Is Fee-based Property Agency the Future? – Rhonda from Ohmyhome
In episode #4 of Coconut Avenue, we bring on the CEO of Ohmyhome, Rhonda Wong. Ohmyhome is one of Singapore’s first and leading fee-based property platform. For every transaction, clients would just pay a fixed-fee to the company instead of paying commission to the agent.
Tune in as we discuss with Rhonda from Ohmyhome about differences between fee-based property agency vs commissioned based agency. What are her views on the benefits of going fee-based? What are the structures behind a fee-based agency that helps buyers and sellers reduce transaction costs? How does going fee-based affect the quality of attention you get in the transactions?
Troy: Can agents really be blamed for questionable ethics when there’s a temptation of a big windfall? Is this a real estate only problem, or is it prevalent in every sales job? If we can’t change human traits, can we at least change the structure of the transaction to make sure that agents have to care for the buyers and sellers more?
Have you wondered, will it be ever possible for more agents to do the right thing for the buyers and sellers? If you’re curious to find out more about these questions, this episode is for you.
Welcome back to another day on The Coconut Avenue. Join us as we explore various property insights, investment strategies, and challenging property myths out there today. We’ll be bringing on investors and experts in the game to share with us their insights and stories to better prepare us for our journey. Whether you’re looking at your first property or building a bucket of gold through properties, there’s something for you here.
Ultimately it’s about helping you find your unique game plan. In this episode, we want to dig a little more about how a real estate startup is trying to change Singapore’s real estate landscape. We are joined today’s episode by Ohmyhome CEO, Rhonda Wong, to talk more about how Singaporeans in the real estate scene can be better served. Ready to learn more? Let’s go!
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So was there anything that triggered you to start Ohmyhome ?
Rhonda: Yes. So before Ohmyhome, Race and myself owned Anthill Realtors. Anthill Realtors is a company that manages investors, real estate investors’ portfolio. So what that means is that we travel in about seven countries around the region all the way to Australia, to UK, to find real estate investments that are beneficial to our clients.
So we help them sell. We have them buy, we help them make capital gains, help them collect their rentals. So that was what we did. And a client of ours would generally have a portfolio worth around 20 to 50 million US dollars. So that was all we did. So we got very familiar with how the entire region transact, you know, near us from Malaysia all the way to far away in the States. But what didn’t differ was the pain points that everyone was facing.
They don’t know who to trust. They know it’s a big amount, a huge sum. But given that it’s a huge sum like that they still don’t have a company like the way banks are, you know that I put all my money in the bank, the bank is safe. There isn’t such an equivalent company in real estate.
So then when, you know, Race and I continued running the business in real estate she was the one who said, we need to extend this good service, this transparency and knowledge to the rest of the market, who are really the ones in need of the service. And when we talk about in need, that means we are talking about people buying their first home, people buying a home for their families.
Go back to the basics because they actually need it the most. They can’t get it wrong. They don’t have 20 properties, you know. They only have one and they’re putting their life savings, they’re putting their entire family’s dreams in this home. And yet many a times they only meet their agent one time. So they don’t even know the track record or the experience of dealing with the agent.
And the way the industry is working is that every agent is like fending for himself or herself, you know, which is closing the next deal for the next paycheck. No base salary, no stability. You know, no reason to continue the relationship and serving the customers well, because they need to get busy everyday to find the next customer.
Troy: They need to chase after the next thing.
Rhonda: They need to chase after the next one. Yeah. So Ohmyhome is very different. Our agents don’t have to chase, you know, our agents have customers that are assigned to them and they spend 90% of their time serving the customer. Whatever the customer need, whatever their requirements are for the next home or to sell the current home, that’s what our agents focus on.
They don’t have to worry about marketing. They don’t have to worry about getting customers because the rest of the work, the evaluation, the marketing, the matching of buyers to sellers, tenants to landlords, all done by Ohmyhome technology. This is why our agents are able to be so relaxed and you know, really indulge in that passion of serving customers.
This is something that is very difficult for a freelance agent to do because time wise it’s not possible.
Troy: Yes. But are there other examples that you learned from let’s say, the US or is this a totally new concept in the world?
Rhonda: This is a very brand new concept. We didn’t reference other concepts to copy them, per se.We reference other concepts to see, you know, what are people doing out there that’s more interesting.
So in the States, that’s Opendoor where you can sell your home to Opendoor, you don’t have to sell to another buyer. Zillow is a advertising platform very similar to Property Guru, iProperty. So Opendoor is more like they can buy your home, but in Singapore it’s not possible because we have a lot of buyers stamp duty, sellers stamp duty.
