SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) – The Singapore Estate Agents Association (SEAA), the largest industry representative body for real estate salespersons in Singapore, held its inaugural SG Real Estate Agents Excellence Award on Nov 13. The awards recognise the efforts and outstanding performance of individual salespersons. The awards are officially recognised by the Council of Estate Agents (CEA), the industry regulator.
The guests of honour were Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah and Tan Kiat How, who is the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of National Development. EdgeProp Singapore was the official media partner for the event.
A total of 387 individual awards were presented during the virtual event, and the categories included the Outstanding Youths Award, the Active Seniors Award for agents over 60 years old, and the Rookies Award for new agents who joined the industry after July 1, 2018. There were also Salesperson Achievement Awards for top earners.
All submissions were evaluated by a panel of four judges, made up of ARA Trust Management CEO Chong Kee Hiong, Singapore Fintech Association president Chia Hock Lai, Fortis Law CEO Patrick Tan and Professor Sing Tien Foo, director of the Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies at the National University of Singapore.
Advocating agents interests
SEAA represents close to 5,000 members comprising individual real estate salespersons and corporate estate agencies. The industry body was officially registered as a society in 2016 and was formed to represent the interests of real estate agents in Singapore. The association is helmed by its president, Thomas Tan, who is also the chief learning officer of Life Mastery Academy, a CEA-approved course provider.
“SEAA has been growing steadily over the past few years. Last year we had about 4,000 members, and we have grown to about 5,000 members this year. We organised the SG Real Estate Agents Excellence Award specifically to recognise agents at an industry level, and we feel it is a timely event for the industry this year,” says Tan.
He adds that SEAA is an important industry body that voices the interests and concerns of real estate agents to government bodies such as CEA and other industry partners like the Real Estate Developers Association of Singapore (REDAS).
The association has accomplished several milestones over the past few years. It helps smaller estate agencies and individual real estate agents navigate the various compliance and money-laundering regulations related to property transactions. SEAA also has a seat in the government’s Future Economy workgroup for the real estate industry, which helped to roll out standardised contract templates for sales and rental agreements. As a member of the workgroup, SEAA has been promoting digital transformation initiatives to its members.
Recently, SEAA launched training programmes for agents during the “circuit breaker” period, bringing in vendors to teach members basic video courses. “We really tried to encourage them to carry on their marketing activities in a safe way and not to freeze their sales activities,” says Tan.
He adds: “Initially, agents took a while to adopt all the various technologies and digitalisation tools such as virtual tours, but it has been amazing watching how it has gradually been picked up by most of the industry.”
Tan hopes that the award will galvanise more agents to adopt digital tools. “One of the reasons why we came up with these awards is to show agents that there are still success stories in the marketplace. And one of the key drivers for their success is because they were open minded and were the early adopters of digitalisation,” he says.
Recognising professionalism and excellence
According to Tan, the SG Real Estate Agents Excellence Award differs from the accolades given to agents by their respective agencies because the evaluation is not purely based on sales performance. While certain sales benchmarks are included in the criteria, other elements such as client testimonials and a written submission play a significant role in the judging. This ensures that award winners are backed up by good customer reviews, the character of the agent and their sales performance, he adds.
In her opening remarks, Minister Indranee notes: “[The winners] have demonstrated that service excellence and professionalism must go hand-in-hand, in order to deliver good sales performance with high customer satisfaction — a positive and hassle-free property transaction experience for consumers.”
She also mentioned the winners in the Active Seniors category proved that “age is indeed just a number by adapting well to the changes in the industry and property transactions and remaining competitive over the years. Your spirit to continuously improve yourselves has shown that learning is indeed a lifelong journey.”
SEAA says that recognising outstanding real estate agents and highlighting such awards in their resume in the public register will help consumers pick out the right salesperson to represent them. The association says that the track record of good performing agents should also be as visible in the public register as much as disciplinary actions on their record. “This award also gives the winning agents a very good professional image, and this builds consumer confidence and trust in these agents,” says Tan.
He adds that the real estate industry has matured over the past decade since CEA was established in October 2010. “When the regulator was started it needed to send a strong signal to the marketplace as a government regulator, publishing all the management and disciplinary cases prominently. But the industry has matured, and the regulator has matured along with it and I think we need to take a more balanced approach,” says Tan.
Tan, who was recently reappointed to the Disciplinary Board at CEA, says that the nature of complaints against agents are mostly service-related or advertising-oriented. “Gone are the days when issues of dual representations or money lender referrals were prominent,” he notes.
His observations were also echoed by Minister Indranee, who adds: “Over the past 10 years, the industry has become more disciplined, more professional and more trusted. Consumers have also affirmed property agents’ service excellence and professionalism. We have seen a decline in the number of complaints against property agencies and agents over time, from 1,170 cases in 2011 to 777 cases in 2019. So that’s a drop of about 34%, which is good.”
Looking ahead, Tan says that agents will remain an indispensable part of the real estate industry ecosystem, even as digital tools such as property portals, virtual tours, and online document submissions become more prevalent.
“Digital tools are a very good enabler, but they do not totally replace the function of real estate agents who remain critical advisors to home buyers and sellers. Digital tools enhance productivity, and this allows agents more time to give better customer relations.” He adds that this will transform the role of property agents into an advisory role in the future.
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