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Here’s a question for you. How do you buy a property in Malaysia? If you answered from a developer or a property agent, you’re right on track. But here’s another tidbit that you might be unaware of. Did you know there are two different parties that you can go to when buying from property agents – Real Estate Agents (REAs) and Real Estate Negotiators (RENs)?
These days, there seems to be a lot of confusion going between the role of a REA vs. REN, as both terms are used frequently and interchangeably. Plus, it doesn’t help that there’s been a surge in property scams since MCO 2020, as a result of unscrupulous individuals who seek to profit off the panic and the poor.
With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about the differences between a REA and a REN, in case you encounter one and happen to be skeptical.
So why do we need to know the differences between the two? Here’s why. Referring to the incident above, the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) saw a 30% increase in the numbers of property fraud reported last year. And on average, the organization received one reported case a day. In other words, property fraud is pretty prevalent and everyone is at a potential risk of being scammed. MIEA CEO Soma Sundram Krishnaswamy even added that the total number of fraudulent agents in Malaysia may account for 30 – 50 times more.
This is just one example at hand, and there are many cases out there that have yet to be brought to light. Nonetheless, property frauds are a huge deal, because it incurs massive financial losses for the victim, and puts them at a tough spot. Above all, it gives professional REAs and RENs a bad name.
To understand the unique roles that REA and REN both play, we first have to look at the body that governs them. In Malaysia, all real estate professions fall under the purview of the Board of Valuers, Appraisers, Estate Agents & Property Managers, or BOVEA. As stipulated by Valuers, Appraisers And Estate Agents Act 1981 (Act 242), BOVEA’s role includes:
According to Act 242, a Real Estate Agent is an individual who is registered under Part III of the Register, that is allowed to enter into professional practice as dictated by BOVEA under Section 16. In short, REAs are professionals in all things related to real estate.
On top of that, REAs are individuals who have been certified and licensed, meaning they have the ability to operate or start a private practice/company of their own, which enables them to engage in acts of selling or renting out properties. Additionally, each REA is able to employ up to 50 RENs within their company, no more, no less.
Given their professionalism and knowledge within the real estate field, it would only be natural to assume that most REAs would also have to undergo several years of study relating to the subject, which is true. Most REAs typically spend 2 years in education to obtain a Diploma in Estate Agency, where individuals are required to undertake a total of 12 exams to pass the bar. This is then supplemented with an additional 2 years of “placement” under a registered property firm, which can be rectified here.
Upon successful completion of a 2-year stint, most REAs will have one final hurdle to overcome – The Test of Professional Competence. Individuals will be assessed on their real estate knowledge based on the professional experiences gained from their placement and years of learning combined. Assuming the individual has completed their studies and placements and passed their examination with flying colors, they will then be awarded the long-awaited Diploma in Estate Agency.
This also means that the individual will be registered under BOVEA’s list of practicing professionals and will officially be recognized as a REN from henceforth. They will also be issued with a blue-colored ID tag containing the following information,
On a final note, while REAs are perfectly capable of running their own property firms, they are still required to go through BOVEA’s approval in order to start one.
Now that we’ve gone through REA in detail, it’s time to take a look at REN.
For starters, unlike REAs who are required to go through 4 years of studies and professional working experiences combined, RENs are only required to go through an intensive 2-day Negotiator’s Certification Course to be certified. Another plus point about RENs is that almost any interested individual can be a Real Estate Negotiator, regardless of age and qualification, thanks to its low entry requirement.
That being said, the drawback to being a REN is that they are strictly not allowed to operate or run their own property firms. Besides that, individuals seeking to be a REN also have to fork out a small sum to attend the course.
What this also means is a REN must be employed under a registered a licensed property firm to work, which falls under the ownership of REA. This makes REAs their employer, and their actions are subjected to scrutiny by REAs to ensure that they do not commit any unethical practices or behavior.
An interesting point to note about REAs and RENs is the depth of information gained from their courses. While REAs spend 2 years learning the ins and outs of the property industry in the country, RENs are only taught surface level knowledge, such as the fundamentals of trades and the laws and rules associated with the property industry.
