[dropcap size=small]P[/dropcap]rices of private homes may have fallen for the sixth straight quarter, but the continued enforcement of cooling measures and a tightened credit environment remain deterrents to prospective buyers. Renting out property instead of selling could be a smarter move for current home owners, says Darius Cheung, founder of online property portal 99.co.

For best returns, engage a proactive real estate agent “who regularly follows up and updates your listing”, says the 34-year-old. He adds: “Check the quality of listings that an agent creates and how much effort he has put into posting good pictures – neat homes with a lot of natural light are more photogenic – and writing in-depth descriptions for other houses he has worked on.”

Cheung – who sold his mobile security start-up Tencube to US software giant Mcafee in 2010 for a reported US$11 million (S$15 million) – speaks from personal experience. After moving here from Hong Kong 21 years ago to study, the Singaporean found house hunting an ordeal. Not only was there a lack of reliable information on property websites, he had to sift through duplicate listings with contradictory pricings. The desire for a user-friendly and efficient site led the serial technopreneur to set up 99.co, which launched this January and has nearly 80,000 listings. Facebook co-founder and Singapore resident Eduardo Saverin is a major investor.

As for pricing, it all depends on the urgency of a home owner. “To rent it out fast, look at other properties within a 500m radius and price competitively. But if waiting three to four months is not an issue, take time to highlight unique features to justify a higher price.”

Above all, never underestimate the power of social networks. Cheung says: “Share a listing with family or friends. Word-of-mouth is often the most reliable tool.”