Is the CEA Being Fair to Property Agents?

By Person of Interest (guest contributor)

In one of the replies to a Forum writer of The Straits Times a couple of years ago, the Council of Estate Agencies(CEA) cited that, consumers can carry out their own transactions by familiarising themselves with the property transaction process – just by looking up the relevant government agencies’ online resources and attending consumer seminars.

However, there are no stringent rules imposed on consumers transacting their own properties like there are for the real estate agencies and agents, in the name of uplifting professionalism and competency standards.

Are Consumers Competent To Transact?

How qualified are consumers to handle such transactions on their own? And how impartial are consumers who are sellers in ensuring their buyers(who are also consumers) are well protected, like how the CEA protects the latter by imposing different stringent rules on the real estate agents?

Will the seller disclose to his buyer a major crack on one of the tiles, which is covered by an exquisite Persian carpet, for example?  A professional real estate agent representing the buyer, will due to his fiduciary duty look out for unusual situations, literally looking under the carpet for any mysterious incidents.

Are Consumers Professional?

The CEA has a stringent process CEA to eliminate the ‘unfit’ and ‘undesirable’ agents, which is understandable and certainly commendable. However, the industry is taking two steps back by allowing consumers to carry out their own property transactions.

Will these consumers not replicate the ‘unfit’ and ‘undesirable’ behaviour of those disqualified agents?

Can the buyers lodge complaints to the CEA, in the event of any wrongdoings by the sellers, the same way the former would do to unprofessional agents?

Not Easy Being a Real Estate Agent

Unlike consumers who are allowed to transact their properties after consulting online resources, real estate agents have to go through examinations and take up the annual Continuing Professional Development(CPD) to obtain the relevant know-how and CPD points, and support their licence with an annual fee of about $280 in order to handle property transactions. These are just a few of the many stringent rules that the CEA imposes on the real estate agents since its inception in 2010.

Additionally, real estate agents are often perceived by the public of having an easy job with loads of commissions. The public hears of real estate agents making millions of dollars, but do not see the difficult and sometimes unpleasant process that real estate agents have to go through, in order not to ‘kill’ the deals. This takes skill, experience, patience and flexibility.

The Big Boys

The real estate agencies are the key representatives of their armies of agents. The latter should look to them to exercise whatever ‘power’ or ‘influence’ they possess to lobby the CEA hard to consider prohibiting consumers from carrying out their own transactions, among other incomprehensible rules.

This is far more important than pestering the Government to ease the cooling measures, which is premature to even think about.

By guest contributor Person of Interest, a Service Excellence Advocate and an avid Forum writer.

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7 Replies to “Is the CEA Being Fair to Property Agents?”

  1. (1) Fair to have high standard on Pty Agt?
    I believed it is fair if Pty Agts want to earn the Commission…must know the job well; if not no difference without using agents

    (2) But CEA licence why yearly?
    Can it not last for 2-3 years? after all 1 year is too short and too much administration work involved for all 3 parties.

    (3) Since consumers transact themselves and not commission are involved…Fair.
    But if they will to use an agent to help source and closed for them; then the consumer should bear lesser the 0.5% commission and co-broke agent should not collect from the Vendor/Landlord side.
    Vendor/Landlord’s Agent do so much work to get the listing and co-broke agent just get an equal share and do less work…Fair??? NO!
    It is just like I am cooking a dish…so much work in preparing and just about to eat …the co-broke agent came and share the dish and after eating… the washing is done by me.
    If without co-broke the buyer/Seller will come direct to me and it is easier to deal with. agreed?

  2. There is biased & flawed logic on almost every point.

    – On stringent rules imposed on agents-
    The CEA has to be stringent on agents because agents run this as a business and therefore require to be professional and be held accountable for the many transactions that they provide to sellers & buyers. DIY sellers and buyers do not do this as a business and they bear the risks themselves.

    -On the competency of consumers to act-
    This is really the risk that the consumer has to assume, if he so choose to transact on his own. Also, the other party, be it another consumer or an agent has always the onus to decide whether to transact or not. Fiduciary duties to the buyer by the buyer’s agent are a given rule, whether or not the seller is self-represented or represented by an agent. However, should the seller engage an agent, the sellers agent will not have the same fiduciary duty to the buyer. Other than being taught to agents, the authorities have always highlighted to the public on Caveat Emptor. [Latin, Let the buyer beware.] A warning that notifies a buyer that the goods he or she is buying are “as is,” or subject to all defects. Sellers with or without agents are to disclose all relevant information pertaining to the property in question IF questioned by buyers or agents representing their buyers. Again the onus is on the buyers or their agents to ask.

    – On professionalism of consumers –
    Consumers are not expected to be professional as they do not transact as a business. Consumers transact for their own properties. The authorities hold retailers to high service standards, should we then also expect the authorities to do the same for consumers retailing their goods through the various online trading portals like Carousell, eBay, Amazon, etc? There are rules in these portals just as there are rules for property transactions in the private and public housing sectors. Non-represented sellers and buyers are responsible for themselves and they shoulder all risks involved and are held as accountable as the agents.

    – On it being hard to be an agent –
    Again, this in expected if we are to push the level of professional service of agents in this industry. Agents should come into this industry with the mindset of an entrepreneur. Agents are running businesses and so should strive to hold themselves as a business of high standards.

    While everyone is entitle to look at issues with a certain degree of bias (and we always do), depending on which side of the fence you are on, we must also bear this bias in mind when building an argument.

    Thank you.

  3. Rightly said. I came across a few owner seller, don’t even know that a resales checklist is needed for a HDB sell by owner ! ….

  4. Main problem with CEA is, why is this body collecting money from agents to “govern” agents n protect consumers? Since beginning of the days, the ones being protected r the ones paying, isn’t it?

  5. I think the writer is right. CEA is barely looking after the housing Agent’s interests. They have some rules that are detrimental to the agent eg:- in the Estate Agency Agreement for lease that both owner and agent have to fill in and submit, there is a clause “GST is payable upon the commission: YES or NO. This gives the impression to the owner that he can choose not to pay. If the Owner don’t pay the agent have to bear the cost. The statement should be “GST is payable (if applicable) another clause also gives owner the choice of paying renewal fee by asking “shall or shall not pay for renewal. Most TA have a clause that says that the Landlord will pay half month commission for every year of renewal. The CEA clause will defeat this clause because it is the governing body

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