Coronavirus: Some real estate agents not advising clients to defer physical viewings during circuit breaker

The Council for Estate Agencies said consumers should do virtual viewing for urgent situations.
The Council for Estate Agencies said consumers should do virtual viewing for urgent situations.PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHARLYENE CHOO

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Some real estate agents have not been advising their clients to defer physical viewings during the circuit breaker period, said the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).

In response to feedback that such incidents were occurring, the CEA said in an updated advisory to real estate agents on May 9: "We wish to remind you that the aim of the elevated set of measures is to reduce much more significantly movements and interactions in public and private places.

"The real estate agency industry must continue to play its part to reduce the spread of Covid-19."

Property agents should advise and encourage their clients to defer physical viewings until it is safe to do so, it added.

The circuit breaker, which took effect on April 7, placed restrictions on movement and social gatherings to reduce physical interactions in the community.

In line with the measures, the CEA advised estate agencies and agents to suspend work that requires physical interaction until June 1, which means they cannot attend physical viewings with their clients.

However, three of the eight property agents contacted by The New Paper recently agreed to facilitate physical viewings, and did not advise that such viewings must be deferred if they are not urgent.

All four home owners contacted by TNP also agreed to open their homes for viewings.

A CEA spokesman told TNP that a property agent can assist the client remotely, but they cannot meet or accompany the client for any related activities.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, estate agency work is listed as non-essential.

"CEA will investigate and take action against errant property agencies and agents who breach the current circuit breaker measures when conducting estate agency work," the spokesman added.


In a separate advisory for consumers, the CEA said they should defer all on-site and in-person viewings until the circuit breaker measures are lifted, and for urgent situations, consumers should do virtual viewings.


Virtual viewings, while not as popular as physical viewings, may become the norm if restrictions on gatherings persist during the pandemic, said real estate experts.

However, consumers in Singapore will need time to adapt to the change because they are more inclined towards physical viewings, they added.

The resale volume of private non-landed properties tumbled by about 57 per cent last month compared with March, and for Housing Board flats it plunged 78.3 per cent, as the virus containment measures continued to take a toll on the retail market.

Mr Wong Xian Yang, Cushman & Wakefield's associate director of research for Singapore and South-east Asia, said: "Given the large quantum involved for Singapore property purchases, most buyers buy only one or two properties in their lifetime.

"Being able to touch and feel the product is a must-do for most buyers. This is especially so for resale properties, which are sold as-is."

Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie, said virtual house tours are not new, and younger consumers may be more comfortable with them.

Even then, many may still want to do a final inspection in person before committing to a huge investment, especially for luxury properties, she added.


Propnex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor said that while virtual viewings are useful in helping to narrow down the choices, they would work better in the rental market.

"If you are going to stay somewhere short term, it may not be that important to view the property physically. It's similar to booking an Airbnb - you don't need to be there physically before deciding to book the place," he added.