Government to push for property industry to go digital

With a potential change in a key digital economy law, the Singapore government may be soon making it easier to buy and sell properties electronically.

The government aims to foster a more trusted environment for both sellers and buyers

Together with the shipping industry, the government hopes to cultivate a more vibrant and secure electronic environment for businesses and consumers alike.

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran has said last week at the fifth instalment of the Innovfest Unbound that a review of the Electronic Transactions Act could potentially make shipping cheaper and closing property deals more convenient.

He has also said that Singapore will be among one of the first to tweak their laws in order to allow businesses and consumers to transact electronically.

Currently, only 30% of residential property transactions are done online, with most processed via hard copies. Allowing the buy-sell processes to go digital will help reduce costs in printing, handling and transportation of paper documentation.

Property transactions can be concluded more quickly and less time will be spent on paperwork or queuing up at the relevant agencies.

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Industry players and the public encouraged to participate in the review of changes

HDB, Hougang. Picture: iProperty

While going digital may mean cutting costs and manpower, creating a do-it-yourself (DIY) buy-sell process, this may not be a new thing for many buyers who are already familiar with completing property transactions online.

However, converting offline processes to online ones does not yet eliminate the role of property agents. Many buyers and sellers still engage their services to suss out good deals, handle negotiations and also for some paperwork such as the signing of contracts.

In fact, moving online may help agents breeze through administrative procedures and help them save time and money. They can instead devote more time and effort to serve their clients better with more research data and financial planning.

At the moment, only HDB and licensed private property developers use standardised option-to-purchase (OTP) and sales and purchases agreements. Thus, they may first to go digital. Developers and landlords may benefit the most from these changes should they be eventually finalised.

A framework for cross-border electronic commerce would help the Republic move ahead in the new economy as it could help with overseas property transactions or transactions involving cross-border parties.

Moving ahead, the Infocomm Media Development Authority has launched a public consultation which will close on Aug 27. The completion date for the review is targeted to be next year.

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