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Real estate ITM aimed at improving efficiencies, not replace jobs: Tan Chuan-Jin

SPEAKER of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin on Thursday said that the objective of the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) is to improve the efficiency of property transactions, not replace jobs.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the 2018 ERA Asia Pacific Business Conference, he said: "We don't set out to take away jobs; that's not the objective."

He acknowledged that agents may think the government "heartless" in its moves to switch up the industry. For instance, some industry professionals last October had worried that the new HDB online resale portal may render redundant the jobs of buy-side property agents and small valuation firms.

But Mr Tan maintained that the end-goal remains to improve the quality of life for all Singaporeans, including by making property transactions more pain-free. This is especially given that for most Singaporeans, property purchases make up the single biggest transaction they make in their lifetimes, and a lot of savings go into purchasing homes.

"In the process of every policy, there are pluses and there are also minuses but when we only wear our hats, when we are only concerned about me and myself, and my profession and my job, then obviously this is not a good thing. Why not we stay in the old days where we don't have all this automation, so that we have a job?"

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Yet, he added that Singapore needs to maintain its relevance in this world.

"Technology is here to stay. We can pretend that it doesn't exist; we can ask for regulations to regulate the space so it doesn't affect particular interest groups, but you very quickly realise that it affects all of us in many different ways...

"I know that some of you may be concerned: Is this going to cut me out of the whole transaction process? And we know from surveys as well that increasingly there are more people who, if they don't have to deal with an agent,would rather do it via some of these portals."

The solution then could be for real estate agents to keep with the times and upgrade their skills, moving from "tour-guide" roles of showing buyers around units, to advising their property purchase decisions.

"You can see the tensions in many other countries - blaming foreigners, blaming trade regulations, but you will not be able to stem the tide. Because the truth is that technological transformation is happening everywhere else, and even if you (shield yourself from it) for a while, it is transforming other countries. Because of technology, a lot of services can be provided from elsewhere as well.

"So it behoves us to embrace this," he said.

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