Updated: Sep 5
There are more myths about this than there are about Yishun (which is a great neighbourhood, despite what you read online).
To clear it up, here’s a realistic look at what it takes – financially – to make the move into being a property agent:
What are the costs you will face?
Becoming a property agent has some similarities with starting your own business.
You will get to be your own boss; but that also means you need to deal with issues such as transport, marketing, your exam fees, and the ability to keep your business afloat for the first few months.
This requires careful budgeting, and you should plan for the move at least 12 months ahead (e.g. save money in preparation for the move).
The following are the costs to note:
Real Estate Salesperson (RES) Course: $700 to $800*
RES Exams: $417.30 for both papers**
Registration Fee with CEA: $53.50 + $230 per annum
Professional Indemnity Insurance: $120
Other miscellaneous costs (e.g. ID tags, training courses): $300 to $500
Total base cost (without subsidies): Approx. $2,120.80
*NTUC members can get a $250 UTAP subsidy. Singaporeans and Permanent Residents can also use their SkillsFuture credit (up to $500) for the course.
**Prices include GST. There’s a fee of $235.40 (with GST) for each paper you need to retake.
Besides the base cost, there are two main operational costs that you will incur, in your job as a property agent:
First, the cost of transport
Working with luxury or exclusive landed properties? You may need a car more often.
This will vary based on the type of properties you work with. If you mainly sell new launches in show flats (i.e. you are on the core team of the project), then your transport costs are more limited – you just commute to the show flat, and wait for the prospects to turn up.
But if you deal mainly with resale flats and condos, you’ll have to meet clients and conduct viewings. It’s possible to do this for around $10 a day, if you arrange to just rely on public transport. This may not be possible on some days though, such as if there are back-to-back appointments.
As a tip, consider using pooled rideshare options – such as GrabHitch – and trying to book a day or two in advance, since you know when the appointment times. This can significantly lower the costs for you, as and when you’re able to get a ride.
Landed and luxury properties tend to be less accessible.
It’s assumed the buyers have private transport, and being a distant enclave may be part of their exclusivity.
Think Sentosa Cove, or the some stretches along Upper Thomson. Your transport costs will be higher if you frequently deal with these properties.
Second, the cost of marketing
The biggest difference between this job and an employed one is that you’re responsible for all the promotion and marketing. It’s your decision how much you spend to promote each client’s property.
Going digital can be cheaper, and more effective, than mediums such as print
The most general tool for doing this today is a property portal, such as 99.co or Property Guru.
Most of these have subscription packages, that cost between $300 to $980 per year.
Okay, yes, that’s a huge range – but it’s because the price will differ based on how many listings you put up, and how much you want to boost the listings (make them more visible, by appearing more often to the site’s visitors).
Or you can go old school, and use newspapers
Newspapers are less often used for residential properties these days. The average home buyer is more likely to browse for properties on their smartphone, than to open up the classifieds.
But newspapers do have their place. They’re sometimes used for high profile landed properties, shophouses, or commercial properties such as industrial space.
Ads in the newspapers are priced by length and time: if you were to take out an ad in the Straits Times Classifieds right now, it would cost $41 per centimetre if run on Monday to Wednesday, or $44 per centimetre otherwise. SPH publishes its latest prices in this ratebook.
There are also other methods, like social media marketing or advertorials.
These typically require you to set up a website, and maintain a stream of content that you also put on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and so forth.
The costs are variable, depending on what sort of expertise you need to develop the content (in general, it’s a trade-off: the less you want to spend, the more time-consuming digital marketing will become).
So how much should you be spending on marketing?
Track your expenses and results, to see if your marketing methods are worth what they cost
In general, the bulk of your costs will come from marketing and lead generation. Some of our top property agents in Navis Living Group spend as much as $10,000 to $15,000 a month on marketing; but they get back much more than what they invest into their business.
As a new agent, it’s best not to go overboard with marketing right away.
Remember that even if you get a lot of leads, you still need to have the capacity and skills to convert them all into sales. A marketing budget of $1,000 to $2,000 a month suffices for many property agents at the start (and potentially leads to a six-figure income per year already).
You’ll also need to get sufficient insurance
Professional indemnity insurance (mandatory) covers you for $200,000, for roughly $120. However, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the following:
· Hospitalisation insurance (better to have an Integrated Shield Plan, or IP, rather than just plain Medishield Life)
· Personal accident insurance
· Critical Illness insurance
· Life insurance
Speak to a qualified financial advisor, on the coverage or plans you need.
Having sufficient funds to sustain yourself
Aim to have sufficient funds to cover your expense for the first six months. This is to ensure you can keep your bills paid (and afford transport and marketing), even if you don’t close any sales in this period.
Here’s a rough estimate of how long it takes to get paid:
Resale transaction (flat or condo)
Approx. three to four months for the transaction to be completed, and brokerage fees are paid within one to two weeks after that
Usually the fastest; you’ll be paid a week or two after the deal is closed, and income can materialise within the first two months.
New project sales
Around six to nine months to pay out.
As such, do total your expenses and operational costs per month. If this comes to about $3,000 per month, for example, you should aim to build a savings fund of $18,000.
If you don’t have this amount right away, then you’ll need to be disciplined in saving it up, from your very first sale onward.
Having sufficient savings is a great determiner of success among property agents
This is a high-energy job, that requires you to project a positive vibe. But it’s hard to be cheerful and engaging, if your bank account is empty and you’re facing mounting bills.
As such, it’s important to have sufficient savings – it impacts your performance on a psychological and emotional level.
It’s also important to get a good RES mentor, to show you the ropes.
A skilful and experienced property agent, for instance, can show you more cost-effective ways to market a property, negotiate better and improve your conversion rate dramatically.
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Stuart Chng, Senior Associate Executive Director of OrangeTee & Tie, is a renowned leader and personality in the real estate industry.
He adores music and can play a few instruments decently without upsetting his neighbours. When not doing so, he enjoys pillow fighting with his son and coming up with silly puns which barely amuses his wife.
Professionally, he is a licensed real estate agent, investor, team leader, speaker and columnist for several property newsletters and blogs and is often quoted in media interviews on 938FM, Channel 8, PropertyReport, PropertyGuru and other publications. Throughout his career, he has helped many clients grow their wealth through selecting great property investments and managing their portfolios actively. Read his clients' reviews here.
P.S. Brand new and interested in the RES Course?
P.P.S. Passed your RES Exams? Find out what steps to take next to quickly reach your goals!
P.P.P.S. Find out which real estate agency to join after passing your exams!