I cannot imagine just how different life was before Facebook, Wikipedia, Google and iPhones. I mean, I’m (sadly!) old enough to remember those years but there are just so many things that have become easier over the past two decades. And it’s all thanks to the Internet. For example, with information so readily available online, it’s easier to save time and money when buying or selling your HDB flat.
Do you remember the days of finding property in the Classified Ads?
There used to be a time when the only way you could find out what properties were available was to scan pages and pages of tiny ads in some newspaper that barely described location and floor area. The brevity of the ads was because SPH charged per line, so if you were hoping to save money, you would resort to acronyms and shorthand to get your message across. Think of it as the original Twitter, except tweeting wasn’t free.
Not that those days are completely behind us, but in many ways, print classified ads will one day go the way of the dinosaur. The reason for this? Cost. You must pay a substantial fee to put up your listing – even a tiny ad (with a 3-line minimum) will cost you at least $36 per day. What’s worse, you don’t really know how many people will see it, so there’s no visibility about the effectiveness of your ad.
These days, most people buying and selling HDB flats have gone online. Veteran portals like PropertyGuru and iProperty.com have been around for almost a decade, while relatively newer sites like 99.co and DirectHome have come up in recent years to challenge for a share of the property market.
But that doesn’t really make buying or selling an HDB flat that much easier, or cheaper
Because at the end of the day, one of the biggest costs when buying or selling an HDB flat is the agent fee. You can expect to pay a property agent 1% to 2% of the purchase price, depending on whether you’re buying or selling respectively. And with median prices of HDB flats in the $400,000 to $600,000 range, that means an agent would typically cost you anything from $4,000 to $12,000 in commissions, depending on the transaction type.
That’s not cheap.
Today, where online property listings are free and the process of buying and selling an HDB flat isn’t that complicated, the question of whether you should be paying that much to an agent to do what you probably could do is a relevant one. Of course, there’s pros and cons to both sides of the argument.
Buying an HDB flat, for example, is much easier with the sites I mentioned earlier. Without taking too much time out of your schedule, you can easily see all the listings in your preferred area. Many of these sites provide enough details to make an educated guess if the property is right for you. It might not be worth paying an agent $4,000 to essentially do a similar search for you.
Selling your HDB flat, on the other hand is a simple, but lengthy process. An agent would make some of the stages easier, but are their services worth forking out almost $10,000 for? And if you want to use their services, but aren’t willing to fork out that 2% fee, you may risk an agent putting in less effort in selling your property.
Unfortunately, you often don’t have a choice between getting a property agent, or doing without.
This is where newly launched mobile app Ohmyhome looks to change the game
While websites like PropertyGuru mainly focus on attracting property agents to their site, and DirectHome provides a desktop platform and uses step-by-step guides for paperwork preparation and other tools to improve transparency for those hoping to go the DIY route, Ohmyhome ups the stakes in the property market by introducing a unique concept – offering the best of both worlds.
Just looking to buy or sell an HDB flat? You can place or search for listings directly with your phone for free. The mobile app is simple but stylish and allows you to filter properties by price, size and even floor level. And just in case you doubted how Singaporean the app is, you can even look for properties within 1km radius of your preferred Primary School (in order to help with Primary 1 registration) and within 2km radius of your parents’ home (in order to qualify for the Proximity Housing Grant).
A unique feature of the app also allows you to announce an Open House date for your HDB flat. This simple but crucial feature makes it easy for sellers to set a date and time where they are available to engage potential buyers. You can do it as often as you want, at your convenience. This way, you don’t have to keep finding convenient times where both you and potential buyers can arrange a viewing. Buyers can also filter their search for listings with upcoming Open House dates.
If you plan to go the DIY route, the whole process won’t cost you a thing, since the app is free to download and there is no cost for listing a property. The only limitation is that private properties are currently not listed, because the Ohmyhome founders want to focus on the HDB resale market.
No charge at all? How is Ohmyhome going to earn money then?
That’s the question I posed to the Ohmyhome founders, curious about how they were going to profit from this service. Later, I realised it was obvious. The real selling point of the app can be found in the “optional services” section, where they offer various services at below market rates.
You see, Ohmyhome is also a CEA-licensed property agency, and they offer Full Agent Services or just Documentation services at flat rates of $2,888 or $1,688 respectively.
I don’t need to spell out how much savings this already means, but say you’re hoping to sell your HDB flat at $350,000. Typically, the property agent’s commission is $7,000. Even with the Full Agent Services, you’re already saving over $4,000. But If you’ve already found a willing buyer or found that dream resale flat and don’t just don’t want to go through the paperwork, you can save even more by opting for their Documentation services alone.
Is Ohmyhome undercutting their own industry? Perhaps. But at least, in a time when the property market in Singapore is relatively weak, such a move encourages property transactions by allowing Singaporeans to have the best of both worlds. They can DIY their HDB flat buying or selling process as far as they want to for free, and whenever they want to engage the services of an agent for specific parts of the process, they can do it at a fraction of the usual cost.
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