Suit over computer-generated valuations

Streetsine says it lost business because SISV did not recognise tech-based property valuations

A High Court test case involving an online valuation system could well lead to the "Uber-isation" of property valuation services, in which quick, simple and dynamic ways are offered to access services through mobile apps.

SPH-linked Streetsine Singapore is taking the Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers (SISV) to court for not recognising its technology-based automated valuations as valid, and claims the lack of recognition led to business opportunities being lost.

Streetsine alleged that SISV failed to fully assess the programme's capability - which offers property valuations at a fraction of the cost and time incurred by manual valuations - before issuing a press release in April saying it did not recognise computer-generated valuations.

It claimed SISV neither conducted nor commissioned any expert evaluation, investigation or audit of the two services at issue or any automated models in general.

Streetsine runs the valuation service on its digital platform SRX Property, which is the most far- reaching digital property listing platform in Singapore.

One service, X-Listing Price, combines computer-generated values with the expertise of a licensed appraiser applying internationally accepted valuation standards. It aims to make valuations less costly and more accessible to consumers.

The other, the SRX V-8 system, features high volumes of field inspections and full valuations at low cost to clients and is specifically designed to comply with bank requirements for their valuation panels and loan rules and practices.

The stand taken by SISV in its April press release was a key issue triggering the court suit.

SISV said then the release was not targeted at Streetsine's products or services but to address several inquiries it had received about the validity of computer-generated valuations by organisations and IT firms.

SISV denied its alleged conduct had caused Streetsine to lose business and said its views were consistent with the institute's valuation standards and practice guidelines.

But Streetsine claimed SISV had injured its business and reputation by saying its computer-generated valuations were "not considered valuations" under its guidelines and were therefore not recognised by SISV, the professional body of valuers and surveyors.

Streetsine, through its lawyers from Wong Thomas & Leong, is seeking damages for losses allegedly suffered as a result of SISV's stand, among other things. It said ongoing talks for the company to join the valuation panels of three major banks derailed after the statement was issued, leading to the loss of a potentially lucrative stream.

SISV's lawyers from Rajah & Tann are expected to file their defence statements in due course.

"Given the ongoing litigation, it is not appropriate for the institute at this juncture to comment in detail on the matter save that (it) believes it has a good case and will defend the claim," SISV told The Straits Times last week.

Streetsine, which is 60 per cent owned by Singapore Press Holdings, is an information technology firm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2016, with the headline 'Suit over computer-generated valuations'. Print Edition | Subscribe