Selling Properties in Singapore: Should I DIY or Use Property Agent?
This article guides property sellers on what “DIY” sellers need to know, advantages of using property agent, and when to and not to engage one
The idea of selling your home by yourself without using an agent may appeal to you at first, especially since you wouldn’t have any agent fees to pay. But when all is said and done, would you come out ahead or regret your decision?
According to The Straits Times only 11% of all HDB resale transactions completed in 2010 were on a DIY basis. However, by 2017 that number had jumped to 28% due to the growth of online DIY platforms.
In reality, the process of selling a home is far more complicated than most people realize. The average homeowner would have no idea of all the steps that must be taken to complete the process.
If you’re thinking of doing a DIY transaction, you might want to give this more thought. This article covers everything you should know before you decide to become a DIY seller. We discuss the advantages of using a real estate agent, make recommendations as to when it would be best to use one and when you might be fine not hiring an agent.
What “DIY” Sellers Need to Know
How to Set the Right Price on Your Property
Marketing a home for sale is a big undertaking. It involves far more than just posting the information and some photos on social media and a few real estate websites. You need to first set the right asking price. Do you know what that would be? Do you know what other similar properties are selling for in your neighbourhood? Would your home sell for more or less? Do you know how to calculate the prices on different floors?
Other important factors that would figure into your selling price would include things like the amount of privacy it provides. So, can others see through your windows from their flat? How much road noise impacts your unit? Do you have a lot of greenery in your area? And do you get much sun in your unit and at what times of day? For more details you might want to read our article How to Price Your Property Right?
How to Find Potential Buyers
After researching the prices of recently sold similar units in your area and pricing your flat accordingly, it’s time to market your home to potential buyers. This means getting out your camera and shooting some photos of your home for your listing. The quality of the photos you post is the key to your success. They must be so appealing that potential buyers will pick up the phone to call for more information and hopefully a viewing.
Only CEA-registered real estate agents are permitted to list properties on the most popular property portals like PropertyGuru and SRX. For Sale by Owner properties are still listed on 99.co, but these listings can only be viewed by real estate agents, so it’s not likely that you will find your direct buyer through that website. However, you are allowed to post your listing on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Carousell and Gumtree. So, you are not without online options and these sites will give your property some exposure to buyers.
How to Calculate the Finances
It is up to you to do everything in your power to get a handle on your finances. As a seller you need to determine how much money you will end up with after the sale. You must account for how much you still owe on your loan, how much CPF must be refunded to your Ordinary Account (including accrued interest), how much the legal conveyance fee will be, and how much the Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) will be, if any.
Advantages of Using a Property Agent
Know How to Effectively Advertise and Market Your Property
An experienced real estate agent will know how to stage your home to make it look its best. This may involve adding, removing, or rearranging furniture, painting walls, polishing floors, etc. You only have one chance to make a great first impression and if a buyer can envision themselves living in your home, that’s a win. On the other hand, if your photos make a poor first impression, buyers won’t even call for information, much less a showing.
With all the technological advances in photography, the best agents know how to capture virtual or and shoot compelling video tours of their listings. Prospective buyers can virtually walk through these properties before deciding whether to schedule an in-person visit. Good agents often hire professional photographers for fantastic photos and video tours as well. You can trust your agent to effectively advertise and market your home on many platforms, so that plenty of prospective buyers will see your listing.
Many Resources and Networks to Tap for Potential Buyers
Licensed real estate agents can access inside information on the housing market that most people never know about. They also have marketing channels exclusively available to them, so your listing’s online visibility can be maximized. Singapore’s most popular property portals are SRX.com.sg, PropertyGuru.com.sg. and 99.co. The first two only let CEA-registered property agents post listings. Although 99.co does allow DIY sellers to post listings, these listings will only be seen by real estate agents, not the public at large.
Experienced agents often provide digital marketing services as well, which increases the number of people seeing your listing. Furthermore, many agents have their own private list of buyers and sellers from all their years in business. They can tap this network of contacts, which includes other agents and their databases to try and find potential buyers for your home.
The lack of maximum exposure of your property will result in fewer potential offers and perhaps a lower selling price. This is something you might want to seriously consider.
Offer Expert Advice on Every Aspect of the Transaction
For a property transaction to go smoothly it requires all parties to be knowledgeable when it comes to real estate law and all regulations. There’s also a lot of paperwork that has to be filled out, signed, and submitted within designated deadlines. Your agent can explain all the clauses in each document as the transaction proceeds. This ensures that you have a full understanding of every document that you’re required to sign.
An experienced property agent will have answers to all your questions, including the terms and conditions that apply to each document. These are legally binding documents, so it is imperative that you understand the implications of every document before you’ve added your signature.
Your agent can also find out whether the transaction you’re entering into is legitimate. If you are a buyer, you would want the property’s ownership verified and know if the land or built-up size is the same as what appears in the ads. If you are a seller you would want to know whether your prospective buyer is eligible to buy the property and if they can afford it before you enter into any agreement with them. These are the things a good real estate agent can find out for their clients.
A good real estate agent will be able to accurately determine your sale proceeds, which is important if you are planning to purchase another home. Your agent can also figure out all your timeline options. This helps you determine whether you will need to find a temporary home after selling before your new home is available for you to move into.
