Property agents turn to Uber amidst chilly housing market

Due to the slump in home sales and the difficulty in securing deals amidst fierce competition, some property agents in Singapore are driving for Uber, a tech firm that allows users to utilise the service of a taxi or private car via their smartphone, reported Bloomberg.

“The market is slow because of the cooling measures. We have no choice, we have to come up with means to make ends meet, said 50-year-old Billy Loh, who started working as a property agent in 2008, but began driving for Uber late last year.

By driving passengers around Singapore, he earns $3,000 per month on average, a far cry from the $30,000 commission he could get selling a unit during the market’s heyday.

Although property agents in other countries typically take on other jobs to supplement their income when the market is not doing so well, the situation in Singapore is very gloomy. Among the world’s major housing markets, it suffered the highest price drop in 2015 and total transaction levels have plummeted by 68 percent since 2012. In fact, developers only managed to move around 7,000 new homes last year, according to SLP International Property Consultants.

Making matters worse, the city-state has a relatively large number of property agents compared with the volume of deals. There are more than 30,000 registered estate agents, ten times the volume of monthly transactions. In comparison, there are only 1,840 agents in the state of New South Wales in Australia who handle an average of 8,160 monthly transactions, noted CoreLogic Inc.

To help agents cope with the weak residential market, the Institute of Estate Agents in Singapore is offering courses and helping agents to get trained in other jobs.

Teaching property agents other skills would enable them to “at least earn a fixed income rather than only rely on commissions in this market,” said its President Jeff Foo.

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