Real es­tate agents turn to Uber-like tech to stay afloat

As the num­ber of es­tate agen­cies and agents in Sin­ga­pore shrinks, many are turn­ing to tech­nol­ogy to help beat the prop­erty down­turn blues.

Singapore Business Review - - INDUSTRY INSIGHT 2: PROPERTY -

It’s not a sur­prise that the num­ber of real es­tate agents and agen­cies con­tin­ues to de­cline in Sin­ga­pore af­ter mul­ti­ple rounds of cool­ing mea­sures. The num­ber of prop­erty agents shrank 8.9%, from 31,169 agents in 2011 to 28,397 as of Jan­uary 2017, ac­cord­ing to num­bers from the Coun­cil for Es­tate Agen­cies.

The num­ber of real es­tate agen­cies, mean­while, de­clined 13.5% from its peak of 1,487 in 2012 to 1,286 this year. Last year saw 1,189 new agents qual­i­fied whilst 3,200 left the in­dus­try.

Sav­ills, which ranked as the sev­enth largest agency in Sin­ga­pore, saw its num­ber of real es­tate agents go down from 794 in the past year to 739. The firm has noted the mar­ginal agents are leav­ing the pro­fes­sion given the tough mar­ket. “These are the guys who fell out of the way,” says Sav­ills Val­u­a­tion and Pro­fes­sional Ser­vices (Sin­ga­pore) Pte Ltd se­nior direc­tor Alan Cheong. “As a re­sult, although the sales have gone up, it has been more con­cen­trated on the fewer agents left in the mar­ket who are more de­ter­mined and have what it takes to cut it as an agent.”

Like all firms, Sav­ills fo­cusses on train­ing, but un­like in pre­vi­ous years, Cheong notes that it would take more than just train­ing for agents to be suc­cess­ful book deals. “You can’t train some­one to have the mo­ti­va­tion to pur­sue deals day af­ter day, week af­ter week. Not all peo­ple can be, re­gard­less of ed­u­ca­tion.”

Tech­nol­ogy tools

For many firms, the use of tech­nol­ogy tools has been gain­ing trac­tion.

There are now more tools avail­able to agents than just a sim­ple list­ing on an on­line clas­si­fieds site. Jeremy Lee, co-founder of Street­sine Tech­nol­ogy Group, says us­ing tech­nol­ogy agents can price prop­er­ties through com­puter val­u­a­tion bench­mark­ing and com­puter-aided full inspections and val­u­a­tions.

Vir­tual re­al­ity show­cases are an­other way agents can bet­ter mar­ket prop­er­ties and can re­duce the av­er­age days-on-mar­ket (DOM) of flats. The av­er­age DOM for an HDB home is 104 days, whilst for a pri­vate re­sale flat is 185 days as of Jan­uary 2017.

“Agents that make use of tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate qual­ity list­ings com­pris­ing of a V360 Vir­tual Tour and an X-list­ing with cer­ti­fied val­u­a­tion cuts DOM by half. A po­ten­tial buyer can now fall in love with the prop­erty on the In­ter­net be­fore ac­tu­ally vis­it­ing the home, and ne­go­ti­ate based on a trusted sell­ing price that is both com­puter-backed and valuer-backed, hence re­duc­ing the DOM,” adds Lee.

Agents can also utilise tech­nol­ogy pro­cesses such as fi­nanc­ing, which can be made con­ve­nient through mo­bile plat­forms that de­liver bet­ter in­ter­est rates, mort­gage pack­ages, and faster pro­cess­ing. In terms of ne­go­ti­at­ing, there are an­a­lytic tools that pro­vide in­stan­ta­neous mi­cro and macro in­for­ma­tion and of­fer anal­y­sis cal­cu­la­tors. For fa­cil­i­tat­ing in­sur­ance, au­to­mated un­der­writ­ing and pol­icy de­liv­ery are now avail­able. When it comes to seal­ing a deal, au­to­mated con­veyanc­ing and doc­u­ment col­lec­tion can now also be used.

Quan­tity and qual­ity

Of the ten largest es­tate agen­cies in Sin­ga­pore, four saw the num­ber of their sales­per­sons dwin­dle in the past year. Buck­ing the trend was Prop­nex Realty, whose num­ber of sales­per­sons has been go­ing up for the past three years. Prop­nex Realty CEO Is­mail Gafoor says this year marks the third year of agent growth with the firm em­ploy­ing 5,510 sales­per­sons as of Jan­uary 2017.

“Un­like other agen­cies that might be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing down­ward trends, Prop­nex has per­formed well with mar­ginal up­ward growth year af­ter year since 2015. This is at­trib­uted to a strong re­ten­tion and re­cruit­ment pro­gramme con­ducted within the agency, to­gether with the numer­ous ini­tia­tives and train­ings laid out for its sales­per­sons,” shares Gafoor. Sin­ga­pore’s sec­ond largest agency saw trans­ac­tions up 12.5% to 45,000, gen­er­at­ing $25m in gross com­mis­sion in the pre­vi­ous year.

Prop­nex’s strat­egy is seg­re­gat­ing

Sur­vival of the fittest now means sur­vival of the most tech-savvy

Is­mail Gafoor

Alan Cheong

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