Once an individual has attended the 2-day Negotiator’s Certification Course, they will be awarded with a certificate of attendance. The certificate will act as a golden ticket for them to apply to registered property firms to be a REN, followed by an application to BOVEA to have the board issue an ID tag to them.
Much like REAs, RENs are required to wear their tags at all times. While a REA’s ID tag is colored blue, a REN’s ID tag is colored red, though the information stated on their tags are virtually the same. The only exception to a REN ID tag is the inclusion of a label to help distinguish them from REAs, and it is presented in the following format,
Here’s how a REN ID tag looks like in real life.
A sample REN ID tag. If it’s a REA ID tag, simply picture it in blue.
In general, one is more likely to encounter a REN than a REA. This is due to the simple fact that there are more RENs out there than REAs, due to its 1:50 ratio. Nonetheless, it needs to be stressed RENs are merely representing a particular REA or their company, and under no circumstances are they allowed to act on their own.
There isn’t much to say about the differences between the two than what we’ve covered above, though we thought we would illustrate the differences in a table to give you a quicker overview of the two.
While both REA and REN share a modicum of difference, the two do have quite a bit of commonality involved too.
No monthly fixed wages
Firstly, regardless of REAs or RENs, the income for both roles is entirely commission-based. This is particularly great for people who enjoy a challenge, or those who fancy a high risk, high reward wage style. When they make a sale, the fruit is often sweet to the core. However, with how cutthroat the property market is these days, sales can be scarce, what more when it is a time of MCO.
In such tough times, most property agents are usually looking at months without wages, which means they’ll be forced to rely on their savings or previous earnings to tide through these uncertain times. Put simply, while every job has its perks and drawbacks, a REA or REN simply has it worse, owing to the rather extreme nature of the role.
This might be a lesser-known fact to the public, but certain firms require REAs and RENs to fork out money from their own pockets when advertising properties to be sold or let. In other words, on top of having no monthly wages, some agents also receive zero assistance from their companies/firms and are required to fork additional costs in order to make a sale, making the role all the more unattractive for some.
Although REAs and RENs can earn some lucrative income if they successfully close a sales deal, the journey to that is not without its challenges. Most property agents’ earnings are usually subjected to a tier system, starting at level 1 before slowly making their way up.
The tier system however, is only applicable to subsales. For regulated properties, the commission rates are set at a fixed 3%, as set by BOVEA.
Despite the property industry’s rather competitive nature, REAs and RENs have a relatively flexible working lifestyle. Some firms may set a KPI or sales targets for agents to achieve, whereas others may set their own “invisible” targets as a way to motivate themselves to give 150% at work, which makes it a “you reap what you sow” profession.
At the end of the day, if you put in the effort to make a sale happen, you will be rewarded handsomely. Do nothing, and expect yourself to receive nothing in return either.
Now that we’ve talked about the differences and similarities between both professions, it’s good to talk about the ways we can identify a property scam. Here are several scams that have been reported and made aware amongst Malaysians.
Back in April 2015, four women posing as property agents of PR1MA reportedly duped 38 victims a total of RM150000 in cash. The victims, mainly individuals who were earning >RM10000, owned a home and aren’t eligible for the PR1MA housing scheme, were lulled into paying a deposit under the false pretense that the agents were able to secure them a spot through backdoor connections i.e. “director’s quota”
After forking out a sum between RM2500 – RM7000 each, the buyers went on their merry way and left it up to the agents to handle the subsequent procedures, only to never hear from them again. Numerous failed attempts to contact the agents and a site visit later, the victims eventually realized they were scammed.
This prompted the victims to lodge a report to the police, resulting in what we know of the case today.
The Nanning Ponzi scheme is an overseas property investment scheme whose modus operandi was to attract Malaysian to invest in a property by the Pure Capital Investment group that was set to be developed in Nanning.
