Monday, August 3, 2009

What I hope to achieve with cluelesshomebuyer

It is my hope that cluelesshomebuyer provides a refreshing new take on the real estate market in Singapore. My passion for cluelesshomebuyer is fuelled by two factors - the demise of the property agent, and the inadequacies of online help. My vision for cluelesshomebuyer is that it becomes a premier online source of property insights, teachings, advice and tools. My vision is not grandiose or extravagant; it is simply the job description of a property agent, my profession, taken online.

The demise of the property agent

It is apparent that buyers and sellers nowadays are well-educated and resourceful. It should come as no surprise to most that they often know more about property than their agents. There are a wealth of resources online that are up-to-date, which they can utilise to make well-informed decisions. Gone are the days where buyers and sellers relied solely on their agents for information, directions and advice. And this, is the demise of property agents.

Property agents are still around, and will still be around. This industry is saturated - why shouldn't it be? The lure of big money and no barriers of entry make this industry as packed as it can be. Yet, these lures are exactly what causes the demise of property agents.

There is no industry as careless as the real estate industry. There are practically no barriers of entry, save for fees for joining an agency, printing namecards, and basic lessons. This per se does not sound any bad, but consider that property agents are assisting in major life decisions such as buying a house, and handling sums from hundreds of thousands to millions. In Singapore currently, there is no mandatory exam or qualification for property agents, very much unlike the insurance agent. For the insurance agent, she has to study and pass difficult exams before she is officially allowed to give any professional advice to clients. The equivalent of such difficult exam for property agents is the Common Examination for Housing Agents (CEHA), yet to horror, this exam is actually optional and not mandatory. It is disheartening to know that a client may put full trust in an agent assisting him and advising him in buying a house, but the agent may actually know next to nothing on property.

And it is very amusing that the industry which boasts no barriers of entry is an industry which promises the biggest money. It is this lure of big money that keeps this industry saturated. One commission from a deal can easily match the amount of a few months' worth of salary of a normal employee. That is why we read in the newspaper about rogue agents - agents who intentionally cheat clients, agents who use use underhand manoeuvres to close a deal, and agents who know so little about property that they misquote, mislead and cause financial and emotional distress to their clients. It seems that the money is enough for one to discard their honesty and integrity, to make one deal and disappear.

The demise of the property agent is not the actual decrease of the number of property agents around. The demise of the property agent is the decrease of the actual need of a property agent in property transaction. Property agents now rarely give any helpful advice; they will say what they need in order to encourage transactions, and they want to be part of those transactions to earn their commission. Buyers and sellers know that too, and the trend is that they only engage agents to maximise convenience - set up appointments, make enquires, and handle the paperwork. Whatever information that the buyers and seller need, they can easily find it online; there is no need for an agent. The job description of an agent is thus reduced to those a clerk, and agents are no longer the authority on property matters which clients can fully trust. This saddens me, and I hope to be a beacon of hope with cluelesshomebuyer.

The inadequacies of online help

Currently, there are many property websites and property portals where one can find information regarding property. However, most of these websites are advertising websites marketing myriad properties. They are thick with pictures and descriptions of all kinds of properties, but there is little content in them with regards to property advice and insight.

This is a lack glaringly apparent. People do not need more pictures and more exhortations to buy, but they do need insights and advice in property matters such as HDB/CPF regulations, financial aspects, timeframe for buying and selling, buying/selling procedures, and problems with tenants/landlords/agents/buyers/sellers. There is little help for them in this aspect.

There are several property portals (, etc) where one can ask questions and have agents answer those questions. Yet, the results are mediocre. The common agents' reply is to call them for 'more discussion'. I'm not sure about the rate of help clients receive when they do actually call these agents, but I'm very disheartened that the motives of these agents are wrong. It is not that they can not genuinely reply the questions online, but rather, they want to 'snag' the clients, by obtaining their contact numbers. More so, they preclude the help they can render to other people who have the same questions as the person who asked. I have made a sweeping statement regarding the question and answer portion of property portals, but I acknowledge that there are some gems -property agents who genuinely answer-, and I salute them in their efforts to give good advice without expecting to 'snag' clients.

Thus, these two concerns that I have - the demise of the property agent, the inadequacies of online help, have culminated in the creation of the cluelesshomebuyer. Cluelesshomebuyer is the source of property advice, insights, brought online.

The aims of cluelesshomebuyer:

1. To offer good property advice, unbiased and truthful.
2. To offer updates on current real estate system and procedures, and the impact of these changes.
3. To point out inadequacies and recommend modifications in the current real estate system.
4. To highlight common property problems, and how to avoid them.

Therefore, this is an outline of my vision for cluelesshomebuyer. I do sincerely believe this will benefit many, and restore the confidence in both property agents and online property help. I also do hope that in the meantime while i figure out blogspot, that if anyone has a urgent question regarding property, do feel free to email me so that i can attend to it at the soonest.

Richard Wan

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