Here's a warning for buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants.
Don't get sucked in by the tricks of unscrupulous property agents which have become rife in an overly competitive trade during the cooling of the Singapore market in recent years.
Also, as more and more buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants are now opting for self-service transactions through web applications, some agents are trying to beat the competition with dirty tactics, warned HugProperty, a new real estate platform.
Even as the market is showing some signs of an uptick recently, people should guard against the deceptive moves of the bad apple in the trade.
There are many questionable practices seen in the property world. Below are some of the deceptive ploys highlighted by HugProperty.
1. FAKE LISTINGS ON PROPERTY PORTALS AND NEWSPAPERS
Based on its checks, HugProperty estimated that up to 20 per cent of the listings posted online are not genuine. The percentage could be higher for luxury homes.
These listings look almost identical to the genuine listings and sometimes even use photos or information copied from listings posted by other agents.
Even after a property has been sold, unscrupulous agents might even copy the property's photos for use in fake listings. When questioned by the owners, these agents would quickly remove their copycat ads, noted HugProperty.
2. ATTRACTIVE PRICES ARE JUST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
Usually, imitation ads use low prices to entice potential buyers and tenants to contact them.
When clients call these dodgy agents, the usual excuses are that the property has already been "sold" or "taken" or is "no longer available".
Then comes the bait: the agents will immediately ask, "May I show you another apartment in the same block?"
And when such agents receive a call from other agents representing the potential buyers, they will ignore it.
Sneaky agents usually resort to such tricks for properties in prime districts 9, 10 and 11, as these areas attract far higher prices as well as unsuspecting foreign clients, said HugProperty.
3. ACTUAL PROPERTIES ARE LISTED, BUT THE INFORMATION IS MISLEADING
Unscupulous agents deliberately post listings of properties with incredibly low prices to reflect the lowest dollar per square foot price ($psf) or rental for a particular condominium unit.
But merely showing a prospective buyer how cheap a property is based on $psf comparisons without describing much about the size and layout of the property does not mean that the property is really a great buy.
For instance, an ad for a 750 sqft apartment for sale at $980psf (i.e. $735,000) in a condominium shows the average transacted prices in the last year to be around $1,200 psf. This gives the impression of a $220 psf discount from the recent transacted average.
But when the buyer views the apartment, he realises that the very "cheap" 750 sqft apartment is actually a shoebox unit with 450 sqft of built-in area, a 260 sqft patio and another 40 sqft air-conditioner ledge.
4. WATCH OUT WHEN SOME AGENTS OFFER TOO MUCH INFORMATION
Some agents would purposely post many listings for a particular district to give the impression that they "specialise" in that area. Some people might be impressed, but really, they should be suspicious when the agents go overboard with their claims.
For example, in a listing for a Sentosa Cove condominium on Sentosa island, the agent might overstate in their description that it's "near HarbourFront MRT Station".
An experienced agent who understands the lifestyle of the well-heeled residents in Sentosa Cove will not state the availability of a MRT station on the main island or that the HarbourFront station is nearby.
Buyers would do well to appoint a trustworthy agent to do their home search. Let the agent sieve out the fake listings in property portals to prevent you from falling into the possibility of a trap or going on a wild goose chase, especially if you're not familiar with buying or selling a property.
Carefully select an agent you feel comfortable with and appoint the agent exclusively to represent you, whether you are searching for a property to rent or buy, or to list a property for sale or rent. The appointed agent will be fully motivated to represent your best interests and also help to ward off dodgy agents with colourful patterns, said HugProperty.
The tips in this article are culled from a report co-authored by Mr. Ku Swee Yong, Co-founder of HugProperty with Janice Chin Li Ping, undergraduate from the Department of Real Estate, National University of Singapore.