The scheme “guaranteed” a 100-fold return over a span of 2 years. For example, if you invested a sum of 69800 RMB (RM38474), the amount would yield you a return of 7.8 million RMB (RM4.3 million) 2 years later.
Furthermore, the organization promised their members a “fully-funded” trip to China, where they were talked into buying the “millionaire” dream. And all that was needed to be done was for interested parties to recruit 3 new members, termed downliner into the organization before they could qualify the scheme.
Needless to say, the “too good to be true” offer was finally ousted as a scam when an undercover reporter from China Press attended one of the organization’s events back in 2014 to uncover the truth.
Unfortunately, the Ponzi scheme remains at large today, given its widespread influence over Malaysians as well as its grey nature (treading between the fine lines of a scam and a legal operation). While the police has successfully nabbed a handful of members sometime back, the battle to eradicate the fraud is far from over.
Much like the PR1MA housing scam, the low-cost housing scam involved a woman who conned 18 individuals for a total of RM544000 in cash. The conwoman was said to have promised her victims low-cost houses in Kepong for a significantly reduced price, with one victim claiming that she had offered him a RM150000 house for the price of RM40000 only.
Similarly, the lady also brought her victims to the development site for a brief visit, though they weren’t allowed to step into the premise under the reasoning that it was not ready to be viewed. She then proceeded to persuade the victims to pay RM20000 upfront in order to reserve a slot for them.
Thinking that they had struck a good bargain, the victims eagerly made the payment and left the rest to the lady. After a month of radio silence from the lady and sensing something was amiss, one of the victims decided to conduct a background check on her, only to learn that the lady was no longer with the property firm that she claimed to be working for nor was she a listed agent on BOVEA.
A police report then followed suit, with 17 other victims coming forward to provide their version of the story. Interestingly enough, all 18 victims were also related to one another, with all of them being family members or close friends.
Another ponzi scheme but this time, it’s in Laos. Put simply, a group named Asean Paradize were looking for investors to invest in their mega development project titled Asean Paradize Savan City, set to take place in Laos.
The group offered various investment options ranging from USD1000 – USD6000 with a promised return of 0.3 – 0.9% monthly dividends. Those who put in RM10000 were instead promised a return of RM85000 a year later. And just like any other Ponzi schemes, newcomers were required to recruit a number of members into the circle before qualifying for the “attractive” offer.
The group’s unscrupulous days were eventually put to an end following several complaints and reports, which resulted in the Security Commission Malaysia blacklisting them.
The last example on the list that we have is a married couple-ran auction scam that took place in 2016.
The couple conned their victims for a total of RM500000 by luring their victims from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Penang into investing in a questionable auctioned home scheme.
To lend themselves an air of legitimacy, the couple even registered their business legally and opened an investment firm in Johor Bahru. Thankfully, their Bonnie and Clyde days were swiftly put to an end when the police caught wind of it.
Despite numerous public service announcements made by the government to wise the public up the scams, many of us tend to fall victim to them nonetheless. These days, scammers are becoming more and more cunning and they’ve learned to be ever-the-creative swindlers. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if people are truly out to scam one another, but we believe in identifying a potential scam through the following signs,
As grim as it may sound, the thing about life is, be it property or anything else, things never come easy. That being said, they aren’t necessarily difficult either. But if someone is making you an offer that is too good to be true, chances are it probably is. Stick to an earnest life instead and learn to enjoy the struggles and rewards that come along with the journey, and you’ll find that a life lived with integrity is much better than one that is filled with guilt. And that includes buying a property too or earning a living too.
Both REAs and RENs are two fundamentally different roles with similar focuses. They are essentially real estate professionals who sell you properties, though the means and journey in which they achieved their qualifications differ greatly. Some however, have chosen to resort to a life of crime and decide to prey on the uninformed instead by enticing the public to purchase or invest in bogus property schemes. All under the guise of an unregistered property agent. As such, it is important for us to be mindful of the differences that set REAs and RENs apart and keep ourselves up to date with the property fraud tactics employed by scammers these days, so as to ensure that fewer of us will fall victim to their evil deeds.
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