MAR / APR 2016

Engaging a property agent - Five things to note

Check the online Public Register to ensure that the property agent you engage is registered with CEA

Engaging a property agent soon? CEAnergy highlights five things you should note.

How can I be sure that the property agent I am planning to engage is performing estate agency work legally?

All businesses and individuals must be licensed and registered respectively by CEA in order to conduct estate agency work in Singapore. It is an offence for a person to perform or accept fees for estate agency work without being registered with CEA through a licensed property agency. So to safeguard your interests, do not respond to advertisements and flyers put out by individuals without a CEA registration number.

All property agents are also required to carry an Estate Agent Card that bears the following information:

Check the Public Register!

Make sure you engage a property agent who is registered with CEA. Use the Public Register on our website or via our mobile app at CEA@SG to verify their details. Simply enter the information on the Estate Agent Card into the Register's search function and check that the information tallies.

For the convenience of both parties, would it be possible to "share" the services of one property agent in the same transaction?

A property agent can only represent one party in the same transaction

A property agent can only act for one party in a transaction. This means that a property agent cannot be appointed by and receive commissions from both buyer/tenant and seller/landlord in the same property transaction, even with their consent. "Sharing" of services constitutes dual representation, which is prohibited by law.

Sometimes, a property agent may offer to help the other party to do paperwork out of goodwill. This is allowed as long as it is clear to all parties that he is not acting for the other party and has obtained the consent of his client. Also, he cannot collect a fee from the other party for the paperwork rendered.

The property agent who is representing me in selling my property is my friend. Is it still necessary for me to sign an agreement to formalise the scope of services that he has agreed to provide?

You are strongly encouraged to use CEA's Prescribed Estate Agency Agreement even when your property agent is someone you are familiar with.

There are specific types of agreements for different types of transactions. The prescribed estate agency agreement is a binding contract between you and the property agency/agent for the performance of estate agency work and serves to protect the interest of both parties.

The agreement spells out important details such as the duties of the property agent, disclosure of any potential conflict of interest, as well as the commission to be payable to the agent only upon the completion of the property transaction. After discussing with your property agent, you can also add clauses as long as they do not contradict the existing prescribed clauses of the agreement.

Signing the CEA prescribed estate agency agreement allows you to make use of CEA's Dispute Resolution Scheme should you have any subsequent disputes with your property agent over issues such as commission payable. The Scheme offers a choice of mediation or arbitration for dispute resolution through centres approved by CEA.

I need funds for the down payment of my new property. Can I get my property agent to refer me to a moneylender?

No, property agents are not allowed to introduce, refer, or recommend you to any licensed or unlicensed moneylenders. Your property agent, however, may refer you to a financial institution such a bank if you need to take a loan for your new property. Do note that he is required to inform you if he is going to receive a referral fee from the institution for the recommendation.

What are the current commission rates payable?

CEA does not prescribe commission rates but allows market forces to drive competitive pricing and incentivise property agent to provide better service. You should compare and negotiate the best rates for the services you require. The commission rate should be agreed on before you appoint your property agent. At the end of the transaction, pay the commission directly to the property agency that represents your property agent.

In addition, property agencies which are GST-registered companies are allowed to charge GST. Similar to other businesses in Singapore, a property agency may decide to charge GST or absorb it. At the start of the transaction, confirm the final commission amount that you will be paying, and whether GST has been factored in.

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