We have all been there before. You are choosing a new gadget for yourself, and comparing the prices on various online retailers. One online retailer offers multiple user reviews – both positive and negative – for both the gadget and the feedback on the retailer’s customer service. Another one only provides positive reviews of the gadget, and the last one has no reviews at all.
If the prices of the gadget across all three sites were the same or very close, you would be more willing to purchase it from the retailer that provided honest user reviews than the others. That’s because you were able to see what others liked or disliked about their experience, make an informed judgement about whether the reviews were applicable to your situation, and make a purchase with your eyes wide open.
The same principle should apply to your property transaction.
That’s why the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) recently launched its “Guide on Best Practices for Consumer Ratings of Property Agents” to provide an industry standard for the rating of property agents.
The guide has two main objectives, according to CEA. It aims to build trust among users of platforms for the ratings of property agents, including consumers, property agencies and agents; and spur property agents towards a higher level of professionalism and quality of service.
Ahead of the curve
It would be an understatement to say that OrangeTee & Tie (OTT) had been ahead of the curve when it launched its PropertyAgentsReview (PAR) platform back in February 2016. The team envisioned that the platform would improve the transparency, accountability, and professionalism of the Singapore real estate industry.
PAR was a pioneer at the time, while competitors were still only offering online property listings. It was the only platform that allowed consumers to search for a suitable property agent based on honest unedited reviews from verified customers, instead of relying on word-of-mouth recommendations.
Since its inception, PAR has gained much traction among agents and customers alike, with over 27,000 authentic reviews left by customers with verified transactions.
A customer-driven platform
What has really helped to propel the platform forward over the past 4 years, was its user-friendly interface coupled with the willingness of customers to leave their honest reviews for others.
OrangeTee & Tie customer Alan Brown recalled how easy the platform had been to use when he needed to rent a property for him and his family both in 2018 and again in 2020.
“PAR was fairly simple to use. I just browsed a few agents and looked for one with good feedback. Thomas was very responsive from my first message onwards. Having the PAR platform helped ensure we found an agent who had good feedback from previous clients and was responsive and keen to work with us,” said Brown.
“Thomas was extremely helpful in guiding us in finding a property when we first moved to Singapore in 2018. He took us through the process in detail and helped us find a great unit for our family. For our move 2 years later, Thomas was on-hand to assist and guide us through the handover of our unit and also key to us securing a new unit in our desired development.”
For customer Bobby Tan, he found PAR in a rather unexpected manner.
“I was planning to sell my HDB flat and purchase another home, so I followed property agent Chris Ng on Facebook. Through his Facebook page, I saw posts on PAR. That was how I knew about the Property Agents Review platform and how it could enable me to see the reviews of the agents.”
“It confirmed my decision to select Chris as my agent and throughout my transaction, Chris had been very knowledgeable and provided very professional advice to us.”
Tan also added that he looked forward to seeing PAR provide more search criteria for agents, including gender, awards won, years of experience, and even by the number of reviews.
Fuss-free and straightforward
For customers Kelvin & Chu Wei, PAR helped to make their entire property transaction seamless, right from the moment they selected their property agent.
“There are so many property agents in Singapore, and there is no easy way to differentiate who is good or otherwise. Similarly, word of mouth recommendations might not be the most accurate feedback. With Property Agents Review, I was able to shortlist agents based on their reviews, see their units on sale, and narrow down the agents we were keen to meet,” said Kelvin.
“I found Jasmine’s contact via Property Agents Review, and after reading all the positive reviews on her from the same site, we decided to arrange for a no obligation chat with her just to meet face to face. That first appointment turned into a life-changing event for myself and wife.”
Kelvin added that Jasmine had provided them with spot-on recommendations in relation to their goals and financial situation, and helped to provide them with a seamless transition from selling their HDB flat, to purchasing a new property that met most of their requirements at a price that met their budget.
“The journey to find Jasmine, was fuss free and very straightforward, with the help of PAR”
Innovation that never stops
OTT has never stopped improving on the PAR platform over the past 4 years.
After its initial launch, the development team added a Singapore map to PAR as a visualisation tool in early 2017. The map allowed customers to narrow their search to agents specialising in a particular area or region.
Premium membership was introduced shortly after, allowing customers who registered as premium members to shortlist their favourite agents, receive market reports and track recent transactions.
In early 2018, the team expanded the generic rating system to include multiple criteria, like friendliness, responsiveness, market knowledge and negotiation skills. The refinements allowed customers to more accurately highlight each agent’s competency and skill sets.
By end 2018, PAR was equipped to offer individualised profiles for agents, showing their credentials, property listings, social media channels, and instant communication tools.
Today, OTT is one of the early adopters of CEA’s Best Practices Guide, and has incorporated CEA’s guidelines and recommendations into PAR.
“We are constantly getting feedback from our stakeholders, and looking at ways to improve PAR for our customers and agents, so there will always be new features being added to the platform,” says Bill Leung, Executive Director, OrangeTee & Tie.
“At OrangeTee & Tie, we are not afraid to try something different, when we know it will benefit our business and our industry. PAR was one example where OrangeTee led the way, the industry followed, and rating platforms for agents became the norm,” Leung continues.
“No matter what changes we make, we always go back to the original intention in developing PAR: Advocating for greater professionalism among property agents, building trust between agents and customers, improving overall industry service standards, and elevating the profession of the property agent to that of a trusted advisor.”
Building Sustainability through technology and innovation
The development of the PAR platform is an essential part of OTT’s long term commitment towards sustainability, as part of its Technology and Innovation commitment. OTT is focusing its sustainability efforts on four key pillars, including Go Green, Social Impact, and Responsible Business Practices. More information on their sustainability efforts can be found at their sustainability movement website. (https://sustainability.orangetee.com/)