Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for National Development and Finance at Singapore Estate Agents Conference on 19 May
May 19, 2023
1. It is a great pleasure to be here today with all of you. Thank you for inviting me to this Conference.
2. Today’s conference theme is: “Uplifting Professionalism in Real Estate Industry: Staying Ahead of Evolving Trends”.
3. It is a timely and relevant theme, given how business models are being disrupted and how technology is changing professions and industries. The real estate sector is no exception.
4. In my speech today, I would like to touch on 3 key areas:
a. First, our property market;
b. Second, the real estate agency industry and what we must do to bring it to the next level; and
c. Third, Singapore’s future and the role that you can play.
Updates on housing market
5. Over the past 2 years, we experienced severe supply-side pressures across both private and public housing markets due to disruptions caused by COVID.
a. Our BTO Building Programme was delayed as construction work was significantly impacted by worker shortages, and disruptions to the supply of construction materials.
b. At the same time, amidst tight supply conditions, there was a broad-based increase in demand for housing across the echo-boomer generation getting married, as well as societal trends shifting to smaller households, as young couples, singles, and adult children choose to buy their own homes instead of living with their parents. Buyers also started turning to the resale market to avoid waiting.
6. The result, as we have seen, was sharp price increases for both public and private properties. Hence, the Government stepped in and implemented a series of measures to address the supply and demand imbalances.
7. For public housing, we are catching up on our construction schedule and closing the gap caused by COVID-related delays.
a. As of March 2023, HDB has successfully delivered about 60% of the delayed BTO projects over the last 2 years. HDB is working hard to deliver the remaining projects.
b. We are also ramping up on our BTO supply, by launching up to 100,000 flats from 2021 to 2025, including more flats with shorter waiting times.
c. We have also introduced a series of cooling measures to moderate demand in the HDB resale market.
8. We are beginning to see signs that the public housing market may be stabilising.
a. In the February 2023 BTO sales launch, HDB received the lowest number of flat applications since Sep 2019. HDB resale prices also saw its smallest increase last quarter in more than two years.
b. We will continue to monitor the situation, but our people can rest assured that the government is committed to ensuring a stable property market, and affordable public housing for Singaporeans.
9. For private housing, after two rounds of measures in Dec 2021 and Sep 2022 to moderate demand and encourage greater fiscal prudence, we raised the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rates for some categories of property buyers to moderate local and foreign investment demand for property, so as to prioritise Singaporeans’ owner-occupation needs.
a. We acted pre-emptively, as investment demand for residential property would likely have continued to grow without intervention. If we did nothing, the market would have run ahead of the fundamentals. So it was necessary for us to step in.
b. Should the price momentum continue unabated, amidst slowing economic growth and elevated interest rates, private housing prices could run ahead of economic fundamentals, risking a sustained increase in prices relative to incomes. We do not want this to happen, hence the recent ABSD intervention.
10. Right now, the measures are working their way through the market. We are keeping a close watch on the broader economic environment as well as trends in the property market, and will adjust our policies as necessary, to promote a stable and sustainable property market.
11. Moving on to the rental market, we know there is concern among renters on the rental market situation.
a. Our rental markets were not spared from the exceptional imbalances brought on by COVID. Rents for private homes surged by 29.7% in 2022 and rents for HDB flats also experienced high growth as well.
12. However, we expect pressures in the rental market to ease in the coming quarters. There is a significant number of private and public residential units coming onstream over the next few years.
a. This year alone, there will be almost 40,000 home completions across the public and private residential markets – the highest number of home completions in the last 5 years. Over the next three years, about 100,000 residential units will be completed.
13. When these new homes are ready for occupation, households who are temporarily renting while awaiting the completion of their new homes will vacate their rental units. This will also help to moderate rental demand and stabilise rents.
14. There has already been signs of lower interest in rentals since the start of this year. Rents also grew at a slower pace in the last quarter. We will continue to watch this closely.
Enhancements to the real estate industry and boosting professionalism
15. Land, property and housing are important is land-scarce Singapore. They constitute a significant part of the nation’s wealth and assets, anchor our economy, constitute our homes, and contribute to our revenues through stamp duties and property taxes.
16. This makes all of you very important – because you are the ones that move properties, make transactions happen and advise your clients.
17. You are sometimes referred to as property agents, but given the role you have to carry out it would be more accurate and appropriate to refer to you as real estate professionals and I hope that going forward this is a term that you will embrace with all that it connotes and demands.
18. The hallmarks of a professional are (a) expertise and (b) trust.
19. As real estate professionals, you play a vital role in advising and guiding consumers in their journey to acquiring homes and properties.
a. Consumers rely on you for the latest news, research and to navigate the complexities of the market. They rely on you to act in their best interests, conduct fair negotiations and advise them so that they can make financially prudent yet rewarding decisions.
20. To do all this, you must be knowledgeable not just about the properties that you are marketing, but also about the applicable laws and regulations, and the latest housing policies and their underlying rationale.
21. You must also keep abreast of developments in the property market and understand their implications. Above all, you must be transparent, honest and ethical in your dealings. That, as you all know, is how trust is earned.
22. You must also evolve and grow as trends and circumstances change. As technology advances, you will have to keep up with it too. Generative AI will change the face of many industries. It will change yours as well.
