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4 major changes that could shape the way we buy Singapore property in 2027

July 15, 2017
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Let’s face it, buying Singapore property right now is a meandering process that takes a couple of months to complete. First you need to obtain approval-in-principle, then you call an agent for a viewing, then you sign an Option to Purchase, so on and so forth. Well, thanks to PropTech (like FinTech, but for property) we can envisage some changes to the way we buy property a decade from now:

  1. Smart contracts – the next game changer in the Singapore property scene

Smart contracts are powered by blockchain technology. That’s a new way of processing transactions, that lets you avoid having to use middlemen (such as law firms). For example:

Say you want to buy a house right now. You wouldn’t just need the money, you’d also need to hire a lawyer. Think about what happens if there isn’t one, and everything is based on a verbal agreement:

You have no guarantee that the deed to the property will be transferred to you when you pass the money to the seller. By the same token, the seller has no guarantee that he or she will receive the monies when she passes you the deed. And with a large sum of money at stake, both of you will deal have more trust issues to deal with than the Oxley Road debacle.

This is one reason why a third party – a lawyer – gets paid conveyancing fees. They don’t really get paid $2,000 for the effort it takes to fill up a Microsoft Word template; they’re also getting paid because they have the responsibility to ensure that the property transaction proceeds smoothly and both parties get what they want at the end of the day.

But now, we’re seeing the rise of smart contracts, which can be a game changer in the way we buy Singapore property. These are automated contracts generated by a computer, which acts as the middleman between buyer and seller.

Here’s a super simplified rundown of the process:

When a buyer puts down money via a smart contract, the transaction is verified over a large network of computer systems (they could number in the tens of thousands).

Once every system on the network is satisfied that the seller’s legit (the presence of the money is confirmed, and the seller’s identity checks out), the money goes into an escrow account. From that point, the money cannot be withdrawn by anyone except the seller. But at the same time, the escrow account won’t disburse the cash until every system on the network verifies that the relevant deeds have been transferred to the buyer.

After that, every system on the network registers the transaction on its ledgers. This means that, to hack the contract, someone would need to break into every single computer involved, and change the transaction records on every last one.

It’s just as secure as a law firm (perhaps more so, given that you can’t bribe computers), works a lot faster, and may well cost next to nothing. This will shave anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 off various conveyancing fees.

At present, companies like Singapore-based Reidao are already offering smart contract services; and studies are being made into its applications for real estate.

  1. Wait for the HomelessGoWhere app

You know how HungryGoWhere and Yelp rates restaurants? Or how TripAdvisor aggregates user reviews of tourism sites and hotels? Well that may soon happen for property agents, thanks to to the likes of OrangeTee.

User reviews give good insight into various transactions, and we can count on more of this happening in future. Pretty soon, we could be verifying agent ratings the same way we check buyer or seller reputations on Amazon.

The end result is to create a workforce of only the most skilled and reliable agents.

  1. We avoid buying a house because it’s a tech laggard

Smart buildings are catching on, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Simply put, this refers to more and more items being linked to – and controlled – via the Internet. In future, everything from your refrigerator to Nemo’s tank can be regulated online.

If you’re asking why, here’s two reasons: imagine checking your fridge contents while out shopping to see what you need to pick up from the store; or being able to watch and feed Nemo from halfway around the world via your smartphone.

The Singapore government is now pushing smart buildings, which can be safer and more efficient. Imagine a building that can immediately inform maintenance of a gas leak in someone’s kitchen, or turn off the lights in the gym when it detects no one using it.

This carries over to individual units, in the form of smart homes. The Visionaire in Sembawang is one example you can see right now. Homeowners can turn the air-conditioner on before getting home, or control the lights, home stereo systems, and washing machine via an app.

Pretty soon, this will become the norm rather than a novelty.

  1. Crowdfunding the developments we like  

Crowdfunding means getting lots of people to invest a little bit of what they can afford. That’s about as new a concept as combining spoons and soup, but the Internet is the difference.

Now, with sites like CoAssets, anyone can just browse around and fund what they like. Gone are the days when you had to have at least $1 million in your bank account, and company representatives had to go through your private banker.

The concept is straightforward: you choose developments you like, and loan a certain amount to the real estate developer. You’ll have information such as the developer’s past records, legal status, financial statements, etc to make your decision.

The developers will promise an interest rate, so you’ll get your money back with something extra. And because you can spread your investment out in small amounts (eg $1,000 each in five developers), you won’t go bust if a project fails.

The developers, in turn, gain an alternative to traditional bank loans for putting up a project.

This can make a big perspective shift in the way we buy, for one reason above all: you’re likely to speak well of the development you’re funding, and promote it. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve got money riding on it.

In a direct sales sort of way, everyone involved turns into a walking advert for the project. And you may even be convinced to buy a unit yourself, given your involvement from the very start.

If you enjoyed reading about how the possible ways in which we buy Singapore property may change, read about how smart home assistants will change life as you know it.


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