Sunday, February 08, 2009

You don't need ERA or Cash Converters....

This weekend the talking point among Singaporeans is the case of the ERA agent who flipped his client's property to his boss' wife who then sold it immediately for a hefty profit of $250K[Link]. The client found out and complained to ERA. ERA denied the agents had done any wrong and fought the case all the way to the High Court. They lost not just the case but their reputation in the eyes of many Singaporeans. It is surprising that ERA can condone such an act when it was so blatantly and obviously unethical to ordinary Singaporeans - after the case was lost and they were given a thrashing by the judge, ERA suspended the agents and imposed stricter guidelines.

My dad had a good laugh at all this because he sold his property himself and he bought the next property without an agent directly from the seller. The truth is you don't need to hire these agents. Why get an agent and spend time worrying about what he is doing behind your back when the procedures are relatively simple? When my dad did it, the Internet wasn't invented and he had to advertise the property on the newspapers. It is even easier now with so many online forums and classifieds which allows a person to put up an ad FOC. If you're interested in selling your property yourself, HDB conducts a seminar on buying and selling procedures and the next one is on 7 March 2009. I was surprised that the response of CASE to the whole saga was to ask for all agents to be licensed through an accreditation scheme. Can ethics be licensed? Look at all the accomplishments of those licensed RMs at our banks. CASE should be conducting free seminars on how to sell your property yourself instead and help everyone to save money.

In the book Freakonomics, the authors did a study of selling prices of property sold through agents vs the agent selling his own property. They found out that when the agents sold their own property, they did so a higher price that when they were selling for their clients. The reason is simple - the commission incentivise the closing of deals rather than fetching the best price for your property. So the agent will try to persuade you to lower your selling price to make his job of selling the property easier. If you want to sell your own property through an agent to save time, do some homework to find out what it is worth, fix the price and don't let the agent talk you into selling it for lower.

Today I'm meeting 2 strangers - one selling me a 2nd PDA (with 5 months warranty) at 40% the price of a new one and the other selling me 2nd hand computer memory (with lifetime warranty) at 50% the price I need to pay at Sim Lim. I have bought or sold 2nd hand stuff more than 20 times in the past 12 months. Like many Singaporeans, I have plenty of useful but old things I want to get rid of and things that I need but don't need them to be new. To buy or sell something takes only 5 minutes and its free. You can do it via or hardwarezone. It is often easier than going out shopping. Take the 2nd hand PDA I'm buying as an example. I tried looking for it at those shops selling used handphones and many wanted either a ridiculous price or didn't have the model. I found in it 2 minutes on eBay. The only things you should by at CashConverters are the new stuff because you can get get 2nd hand things a lot cheaper online. Cash Converters buys products from companies that have gone bust and these new unused products are sold at cheap prices there. ...unless you're in a hurry, try selling your 2nd hand stuff online rather than to CashConverters.
You can buy and sell things easily on the web transparently and competitively. The Internet gives you access to thousands of buyers and sellers. The days of the middlemen are numbered....and who needs them?... especially when they are not absolutely honest.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for highlighting this, Lucky. In a Forum about 2 years ago, I wrote about the need to have an agent to sell properties and cars. I was flamed by many forum members who ridiculed my post. Yes, do not buy from Cash Converters as they sometimes sells items that are fake. I bought a guitar purported to be a genuine Ibanez. After checking I found it was a fake and returned it back. I convinced them that it was a fake and even showed them a website that said so. They returned me the amount but not in cash, as I had to buy something else of similar value. I should have sued them.

BK said...

I totally agree with you on one thing, we can certainly sell useful old things through the internet, who needs Cash Converter. Maybe for those who are not so well verse in internet. I have tried asking about the rate of selling something to cash converter and the price they quoted me was incredibly low (well, I do understand they need a good profit margin). I think we have a better chance of getting a better price if we do it online.

Anonymous said...

Online business is going for the kill. So much money is flowing that way because things are so much cheaper. Be aware though that if you order goods worth S$400 and above to be air freighted to you, there is local GST charged plus a disbursement fee of up to S$10 by the courier service.

Anonymous said...

Good post Lucky.

Those who got conned or short changed and yet who are internet savvy just asked for it!

Politicians, used car salesmen, property agents and insurance agents. Heck! I won't ever allow my daughter to marry one of them!

Onlooker said...

The middleman will always look out for themselves.
I gave up on Ebay a long time ago(no or very little seller protection).
I think that Craiglist is a good online way to sell stuff too.
Listings like newspaper but less expensive and online too.

Anonymous said...

The problem with buying 2nd hand goods on line is there are a lot of unscrupulous who sells you defective products. Some are genuine but Singaporeans you can bet when they sell something it is defective. I may be wrong.
BTW got burnt before so now pay more at least it is guaranteed.

dorban said...

AVOID ebay like the plague and BEWARE of Paypal!!!

Want to learn more about ebay? Go to:

Ebay Stockholders and Sellers Calling For Immediate Termination of
John Donohoe CEO Petition

ebay’s upper management reviews (disasterous)

ebay’s CEO, Donahoe’s, DESTRUCTIVE ebay scheme:

Don’t forget to read your ammended Paypal User Agreement. Paypal (owned by ebay, can now withhold any users funds for up to 180 days at Paypal’s “sole discretion”. Want to fight the withholding of your funds…good luck with that. Paypal is judge, jury and executioner.

Anonymous said...

Beware of the pitfalls of buying and selling on the internet. There are always pros and cons, so don't be ignorant of the cons, you may pay a high price for the ignorance.

For me, I just use internet banking for time deposits. Maybank Isavvy currently has the best rates.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Most Singaporean are not civilized and eBay market tells it all. See below:

What's sort of culture we have here? Everybody knows it.

Anonymous said...

HiLucky, you are so right! we don't need ERA. The case mentioned in ST is only the tip of the iceberg.I believe this is rampant in 2007 during the peak of the property market. Not only sub sales were popular,there were also many sub,sub sales. The sellers suffered loss and the second buyers bought at exorbitant price. The first buyers who were actually proxies of the housing agents,made the hefty profits.
A friend of my was a victim and is now contemplating in sueing. Guess who is this housing agent? ERA! They are just a bunch of unscrupulous cheats!

allen said...

You have highlighted valid points about singapore rentals as well as about property market.I have bitter experiences with cash converters

Gwen said...

Hi Lucky,

This is Gwen from Straits Times. I'm doing a research for a story on second hand retailers/goods being an alternative in times of recession. Was wondering if I could ask you a few questions. You can contact me at


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