Sharp drop in new property agents last year

Sharp drop in new property agents last year
Prospective buyers at a condominium showroom. TODAY file photo
Published: 12:37 PM, January 21, 2016
Updated: 11:57 PM, January 21, 2016

SINGAPORE ­— The lean spell in the Republic’s property market has hit real estate agents here, with the total number of licensed salespersons falling to its lowest since 2011, figures by the Council for Estate Agents (CEA) showed today (Jan 21).

The CEA said that as of Jan 1 this year, there were 29,262 registered agents in Singapore, down 5.1 per cent from 30,830 the previous year. 

This was a result of a sharp fall in new entrants, despite fewer agents leaving the industry. Between Jan 1 and Dec 31 last year, 1,299 new real estate agents joined the industry, down 56.8 per cent from the 3,006 that came on board in 2014. At the same time, 3,573 agents left the industry during the same period, 9.7 per cent fewer than the 3,959 the previous year.

“The market is tough, and only the tough, who get going, remain … I believe the real estate market has some impact (on agents leaving) with fewer transactions,” said Mr Jeff Foo, president of Institute of Estate Agents (IEA), an industry association.

“If an agent makes less, it may be better if he or she look for other professions that can assure him or her a fixed monthly income with annual leave, medical benefits and CPF contributions,” he added.

Various property cooling measures and loan curbs have had their intended effect on the housing market. 

Statistics by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) showed that 10,918 private homes were sold in both the primary and secondary markets in the first nine months of last year. While the figure is not far off from the 12,847 units transacted in the whole of 2014, it is still shy of the 22,719 units sold in 2013.

In the public housing market, resale transactions totalled 14,314 in the first nine months of last year, Housing and Development Board (HDB) figures show. For the whole of 2014, a total of 17,318 HDB units were re-sold, down from 18,100 units the previous year. Real estate agents TODAY spoke to concurred that the market environment has become tougher, with deals taking longer to close. 

“It’s become very competitive. I personally have not had my income greatly affected, fortunately, but the amount of effort that I have to put in to sustain that is three or four times more than before, because buyers and tenants these days have more choices, so they’re not in a rush to commit,” an agent who only wants to be known as Amy told TODAY.

She added that with fewer business opportunities to go around, marketing costs – which agents have to bear out of their own pockets – have gone up with the stiff competition. These include the printing of flyers and banners as well as the placement of advertisements online. Nevertheless, agents also told TODAY that a downturn can bring about opportunities if one is nimble, as commissions can increase amid a slow market. 

An example cited by an agent who asked to be identified as Yvonne said that when Executive Condominiums were in demand in 2011, agents earned commissions of 0.3 to 0.5 per cent, but this can go up to close to 2 per cent in the current market.“It’s about survival of the fittest, many opportunities present themselves as more agents fall behind,” she said.