Ethical issues in the property sector

Romesh Navaratnarajah15 Feb 2017

To raise industry standards, the government has introduced stringent entry requirements to be a property agent.

The government’s implementation of a series of cooling measures in the past few years to rein in spiralling home prices has significantly reduced transaction volume in the industry, leading to stiffer competition among property agents to secure the fewer available deals in the market, reported Singapore Business Review.

In turn, this has led to more complaints regarding the professionalism of some agents and highlighted the ethical issues in real estate transactions, according to the Centre for Management Practice, a think-tank at the Singapore Management University.

“Agents (are) duty-bound to act professionally to help clients get the best deal possible. However, not all were perceived by clients to perform their fiduciary duties diligently. Some clients felt that (some) were getting away with unscrupulous behaviour, such as misrepresenting information and using pressure tactics.

“Some agents felt they had no incentive to offer good service as their commission was based on the transaction price and not service quality. They might also fail to convey acceptable offers to their client when negotiating, or refuse to a co-broking arrangement with a buying agent,” it noted.

Exacerbating the problem, there were some people posing as real estate agents to make easy profit.

To address this, the Council for Estate Agencies adopted rigorous industry qualifications for agents and offered training programmes on proper ethical behaviour. Consumers were also provided with a reporting mechanism that investigates complaints pertaining to unprofessional conduct and conflicts of interest.

“The government is sending a clear signal that in the long haul, stringent entry requirements are needed to be a property agent. This will raise the image and professionalism of the industry,” Tan Tee Khoon, former CEO of the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies said in a 2010 interview.


Romesh Navaratnarajah, Senior Editor at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email


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