Anyone who thinks Singaporeans are lazy because they get maids to do all their housework is mistaken. We pay others to do our crap for us only if it's cheap.
That's why more and more Singaporeans are choosing not to use housing agents and opting to buy or sell their homes on their own. Housing agents are, evidently, cheaper than maids here, and agents typically charge 2 per cent for selling an HDB flat.
That may not sound like much, but when you consider Singapore's housing prices, it is-selling a $350,000 HDB flat through an agent will cost you $7,000 worth of commission.
Yikes, $7,000, you say, that could pay for a whole year of Junior's tuition sessions, or a new set of Courts furniture for your new place. Who needs an agent anyway, right?
Well, before you decide to send your housing agent packing and DIY your sale or purchase, be warned that selling or buying property can be a troublesome, time-consuming affair. Here are five questions to ask yourself before you strike it out on your own.
Do you have the time? (for sellers)
Selling your property might sound like a good way to raise a big wad of cash without having to lift a finger. Well, sorry to break it to you, but you're going to end up lifting a lot more than a finger.
If you think selling your flat involves placing an ad in the newspaper classifieds, and then sitting back and waiting for the offers to come streaming in, you're like that guy who's convinced downloading Tinder is going to turn his life around.
First of all, you'll have to find out which online platforms are available for you to advertise your property on. Most sellers place their property on multiple platforms like SRX, which takes more time than you might think. You might also have to download apps like Nestia and go through the various platforms' sign up processes.
After you spend a day placing the listings of your property on multiple platforms, you must then be prepared to actually start taking calls from prospective buyers.
Assuming people are actually interested in your ad, you then have the unenviable task of scheduling appointments and being present at flat viewings. Be prepared to burn weeknights and weekends to meet prospective buyers, showing them around the flat with your best real estate agent's smile.
If there are many people interested in the flat, scheduling appointments can turn into a bit of a nightmare, and you will soon realise that meeting multiple prospective buyers in one day is extremely tiring.
Do you have the time? (for buyers)
If you decide to go it alone, you'll first have to spend time surfing the internet and the various platforms, both online and off, which publish local property ads.
You'll soon realise there are zillions of these, so expect your browser to become a mess of windows as you click on heaps of promising looking links. Being lazy and only searching on one or two platforms will mean you are missing out on good deals and might end up overpaying.
But really, that's the easy part. Part of the reason buyers hire real estate agents is because the agent can pick them up in their cars and chauffeur them to house viewings. The hard part is that you now have to find your way to every property viewing on your own. Good luck if you don't own a car.
That's even more onerous when you realise that most people view many, many properties before making a decision. It's not uncommon to view more than 20 resale flats before making a purchasing decision. Then there are people who want to consult their feng shui masters/fortune tellers/bomohs (don't laugh, a lot of people in Singapore do that) before making a final choice, which adds yet another layer of inconvenience.
By contrast, when you use an agent, the agent can usually arrange for multiple home viewings in one day, and he'll pick you up and drive you to all of them, which enables you to save a ton of time.
Do you want to save money?
As a buyer, you're already bracing yourself for the pain of emptying out your bank account and the prospect of being chained to a home loan for the rest of your days on earth.
And as a seller, you understandably want to cash out with as much money as possible.
Which is why paying thousands of dollars to a real estate agent seems like a very unattractive prospect. Real estate agents typically charge 1 per cent to 2 per cent in commission, and sales of HDB flats which make up the bulk of transactions these days will usually cost the seller 2 per cent.
That means for every $100,000 the property is worth, the real estate agent gets $2,000. And, uh, we all know there's no such thing as a $100,000 property in Singapore. A five-room flat costing $400,000 will yield $8,000 worth of commission.
Some might argue that real estate agents can help you get a better price. Well, considering the hefty amounts you'd otherwise be losing in commission and all the information there is online regarding past transaction prices these days, there's a good chance you'll lose less money overall by going it alone.
Do you know what goes into the process of buying or selling a home?
Very often, Singaporeans buying or selling a home for the first time are completely clueless as to what happens in a property transaction.
Option-to-purchase? What's that? When do you put down the downpayment and when you need to start applying for a bank loan? And what are all these documents they're asking you to sign?
Can you be bothered to do your own research to find out what happens in a property transaction? If the answer is no, you should probably engage an agent to care of everything for you.
If, however, you think doing your own research is worth it if it saves you thousands, here's an article that might help you make sense of what's happening. You can thank us later.
Can you be bothered to do your own research and execute the entire transaction on your own?
Ultimately, agents are there not because their work is rocket science or anything you couldn't do on your own if it were a matter of life and death.
The real value in hiring an agent is the fact that they give you a whole lot of convenience, and have a more complete knowledge of the market and how to smoothly effect a property transaction.
Sure, if you had hours to surf on the internet every day, you would probably be able to find good deals online, or plaster your own ads all over the internet and on random lamp posts in the neighbourhood.
But the question is, do you really want to devote the next few weeks or even months of your life glued to property websites and classified ads, and burn every weekend visiting properties or entertaining prospective buyers?
The answer is that nobody really wants to. So the real question is, would you rather do the above or pay an agent thousands of dollars to do it for you?
The article first appeared on MoneySmart
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