23. ChatGPT is only the beginning. As information becomes more accessible, your clients’ own knowledge will grow and their expectation of the real estate transaction industry will also increase. Continual upskilling and learning is key to matching up to these expectations, so that you can enhance your professionalism and knowledge and bring yourselves individually, and the sector as a whole, to the next level.
24. Over the past few weeks, we have sought feedback from your industry’s stakeholders on ways to enhance the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) ecosystem, under Project ADEPT. There are 3 main outcomes we want to achieve from this study:
a. First, we want to raise the professionalism and prepare the real estate industry for the future;
b. Second, we want to enhance the quality of CPD training for property agents; and
c. We want to promote and cultivate a continuous learning mindset so that we are all ready to embrace the future.
25. We have received valuable feedback on how we can improve the CPD ecosystem and will look into it. Thank you for being part of this process and helping to shape the outcome.
26. While we are on this topic, let me take the opportunity to share with you briefly on what you can expect going forward.
a. With effect from October 2025, we will be increasing the required CPD training to 16 training hours, with an ultimate target of achieving 24 training hours per year.
b. We recognise that learning transcends traditional classroom settings. With this in mind, we have redefined the training requirements to include a blend of structured learning and self-directed learning. This approach aims to offer you greater flexibility, which I know is important to many of you. Because this way, you can pursue a personalised path, expand learning opportunities and foster a culture of self-learning. So I encourage you to take ownership of your self-learning journey and embrace a culture of lifelong learning, and a growth mindset. It really is very necessary in this day and age, to make sure that you do not get left behind and more importantly, to make sure that you are fully plugged into all that is happening and therefore, your horizons constantly expand.
c. We will also introduce training requirement in prescribed essential topics in areas critical to the industry, develop differentiated learning paths and a competency guide to better support the diverse learning needs of different individuals.
d. We will enhance the accreditation criteria and course instructional design requirements for CPD courses and adopt a more rigorous audit framework to ensure a consistently high level of quality.
e. We will increase the transparency of course participants’ feedback by allowing them to submit their feedback to CEA directly. CEA will then publish such feedback on its website for all to access.
f. Lastly, CEA will work with the Institutes of Higher Learning and Industry Associations to identify and introduce relevant courses that could lead to formal certification of the training received by property agents.
27. CEA will provide further details on these enhanced measures aimed at improving the CPD ecosystem. Our goal is to strengthen the trust of your clients in the advice and services you provide, and to help guide them in making informed choices that align with their long-term interests and needs.
28. Besides enhancements to Project ADEPT, we have also made good progress on efforts to boost the industry’s professionalism and digitalisation under the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map.
29. I would like to thank SEAA for playing an important role in this transformation journey.
a. As a co-lead for the Alliance for Action (AfA) on Accurate Property Listings, SEAA is working with the 5 largest property agencies and major property portals to develop a prototype IT system to tackle the longstanding problem of dummy, unauthorised, inaccurate and duplicate property listings.
b. SEAA is also the Deputy Chair for the Digitalised Property Transactions Workgroup, which aims to create a comprehensive digital service journey for property transactions by integrating the various government agencies’ property-related portals.
30. When all these are in place, real estate professionals and consumers will enjoy a more seamless, secure and efficient property transaction service experience.
31. All professionals, too, struggle with changes in their industry, having to adapt and change. But the good thing out of this is that if you see it as a learning journey and continually expand your skillsets and knowledge, it becomes an exciting journey. The ultimate reward at the end of the day, is when you are able to do even better, expand your client base and business, and do well for yourselves and your companies.
Our vision for the future
32. Let me touch on the last topic that I want to speak about today, which is our vision for the future. As you know the 4G Ministers are working on Forward Singapore, which is a nationwide exercise to see what we must do to keep Singapore going and how we can refresh our social compact so that we can all play a part in bringing Singapore forward.
33. So far, we have engaged more than 14,000 Singaporeans. Through the Forward Singapore exercise, we want Singaporeans to come together to brainstorm and discuss what our future should be.
34. Topics include how to enhance and transform our living environment, to build more inclusive and liveable homes for all. Everyone can contribute to building the Singapore we want to live in, by sharing and using our limited resources carefully, so that there will be enough for current and future generations.
35. We also want to ensure our society remains resilient, inclusive, and supportive, so that we can weather future challenges and uncertainties together and not alone.
36. To achieve this, we will commit resources to care for all segments of society. We must be a nation where we support one another, and no one is left behind.
37. In the longer term, we want to ensure that Singapore continues to be a socially mobile society, where all Singaporeans are given opportunities and are enabled to succeed.
38. Just as how earlier generations were able to create better lives for their families, we must leave a legacy where our future generations can do better than us.
39. Every Singaporean is unique. Each of us have different strengths and abilities. We will help all to achieve their potential by creating more pathways and opportunities for Singaporeans to thrive.
40. In conclusion, as real estate professionals, you have the rare opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. I hope that you will give them the benefit of your expertise and skills and at the same time help them to understand the broader issues in the property market and how these are being addressed.
41. Please also do help shape our future by taking part in the Forward SG exercise by signing up to participate in the dialogues or focus groups. As always, we welcome any feedback or suggestions you may have towards any of the topics I mentioned.
42. I would also like to thank SEAA once again for inviting me today and for being such a wonderful partner in the process of helping the industry to transform and move up to the next level. Once again, thank you for inviting me today and please enjoy your conference.