Turning adversity into opportunities in a COVID-19 world

Picture for turning adversity into opportunities

Jul 2020 - 3 min read

COVID-19 came upon us in the most unexpected way. It brought about challenges which forced all of us torethink, relook and readjust the way we live, work and play. 
We are now in Phase Two after the circuit breaker period.
I would like to sincerely thank all of you - estate agents, real estate salespersons and the industry associations for playing your part to protect yourselves, your families and the community you serve to minimise the risk of transmission during this pandemic.
These are unprecedented challenging times. And we are not out of the woods yet.

Our collective fight against COVID-19

Reflecting on the difficult past months, I am encouraged to see how our industry has demonstrated remarkable traits like resilience, resourcefulness and adaptability in the face of adversity.

  • Some estate agents readily leaned forward to offer support packages to their salespersons. These included tangible and practical benefits including IT tools to overcome challenges in facilitating estate agency work remotely, and free or subsidised training.
  • Industry associations organised online training sessions via webinars with their members on topics such as creating digital listings, conducting virtual viewings, and harnessing technology tools for consumer marketing. They also partnered with different providers of digital tools to increase members’ digital literacy and familiarity with virtual viewings platforms and other productivity tools.
  • Course providers were able to swiftly convert most of their training courses for salespersons from physical classroom to online learning sessions to meet demand.

In a previous issue, we shared the experience of several salespersons who used IT tools and avoided physical interaction to continue their estate agency work when physical interactions with clients had to be deferred.

Based on guidance from the Multi-Ministry Taskforce and relevant authorities like the Health, Manpower, and Trade & Industry ministries, we have issued Notices and Guides to help the industry perform estate agency work in a safe manner.

We have also incorporated your feedback, as much as possible, to allow you to resume your operations. For instance, we allowed some flexibility for salespersons to photograph and film unoccupied properties for marketing via virtual viewings during Phase One of the post-circuit breaker period to facilitate greater use of technology in the industry.

Likewise, on the implementation of contact tracing requirements in Phase Two, we decided to allow estate agents and salespersons to implement your preferred method of collecting the records, whether manually or using other methods. I seek your understanding that our industry should facilitate effective contact tracing and hence, keeping the records is a key process to fight the virus.

During this pandemic, my colleagues are working from home in view of safe management measures.

Despite the CEA office being closed, we continue to fulfil our duties to all our customers and stakeholders. My colleagues from our call centre and feedback team are answering phone queries and responding to emails from the industry and the public from their homes.

Thanks to technology, we also managed a few firsts during this period:

  • Virtual industry engagement session between Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Manpower, and around 40 real estate agency industry leaders. 

  • CEA’s Professional Development Committee virtual meeting (chaired by Mr Ng Boon Yew, our Councilmember) with 11 members to discuss policies and programmes for the industry to achieve higher levels of professionalism.

  • Online inspection of one estate agent for compliance with anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing requirements.

  • Online CEA Disciplinary Committee hearings. 
 During the COVID-19 pandemic, CEA piloted online hearings by the CEA Disciplinary Committee.  The Disciplinary Committee members at our second hearing were (clockwise from top left) Ms Yashodhara Dhoraisingam, Advocate & Solicitor; Emeritus Professor Chin Tet Yung, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore; and Mr Peter Koh, Key Executive Officer, Gateway Property Consultants Pte Ltd.  CEA is studying the feedback from those involved in the online hearings to finetune our work processes and push for greater adoption of technology.

Looking ahead  

Fighting COVID-19 is our collective responsibility. The gradual resumption of property transaction activitiesdoes not mean a return to the pre-COVID-19 days which all of us are used to.

We must adapt to the new operating landscape and continue to stay vigilant and not let our guard down.

This is especially important for estate agents and salespersons because interacting with your clients is at the heart of your work. Today, virtual viewings may not be a perfect substitute as your clients would want to “see, touch and feel” the properties before making the major decision, but virtual viewings can be a useful filtering tool to shortlist properties. Such new approaches for property search and marketing would save time and costs for salespersons and your clients.

I hope all of us can turn the COVID-19 adversity into opportunities where we can digitalise more and raise your productivity.

I look forward to your continued support and cooperation as we strive to emerge stronger together.

I wish you well. Keep safe and stay healthy.


Information accurate as at 30 July 2020

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