The role of a real estate agent: What they should and shouldn’t be doing

Updated: 5 min read

Engaging a real estate agent for the first time, and not sure what comes under their jurisdiction? Read on to find out more about what your property agent should, and shouldn’t be doing!

First things first: before engaging a real estate agent, verify they’re indeed registered with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA). Simply access CEA’s website, and conduct a search using your agent’s name or real estate number. If you want to go a step further in verifying your agent’s identity, ask for their real estate agency card, which contains a CEA-issued registration number.

It takes only a few seconds to verify that your real estate agent is registered, so make sure you do so! Don’t simply assume they’re registered. There have been many cases of sole individuals and companies being fined for engaging in property work without being licensed, and it happens more than you’d imagine.

How does this impact you? If you’re working with an unlicensed agent — whether knowingly or unknowingly — you have zero protection from the law, and you’ll be left high and dry should your agent (touch wood!) abscond with your money.

Now that you know your real estate agent is registered, take note of the things they should and shouldn’t be doing.

A real estate agent should

1. Help you with the paperwork

If you choose to not hire an agent, then you’ll more than likely be struggling with the copious amounts of paperwork.

However, if you have an agent on board, their job is to reduce your burden by helping you with this aspect of the property buying/selling process. So don’t cause yourself unnecessary grievance by doing it all on your own.

a couple meeting a property agent
Be aware of what your real estate agent should and shouldn’t be doing!

2. Negotiate on your behalf

Many people think that they’re great at negotiating. But trust us, when it comes to property, negotiating is vastly different from haggling the prices down at Platinum Mall in Bangkok.

A word of advice? Always have your agent present during negotiations. They will be able to ensure that all possible scenarios are covered by your agreement, and clarify further on specific details if needed.

However, take note that your agent doesn’t have to help you negotiate with the landlord should any problems arise during the tenancy. In fact, an agent’s duties end when the tenancy agreement is signed and the property is handed over to the tenant. Your agent could step in to mediate the landlord-tenant issue out of goodwill, but they aren’t obliged to do so. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the terms in the contract are clearly defined.

3. Disclose any conflicts of interest

Agents aren’t legally allowed to represent both the landlord and tenant for the same deal — that much is obvious. That aside, if agents are connected in any way to the buyers or sellers, and fail to disclose this information in writing to the other party, they’re also liable to be fined and potentially suspended from operating.

Do note, however, that this is different from and does not apply to co-broking. For the uninitiated, co-broking refers to a situation where two agents broker a deal together, for instance, one as a landlord’s agent, and the other as the tenant’s agent. When this happens, each agent collects their fee from their respective client; neither agent should be collecting commission from both the tenant and landlord in the same transaction.

Some agents also get referral fees or commission whenever they refer their clients to bankers. If this is the case, they should disclose this to you in writing.

CEA's infographic on property agent's responsibilities
Image credit: CEA

A real estate agent should not

1. Borrow money from you or refer you to a moneylender

Sounds bizarre? There have been real estate agents in Singapore that were convicted and sentenced for approaching their clients for personal loans, as well as getting their clients to borrow money from moneylenders to loan it to the agents themselves.

If your real estate agent tries anything of this sort with you, don’t hesitate to report them to the CEA.

2. Handle monies from certain transactions

Not everyone is aware of this — but it’s illegal for agents to handle monies such as rental fees, sales proceeds and down payments.

When it comes to money, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So never place your cash in the hands of an agent who could easily use it to pay off his loans, and lie to say that the money was stolen from his car. Instead, all your payments should be made via verified means such as bank transfers and crossed cheques.

3. Advertise your property without your consent

Let’s say you’ve listed your property for sale. Shortly after, you saw a listing of your property by a property agent that you’ve never engaged before.

By right, agents aren’t allowed to advertise properties without the owners’ consent. They also cannot copy an advertisement and pass it off as their own.

Have encountered any of these instances that agents shouldn’t be doing? Let us know in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful, recommends Managing property agent complaints and disputes and Understanding property agent’s conflict of interests.

Looking to sell your property?

Whether your HDB apartment is reaching the end of its Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) or your condo has crossed its Seller Stamp Duty (SSD) window, it is always good to know how much you can potentially gain if you were to list and sell your property. Not only that, you’ll also need to know whether your gains would allow you to right-size to the dream home in the neighbourhood you and your family have been eyeing.

One easy way is to send us a request for a credible and trusted property consultant to reach out to you.

Alternatively, you can jump onto’s Property Value Tool to get an estimate for free.

If you’re looking for your dream home, be it as a first-time or seasoned homebuyer or seller – say, to upgrade or right-size – you will find it on Singapore’s fastest-growing property portal

Meanwhile, if you have an interesting property-related story to share with us, drop us a message here — and we’ll review it and get back to you.

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