New rules, new board for real estate agents

Singapore’s real estate agents find themselves subject to a new series of regulatory measures with the passing by parliament of the Estate Agent’s Bill on 15 September.

The new measures will be overseen by the new Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) – the statutory board that will oversee the industry – from 22 October, announced Singapore’s National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

The bill passed after an increasing number of complaints about industry practices and agent behavior.

From 1 January 2011, all property agents and property agencies will have to be registered with the CEA, and new agents require a minimum of four GCE O-level passes and will need to take a mandatory industry examination.

No dual agents-moneylenders
Following complaints of property agents working alongside moneylenders, the new regulations forbid property agencies and agents from either working as moneylenders or referring people to moneylenders.

No nationality restrictions
There is no restriction on who can apply to be a property agent – it is open to citizen, PR and foreigner alike – but all applicants must qualify for a work pass from the Manpower Ministry and be registered with a recognized agency.

Agents are now forbidden from taking commissions from both buyer and seller and commission can only be paid upon the completion of the transaction. The new standard contracts will remove the auto-renewal clause that current contracts contain. Agents will also be required to disclose any potential conflict of interest.
However, commission rates will not be fixed by the CEA, as Mah said this would be ‘anti-competitive’, and that it was better for market forces to determine such rates.

Consumer Responsibility
The CEA will “have seminars, forums, and consumer guides” said Mah, but he stressed that the public needed to remain educated. He also urged consumers to look up agents in the CEA’s central database – which lists all registered agents and agencies – before engaging their services.

If you’re a real estate agent, find out how the new rules will affect you here.