Revamped HDB portal may affect role of property agents and valuers

People waiting for their turn outside the Resale Office at the HDB Hub. HDB is updating its portal and processes to halve the time taken for resale transactions come next year.
People waiting for their turn outside the Resale Office at the HDB Hub. HDB is updating its portal and processes to halve the time taken for resale transactions come next year.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Yesterday's news of a revamped portal to speed up the HDB resale process prompted cheers and concerns about changes to the job scope for professionals in two industries.

While real estate agents were comforted that the changes would free them to focus on value-added services, several valuers were concerned they might lose revenue.

HDB is updating its portal and processes to halve the time taken for resale transactions come next year.

In most cases, buyers will no longer need to request a valuation report. Instead, HDB will "harness technology and transaction data to establish the reasonableness of a transacted price", saving about a week in the process.

"Nevertheless, where a valuation is assessed to be needed, it will still be done," a spokesman said.

The updated portal will also streamline the entire resale process by integrating all eligibility checks into one platform instead of spread across various e-services. This would especially benefit those going down the do-it-yourself route, which HDB noted was a growing trend, especially among the young.

The changes are more likely to affect smaller valuation firms for whom resale HDB flats are their bread and butter, said real estate appraiser GSK Global's chief executive Eric Tan. But while such valuations add only some $5,000 - about 2 per cent - to his company's monthly pot, he was concerned about the message the move would send about the profession. He urged HDB to be "transparent about the criteria for when a resale case requires a professional valuer to step in".

"We studied for years to learn how to make a professional judgment, and technology can never replace that," he said, adding that "numbers alone cannot tell you if your flat is facing a funeral parlour".

The updated portal will also streamline the entire resale process by integrating all eligibility checks into one platform instead of spread across various e-services.

This would especially benefit those going down the do-it-yourself route, which HDB noted was a growing trend, especially among the young.

But the Singapore Institute of Surveyor and Valuers told The Straits Times that valuers can also carry out valuations for various purposes, including for financial reporting and collective sales.

The impact of the changes will be "insignificant" for such professionals, and the institute will help those who wish to diversify their skills, a spokesman said.

But for agents, the revamped portal was a welcome move.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in a blog post yesterday that the changes will free them from "time-consuming administrative work and allow them to focus on higher value-added work".

Agreeing, Mr Eugene Lim, key executive officer for property agency ERA Realty, noted that while there are more buyers wanting to handle a transaction themselves, most sellers still require the help of an agent to market their flat.

 

"When you cut out most of the tedious administrative process, it helps the agent focus on what you are paying him for: Selling the flat in the shortest possible time," he said.

Buyers and sellers, in the meantime, welcomed the changes.

Financial consultant Jennifer Wong, 25, who is getting married next year, said she might find her ideal marital home sooner rather than later. "A faster process is less straining and taxing for all involved," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline 'Revamped HDB portal may affect role of property agents and valuers'. Print Edition | Subscribe