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    Dec 27, 2013

    Agents puff and pant as housing deals dry up

    COOLING measures have turned property agent Sanam Mahesh Daswani into a "chaser" of clients, instead of a clincher of deals.

    In the past, her cellphone used to ring off the hook with eager buyers. Now, she needs to prod clients relentlessly before they make a purchase.

    And when they do decide to view a property, she is then chased by desperate seller agents eager to close the deal, even if it means selling at lower prices.

    "Before they (buyers) came to us, now we have to follow them. And we need more patience now, because they take longer to decide," said Ms Sanam, 43.

    She is not alone in her situation.

    As resale prices for non-landed private homes reached their lowest for this year last month, real-estate agents are taking the hit. For some, deals in the sector have slipped by as much as 50 per cent.

    Agent Frederick Chia, 43, said that he had to sell a 1,200 sq ft condominium unit in Changi Court for $1.22 million two months ago, a figure lower than its market rate of about $1.3 million.

    Even so, his client "could have lost more".

    "I don't think we would have been able to obtain that (same) price today," noted Mr Chia, whose monthly sales from the sector have nearly halved in recent months.

    Resale prices of non-landed private residential units have softened by 1.5 per cent, marking a third consecutive monthly drop in the overall resale price index. This is 4.1 per cent down from the price peak in February.

    An estimated 387 non-landed homes were resold last month - 22.9 per cent down from October's 502 units sold.

    For boutique real-estate consultancy M.O.R.E. Property, private-property transactions took the hardest hit in the Core Central Region, with a decrease of about 35 to 50 per cent, said chief executive and key executive officer Shawn Tan.

    Curbs on loans have hit hard. Plus, there is more supply and competition in the market.

    Agent Alfred Yap, 44, pointed out that even sales for new condominium developments have been "slow", especially in prime areas where units that are at least 1,000 sq ft are priced at about $3,000 to $4,000 per sq ft.

    "It takes about two months to close a deal for these developments, which used to be snapped up by keen buyers as quickly as a week after the launch, or even on the spot," said Mr Yap.

    Sales people are experiencing "more stand-off between buyers and sellers, where buyers are more price-conscious but sellers are still holding on to prices", noted executive director of DWG Andy Choa.

    Mr Jeff Foo, president of the Institute of Estate Agents, said: "Fewer transactions mean tougher times for (estate agents)."

    They also spend more on ads to push deals.

    Mr Foo added that this means some agents are thinking of exiting the industry. But he advises against it, pointing out that it is "not easy to come back once (an agent) has given up his licence to practise".