Why It Matters

HDB's portal signals change

The Housing Board is the latest agency to embrace digital disruption with a revamped portal that can halve the resale flat transaction time to eight weeks.

This will no doubt benefit savvy buyers or sellers, who will have a more user-friendly platform to take them through the resale process from start to finish when it kicks in on Jan 1. They will also spend less time making their way to the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, as the number of appointments has been cut from two to one. Previously, they had to make one trip to have their financial documents and plans verified, but this will soon be conducted online instead.

The move signals that the Government is walking the talk in its Smart Nation push - by eliminating inefficiency, encouraging better use of technology and bringing convenience to Singaporeans.

But the change also threatens the livelihood of a handful of professional valuers or real estate agents who focus solely on the HDB resale market.

That is because the HDB will do away with professional valuations in most cases. Instead, it will rely on its extensive trove of transaction data to let buyers know if their proposed price is reasonable.

The improved platform may also encourage more buyers and sellers to go down the do-it-yourself path - an increasingly common trend.

But the reality is that many professional valuers have a large scope of work that goes beyond HDB valuations, such as for financial reporting and collective sales. For such firms, the revenue gained from HDB valuations is insignificant. The Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers has also offered to help affected valuers who wish to diversify their skills.

 

The new portal will also relieve some of the administrative burden resting on agents' shoulders so they can concentrate on what they are really being paid for: their ability to move a unit at the best price, in the shortest possible time.

In every digital revolution, there are winners and losers. But in HDB's case, the advantages outweigh the cons. Not only will buyers and sellers save up to two months in what can be a lengthy process, but two industries will also become more efficient.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'HDB's portal signals change'. Print Edition | Subscribe