In 2010, only 11% of HDB owners sold their flats without the help of a property agent.
By 2018, that number was up to 25%. (Source: TODAYonline)
The obvious consideration is cost. Since certain real estate agencies charge as high as 5% in commissions, sellers and buyers who opt for the DIY route can save tens of thousands.
Still, most people only buy or sell property a couple times in their lives, and learning about all the procedures, legal requirements, and paperwork involved can be an extremely time-consuming ordeal.
This begs the question: is all that time and effort really worth the cost savings? Unless you’re preparing for a career in property management, the time saved could be significant – and possibly put to better use in more lucrative endeavors.
Today, we’ll weigh all the pros and cons of engaging a property agent, so you can decide what’s right for you.
This applies whether you’re buying, selling, or renting a property in Singapore.
There’s a ton of analysis that goes into pricing. Price it too high, and you may find your listing grow stale after many months on the market. Price it too low and you might not get your money’s worth. That, or buyers might think there’s something wrong with your place.
The same goes when you’re buying or renting a place. You don’t want to pay a price that’s way above the official valuation, since the bank loan won’t cover the surplus.
A good real estate agent would eliminate those problems. Seasoned agents can analyze specific properties to give you an accurate price estimate. If they specialize in that area, they can also tell you about any government plans to develop the neighborhood – not to mention give you lobang for all the good eateries and shops nearby.
Buying your first property? You’ll need to calculate exactly what you can afford.
Selling your current property to upgrade to a bigger place? Even trickier: you’ll need to plan carefully to make sure you have enough funds for the new place AND make sure you’re not homeless in between. (Read also: 10+ Traps to Avoid When Upgrading from an HDB)
Or maybe you’re thinking of buying another property as an investment. In that case, you’ll want to calculate the potential return on your investment and make sure you’re not overextending your finances while you’re at it.
Unless you happen to be a mathematical whiz, crunching all the numbers might take a considerable amount of time. But an experienced property agent could help you with the calculations easily, not to mention bring up all the miscellaneous costs you might have overlooked.
When was the last time you had to look through a lengthy legal document?
Unless you happen to be one of the lucky few, most of us probably don’t have to deal with million-dollar transactions very often. And honestly, having to pore through a contract with that much money at stake could be a pretty stressful affair.
This is true especially if you have other considerations – like making sure that there’s a diplomatic clause.
And what if you’re buying a resale private property? You can’t get the developer to fix all those defects for you, so make sure the contract has an inspection clause that obliges the seller to make the repairs before handing the property over to you.
A skilled agent knows all the legal aspects of property transactions, so they can handle these for you. On top of that, they can also help with:
For many, selling their homes can be a very emotional affair. If somebody makes a lowball offer for your place, it’s tempting to reject it outright and blacklist the person completely.
But that means you could be missing out on a potential opportunity. What if you’d made a counter-offer instead?
Having an expert negotiator on your side helps keep your emotions out of the picture. Not only does a good agent fight for your interests, but they can also bring in lots of data and reasoned analysis to explain why your property is worth the hefty price tag. This makes the whole transaction faster and smoother.
If you’re a buyer, this advantage also works in your favor. A good agent can point out details that help your case, haggling the price down to a deal that works for you. (Within reason, of course. With Singapore’s high cost of living, don’t expect to get a property for ten cents on the dollar!)
It can take many, many house viewings before you finally find a hidden gem. Given that it’s now a buyer’s market (i.e. many choices available), decision fatigue can pose a real problem.
If you’re a typical Singaporean working a full-time job with long hours, house-hunting may take up far more time than you can spare.
A property agent can cut this process down by a LOT, whittling down a long list of prospects to only the few good ones that fit your criteria.
And if you’re a seller, an agent can also help you coordinate viewings and open houses. On top of that, the good ones will also be able to advise you on how to stage your home before the viewing – ensuring that buyers have a great first impression of your home. (Read also: 10+ Tips to Increase Your Property’s Value – and Sell It FAST)
As a DIY seller, there are very few platforms that you can advertise on without becoming a licensed property agent (or paying some sort of subscription fee). Of these few free ones, the competition is fierce.
