Singaporeans are pretty risk-averse when it comes to quitting their safe jobs and striking it out on their own. Hence, it’s unsurprising that those rumours that real estate agents earn big bucks have resulted in lots of people getting an agents’ licence, but still hanging on for dear life to their day jobs.
And amidst those horror stories of agents quitting to become hawkers, everyone’s doubtful as to whether there’s still money to be earned in property sales. So just how viable is dabbling in real estate part-time? We spoke to Stanley Tan, who helms PropNex team Principium, to see what he had to say.
What’s the pay like?
This is probably the section most people will zoom in on before even considering this gig, so here you go.
Property agents typically earn commission of 1% on the property price for facilitating the purchase or sale of private property, 2% the sale of HDB property and 1% for the purchase HDB property. They are not allowed to collect commission for both sale and purchase in the same transaction.
Now, 1% doesn’t sound too impressive, until you consider the insanely high prices of private property in Singapore. Close a $1m condo deal and you get a cool $10,000.
Bear in mind that any amounts you spend on advertising and promotion of your services will have to come out of your own pocket, too.
What do you have to do?
As a property agent, you won’t have an office to go to everyday, nor will you have a boss breathing down your neck telling you what to do and that your new tie is hideous. If you’re looking for a blueprint to guide you, a set of instructions to passively follow or a no-brainer “Ten Year Series” to practise with, you’re not going to find it here.
Accordingly to Stanley, your day-to-day tasks will vary a great deal depending on what type of property you specialise in.
Some agents specialise in new launches (eg. new condo developments), which means they participate in lots of on-the-ground activities as they try to locate buyers for hundreds of new condo units.
“You can probably expect to be doing roadshows, walkabouts, door-knocking and flyer distribution,” says Stanley. “Some specialists usually devise their own ways of marketing these developments online.”
There’s also a growing pool of agents specialising in relocation, which means they work with incoming expatriates and landlords. They agents need to have intimate knowledge of the expat communities, their preferred areas and the issues they’re concerned about. “You may have to deal with the logistics of the move itself, and assist and advise them on matters relating to life and culture in Singapore in general,” says Stanley.
With the cooling measures making the market sluggish and technology slowly but surely muscling in on agents’ market share, Stanley predicts that new agents’ success will increasingly depend on innovation. It’s no longer enough just to give out flyers and spam everyone with SMSes.
How much does it cost?
On the road to becoming a full-fledged real estate agent, you’ll need to foot the following costs:
- Real Estate Salesperson (RES) course – generally in the $700++ region at the various centres
- RES exam – $246.10
- Registration fee to become a Real Estate Salesperson – $53.30 + $230 annual fee = $283.30
- Total: A minimum of $1,300
The agency or team you decide to join will usually help to arrange for all of the above, as well as invite you to attend their own in-house training sessions.
In addition, bear in mind that owning a car is going to make your life way easier as you’ll be able to ferry your clients from property to property. If you really can’t afford a car, you can rely on taxis, though if you have a lot of appointments to get to this might end up being more expensive in the long run.
Is it worth doing it part-time?
So, the million dollar question is… is being a real estate agent a viable part-time job in Singapore?
Well, the fact is that doing real-estate, whether part-time or full-time, is not a fail-proof endeavour. If job security is a top priority, you’re better off looking for a job in the civil service.
But Stanley believes that the bearing the costs of becoming a part-time agent can be worthwhile, as long as you have another income source to keep you going, provided the Council for Real Estate Agencies doesn’t suddenly wake up grouchy and decide to impose minimum annual sales figures for those who hold a real estate licence (which might be a reality soon).
However, just because you’re only doing this on a part-time basis doesn’t mean you can just sit back and hope that one fine day one of your friends is going to send you a Facebook message out of the blue inviting you to help him sell his twenty million dollar penthouse.
Stanley advises, “Anyone who wants to do this, whether on a part- or full-time basis, needs to be fully committed to the industry’s best practices, professional ethics and the continual development of one’s domain expertise.”
He cautions more than once that the market is evolving, and more and more information is being made available online. This means that agents both new and old have to step up their game if they want to remain relevant in the next few years.
He adds, “I believe in the following 3-prong formula for a successful career in real estate brokerage:
- Commitment in terms of time and effort in addressing increasingly sophisticated clients and their needs.
- Entrenching oneself in a specialised niche (asset type, geography, client profile, business model) that is recognised by the market’s willingness to engage you.
- Having a business mentor who can value-add to your franchise, beyond guiding you in basic vanilla transaction processes and documentation, by elevating your level of play through access to his business insights and networks.
Basically, you can succeed as a part-time agent—but you’re going to have work hard, find new ways to beat the competition and continually evaluate your strategies.
Have you ever considered becoming a part-time real estate agent? Tell us why or why not in the comments.
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