6 Myths About Hiring Property Agents in Singapore (Plus, What the Agents Have to Say About Them)

Eugenia Liew
6 Myths About Hiring Property Agents in Singapore (Plus, What the Agents Have to Say About Them)
Property agents can make life a lot easier when you’re looking to buy or sell a property. However, many people might be wary of engaging one due to fears of being ripped off or certain clichés that may or may not be true, letting it hinder them from getting help when needed.
Are all property agents the same? And do agents only care about making money?
More worryingly, there has been a new type of scam where scammers pose as property agents and ask for viewing fees. Despite police reports being filed, chances of recovering the money is slim. For some, this may lead to them developing negative impressions or becoming wary of property agents, due to their experience with scammers.
To find out how you can protect yourself when you embark on your property journey and to bust the myths surrounding agents, we ask the agents themselves to learn more. Presenting, six myths about property agents and hiring their services in Singapore, debunked!

Myths Surrounding Being a Property Agent in Singapore: An Overview

Lazy to read? Here’s a quick overview.
Myth or misconception about property agents
Property agents require you to have a fee paid to do a viewing
Not true!
Recent scams have scammers posing as agents, and requesting individuals to give a ‘viewing deposit fee’ before taking a look at the apartment. This is not necessary!
Property agents are very expensive, earn a lot of commission and only care about money
Not true!
Successful property agents do have the potential to earn a healthy paycheck, but the market rate for commissions is only about 1% to 2% of the property’s price. If an agent only cares about money, they will not last in the business.
Anyone can be a property agent
Not true!
Property agents need to undertake the Real Estate Salesperson (RES) course and pass the RES exams to be qualified. Additionally, to properly serve their clients, they often need to study the market diligently.
All property agents are the same
Not true!
Many agents end up ‘specialising’ in a particular area, property type or market segment. They also often have unique ways of running their business. You should research and speak to different agents to decide who suits you and your needs best.
Hiring a property agent is compulsory
Not true!
While it can be very helpful and less stressful to hire an agent, it is absolutely optional. You can DIY if you so wish.
There are no laws to protect you from unethical property agents
Not true!
You can report any experiences of misconduct and/or illegal activity to do with property agents to the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA). To be safe, we recommend searching for licensed agents on a reliable platform such as PropertyGuru’s agent directory.
Keen to learn more and hear what our agents have to say? Read on.

1. "Property Agents in Singapore Require You to Deposit a Viewing Fee for Listings."

In light of recent scams, it’s important to clarify this is untrue! You do not need to pay for a deposit before viewing prospective houses. Typically, a scammer would ask for a deposit before viewings. Once the individual has transferred the money, the scammer would no longer be contactable.
If you’re looking for a property and think the agent you’re in contact with is up to fishy behaviour, check them up on the CEA public register. This way, you ascertain you’re dealing with a legitimate property agent.
All property agents must be registered with CEA. By keying in a property agent’s registration number, you will be able to see their registration details (which include when their license was issued and when it expires), the transactions the agent has done in the past two years, accolades and awards gained (if any), as well as any potential disciplinary records the agent might have received.
Here are some tips by CEA on how to avoid scams when choosing a property agent:
Even when you know you’re dealing with a ‘legit’ agent, and no matter how well-meaning they are, do not give them any transaction-related monies (e.g. Buyer’s Stamp Duty, Seller’s Stamp Duty, etc.). There have been instances where individuals trustingly pass fake property agents/scammers security deposits for rental apartments, only to realise later they had been cheated of their hard-earned cash.
Be it a sale and purchase or a rental transaction, always use verifiable payment modes (e.g. bank transfers) and directly pay the payee. Learn more on how to keep safe from scammers by watching this video:

2. “Property Agents Are Very Expensive. They Earn A Lot of Commission!”

Successful property agents in Singapore have been known to live the high life thanks to high commissions. Indeed, it is only fair to say that property agents’ commissions can be quite generous, due in part to the high cost of property in Singapore.
But while it is true that successful agents can earn a healthy income in this line of work, the commissions may not be as much as you expect. While there are no fixed rules as to the commissions charged by agents, sellers of all types of residential property usually pay about 2% commission, while buyers of HDB flats pay 1% commission. Buyers of private property usually pay nothing.
An agent is also only allowed to collect commission from one party per transaction; they are not allowed to dual represent. So, if you are a buyer dealing with an agent who has already been engaged by the seller of the property, you will not have to pay the agent.
Additionally, this misconception is often linked to another stereotype about property agents, that they “only care about money”. This is not very fair as the property industry is an extremely competitive one in Singapore, and in actuality, agents here are required to do a lot of heavy lifting and offer a high level of customer service in order to retain clients and stay in the business.
Grace Cheong, Senior Associate Marketing Director at PropNex Realty, shares that clients are typically only unsatisfied when they "do not get the value or service they deserve from the agents they worked with”.
It is not uncommon for property agents in Singapore to go the extra mile, not only sourcing for property on behalf of their clients but also ferrying them to appointments. It is also normal for agents to be available to their clients in the evening, on weekends and even on public holidays.
Abel Ang, Senior Marketing Director at ERA Realty Network, agrees, sharing that good agents will always prioritise customer service and satisfaction above any fees. "I am not saying that (agents) will do it for free or ridiculous fees, but should always be ‘customer first’.”
Of course, there is no smoke without fire, and it is unavoidable that are black sheep among agents. However, those agents who only care about commission rather than acting in their clients’ interests are likely to find themselves having to constantly look for new clients and unable to build a loyal following.