So we look at different models to see what is the best value we can bring to our consumers. So one of the first thing we did in Singapore was that we came up with a DIY platform. So in terms of absolute value, you can now sell your home by yourself without engaging an agent.
So that’s for 30% of the market in Singapore, but then there’s 70% who would engage an agent. So the next value we brought to them was quality agents able to bring you the best prices, the best speed of sale at a fixed rate for HDB. So for HDB we charge from $2,888, for condos, we charge 2% of transaction price.
Troy: Yes. Regarding the, you mean 30% of the people would sell their home by themselves? How do you get that number?
Rhonda: Oh, this is Singapore statistics. So just by transactions as a whole, 30% without an agent.
Troy: Oh, okay. So Jeff Bezos, I think he mentioned before that, you know, when he was building Amazon, he is focused on the things that won’t change.
So for Ohmyhome , you are saying that the things that wouldn’t change is people would always tend to go for the lower costs. That’s why, you know, the lower cost attracts to come.
Rhonda: I think that the things that won’t change is that people will always need to buy and sell a home or rent a home, that will never change.
It will never change that that will still continuously be the largest assets in our life. I think this things won’t change. So this is not trendy. You know, this is not a new fad. It’s permanent . So I think in terms of business model, what we’re targeting is transactions. That part is permanent.
There’s longevity in that. In terms of the pricing model, we didn’t come up with a low cost pricing model because we think people would like that. It was truly because we felt that a lot of people find the current model very costly. We have found that a lot of HDB families, they don’t even save $10,000 a year, let alone pay $10,000 to an agent.
So this is why we came out with this model. Not because we prefer to make less money, but because we think that’s what the community needs in terms of service standards, they need a heightened level of service standards, but they need it at a lower cost . And that’s what Ohmyhome provides. We provide the best of both worlds for them.
Troy: And you’re saying that because of this chasing for more commission, it hinders the agent’s abilities to provide the service to people. That’s why you want to bring away that commission based incentive model for your agents.
Rhonda: Yes. And the thing is to be honest, a freelance agent, I don’t think they charge too much because if you think about the work they have to do behind the scenes, how they get customers, advertising, they have to do everything and they might only close a deal in six months. You know, in fact, the Singapore average for the 30,000 agents in the HDB resale scene is they transact less than one deal a year, on average. Of course you can take away the inactive agents, et cetera, but still there’s less transactions than agents, you know? So the reality is a lot of agents don’t get to close even a deal a year.
Now that we know that, then what is the main difference? Why are we able to charge less? It’s really because we work as a company, we don’t work as an agent. So, if you engage a freelance agent, they are the business themselves. So if you engage Tom and Tom decides to work very hard for your unit, good for you. Tom decides to not prioritize your unit because he has other better clients, then too bad for you.
Either way you wouldn’t know that on a daily basis. If Tom disappears, he decides to go for a staycation or he decides to drive to Johor for a week. You don’t know where else to go to. If you call that agency, that agency will do the exact same thing, which is trying to call them. Ohmyhome is very different.
Never be lost with our agent because the whole company is serving you. You’re in touch with our customer service team constantly. So the team never disappears. The agent never disappears. Your viewings, if you’re a seller, the matching of buyers to you is constantly in progress by our tech team .
So this are all the services running behind the scenes. We have professional marketing team to market your properties for sale. And because we keep accumulating all of this technology and the database, we’re actually able to sell homes extremely fast. So at Ohmyhome selling your home on the very first viewing is very common.
And we usually will have about 8 to 20 buyers. And this is how we’re constantly able to get better prices for the sellers as well.
Troy: I see. So the fee-based model doesn’t affect the selling price of the unit, because I would think that if it’s fee-based, then you will want to sell the property as fast as possible. Maybe you will ask for a lower price or something.
Rhonda: So you would think that agents would do that. But we don’t incentivize the agent that way. So we don’t incentivize the agent just because they sold that unit very fast. We incentivize the agent when the customer is very pleased with our agents. So it’s a very different concept.
Now, why is this not common in the market? Because first of all, the agencies, they don’t hire the agents on a full-time basis. Now, when you don’t do that, there is no reason for the agents to have to serve them in your way. Because if your company wants a certain way, the agents say, hey look, you’re not giving me the client. You’re not helping me close the deal. So why do I have to listen to your ways?
I will do it my way, as long as it closes to deal. Any way possible, good way, bad way, whatever way, right. But Ohmyhome, our SOP is very strict. You know even our agents, our promotion program, is tied to whether their customers are satisfied with their services.
