These days, finding a property agent you can trust is easier said than done. Potential conflicts of interest, like commissions, agents refusing to co-broke, or outright cheating clients, are just some barriers preventing consumers like yourself from finding a trustworthy agent.
Just recently in 2019, a property agent’s unethical practices led his client, a homebuyer, to suffer a $20,000-$30,000 loss in a property transaction that went awry. The agent had acted behind his client’s back, making offers to the seller at a higher price than the client originally intended, higher even than the property’s estimated value, and negotiated with the seller and the seller’s agent for a higher co-broke commission, all without the client’s knowledge. And when he couldn’t get what he wanted, he told his client not to buy the property instead.
This is why it’s extremely important to find a trustworthy property agent before even signing an exclusive agreement or agreeing to any terms. And there is a quick way to check an agent’s credibility: Visit CEA’s Public Register and key in the name of your property agent, and you will get access to his business particulars, resale and rental transaction records for both HDB flats and private properties, and more importantly, if he has any past or existing disciplinary actions made against him by CEA. We cover this in more detail here.
How to recognise potential conflicts of interest with your property agent
According to the Council of Estate Agencies (CEA), your property agent must inform you, in writing, if there’s any conflict or potential conflicts of interest at any time during the property transaction. This includes all external sources of income or referral fees that your property agent will receive with respect to the property transaction. They must also “openly” and “fairly” disclose all types of relationships or positions to clients, as soon as they arise.
Here are some examples of potential conflicts of interest that may arise between you and your property agent:
- If the other party’s agent is related to your property agent, either as a spouse or family member; or
- The other party is related to your property agent; or
- Both you and the other party are working with the same property agency; or
- The property agent serving the party who is not paying commission (either a buyer or tenant), is receiving any commission, reward, fee, red packet (ang bao), payment or other benefits from the property agency or agent of the other party, or any other person
According to CEA, financial dealings between property agents and clients are not allowed. This includes loans from agents to their clients, as it may also lead to a conflict of interest.
If a conflict of interest only arises or is made aware to the property agent or his/her agency after an exclusive agreement has been signed, the conflict or potential conflict of interest must be immediately disclosed in writing to you.
Upon such disclosure, the property agency and/or the property agent may continue to serve you. But only if you, when you’re fully informed, give your consent to your property agency and/or agent — also in writing.
So the responsibility to safeguard your interests falls not only on your property agent’s shoulders, but also on yours. You must actively work to protect yourself from any conflict or potential conflicts of interest by providing accurate and current information about your personal matters or finances to your agent. This is so that they can assess if there may be any potential conflicts of interest in the transaction process, and help you with your eligibility checks and financial planning.
Aside from checking their credibility with CEA, as mentioned above, another way you can protect yourself from any potential conflict of interest with a property agent is by looking at their reviews. They can give you a better idea of how consumers have rated their agent’s service and what they really think about working with them. You can go to our Facebook or Google Reviews to check what customers have to say about Ohmyhome property agents. With more than 8,000 happy customers served, we’ve garnered 5-star ratings on both platforms.
If you’re looking for a reliable and trustworthy agent who is knowledgeable about the property market, has the experience serving clients to back it up, and most importantly, has good character, Ohmyhome is here for you. CEO Rhonda Wong talks about the recruitment process for Ohmyhome Super Agents here.
You can secure an appointment with any of our Super Agents by dropping us a message in the chatbox at the bottom, right-hand corner of the screen. You can also drop us a message on WhatsApp and we’ll be in touch with you in less than 15 minutes.