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3 biggest property agencies band together to form online platform for agents, consumers

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ERA Realty CEO Jack Chua: 'We wanted to create an effective platform that can provide transparent and fast information that would be beneficial for consumers, salespersons and even property developers.'

SINGAPORE'S three biggest property agencies have joined forces for the first time to launch an online platform for agents and consumers to provide the latest information for their real estate needs and to tackle the current challenges they face with existing property portals.

This inaugural collaboration between PropNex Realty, ERA Realty and Huttons Asia comes on the heels of proposals under the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) to future-proof the sector.

Named SoReal, this concept was first mooted in early 2016 by these agencies' chiefs as they gathered feedback from agents on the current challenges faced when subscribing to property portals for their business.

Some of the challenges include duplicated listings, high subscription, increasing fees and outdated information that is not refreshed in real-time.

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ERA Realty CEO Jack Chua said: "In times of digital disruptions, the three of us knew that the time is right to work together, embrace innovation and technology and add value to industry stakeholders.

"We wanted to create an effective platform that can provide transparent and fast information that would be beneficial for consumers, salespersons and even property developers."

Speaking at the launch of SoReal, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee noted that this is a timely and positive move for the industry amid a surge of property-related online portals and services, disrupting traditional players in the real estate transaction services sector.

"It is also a good indication of the kind of healthy ground-up initiatives that are taking place and shows the strong desire of players from within the industry to ride the transformation wave," Mr Lee said.

SoReal will be the company governing the data as a central bank. Together with other real estate agencies, it will form a property consortium of the respective agencies and their leaders. In this way, these agencies share live data on the platform while their agents can benefit from the initiative.

This industry-led initiative, first announced to other agencies last Friday, has found traction with seven other agencies that have since agreed to join the partnership - namely Savills, C&H, HSR International, SRI, Global Alliance Property, CBRE and SLP International. Talks are underway to bring other agencies onboard.

The 10 property agencies, the Singapore Estate Agents Association, Institute of Estate Agents Singapore and the KEO Connect signed a partnership agreement on Monday to join the SoReal platform.

Under the SoReal umbrella, there will be two different apps and a portal - RealAgent app, RealHome app and the SoReal Prop portal.

Real estate agents can consolidate their apps to a single platform. Besides retrieving more real-time information, they can also generate detailed property reports, manage client queries, schedule appointments and even request to attend open houses online. The sharing of property information, listings and documents can be done seamlessly via the portal.

The RealAgent app has also incorporated the recent checklist for the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism, which salespersons can use digitally for their transactions. Access to the RealAgent app will be free for all real estate salespersons for a year and will subsequently be priced affordably.

For property buyers and sellers in Singapore, the RealHome app will allow them to search for listings, connect to the respective agents and even review or rate the agents after a successful transaction. The RealHome app is still at testing stage.

In the long-run, the ground feedback derived from the usage of the portal could serve to improve processes in order to provide seamless and secure transactions for consumers.

One of the key goals of the real estate ITM, announced last month, is to fully digitalise property transactions. To this end, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) is leading a workgroup consisting of key government agencies and industry representatives. The top three agencies' leaders are part of the new Digitalised Property Transactions Workgroup led by the CEA.

Huttons Asia CEO Goh Kee Nguan said that it is important that agencies embrace technology as disruptive players emerge from within and outside the industry.

PropNex CEO Ismail Gafoor stressed that the initiative is not out to "kill" other property portals. But it's about taking data and giving back to agents with a "different motive" - not for profit-making but to raise the productivity and value-add of property agents.

It is also no longer sufficient for agents to just tap digital platforms alone but to perform a more advisory role. This means they need to have in-depth market knowledge to advise clients effectively, Mr Gafoor said.