It is not tied to the number of deals they have. So it’s a very, very different concept. And the reason we can do this is because we function as a company, we hire them as professionals. We respect them as a professional. We don’t treat them as just another agent, you know, so they are very important and valuable team members of ours, no different from our tech, marketing or customer service team.
Troy: But let’s say if I’m a normal Singaporean. And hasn’t heard of Ohmyhome my home yet. How will you present Ohmyhome to me? Like, why should I use a fee-based agent instead of a traditional agent?
Rhonda: I would tell you to use Ohmyhome because you’re not just engaging the agent, you’re engaging the entire company. And what this means for you is that you get an entire company of service servicing you. This our entire company of professionals serving you with the latest technology. This is not just a freelance person who is trying their best for you because one person trying to best will never have the database that a company has.
Troy: And there’s a limit to how much time and energy they can serve you.
Rhonda: Yeah, that’s right. And that’s why it makes sense for them to charge more because the reality is they only have so much time, you know. If they’re only going to close a deal every few months, they have to charge a higher wage, a higher fee, otherwise they can’t survive. But Ohmyhome is very different.
Our agents are able to close deal very quickly because our database of buyers is very strong and because of that volume, we don’t have to charge as much as an external agent, who has to fend for himself, who has to pay for advertising for himself. Now, when you engage a freelance agent, how much will the agent advertise for your home for sale?
It depends on how much the agent can afford. At our company at Ohmyhome, we have an SOP to advertise for every single client.
Troy: But where do you market all the properties?
Rhonda: So we market the properties… first of all exclusively only our agents can be on Ohmyhome platform. No other agents are allowed on our platform, and whichever platform that we know will help sell the property, we will be there.
Troy: So you’ll be on Property Guru?
Rhonda: We can be, we don’t have to be, depends. If our database already has a lot of buyers, we don’t have to advertise anywhere. We just have to make sure that we match the buyers ASAP to the client.
Troy: Would one of the challenges be having more buyers on your platform?
Rhonda: So we always have a lot of buyers on our platform because Ohmyhome as a platform is not a fun platform in terms of gaming, in terms of you know, entertainment, lucky draw, leisure, the platform is solely for real estate people. If you’re not selling, buying or renting, it’s unlikely that you’ll be on my platform .
If you’re not looking for mortgage, you’re not looking for renovation. Why are you on the platform? So anyone on our platform is someone that is important to the platform and important to our customers. So we’ve been talking a lot about sellers. Now what about buyers? Now if you’re a buyer and you engage a freelance agent, once again, the freelance agent has a limited time to bring you to the number of properties that they want to bring you to.
Ideally, they bring you to five, you choose one. So there’s even a strategy in the market where they will bring you to, out of the five, they will bring you to some bad ones first and bring you to a good one later on , which is the one that you probably will buy . Cause the thing is you only have a limited budget, right. So we can’t really bring you to all kinds of properties.
So a freelance agent actually has this strategy, so that by the end of your tour, you’ll feel like, yeah, I think this property is much better than the first one that we saw. The reason is back to time limitation. If an agent only has 24 hours a day and they need to close the deal, they have to strategize on how they close the deal.
Now Ohmyhome, our agents, they have no time limitation because they’re not trying to fend for that next paycheck . So they can take the time, you know, throughout the weeks to bring you to different properties, you know, to show you all the properties until you find the perfect match for yourself.
But before that, before wasting anybody’s time, we do in depth research, a 20 page research on what the buyer should be buying. What are the available properties, what are the properties based on statistics that you should even be looking at, or shouldn’t be looking.
Troy: Every client, 20 patient research?
Rhonda: Every client, we have a very in depth research. Because the thing is, you know, Troy, if you’re buying today and let’s say your budget is $2 million. It doesn’t make sense for me to bring you to every single $2 million property. I should first analyze it and ask you, Troy, are you looking for capital appreciation? Are you looking to live in that yourself? Are you expanding your family?
So based on your requirements, then I will see that, okay, this property is the best fit for you because you want a larger home within the same value in terms of budget. So let’s go for an older property, but let’s take out some budget for renovation.
So we really plan for the client, but sometimes clients will say, no, I want a brand new home. Well, then that’s very simple. We only go for brand new homes, but we try to see based on the brand new homes, which one can make you the most money in five years time, because chances are when you have a bigger family, you want a bigger home. So we plan for all of that on paper. Then we start viewing. So the journey is very, I think it’s very customized to each client, very systematic.
So that’s why generally our clients, they have a very good experience for us and they often say that wow, I’ve bought other homes before, but I’ve never had such a good experience with the entire transaction journey than I have with Ohmyhome.
