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Estate agents’ group objects to new regulatory scheme

CONSUMERS looking forward to greater regulation in the real estate industry might have to wait a bit longer, as the process has just hit a snag.

A group of property agencies is questioning a move by the Institute of Estate Agents (IEA) to launch a ‘practising certificate’ for its members, as there is already an accreditation scheme in place.

Launching the certificate back in September, IEA president Jeff Foo said it aimed to boost agents’ credibility and give homebuyers more confidence in their professionalism.

This was supported by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), which called for more regulation in an industry facing a rising number of complaints against agents amid the property boom.

IEA, representing about 1,000 agents, said its members were bound to adhere to the organisation’s strict guidelines and code of conduct.

But a separate group of agencies representing about 10,000 agents, including Knight Frank, HSR Group, DTZ Debenham Tie Leung and Global Real Estate, issued a statement yesterday that they were ‘most concerned about the state of affairs’ over the certificate. They have called a press conference today.

The Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies (SAEA) scheme, launched in November 2005 by IEA and the Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers (SISV), seeks to raise the industry’s level of professionalism.

Agents have to pass a professional test and are held to a code of conduct. Agencies were meant to have all their agents accredited by next year.

When contacted, Dr Tan Tee Khoon, director of KF Property Network, Knight Frank’s agency division, told The Straits Times that IEA’s efforts were commendable, but questioned the certificate’s wording, which states that an agent is ‘hereby authorised to practise as a real estate agent in Singapore’.

‘This has a ring of legality to it, and will confuse the public. The industry should stand together and support one same scheme,’ he said.

The chairman of SAEA’s accreditation board, Dr Lim Lan Yuan, told The Straits Times that IEA’s latest move ran ‘counter’ to SAEA which IEA had co-launched.

It gives the wrong impression to the public that IEA is issuing licences, he said.

Dr Lim, who is also president of valuation and general practice at SISV, said more than 7,000 agents – out of an industry of about 30,000 – are now accredited under SAEA.

Mr Foo countered that IEA was moving towards self-regulation, and was entitled to issue certificates to its members, who would have to pass tests on property-related matters such as financing, law and codes of conduct.

PropNex chief Mohamad Ismail, who is IEA’s vice-president, added that no authority has made either test compulsory in order to practise.

‘We will be supportive of any licensing authority, or any scheme, that the Government mandates.’


Source: The Straits Times 10 Nov 07

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