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Can you sell your HDB or private property without an agent?

Ask The Property Expert: Selling without an agent eliminates any property agent fees, but is it advisable?

Back view of an Asian couple looking to buy a new home, possibly a HDB flat, in a meeting with a real estate agent.
Can you sell your HDB or private property without an agent? (PHOTO: Getty) (Koh Sze Kiat via Getty Images)

Question:

Can you sell your Housing and Development Board (HDB) unit or private property without an agent? Is it advisable?

Answer:

Homeowners can independently sell their properties through platforms like Carousell, 99.co, or via newspaper ads or social media. This method, said Propseller's Inside Sales team lead Jesslyn Yap, is known as the Do-It-Yourself (DIY), or "For Sale By Owner" (FSBO), approach. It could potentially save you money by eliminating property agent fees, provided you manage to sell at the same price as an agent would have, she said.

For instance, typically in Singapore, commissions paid by the seller to his or her agent tend to start at 2 per cent of the sale price.

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Owners of HDB flats also have HDB checklists and guidelines they can follow.

"We have heard of clients who achieved success using DIY approaches. However, those who found success were often repeat sellers familiar with the process and paperwork, and were dealing with straightforward transactions," Yap added.

Yap's company, Propseller, prides itself in having property agents who are "selected based on their exceptional track record, and have on average 11 years of experience". "Furthermore, the agents are backed by a highly experienced team of specialists who handle property marketing, photography, copywriting, valuation and several other complex tasks," the company said on its website.

Sellers' knowledge of the real estate industry and its workings, and risk appetite, are important factors, Yap said.

Role of a property agent

A significant drawback of FSBO is the inability to list properties on major real estate platforms like PropertyGuru, which is limited to property agents. "This restriction limits your access to a diverse, high-quality pool of potential buyers. To gain the needed visibility and accelerate the selling process, engaging a professional real estate agent can be beneficial. They (should) not only post your listing on multiple property portals but also invest in ensuring your listing remains visible," Yap said.

An agent's role extends beyond simply listing properties: They guide you through the intricate, time-consuming process of property transactions, which includes planning, valuation, marketing, and closing.

"Moreover, agents have a wide network of potential buyers, increasing the chances of competitive offers and finding the right buyer for your property," Yap explained. "Some firms, like Propseller, have taken this network approach one step further by consolidating a network of (co-broke) agents that get access to listings even before they're out on the market, increasing the visibility of your unit significantly."

What is the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA)?

In Singapore, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) – a statutory board under the Ministry of National Development – is empowered to administer the regulatory framework for the real estate agency industry.

"In addition, CEA is committed to raise the professionalism of the real estate agency industry through collaborative efforts with the industry on professional development programmes and protect the interests of the consumers through targeted public education schemes," CEA said on its website.

How do you pick a property agent in Singapore?

All property agents in Singapore must be registered with CEA through a licensed property agency. Each registered property agent has a unique CEA registration number. It is an offence for any individual to carry out estate agency work without valid registration.

Before engaging an agent, you can visit the CEA public register to check your property agent's registration status and past property transactions. You will be able to verify:

  • If the agent has a valid registration;

  • The agent's name, CEA registration number and phone number;

  • The agency's name and licence number;

  • All residential property transactions the agent has closed within the last two years, and which parties they represented;

  • The agent's industry accolades and awards; and

  • If the agent had any disciplinary records within the last two years.

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