Troy: But how do you get most of your clients currently? Is it through word of mouth or Facebook marketing? Google’s pay per click?
Rhonda: I think it’s a mix. So we have majority of our clients from organic traffic. So they read about us. They might have seen some of our videos on Facebook. They might’ve seen our ads on Google sometime in the past. The interesting thing about our industry is that no matter how much we advertise, if you’re not in that phase of your life to buy or sell a property. You wouldn’t want us, there’s no need. So we try to be around in terms of even just providing the education. So it could be saving up for your first investments, saving up for your first property, what to look out for. And maybe next year or the year after when they decide to buy or sell, they will look for us.
So we’ve seen customers coming back to us with like a newspaper clipping of when we first launched. So they’ll say like, you know, I read about you guys. And I always thought if I ever buy or sell a home, I’ll come back. You know? So we have all kinds of customers.
Troy: They actually cut out the newspaper to remind themselves.
Rhonda: That’s right. They keep the clipping! And also it’s also part of why we, actually is a very big part of why we love the business and why we love our job, because sometimes you get customers who are truly grateful. They truly appreciate you being in that journey in their lives, which was very stressful for them in the past without Ohmyhome.
It could have been very costly, could have caused a lot of stress to them and their families, and they start counting that, oh, I don’t have money for this because I need to pay the agent, but with Ohmyhome they don’t have such worries. You know, and generally because we can sell their homes at a better price, you can imagine they have a combination of good price, cost savings.
So they’re just thankful. They’re just grateful. So that, that makes us happy, you know? Cause if you think about just the business buying and selling everyday it’s not ultra exciting, you know, having happy customers is what’s exciting.
Troy: That’s what fuels you to go on.
Rhonda: That’s right.
Troy: Currently how many agents do you have?
Rhonda: We have less than 20 agents. I still remember when we have more than 20 agents. When we compared the transaction volume, we’re able to transact more now than when we had more agents. And this is really just a testimonial to how effective our technology has been.
So Singapore’s market average to sell a HDB generally takes you about 130 days. Four months, and to sell a private property generally takes you between 6 to 12 months. Ohmyhome generally sells in half the time, this is two years ago. Today we generally sell in one third the time.
Troy: What makes the difference?
Rhonda: The database, the matching.
So the matching has to be accurate. So it’s not just about like, oh, let’s get all of our buyers to show up for this viewing. It has to be the right buyers. So if the property that’s for sale is a three-bedroom $500,000, the buyers must be in that range, right. Then, you know, then there is a match. So our matching is getting more and more accurate.
We’re getting more buyers, and the reason why we have more buyers is also because they know that we’re unbiased when we bring them to properties. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling if you’re shopping for your home and the agent next to you keep pressuring you to buy, unless it’s legit.
So some properties even our agents, we will pressure the client to buy because we know it will be sold. So if we tell the buyer like, look, yeah, we have seen many homes, according to your budget, according to what you like, according to your location, closest to your mom, this is really the best property and it’s going to sell today.
So if you really like it, don’t do that “let me think about it, let me discuss with my family” because it’s going to be gone. So sometimes when it’s gone, then the clients will be like, hey, you didn’t tell me, we’re like, no, we told you, but you think that it’s not that urgent.
Troy: There’s this fear or lack of courage to make the purchase?
Rhonda: So what we want our clients to know is that, look, if it’s not urgent, our agents have no urgency to push you. But when they push you, it’s really because it’s urgent. And the thing is, for you to have this faith and trust in the agent, you must trust the company, right?
You must know that we have a system to support that. If today we are rewarding our agents with zero salary, only commission based on their sales, I can’t promise you this because our agents would… this incentive model doesn’t work. You, on one hand, Rhonda, as a CEO says that our agents are working in your best interests. On the other hand, we’re incentivizing them wrongly. So everything has to work.
You know, our incentive model has to make sense for our agents to not pressure the client. The agents have to be incentivized to work in the best interest of the client. So that’s what we’ve built here, you know, in our bubble of office here at Ohmyhome my home and we enjoy it.
Troy: So even if an agent closes a deal or helps a client gets a home, sells a home, they wouldn’t get any incentive at all.
Rhonda: They will get incentive if the client is happy. That means if the client is happy to write a testimonial or willing to praise the agent. If the client says, no, your agent is not good, no incentive.
Yeah. So that’s why an agent has no reason to do the wrong things because he doesn’t get rewarded.
Troy: Okay. So the reward now is not based on closing the deal by making the customer satisfied.