3. “Anyone Can Be a Property Agent”

Quite a few Singaporeans undergoing a mid-career change choose to become property agents, which can lead to the misconception that just anyone and everyone can get into the business.
In fact, according to Grace, this was actually true once upon a time.
“When I first joined the industry in 2009 this wasn’t a myth. It was true, anyone and everyone could become a property agent. It was not until the number of complaints more than doubled that the Government set up the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) in 2010 to control and govern the real estate agencies,” she explains. “They began to qualify the agents and slowly but surely the quality of realtors improved.”
Today, aspiring property agents actually need to pass stringent exams and make sure they have sufficient industry knowledge before they can go out into the market and work.
All candidates must undertake the Real Estate Salesperson (RES) course and pass the RES exams before they can work as full-fledged agents. In order to enrol in the course, they must be Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents for at least 10 years, be at least 21 years old and have at least four GCE ‘O’ Level passes or the equivalent.
Once they have obtained their licence, agents often find the real estate business extremely competitive. Those who do not manage to close any deals can find themselves without any income for months. As a result, those who have survived in the business for a long time tend to be highly motivated.
Abel adds that in addition to being academically qualified, property agents also need a resilient mindset to succeed and serve their clients well. The property market is not an easy one to manoeuvre, and often, it takes a lot of industry knowledge, on-the-ground experience and perseverance to “make the impossible, possible”.

4. “All Property Agents Are the Same”

There are many brands that sell clothes, but are they all the same?
While all property agents go through the same certification process, experienced agents often end up specialising in a particular area, type of housing or market segment.
As Abel puts it, “Every agent runs and manages their businesses differently. Some as individuals, some as teams. Some choose to focus on a particular district or housing type, whereas some are specialists in all sectors.”
If you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, it can thus be a good idea to engage an agent whose area of expertise can be useful to you. Grace recommends looking for an agent who suits your values as well.
At the end of the day, what is most important is finding an agent who can serve your property seeking needs, and whose working style is one you are agreeable and comfortable with.

5. “You Must Hire a Property Agent When Buying/Selling/Renting A Home”

Let’s just put it out there clearly: You do not need a property agent to help you with your property transaction. It is entirely possible to DIY your own transactions, and there are some buyers and sellers in Singapore who do this too.
However, engaging a property agent can make your life easier and free you from administrative tasks like creating listings, setting up viewing appointments and browsing property listings.
Abel likens the situation to falling ill: “When you fall sick, you have the option to self-medicate or to see a doctor. The same goes for real estate. You can try to sell your property yourself or engage a professional who does it day in day out. The difference? Results and peace of mind.”
Property agents can offer valuable advice pertaining to your transaction and the property market in general. For instance, they can help you with negotiations to ensure you don’t get ripped off, offer advice on home loans and the use of CPF savings, as well as help you work out additional costs of your transaction, such as stamp duty.
Another advantage of using an agent is that they can prepare on your behalf documents such as the Option to Purchase, Sale and Purchase Agreement and inventory, which can save you from having read them yourself.
Not to mention, the added stress of taking everything upon yourself. “Doing everything yourself means having to learn the ways of planning, strategising, marketing, calculating finances, negotiation, etc. You’ll be taking in all the stress by yourself,” says Grace.

6. There Are No Laws to Protect You from Unethical Property Agents

Another reason why some are hesitant to enlist the help of property agents is the fear that should things go south, there will be nobody to help them.
You’ll be glad to know that property agents are in fact regulated by a statutory board called the Council of Estate Agencies (CEA). You can make complaints against licensed property agents to the CEA.
Some reasons you might wish to lodge a complaint against an agent might include false or misleading advertising, unprofessional conduct, misconduct and misrepresentation.
It is, of course, always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re looking for a good agent, you can check out PropertyGuru’s agent directory, where we list licensed property agents in Singapore. On each agent’s profile, you’ll be able to access key details such as the agent’s name, CEA registration number, contact number, the agent’s property agency and the agency’s license number, which you can use to run a check against the public register by the Council of Estate Agencies (CEA). It is illegal to carry out estate agency work without being licensed by the CEA.
For more property news, content and resources, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section.
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Disclaimer: The information is provided for general information only. PropertyGuru Pte Ltd makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information, including but not limited to any representation or warranty as to the fitness for any particular purpose of the information to the fullest extent permitted by law. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate, reliable, and complete as of the time of writing, the information provided in this article should not be relied upon to make any financial, investment, real estate or legal decisions. Additionally, the information should not substitute advice from a trained professional who can take into account your personal facts and circumstances, and we accept no liability if you use the information to form decisions.

More FAQs About Property Agents in Singapore

Simply contact a licensed agent you are interested in engaging. Most agents are contactable by phone.

For HDB flats, the seller usually pays 2% and the buyer 1%. For private properties, the seller usually pays 2%.

Yes, you can, so long as you have not agreed to give an agent exclusive rights to market your property.

No, you only pay the agent once the transaction takes place. If you pull out of the sale, you may be asked to cover the costs already incurred though (e.g. for marketing and advertising).