Advertising and marketing your home yourself can be extremely time consuming, not to mention how complicated it can get to coordinate all the viewings. A good agent will screen buyers before making appointments for in-person viewings. This saves a lot of time and increases the odds of quickly finding a qualified buyer.
All sellers are seeking the highest possible price for their unit and buyers want to pay as little as possible. This makes negotiations an inherently difficult and lengthy process. Successful agents are usually very good negotiators. Having someone with this expertise handling the negotiations will likely mean achieving a good result for both parties.
When It Makes Sense to Engage a Real Estate Agent
When you have a full-time job or are too busy to do everything needed to find a buyer, handle the paperwork, and follow the deal through to the end
Selling your property will likely become an all-encompassing job because it involves market research, posting your listings online, continuous viewings, handling all the documentation, meeting deadlines, negotiating with buyers and more. Selling a big ticket item like property is a complicated process and one misstep can detrimentally affect how much cash you end up with when the deal is done.
When you’re planning to sell at the same time you’re planning to buy
Selling your home while you’re also buying another home is never going to be easy due to the fact that you may need temporary housing between transactions. If you are planning to sell your HDB resale flat while buying another HDB flat, you can apply for contra facility where there are three transactions done together, i.e. the sale of your flat, and the purchase of your next flat all processed together and completed on the same day. But this takes a lot of coordination because there are 3 parties to the transaction. To be eligible for this facility, all parties involved in the transaction must not have an existing mortgage, or plan to take a loan with a bank or any other financial institution, save for HDB loan. All of this makes the process extremely complicated and unless you’ve done this before, it’s unlikely that you will understand everything involved, be able to negotiate effectively or plan accordingly.
Another option available to you would be a Temporary Extension of Stay of up to 3 months for HDB resale transaction, but this does not appeal to many prospective buyers. Every detail of such an agreement must be carefully negotiated, like who will pay the Town Council for the service and conservancy fees? Who will pay the property taxes and the utilities? And will there be a rental fee? Also, if buying your next property involves funds from your sale being returned to CPF, your wait time to complete your purchase of the new home would be about 3 weeks after. These are just a few of the least complicated examples of what you may be faced with out of many possibilities.
When you have an urgent need to sell
If it is urgent that you sell your property quickly because you’re facing foreclosure or the ABSD deadline is approaching, an experienced real estate agent is the only way to go. They have plenty of contacts they can tap for help and will spend the money necessary to market your property to the widest possible audience. The commission you would pay your agent would be small potatoes compared to what you could perhaps lose.
When It’s a buyers’ market
When the supply of homes for sale exceeds the demand, it leads to a buyers’ market. In a buyers’ market, DIY sellers are forced to compete with other people trying to sell their property themselves, as well as real estate agents for a dwindling pool of buyers. This is a difficult time to sell property on your own, so it makes sense to hire an agent who has the ability to sell your property more quickly and for a higher price. In the end you will likely pocket more money even after paying the commission. You may ready our guide on How to Sell Property Fast in a Buyer’s Market?
When You May Not Need a Real Estate Agent
When you have plenty of free time and are in no rush to sell
If you have a lot of time on your hands and you can afford to wait six months or more to sell your home, you could consider doing it DIY. You can take your time testing the market, wait for a buyer who will pay your price or even change the price based on the response you’re getting.
The worst that could happen is that your property won’t sell after 5 - 6 months of trying, so you change course and list your property with a real estate agent. However, keep in mind that any property that sits on the market for too long gives potential buyers the idea that something may be wrong with it.
When your home is considered a “hot property”
If there are no or very few other homes in your neighbourhood or your property is in huge demand, you can likely find plenty of qualified buyers on your own. Don’t forget that you will still need to list your property, have viewings, figure out your finances, and determine the timeline yourself. For all the paperwork, you can turn to your legal conveyance firm for help.
When you are a sales professional who is legally sophisticated
If you are a successful sales professional, then you may know how to market your property. You are probably a good negotiator as well. But you’ll also need to be very familiar with the legalities involved in a real estate transaction, otherwise you could find yourself in hot water. You may run into problems if you have insufficient knowledge of details like transaction procedure, and paperworks.
It goes without saying that you still must find the time to conduct viewings, communicate back and forth with buyers, handle negotiations, etc. Therefore, you should consider how much time you want to devote to your DIY project to determine whether your time could be better spent doing something else.
Choosing an Experienced Property Agent
Singapore requires all property agents to be registered with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) through the licensed real estate agency they work for. Every registered property agent is assigned a CEA registration number unique to them.
Before hiring a real estate agent, you should have a look at CEA's Public Register to make sure that they are registered. It is illegal for someone to conduct any estate agency work unless they are registered. You can check here to see if they’ve been disciplined in the past. You can also look online to see if there are any reviews on them from previous clients.
Once you’ve determined which agent you want to hire, make sure that the commission rate you’ve agreed on, the scope of work involved, and the terms of engagement are all stated clearly in the CEA’s Prescribed Estate Agency Agreement. This agreement is in fact a contract designed to protect the interests of both the client and the agent.
We hope the information offered in this article gives you a good idea of what is involved in a DIY transaction as well as the benefits of engaging a qualified property agent. No matter which way you decide to go we wish you the best of luck.
At Pinnacle Estate Agency, we strongly believe in sharing our real estate knowledge to the public. For more content like this article, check out our Singapore Property Guides.