Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015


I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

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Not Bad For One At Two

November 26, 2012

Last month, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) turned two. Happy Birthday, CEA!

How has the new regulatory body shaped up? To find out, a Public Perception Survey was carried out recently. The survey findings seem to suggest that the CEA, at two, has fared not too badly.

First, what used to be regarded almost as a ‘cowboy’ industry is now characterised by a more systematic and professional process of proper registration of salespersons and licensing of estate agents by the CEA.

Second, of the more than 100,000 property transactions each year, complaints made up one per cent of the cases.

Third, eight out of ten consumers (buyers and sellers) surveyed were satisfied with the services provided by their salespersons. And seven of them plan to recommend their salespersons to others. Many consumers also found their salespersons to be “courteous, contactable and responsive to queries”.

But there were areas for improvement. Consumers would prefer their salespersons to improve their industry knowledge so as to be able to provide enhanced advice pertaining to the property transactions.

The survey also covered the Key Executive Officers and salespersons. Many of them found CEA’s regulatory measures effective in raising professionalism in the industry. Practically everyone felt that the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities were useful in upgrading their professional standards.

All in all, this is a good start. But the real estate industry is a dynamic one. Salespersons would need to embrace continuous learning to stay relevant and bring value to their clients. The transformation of the industry has only just begun.


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Meeting diverse demands

February 13, 2012

Recently, I posted a blog on CEA’s first year of operation.  In response, many Singaporeans offered valuable feedback and suggestions.  I thank you all.

Not surprisingly, there were differing views on some subjects:

  •  Some wanted to prohibit real estate agents from handling HDB resale transactions;
  • Others demanded the opposite: a stop to DIY resale transactions;
  • Some called for greater protection of consumers from estate agents;
  • Others appealed for protection of estate agents from consumers who do not discharge their commitments.

But there were many common calls:

  • To improve on dispute resolution mechanism;
  • To improve the quality of Continuing Professional Development courses;
  • To raise the minimum education qualification of salespersons;
  • To enhance public education for consumers.

We will study the ideas and see what are practical.

My bias will be towards the consumers, but to do so in a fair manner.

For instance, I don’t think it is appropriate to prohibit agents from handling HDB resale transactions.  Neither is it necessary to mandate that all resale HDB transactions should be via agents.

Indeed, HDB does not mandate owners to go through an agent to close a deal.  Last year, one in ten conducted their resale transactions the DIY way.

HDB provides a useful DIY checklist to help short cut the process.  In its ongoing consumer education efforts, CEA will help owners better understand their rights and responsibilities if they decide to go DIY.

Should owners decide to engage a salesperson to help them, the amount of commission is something that can be determined between the owner and the salesperson.   However, CEA does encourage the use of the Estate Agency Agreement form to put on record the amount of commission agreed by both parties from the start.  This will avoid future disputes.

Where there is a dispute arising from the Estate Agency Agreement, parties can make use of CEA’s dispute resolution schemes.  Some have suggested shortening the time frame for dispute resolution.  CEA will look into this.

The industry itself can and should do more.  CEA will encourage salespersons caught in disputes to turn to their companies and KEOs for guidance in the first instance.  But if there is evidence of an infringement of CEA’s regulations and policies, CEA will promptly investigate and take appropriate actions against the errant salespersons.

Meanwhile, CEA will introduce more courses for its 30,000 registered salespersons to meet their diverse learning needs and the dynamic nature of the market.

At one year old, CEA is still growing in capability and capacity.  There is more work ahead, and if done well, CEA can make a positive difference.

We are united on one common aim, and that is to continue to raise the professionalism of the industry.  That will be win-win all round.


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A Very Busy First Year

January 30, 2012

We set up the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) to raise the professionalism of the industry so as to better protect consumer interest. CEA has now completed its first full year.

It was a busy first year – licensing more than 1,500 estate agents, registering over 33,000 salespersons, setting industry practice guidelines, conducting examinations, organising consumer talks, publishing its first consumer guide, and handling over 1,400 complaints.

Out of the many complaints received, CEA has closed more than 75% of the cases.  Many letters of advice and warnings were issued.  A handful of cases ended up in court or face disciplinary hearings.

We are grateful for the strong support from the industry and the public.  Many have welcomed the regulation and its enforcement.

It takes time to build consumer trust and to fully professionalise the industry, which had been largely unregulated in the past.

We had a good one year, but it is only the first step.

Let us now build on this foundation.  I have asked CEA to press ahead on several fronts.  First, see how the Estate Agency Work Regulations can be further refined.  Second, improve on industry development, especially in Continuing Professional Development and ethics. Third, do more on consumer education so that consumers know their rights and responsibilities, and how to conduct sale/purchase transactions with due diligence.  Fourth, continue to consult and address the industry’s concerns.

As an example, we are reviewing the CEA-Dispute Resolution Mechanism to see how we can incorporate the Small Claims Tribunals to facilitate resolution.

Please continue to support the CEA.  Share your suggestions on how CEA can better serve your needs.

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