Fall in ratio of complaints to property transactions

But absolute number of complaints is up, from 702 in previous financial year to 780

People seem to be less unhappy with their property agents and agencies these days.

Complaints against them have steadily declined as a proportion of total transactions, partly as a result of enforcement and professional development of the industry.

In the year ended March 31, there were just over four complaints for every 1,000 transactions, according to the Council for Estate Agencies' (CEA) annual report, which was released yesterday.

There were five complaints for every 1,000 transactions the year before, and 15 complaints for every 1,000 transactions six years ago, when the council was formed.

The absolute number of complaints, however, has gone up from 702 in the previous financial year to 780. Most gripes were about advertisements and fliers, as well as poor and unprofessional service.

This increase, however, should be viewed against a growth in property transactions during the year in review, said CEA, a National Development Ministry statutory board that regulates the real estate agency industry. Its latest annual report covers the period from April last year to March this year.

Mr Heng Whoo Kiat, CEA's director of policy and licensing, said the drop in the ratio of complaints to transactions is a result of the CEA's regulatory enforcement efforts, and professional development in the real estate industry.

Public outreach to educate consumers on how they can "work more effectively" with their agents is another factor, he added.

Mr Jeffhery Foo, immediate past president of the Institute of Estate Agents, said property agents these days are more informed about the dos and don'ts of real estate.

For instance, they have to take the CEA's Continuing Professional Development classes before getting themselves registered as agents or when renewing their registration, said Mr Foo. Such classes cover an array of topics, such as the Estate Agents Act, how to market properties, and common mistakes committed by agents.

"It's not like in the past, when any cowboy or cowgirl could become an agent. Standards have gone up," said Mr Foo. "Of course, along the way, there will be bad apples. But it's a work in progress," he added.

Mr Heng said the CEA will continue to help the industry become "more professional, productive and client-centric" through consumer outreach, and by training property agents.

The same report also showed that the number of completed investigations on complaints fell from 684 to 635 cases in the last financial year.

Of these, 249 resulted in letters of advice or warning, 17 were disciplinary actions meted out by CEA's disciplinary committee, and 15 were prosecutions in court. The rest include unsubstantiated cases, frivolous complaints and complaints that were resolved by property agencies or referred to other bodies.

The cool resale market has also brought down the number of property agencies and agents. There were 1,372 agencies licensed at the end of March this year, down from 1,422 a year ago.

A total of 30,423 agents were registered at the time, compared with 32,006 a year before.

About 108 agency licences and 2,890 agent registrations were not renewed. "It's a market situation. Many leave because they have families to feed," said Mr Foo.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Fall in ratio of complaints to property transactions'. Print Edition | Subscribe