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Making things happen
GOH Kee Nguan, chief executive officer of real estate broker Huttons, strikes a bullish note about the local property market. For the first five months, sales of private residential units in both the primary and secondary markets are up by a substantial double-digit percentage compared to the same period last year, he says. "Buyers have waited long enough and realised prices are not going to come down, so many have returned to the market. These buyers are genuine and can afford to purchase their desired property choices," Mr Goh says.
Developers are looking to replenish their landbanks. Foreign developers with deep pockets are also keen as Singapore is seen as a safe, open and transparent market. With recent land sales at record prices coupled with the presence of a strong local demand in recent months, there is a likelihood of prices being adjusted upwards in the near to mid-term, he says.
He says his team of more than 3,100 property agents is ready to deliver. This is due to a well-oiled system, rigorous training and a culture of teamwork. "Our people, systems and processes are all there. Our management is hands on, our leaders are committed and think out of the box, and our agents are professionally competent and highly motivated," Mr Goh says.
"Our agents are well trained and have a higher capacity to serve. This can be seen from our track record where they have consistently concluded more successful deals compared to agents in larger agencies."
Closing the deal
Huttons began in 2002 and has since grown to be one of the largest real estate agencies in Singapore. It covers the full spectrum of sectors across the residential, commercial and industrial arena. Within the residential sector, Huttons has specialised teams that focus on different segments of the market. For example, there is a luxury property team that services developments in Districts 9 and 10.
Huttons does especially well for new launches, Mr Goh says. The company closed more than 23,000 primary sales transactions worth more than S$19 billion over the last few years. In the last six months, Huttons concluded the sale of 12 projects which were 100 per cent sold.
"Our track record provides developers the assurance that we will fulfil our commitment in working with them from project inception till completion," Mr Goh says. A notable accomplishment was selling all 738 units of MCL Land's J Gateway condo in Jurong East within a day. Huttons was the sole marketing agent.
"Our vision is to be the Agency of Choice for developers and clients alike. Our agents provide competent services to ensure transactions are concluded expeditiously," Mr Goh says.
In concluding deals, agents need to fully understand clients' requirements and ensure the right match of products to suit their needs. "Our agents are trained to give the best services. It is not about hard-selling or pushing clients to commit, rather it is ensuring that the needs of our clients are well serviced given their circumstances," Mr Goh says. "This will form the foundation of a sustainable relationship built on mutual trust and confidence."
It is not easy to close a deal, he adds. Agents need to work hard, possess perseverance and embrace the entrepreneurial mindset. "Your heart must be strong - We call that the can-do spirit. You must believe that you can do it. With the right environment, strong support and coaching by leaders, we will help you to achieve."
Opportunities for agents
Mr Goh says Huttons is known for offering industry-leading opportunities, promptly rewarding deserving efforts well, and taking good care of its people. Agents can access a wide range of opportunities from the local market to international developments in the UK, Australia and South-east Asia.
Huttons was one of the first agencies in Singapore to bring in Vietnamese and Cambodian projects. "Our plethora of opportunities and inventory allow our agents, including rookies, to do astoundingly well."
Mr Goh cites an example of an accountant who joined the firm last year. With a good network of potential buyers from his past dealings coupled with the opportunities in Huttons, he managed to conclude a bulk sale of over 40 commercial units for an institutional buyer.
Once there was potential interest, Huttons' management and leaders worked with the agent together with developers, corporate bankers and legal firms to ensure a smooth and successful transaction.
Internally, Huttons and its leaders strive to assist agents to close their first deal within one month of joining the company, he says.
Upon joining the firm, new agents are trained in the basics of marketing new projects and resale units. Subsequently, they can choose to learn more about specific market segments, enhance skills in Internet marketing and negotiation, as well as other soft skills.
"On top of internally experienced trainers, we also bring in well-known external trainers. This is to ensure that our agents get the best holistic training that the industry can offer," Mr Goh says.
There are various career paths the agents can develop themselves in the firm, he says. Agents can choose to stay in sales or they can grow and manage a team, leading anywhere from 10 agents to several hundred individuals.
Looking ahead, the company is using technology to improve the productivity of its agents. Mobile task-enhancing tools are in the works to ensure that agents are well connected and can tap on each other's listings and networks. "This will allow them to better serve their clients and enhance their business channels," Mr Goh says.
Though technology threatens to replace the role of the middleman, Huttons believes that agents will still remain relevant, he says. "If you're buying a million-dollar property, you wouldn't want to buy it online. That's where agents come in to service the unique demands and circumstances of each client," Mr Goh says.
Ultimately, the real estate broking business is about people. "How well we service every stakeholder in the industry from developers, to clients, agents, staff and other relevant industry partners, will always be our measure of success," he says. "And as we make things happen with their interests at heart, everyone wins."