properties its 6,490 agents have handled, what training they have undergone, and what awards they have garnered. Some of its customers have also left reviews.
"With more information, the customer is better able to shortlist agents with the skills to serve his needs," he said.
But National University of Singapore real estate professor Sing Tien Foo said the CEA system gives "objective information" about real estate agents.
Having to maintain a frequently updated track record puts pressure on inactive agents, he said, while "giving customers the right idea about an agent's expertise according to housing type and location".
While it remains to be seen whether buyers will rely solely on past performance in selecting agents, Prof Sing felt "the CEA system is independent, transparent and fair, and will not have selection bias like some review portals".
The CEA plans to provide, by the end of this year, agents' history in renting out HDB flats as well as in selling private homes.