Jul 2020 - 3 min read
Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State, Ministry of National Development (MND) and Ministry of Manpower, met about 40 real estate agency leaders in a virtual engagement session on19 June 2020.
The event took place on the first day of Phase Two of the post-circuit breaker period and was attended by Chief Executive Officers and Key Executive Officers of estate agents, as well as the leaders of the real estate agency industry associations.
In his address, Mr Zaqy thanked the industry for their resilience and cooperation during the difficult circuit breaker months as Singapore battled against the COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasised that protecting public health would remain a priority even as most property transaction activities, including the physical viewing of properties, were permitted with safe management measures in place in Phase Two.
Greater productivity through technology
Rallying the industry to do its part and work together with the Government to ensure that estate agency work is carried out in a sustained and safe manner, Mr Zaqy encouraged estate agents and salespersons to continue their digitalisation efforts and adapt to the shift in consumer habits and expectations.
He noted that technology does not do away with the need for face-to-face interactions. Instead, technology offers the opportunity for greater productivity while maintaining the “human touch”. For example, by offering high quality virtual viewings first, salespersons can reserve the more time-consuming physical property viewings for clients who are more likely to transact.
“There is no better time to retool, reimagine, and rethink our business models. Let us seize the moment and double down on our efforts to transform ourselves so that we can emerge from this crisis stronger,” he said.
Supporting businesses and individuals
During the session, Mr Zaqy responded to questions on topics that ranged from support for businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 situation, clarifications on operational matters during Phase Two, to the digitalisation of the real estate agency industry.
Mr Zaqy recognised that while COVID-19's impact on the real estate agency industry may be less protracted than that on other sectors such as tourism going forward, the economic downturn may see a decline in the number of property transactions. The Government will continue to do its part to help. He added that the Government had already committed almost $100 billion over four Budgets in the last three months to help Singaporeans and businesses sustain through these challenging times. These budgets offered some support to eligible estate agents and salespersons.
Industry feedback remains important
Some industry leaders shared feedback that the use of SafeEntry QR codes in property transaction activities to facilitate contact tracing had posed logistical challenges for estate agents and salespersons, and that some clients had expressed privacy concerns.
Mr Zaqy explained that the decision was taken to use a system that was already in place for contact tracing purposes so as not to delay allowing physical viewings and meetings in Phase Two. He appreciated the industry’s feedback, adding that the Council for Estate Agencies had already offered estate agents and salespersons the flexibility to choose their method of collecting clients’ information, including doing so manually.
Digitalising for the future
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation efforts in many companies and businesses across the economy. Mr Zaqy encouraged the real estate agency industry to rethink its business model. The industry is seeing more innovative ways in which people are doing home viewings virtually or through videos, and this is something that will likely develop further as the industry builds trust in this method.
The Government is also studying how property transaction processes can take place through digital means from end to end, where parties do not have to meet in person. Exploring electronic signatures is one aspect of this, and the Government is looking at amendments to relevant legislations and putting safeguards in place to protect the interest of consumers.
Information accurate as at 30 July 2020