Feb 2021 - 3 min read
A very happy and healthy 2021 to all.
As we begin the new year, I would like to thank all of you for stepping up last year to take the necessary precautions and safe management measures against the COVID-19 virus. Even as Singapore is now in Phase Three of re-opening, CEA will continue to work with you and support your efforts in adjusting your estate agency work towards a “new normal” to prevent the spread of the virus.
Looking ahead at the next lap
As at 1 January 2021, the number of real estate salespersons (RESs) increased slightly from 30,073 in 2020 to 30,399 this year. As with the trend over the past few years, the number of estate agents (EAs) decreased from 1,181 in 2020 to 1,164 this year, reflecting some consolidation in the real estate agency industry.
With a sizeable number of RESs, it is imperative that our collective efforts to raise the level of professionalism and the quality of client-oriented service are maintained.
In his introductory meetings with various industry stakeholders, Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office & Ministry of National Development, emphasised the need to capitalise on the digitalisation momentum brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the time to build a more robust and professional real estate ecosystem which not only adds value to the economy but also builds trust with consumers.
To remain relevant and future-ready, I urge all of you to continue to retool, reimagine, and recalibrate at both the enterprise and individual levels.
Retooling involves embracing technology, and some EAs have already benefitted from funding under the Enterprise Development Grant and the Productivity Solutions Grant to incorporate technology into their business processes. EAs have used these grants to level up their productivity and capabilities, redesign workflows, or implement IT solutions to automate processes. I encourage eligible EAs to apply for these grants which offer up to 80% funding support till 30 September 2021.
At the individual level, more RESs have taken to using digital tools to facilitate property transactions, with some leveraging the tools that their EAs have put in place to conduct estate agency work virtually. RESs have also shifted to taking online CPD courses to keep their skills up-to-date or pick up new skills like digital marketing when estate agency work slowed in the initial months of the pandemic.
To prepare for tomorrow, our industry needs to reimagine how it can transform and enhance the transaction experience for consumers through digitalisation.
CEA will continue to work with you and government agencies to digitalise property transaction processes. For example, EAs and RESs can now use the new Sign with SingPass service to sign contracts, such as the prescribed Estate Agency Agreement, with their clients. Eventually, when the various legislative changes are in place, our industry can make full use of secured electronic signing of property transaction contracts, such as the Option to Purchase and the Sale and Purchase Agreement to further boost productivity.
CEA is similarly transforming in tandem with the industry. To better serve our industry stakeholders and the public, we are developing a new licensing and registration management IT system named “ACEAS” (or Advanced CEA Estate Agencies System) to replace the decade-old Estate Agencies System (EAS) which you are familiar with. I thank you for your suggestions and feedback to help us conceptualise and design the new ACEAS, which we expect to roll out in 2021.
All of these digitalisation efforts must fundamentally be underpinned by high standards of professionalism and service. Our industry will need to recalibrate and raise the bar for service excellence in the face of evolving consumer expectations and technological proxies. This in turn will develop and sustain trust with consumers, something that every EA and RES should strive towards.
To celebrate CEA’s 10th anniversary last year, many EAs expressed their support for the Estate Agents Pledge. To date, more than 270 EAs, representing more than 90% of the RES population, have committed to the Pledge, with some taking the extra step of displaying the Pledge logo proudly on their websites. I hope to see more EAs stepping forward to show your commitment to act in your customers’ best interests, support your RESs’ professional development, and conduct estate agency work responsibly.
CEA has been partnering with you to create platforms for EAs and RESs to showcase their experience and service accolades. These not only provide greater transparency to consumers, but serve to inspire our industry to exceed consumers’ expectations through excellent service delivery.
We introduced the Guide on Best Practices for Consumer Ratings of Property Agents, which aims to offer consistent standards for the ratings of RESs and to build trust among users of such rating platforms. Several EAs have committed to adopting the features and recommendations set in the Guide. Collectively, they would cover more than 90% of RESs in the industry.
A better tomorrow
With CEA’s first decade behind us, a new year and chapter beckons in the new normal. I believe that amidst the ongoing challenges, there will be new opportunities for our industry to emerge stronger.
Raising professionalism and instilling consumer trust in the real estate agency industry will always be a priority. This is something that CEA cannot achieve alone; it has been, and will always continue to be, a joint effort involving CEA, the industry associations, EAs and RESs.
I look forward to greater collaboration and partnership with all of you to further uplift our industry to greater heights.
I wish all of you a safe and wonderful 2021!
LIM CHEE HWEE
COUNCIL FOR ESTATE AGENCIES
Information accurate as at 9 February 2021