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    Jul 24, 2014

    Agents fight for turf in Iskandar

    AS THE Iskandar region in Malaysia becomes more popular with buyers here, a turf war appears to have broken out between real-estate agents.

    Malaysian agents are extremely upset that their Singapore counterparts are muscling in on their market, and have accused them of flouting regulations.

    However, property experts in Singapore told My Paper that Malaysian developers themselves were reaching out to agents here to attract Singaporean buyers.

    S. Vadeveloo, chairman of the Johor branch of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents, was quoted in The Star Online yesterday as saying that it was illegal for Singapore agents to solicit customers in the Malaysian market.

    He said that these agents focused on Singaporeans looking to buy properties in Malaysia.

    Local real-estate agents called negotiators must be registered with the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia, he said.

    A registered negotiator has an identification tag that must be displayed when conducting business, he added. Singapore agents fell foul of this, he said.

    "The commission gained from a transaction goes into their pocket and they escape paying tax to the (Malaysian) Inland Revenue Board," added Mr Vadeveloo.

    But it is the burgeoning popularity of Iskandar, as well as practical reasons, that have led to this stand-off, experts told My Paper.

    Said Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of Singapore real estate agency PropNex Realty: "In the past two years, there have been more Singaporeans buying property there, and, obviously, Singapore clients are more comfortable with Singapore agents."

    He gave an example of how he chanced upon a Singaporean agent's banner hanging at a house in Malaysia, and found out that the agent was trying to sell it on behalf of his Singapore client.

    Interest in Iskandar has meant a threefold jump in the number of Singapore citizens buying property there in the past two years, he said.

    But he acknowledged that laws in Malaysia should be respected, and questioned whether a banner should be allowed to be hung. It is not allowed in Singapore, he said.

    Another reason Singapore agents ended up in the Malaysian market, he said, was that developers there were interested in buyers here, and tied up directly with Singapore agencies.

    "If Singapore agents were to share the pie with Malaysia agents, they wouldn't have a lot of incentive. They may earn more selling a three-room HDB flat," he said.

    Nicholas Mak, executive director of the research and consultancy department at SLP International Property Consultants, said that Malaysia might need to try to come up with reasonable criteria for Singapore agents to work in their market.

    In Malaysia, unlawful representation by a broker is punishable by a fine of up to RM300,000 (about S$117,000) or a jail term of up to three years, or both, under the Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Act 1981.