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More home buyers in Singapore are eschewing the services of property agents, preferring instead to handle the entire process themselves. Now that buyers are more savvy, are agents no longer needed, or are they still important components of the real estate industry?

By Cheryl Marie Tay

For a long time, home buyers have enlisted the help of real estate agents to guide them through the buying process. From finding a suitable house and negotiating a deal with its seller to inspecting the home, perusing the paperwork and finalising the purchase, an agent’s job is a vital one.

Some buyers — and sellers — in Singapore, however, feel differently. Since 2013, approximately 25 percent of HDB buyers and sellers each year have bought and sold units without the aid of an agent. 

Short-term benefits versus long-term inconvenience

The most immediate advantage of not hiring an agent, is the time and money you will save. You will also avoid the risk of being taken advantage of by an untrustworthy agent, as communication between you and the seller (and his agent, if he has one) becomes more straightforward.

However, if this is your first time buying a house, you are better off with an agent. While it is easy to find information online about any property, such as its address, selling price, age, size and so on, there are important facts and data you will not be privy to without an insider’s help. 

Details such as how affected the house is by sunlight and external noise, and how considerate your potential neighbours are, are just as important as the price, size and location of the house.

An experienced and reliable agent can advise you on such matters, as well as accompany you to inspect the house at different times of the day and week so you can get a feel of what it would be like to live there permanently.

If you choose to do it alone, you may be making yourself more vulnerable to loopholes and caveats, and may even end up living with leaky pipes and cracked tiles you can no longer get the seller to fix. 

Paper problems

Going through the relevant paperwork to ensure everything is correct is of paramount importance. But it is also a long, tedious process. If you are not thorough enough, you could miss something that would cause you major problems following the purchase.

For instance, many a buyer has found himself having to deal with faulty plumbing and other such defects after moving in. A good agent would look out for your interests and add an inspection clause to your option-to-buy letter that permits you to have a final inspection prior to the handover. This in turn, ensures that any costs for repairing defects resultant of the previous tenant’s lack of maintenance will be borne by them. 

Thus, having a second or third pair of eyes, especially one that is experienced in this field minimises the risk of such nasty surprises.

Skipping the middle man

If you are not a first-time home buyer, you might be familiar enough with the buying process to forgo the services of an estate agent. Needless to say, you must be as thorough as humanly possible, and double-check or even triple-check every single detail, from the moment you start looking for a house to when you receive the keys.

Representing yourself means you need to work closely with the seller’s agent, as well as your lawyer. In the absence of an estate agent, your legal counsel becomes even more important. He is supposed to make sure you follow all the rules and regulations to the letter, and guide you through the relevant paperwork.

Your lawyer also can and should assist you in obtaining vital information, such as who the legal owner of the property you are eyeing is, and the property’s title deeds.

Of course, whether or not you hire a property agent is entirely up to you; even when buying an HDB flat, the HDB does not require you to have an agent. It is, however, less risky for a first-time buyer if he has an agent, while a more experienced buyer can easily navigate the process without one. 

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  • Mary Sai, Executive Director of Auction Department, Knight Frank:
    "As one of Singapore's leading auction providers, Knight Frank is pleased to be collaborating with PropertyGuru on this new initiative to reach out to a wider network of property buyers and sellers."
  • Shaun Poh, Senior Director, Investment Advisory Services & Auction, DTZ:
    "As one of Singapore's leading auction providers, DTZ is pleased to be collaborating with PropertyGuru on this new initiative."