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New HDB portal to be introduced to allow homeowners to advertise and list their own flats – what will happen to property agents?

Starting from Wednesday (11 September), first-time Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat buyers will receive more generous grants and flexibility in deciding the size of their flat and its location.

On top of that, the income ceilings to qualify to purchase a HDB flat for potential buyers has also been increased, for the first time in four years.

These changes were announced by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (10 September). He added that this new move will simplify the grant structure and raise the affordability for first-time buyers.

As for the types of grants, there are currently three types, namely the CPF Housing Grant of S$50,000, the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) of up to S$40,000, as well as the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) which is up to S$40,000.

For those who intend to buy Build-to-Orders flats, they may be entitled to the AHG and SHG, whereas for anyone who is looking to buy resale homes, they could receive the CPF Housing Grant and the AHG.

However, from Wednesday onwards, the AHG and SHG will be merged into a new one called Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG). The new EHG offers grant up to S$80, 000 and is available to all eligible buyers – regardless of whether they get a new or resale HDB flat.

Before this, the SHG was limited to only those who buy four-room or smaller flats in non-mature estates, but the new grant has no such restrictions.

As for income ceilings, Mr Wong said that the Government will increase it from S$12,000 to S$14,000 for HDB flats, and S$14,000 to S$16,000 for Executive Condominiums (ECs) respectively.

“The income ceiling for singles will be adjusted accordingly, which means that more homebuyers, more Singaporeans, first-timers, will have access to affordable housing options,” he added.

New HDB portal to be launched

Mr Wong also announced that a new HDB portal will be introduced soon where it will provide buyers with information on both new flats offered by HDB as well as resale flats, all in one platform.

Besides that, those who wish to sell their flats can also list and advertise it on their own, and complete the resale application on the portal.

“All this is work in progress, and we intend to get the new portal ready by the end of next year,” said the Minister.

Although the Government’s move is to help buyers, we can’t help but to think about the amount of jobs that will be affected when this portal is implemented.

Job disruption with new HDB portal

Technology may give a positive effect to most people, but it will definitely take a negative toll in the property industry.

According to an article by Storm Asia, it “estimated that technology could result in the loss of anywhere from $15 million to $30 million worth of legal fees and over $100 million worth of agency commissions annually”. This does not include the thousands of job losses among property agents.

In fact, when the HDB Resale Portal was introduced to streamline the resale transaction process, the majority of transaction no longer required a valuation report to be provided by a third-party valuation firm.

“We estimate that about 80% of the annual 20,000 resale transactions will not require an external valuation report. It also removes about 16,000 cases from the valuers’ desks,” the article stated.

If that’s not all, the HDB Resale Portal also led to fewer people needing lawyers as transactions are not done in courts. “We estimated that for 90% of resale transactions, lawyers would not be needed to represent the parties involved especially if bank loans were seamlessly integrated into the portal. Based on checks with lawyers, about 50 lawyers’ jobs could be reorganised with less conveyancing work for HDB transactions,” it stated.

Besides the need for property valuer and lawyers, the HDB Resale Portal also reduced the need for real estate agent in a property transaction.

“Currently, about 15,000 out of the 30,000 property agents are involved in HDB resale and HDB rentals. When HDB Resale Portal allows ‘buyers’ and ‘sellers’ to see each other for DIY transactions, up to 10,000 agents’ job will be affected. Of these, 5,000 might leave the industry altogether,” the article said.

With the implementation of HDB Resale Portal, close to 10,000 agents lost their jobs. If the Ministry launch another new HDB portal to allow sellers to list and advertise their own flats, then more property agents may lose their jobs.

As such, the question now remains if the Government will create more jobs for these people who would be displaced.

If that’s not all, with the possibility of more people in the property industry to be made redundant, would there be enough jobs created via existing and new industries to cover the loss?