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Two widely publicised instances of representative misconduct made news headlines this past year, and threw the spotlight on the skilled and moral standards among realtors in Singapore.

There have been 19 disciplinary cases between property representatives in 2019, but just four of these cases pertained to dishonest or unethical conduct on the part of the agent. The majority of the cases involved relatively small regulatory infringements and also there have been just two instances of property agency work.

Though some errant people may have tarnished the business standing, the general professional standards of property representatives in Singapore are still high, as a result of its fantastic track records of land bureaus as a whole in addition to the attempts of this industry regulator, the Council of Estate Agents (CEA).

CEA has become the business watchdog because the Estate Agents Act has been passed in 2010. The agent administers the industry’s regulatory framework, licensing plan for estate brokers, and boosts the proficiency of property agents. A Disciplinary Committee in CEA also conducts disciplinary proceeding on offences or misconduct in regard to estate agency function.

The latest judgment on a situation that involved a breach of moral conduct with a salesperson happened in December this past year. It involved a home broker who left unauthorised alterations to records to accumulate extra commissions amounting to $55,879, along with co-broking prices of 8,785.09, from three rental transactions.

Based on CEA’s evaluation, the broker received $64,664 from those trades, which was approximately seven times greater than that which he would have received. In addition, he failed to announce the further commissions to his bureau. The analysis discovered that the representative’s activities were”intentionally planned and premeditated”, adding that his”disreputable behavior led to numerous parties being cheated”.

The broker was given a monetary penalty of $27,000, in addition to a 10-month suspension of his own CEA enrollment for a property representative.

CEA also handed down its judgment on a different instance of prosecution in October this past year. It involved a home representative who failed to communicate to his customer the seller’s offer to sell a house in a minimum cost, failed to announce his own conflict of interest in receiving a co-broke commission, and didn’t communicate to his customer a counter-offer to sell the house, together with his commission to be covered by the customer.

The CEA analysis discovered that the broker’s client suffered a loss or drawback of roughly $20,000 to $30,000. It’s the heaviest sentence the CEA Disciplinary Committee has meted out to a house broker up to now.

Service lapses simplifies ethics instances

Nevertheless, figures from CEA reveal that these kinds of malpractices are rare. As per a CEA spokesperson,”within the last couple of decades, we’ve observed a drop in the amount of complaints associated with land agents’ behaviour that infringed [on] CEA’s principles and processes, in addition to those involving representatives not behaving ethically or contrary to their customers’ interests. These form a tiny percentage of the complaints which CEA receives”.

It states that home agencies are accountable for making sure that their representatives conduct their estate service work correctly.

“We discovered that property bureaus are usually prompt in fixing the problems raised. Some agencies also have put in place steps to ensure increased accountability for their representatives’ activities,” states the CEA spokesperson. “This service-oriented and customer-centric strategy has helped to build confidence and trust with customers who are becoming more discerning in the amount of service that they expect from their brokers”

Continuous learning

Eugene Lim, key executive division of ERA Realty Network, states that the quality of professionalism at the actual estate service market has improved through recent years. “The Estate Agents Act and the ruler have existed for a decade, and over this time that the sector has changed for the better.

Consumers have responded favorably to improvements in service qualityas the amount of enrolled real estate agents in Singapore has been on the upswing.

According to CEA’s bi-annual Public Perception Survey of the real estate representative business, that was last printed in 2018, customer satisfaction with real estate representatives has improved since 2012. Approximately 85 percent of polled customers in 2018 were pleased with the service given by their property broker, compared to 79 percent in 2015 and 81 percent in 2012.

Approximately 72 percent of customers polled at that time also indicated they would engage the services of a property broker for future trades, compared to 60 percent in 2015 and 66 percent in 2012. Additionally, customers were”considerably” more likely to be happy with their representatives in the event the broker uses technology resources, such as digital forms, land programs with financial calculators, or internet info on land trends.

This has been felt throughout all age groups of customers polled in 2018, also reveals technology adoption by representatives empowers them to better meet consumers’ requirements and expectations, says CEA.

According to Tan,”salespersons these days are predicted to perform several roles, and need to expand their knowledge in a variety of areas of the trade, like updating their financial literacy skills”. Therefore, agencies need to stay abreast of changes like market trends, policy updates, and customer behavior, so as to boost instruction, technology and marketplace insights which prepare their representatives to keep up with rapid changes in the market, ” he says.
A CEA spokesperson states:”But much like any other business, there’ll remain errant people and businesses. CEA won’t be afraid to take the required and proper disciplinary action against these companies and individuals.”

ERA’s Lim states the leaders of property agencies play a significant role in emphasising and teaching on the importance of high professional standards to members within their business. He adds that”the direction should also be the very first upholders of ethics and ethics. This may trickle down to senior supervisors, and group leaders, then to the person salespersons”.

In accordance with OTT’s Tan,”top management of this business plays a important part to continuously reinforce core values within their daily decision-making and operations. Most of all, they need to live and lead by example so the employees and salespersons fully adopt the organization’s core values”.

The way forward

At the actual estate service business, which is largely represented by self-employed people, Lim emphasises the value of instilling a ethical culture throughout the board. “While the professional norms of the sector have increased in the decade as the enactment of the Estate Agents Act, regulation and client service criteria must continue to grow in the foreseeable future,” says Lim.

“The business ought to experience a mindset change from a transactional experience into some relational client experience,” he states.

“Secondly, the business should empower the consumer with fair, open and clear data to allow them to make crucial decisions,” says Tan. “The inspection portal is an efficient means to boost the service standard since it motivates our clients to go the additional mile to elevate the service criteria,” says Tan.

It will provide some best practices for agencies seeking to install their own review portal for customers to rate real estate brokers.

This follows the roll-out of this Home Agents Transaction Records Initiative a month, where documents of personal residential trades facilitated by land brokers are made accessible on CEA’s Public Register on its site.
These initiatives are targeted at encouraging the business in its attempt to reinforce professionalism, and construct customers’ confidence and confidence, states a CEA spokesperson.