More measures are being taken to raise the professionalism of the real estate agency industry.
The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) on Wednesday issued two practice guidelines to promote ethical advertising in the real estate agency industry and to guide the use of prescribed estate agency agreements.
According to the new guidelines effective from 1 August, misleading headlines and claims such as "advance loans available", "real estate specialist" and "king of XX (name of estate)" will not be allowed in advertisements and publicity collaterals.
The guidelines were developed in consultation with estate agents, industry associations, government bodies such as the HDB, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).
They are applicable to all modes of advertisements, including classified advertisements, pamphlets or flyers, online advertising, short messaging services (SMS) and the social media.
In addition, estate agents and salespersons will have to display their details such as name, registration number and contact number. SMS text advertisements must provide a mobile telephone number for consumers to opt out of future SMS advertisements. There should not be any SMS advertising or cold calling after 10pm.
Advertisements will also have to contain accurate information. Claims such as rates of return and yield rates must be indicated and substantiated. Photographs and graphics will also have to be accurate depictions.
Mr Lee Say Kee, the chairman of CEA's ethical advertising workgroup, said that misleading and unauthorised advertisements are among the top three categories of public complaints. To date, the CEA has issued 23 letters of advice to estate agents and salespersons on such complaints, he said.
Mr Lee said the guidelines will provide clarity on the dos and don'ts of advertising, thereby raising professional and ethical standards in the industry.
Mr Eugene Lim, ERA Realty Network's executive director, said this guideline strongly recommends that estate agents and their clients sign an agreement clarifying the duties of the agent, amongst other things.
He said: "Previously there was none. And even if there was, it was all in different formats. So now there is only one standard format and basically it is quite protective of the customer. It will also make the agents' job easier, because at the end of the day, you don't need to explain too much, it is a standard form."
Welcoming the CEA guidelines, PropNex Realty's senior group district director, David Poh, said: "We welcome this because it only makes our property agents more professional. In return we will serve our clients better. At the end of the day, we actually get a bigger share."
Other agents said the CEA's move is a positive step towards tidying up an industry that has been left ungoverned for too long.
Disciplinary action may be taken against anyone flouting the two guidelines.
The CEA said this may range from warning letters and fines to even suspension of the estate agent's licence, depending on the severity of the case.
Both guidelines are available on CEA's website at http://www.cea.gov.sg/
So advertising that proclaims oneself as the "Real Estate Specialist" or "King of The Hill" may be a thing of the past soon.
But what about "Property Expert" or maybe... "Property Guru"