Illegal estate agents a worry: Council

24/09/2009 11:49

The growing number of unlicensed real estate agents advertising properties and their services is a worrying trend that poses a lot of risks to vulnerable consumers.

There are unlicensed companies and individuals engaging in the real estate business and some are advertising their business in a way that does not adhere to current industry regulations. Consumers are at risk of losing substantial money if they make deals with unscrupulous home/property dealers, especially if the agents are not licensed or qualified to conduct real estate business.

In the classified sections of the newspapers, there are many cases of individuals selling homes or properties, but only advertise their first name and mobile numbers. The Real Estate Act 2006 clearly states that all licensed agents MUST DISPLAY their company name and indicate that they ARE LICENSED in all their advertisements. Part 5 Section 41 of the Act states that a salesperson(s) must carry a certificate of approval issued by the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board.

We urge the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board to strengthen enforcement and monitoring and to curb the illegal realtors. So far 76 real estate agents are registered under the Registrar of Companies but the question is – do they hold a valid license to engage in real estate business?

Furthermore, a worrying issue is that the Real Estate Act does not specify the minimum industry standard qualifications for anyone intending to become an agent. The only minimum requirements are that licensee should be over 21-years-old and with minimum 5 years experience in the business and to “pass any examination”. This leaves a gap in the calibre and qualifications of the licensed agents as the real estate business involves matters of advise relating to market value, loan, guarantee, mortgages, legal processes, etc. Real estate agents must be qualified enough to provide not just sales information, but also expert advice to consumers on loan repayments, interest rates, bank fees and charges, legal costs etc for those intending to buy on credit.

The Council suggests that real estate agents be treated similar to professionals like accountants, medical practitioners and lawyers, whereby practicing certificates are awarded following prescribed industry standards.

Meanwhile, the Council wishes to advise consumers intending to buy a property to seek the assistance of a licensed, qualified and experienced real estate agent before they engage in any home dealings. The Council also advises consumers to find out the background and qualifications of the real estate agent they are intending to deal with. Where a consumer is suspicious of any unlicensed salesperson or real estate agent or if not happy with the conduct of a licensed agent, should report immediately to Real Estate Licensing Board.