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New app shakes up property market that cuts out middleman

New app shakes up property market that cuts out middleman.

After being hit by a lean spell that saw the number of licensed agents in the Republic fall to its lowest since 2011, the real estate agency business is set for another shake-up, with the entrance of a mobile application that seeks to eliminate hefty agent commission fees.

OhMyHome provides a platform for Housing and Development Board (HDB) dwellers — sellers and buyers, landlords and tenants — to transact directly with one another without going through an agent.

If they require help with paperwork or prefer the full services of an agent, they can choose from either a S$1,688 or S$2,888 package — significantly lower than the 1-2 per cent commission typically paid in a HDB resale transaction.

The idea behind this latest venture is hardly new in an era where technology and innovation are disrupting the traditional way of doing business. In Malaysia, Speedrent was birthed as a platform to cut out the middlemen in the housing rental market and in the United States, Allre allows buyers and sellers to handle real estate transactions completely online.

Mr Lyon Poh, head of digital + innovation at KPMG in Singapore, said that while all start-ups aspire to disrupt the “inefficiencies in the market”, few have been able to replace existing market participants entirely.

“In the case of property agencies, the role of such intermediaries extend beyond just ‘matchmaking’ but will also include the ‘trusted adviser’ element of the agent-and-client relationships,” he said, adding that incumbents’ expertise and experience can continue to be relevant if they become more innovative and agile as well.

However, some agents told TODAY their livelihoods may be negatively impacted given that disruptors such as OhMyHome are entering the scene at a time when transaction volumes are hit by cooling measures and loan curbs.

Mr Marcus Chu, chief operating officer of Singapore’s largest real estate agency ERA, said the emergence of start-ups in the industry underscores the need for existing players to re-invent and future-proof existing business models to serve today’s savvy consumers.

“Over the years we have seen many new start-ups trying to tap into the property market. Some are targeted at consumers and some are targeted at real estate professionals ... Today’s tech-savvy consumers expect to be more informed in a transparent market and they want ease of access to genuine property listings and data,” he said.

Adapted from: TODAY, 18 August 2016