SINGAPORE — A property agent was fined S$30,000 and suspended for 12 months after trying to persuade his client to buy a condominium unit at a higher price than the seller was offering so that the agent could pocket a bigger commission, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) said in a statement on Monday (Oct 21).
Ngu Ping Chuan James Ethan, 39, a property agent with PropNex Realty, was charged with three breaches of the CEA Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care (CEPCC), while representing his client in the purchase of a condominium unit.
The CEA — a statutory board which regulates the real estate industry — said that this is the toughest penalty that the CEA Disciplinary Committee has meted out on a property agent in disciplinary proceedings.
Ngu’s wrongful conduct resulted in his client suffering a loss or disadvantage of about S$20,000 to S$30,000, the CEA said. His suspension as a CEA-registered property agent dates from Oct 16.
Ngu was engaged by his client to find him a suitable private property to purchase, in about 2016, in either the eastern or central part of Singapore, that was at least 800sqf in size, costing about S$900,000.
In mid-March 2017, Ngu assisted his client to view a condominium unit, located in the east, and priced at S$1.04 million. After the viewing, Ngu informed the seller’s agent that his client was keen to purchase the property and inquired about the commission payable to him.
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The seller’s agent informed Ngu that his client was willing to sell the property at a minimum price of S$1.02 million, and pay Ngu a commission of 1 per cent of the sale price, which totalled to about S$10,000.
Ngu did not convey the seller’s offer of S$1.02 million to his client and told the seller’s agent that he wanted a commission of 2.5 to 3 per cent of the sale price instead.
Ngu then told his client that the property was valued at S$1.18 million on average and suggested that his client make an offer of S$1.06 million.
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AGENT TRYING TO ACHIEVE A BIGGER COMMISSION
However, when Ngu’s client checked with a bank, he realised that the valuation of the property was about S$950,000.
When asked to start negotiations for the purchase of the property two weeks later, Ngu told his client that he had conveyed an offer of S$950,000, which had been rejected.
Ngu told his client that the seller had made a counter offer of S$1.04 million, when in fact, no such counter-offer had been made.
Ngu then conveyed to the seller’s agent an offer to purchase the property at S$1.04 million, with a commission of 4 per cent of the sale price and split between both agents, all without his client’s knowledge.
He wanted 3 per cent commission, which was around S$30,000, for himself but his offer was rejected, the CEA said.
The seller’s agent then offered a sale price of S$1.01 million, with Ngu collecting the commission from his own client instead. But Ngu did not convey this counter offer to his client.
Ngu advised his client not to proceed with the purchase of the property due to the alleged high price, when in fact his actual reason was because he had failed to negotiate for a commission of 3 per cent of the sale price for himself.
But when Ngu’s client contacted the seller’s agent to ask if the property was still available and offered to purchase the property at S$1.04 million, he learnt about the counter offer that had been made.
That was when he found out that Ngu had made a similar offer, but with the condition that he had to receive 3 per cent of the sale price as commission.
Ngu’s wrongful conduct caused his client to suffer a loss or disadvantage of about $20,000 to $30,000, being the difference between the price of $1.04 million that his client purchased the property for, and the seller’s offers of $1.01 million and $1.02 million that Ngu had failed to convey to his client, the CEA said.
Ngu pleaded guilty to two charges under the CEPCC, which stated that a property agency or agent has to submit every offer, counter-offer, proposal or expression of interest received to his client accurately and objectively.
Ngu also pleaded guilty to another charge under the CEPCC, which stated that a property agency or agent should not act on behalf of a client where to do so would place interests in conflict, the CEA said.
Ngu had subsequently filed an appeal with the Appeals Board, seeking a reduction in sentences, but the Appeals Board upheld the decision of the CEA Disciplinary Committee though it reduced the period of suspension from 14 months to 12 months.