You can always go the old-school route and take an ad out in the newspaper, of course. But given the falling readership rates, this may not be the most effective route for maximum exposure.
Property agents have access to a myriad of platforms to advertise your property. And since they do this as a vocation, experienced agents also know which platforms have the highest conversion rates so you can sell your property quickly.
If you’re a buyer, an agent can give you “insider info” on the upcoming developments that match your criteria.
They also typically have access to details that the general public may not be privy to – such as how long a unit has been on the market and even listings for rarer unit types.
Seasoned property agents typically have a network of contacts for related services.
Need a home loan with a low interest rate and good loan features? Check. Cheap moving companies and interior design firms? Check and check. Staging companies? Check. A good recommendation from someone you trust definitely beats calling up a dozen companies to get quotations.
You’ll have to watch out for the downside of this though (mentioned in Con #3).
Property disputes are not fun.
An experienced agent can help to preempt certain things so that the problem never happens in the first place. And in the worst-case scenario, the agent can mediate and resolve the dispute on your behalf, saving you lots of anguish.
For instance, one very common problem is when a buyer gets the OTP for the resale property, but fails to obtain the Approval in Principle (AIP) for the loan beforehand.
They then find out the loan amount isn’t nearly enough for the property and have to back out of the transaction. Meanwhile, you’re forced to push your timeline back and start marketing the property all over again. (A good agent would’ve checked and prevented this!)
And what about checking for lawsuits against the developer? You definitely don’t want to do business with a developer who’s got a terrible track record. Good agents know to do their homework beforehand so that you’re satisfied with your new home.
Did you know that agent commissions aren’t set in stone?
There’s a market rate, but certain agencies may charge at the higher end of the spectrum.
If you’re selling private property, for example, some agencies may charge as high as 5% in commission fees.
For a $2,000,000 property, that’s a whopping $100,000 in commissions! (This is why you should always check what the commission % is before you sign a contract.)
And don’t forget that there may also be GST involved.
If you’re unlucky, you may encounter a real estate agent who cares more about closing the deal than making sure you get everything you hoped for. They hard-sell you certain units because they’ll earn more from these properties, regardless of whether it’s best for you.
It’s kind of like the less-than-trustworthy financial advisors who push specific packages because these get them the highest commissions.
(And another side note: This is why Bluenest’s agent remuneration scheme is based on your level of satisfaction. This way, a Bluenest agent has more incentive to prioritize your needs.)
By law, real estate agents aren’t allowed to represent both the buyer and seller in the same transaction. After all, if their job is to get the highest price for the seller, it’d be difficult for them to also act in the buyer’s interest.
But you may run into other conflicts of interest, such as if the agent receives referral fees from companies providing related services. They’re technically supposed to disclose this to you beforehand, but this knowledge may still make you wonder how much you can trust the recommendation.
This usually happens for three reasons:
Ideally, a good agent would’ve done the research beforehand and can give you detailed information about the neighborhood(s), property type, property specifications, amenities, and price range.
Ever played the “telephone” game? That’s when the first person whispers into the ear of the next person, who then whispers to the next person … and so on and so forth. The last person has to try to say the original sentence – though it’s typically hilariously garbled.
The point is: sometimes it’s easier to cut out the middleman if you want your message to be conveyed properly. This is true particularly if you happen to have an inexperienced agent without finely-honed negotiation skills.
This may happen if you engage multiple agents at a time. Since the agent doesn’t have exclusive rights to handle the transaction of your property, they may be less motivated to put in a lot of time and effort.
You might even find certain agents who have hired assistants to do the legwork for them. These assistants aren’t licensed and don’t have the authority (or expertise) to do the actual marketing and negotiation work – they merely help to take care of the more menial tasks. The problem comes when you’re trying to get past these assistants and obtain real answers from the agent!
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Meiling is an American-born Chinese currently living in Singapore. As a property owner herself, she enjoys doing research into the local real estate market and making highly technical topics easy to understand for readers. When not writing for Bluenest, Meiling enjoys going for a long run or snuggling into her armchair with a good book.