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    Jan 23, 2015

    Property market woes take toll on agents

    A COOLING property market has deterred new real estate agents from entering the industry - and more are choosing to let their licences lapse, figures from the Council for Estate Agencies revealed yesterday.

    As at Jan 1, after the latest annual licence renewal exercise, there were 30,830 "registered salespersons" or property agents, down from 31,783 last year.

    Of these, 3,006 were new entrants, down from 3,336 last year and 4,567 the previous year.

    PropNex Realty chief executive Mohamad Ismail Gafoor was "unsurprised" by the fall in interest, given the recent slowdown in both the private and public property markets.

    "When people know that existing agents are struggling, they don't want to join," he said.

    The number of Housing Board resale deals hit a record low in 2013 (18,100) and was on track to hit a new low for last year.

    Resale deals also fell in the private market last year, while new private sales were the worst since the financial crisis of 2008.

    Amid these conditions, the number of licensed estate agencies fell to 1,369, from 1,425 last year.

    And more agents have been leaving the industry.

    There were 3,959 who chose not to renew their registration this year, compared to 3,382 who left last year.

    Yet the pool of agents is still larger than in 2012, even though the market is cooler.

    "There are still a lot of agents around. It's hard to find any exclusive listings," said Huttons Asia agent Jesyi Lim.

    Some agents have responded by diversifying.

    When OrangeTee agent Ivy Chan started out three years ago, she only handled homes. But last year, she branched out to industrial and commercial units as well.

    "Because of the cooling measures, things changed drastically. There was really little to do (in the residential market)," she recalled.

    The move paid off. She added: "Last year, I actually did better than the year before."

    Others have chosen to carve out a niche.

    Dennis Wee Realty agent Adrian Ng specialises in HDB resale flats in Bedok. "It's more focused," he said.

    Property agencies have also been doing their part to retain their staff.

    Since 2013, PropNex Realty has paid for its agents' training fees if they renew their licences and stay with the company.

    Agents must have at least six hours of continuing professional development training each year in order to renew their registration.