Minister Desmond Lee speaking at ERA Realty Network's Q4'20 Career Advancement Day. (Image: MND)
Feb 2021 - 3 min read
Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, attended two industry conferences last year - PropNex Realty’s Mid-Year Convention 2020 in September and ERA Realty Network’s Q4'20 Career Advancement Day in November.
With both events held during Phase Two of the post-circuit breaker period, Minister Lee took the opportunity to acknowledge the difficulties the real estate agency industry faced during the different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, and recognised the industry’s resilience, adaptability, and support for the Government’s measures to keep communities safe.
Digitalisation as the way forward
Minister Lee said that the built environment sector, ranging from development, architecture, engineering, construction, to facilities management; and the real estate sector is part of a continuum of transformation, and digitalisation is the spine that runs through the entire value chain.
For the real estate agency industry, digitalisation is not a new initiative. Minister Lee recapped that at the launch of the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) in 2018, he had urged the industry then to take charge of their digitalisation pace and direction, so as not to be disrupted externally.
Due to the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, the urgency to go digital is greater than ever due to the need to adapt to new ways of conducting estate agency work that comply with safe management measures.
Three years on, industry players have been working together with the Government to implement the Real Estate ITM initiatives, and have taken steps to digitalise processes and roll out digital tools. Minister Lee highlighted that estate agents who have started their digitalisation journey early are now in a stronger position.
He pointed out that the need to upskill, while important to stay relevant professionally, is now necessary to keep up with customers’ expectations of a salesperson.
“To not just survive but do well in a digital era, you will need to ensure that both your real estate professionals and your technical teams who build and support your digital platforms receive the necessary training on an ongoing basis, because technology does not stand still. Likewise, individual property agents must take charge of your own learning, and be proactive in upskilling yourselves,” said Minister Lee.
He added that at the core, the relationship between a salesperson and his customer is based on trust, and technology and skills are deciding factors for Singaporeans who are more sophisticated, tech savvy, and discerning in their selection of a salesperson.
Minister Desmond Lee in dialogue with Mr Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex Realty. (Image: MND)
Support for the industry's transformation efforts
While the challenges have been immense and unprecedented, Minister Lee was encouraged to see how the industry had responded, adapted and adjusted swiftly to the developments of the pandemic.
He brought up examples like how training and education platforms have been set up to support salespersons and customers, the increased accessibility of information and virtual tours of properties, and the availability of tools for salespersons to adapt to a new way of working.
Minister Lee highlighted that the Government was supporting the industry in its transformation through two government grants - the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) and the Enterprise Development Grant.
He explained that in April 2020, the maximum support level for both these grants were raised from 70% to 80% to help firms impacted by the pandemic. The Enhanced PSG has also been expanded to cover more IT productivity solutions, like online collaboration tools, virtual meeting and telephony tools, queue management systems and temperature screening solutions, to support business continuity amidst COVID-19. These enhancements have been extended to September 2021, and Minister Lee urged estate agents to consider making use of them.
Moving ahead in uncertain times
While Singapore is in a position of relative stability, Minister Lee urged the industry to persevere on with safeguards in place. He said that the Government will be engaging the property transactions sector, among others in the built environment sector, to hear their feedback on the transformation efforts that need to take place post-COVID-19.
Information accurate as at 9 February 2021