Rhonda: Satisfied with the whole journey. So it could be that we actually didn’t even transact the deal because when we met the client, we realized that it’s a negative sale.
We tell the client, look, client, did you know that if you sell your home, you will not have enough cash to buy your next home? And the client actually feels, wow, I’ve met three agents. No one has told me.
Troy: So you helped them to clarify and make a decision as well.
Rhonda: Yeah, that’s right. And our agents get rewarded for that as well, because they’re doing the right thing. And we have actually met clients who kind of became homeless because they made the wrong decision with their past agents or their past, you know, property journey. They come to us and we have to, you know, speak to the town council. We have to go to HDB. You know, we go to lawyers to help them sort all of these things out.
So the effort we put in for every client is very different. It really depends on their circumstances as well. You know, we have certain hardship cases that come to us. We help them sell their homes and we give them the chance to pay in installments. Or we even do pro bono cases for some clients. And we haven’t stopped that since 2016.
Yeah. So it’s a very different model and this is why we, even, if you compare on a testimonial basis, Ohmyhome has over 5,000 five-star testimonials. And this is not easy to achieve because this is an industry where clients tend to only speak up when they’re unhappy.
Troy: Unless you’re super good. They wouldn’t write a testimonial for you.
Rhonda: That’s right. You have to be super good. And, and the chances of a client being a repeat customer in the next five years is very slim because people don’t move every year, you know? So everything we do is really just to make sure that this client had a good journey and sometime down the road, when they require any other services , could be mortgage, could be renovation, could be buying a new launch, Ohmyhome will continue to be there for them.
Troy: And they will recommend to their friends as well.
Rhonda: They always do! They always do. Yeah. So we’re very grateful for that.
Troy: So right now, your focus is more on HDB, buying and selling, and the private properties are secondary.
Rhonda: No, no, no. We have in the past we have always been focused in HDB, because the nature of how we wanted to extend our services to the masses. But nowadays in recent years, we’ve also been very focused on condos and private property, but we don’t have to market as much for that because the clients who are savvy, who understand the difference between freelance and Ohmyhome , they will naturally come to Ohmyhome .
Yes, because they know that the difference Ohmyhome provide is an entire company support. This is very different from an agent who is hardworking. So we’re not denying there are hardworking agents in the market, but how hardworking can you be compared to our team of 80 people from different professions working together to sell your home? It’s very different.
So this is the new future using technology to move properties, using technology to match buyers and sellers, using technology to reach out to even overseas foreign buyers, to buy Singapore properties. You know, so today we’re able to sitting in this room, you’re able to list your property for sale in Malaysia and Philippines using Ohmyhome.
This is something never available before.
Troy: And data will make everything even faster, even better.
Rhonda: Even clearer because data is able to tell us why certain homes rent at a higher price in the same development. So if you consistently monitor property development and let’s say you have 10 units in the development, a certain unit always rent for a higher price.
There is a reason, it could be a better view. It could be better maintained. It could have better neighbors, you know, there are many reasons, but the data makes it very, very clear. You don’t have to guess. You don’t have to go down on the ground and stand there and feel the breeze, you know. The data will tell you that a certain unit rents for a higher price, there is good reason for that.
That means we can tell a prospecting tenant that out of this 10 units, you should go for unit A if you can afford it. If you want to save costs and be in the same development, there are other units for your consideration.
Troy: So you’re using data to increase the probability of the match right now.
Rhonda: Correct. Yes, because there are people who are like, I love this apartment, I want the best unit. Not everyone is cost conscious, you know? But there are people who are like, I want this development, but I want the cheapest unit, but that’s fine too. You know, we just have to make sure we fit every single profile.
Troy: Then what are the challenges that all my home faces at this stage currently?
Rhonda: The challenge Ohmyhome always faced is misconceptions. So first of all the market may not understand how a freelance agent work and therefore they can’t appreciate how Ohmyhome works.
Troy: Yes, because there’s no contrast for them to see.
Rhonda: Correct. So if you’ve only engaged one agent in your life, you wouldn’t know the difference, you know, so to avoid that misconception, we always encourage customers to speak to a few agents, including Ohmyhome. The moment you speak to a few agents, including Ohmyhome, you will see the world of difference between us and a freelance agent.
That is the first thing. The second misconception is that people have the, especially in the HDB market, they think that because we charge less, we offer less, we provide less, our service is less. What they don’t understand is it’s actually the opposite it’s because we’re so well-run, we’re so efficient.
We’re able to close deals so quickly at a better price that we’re able to lower our prices. When you’re inefficient, you actually need to increase your price because the time you take to serve one client drags out, right? So naturally you, you can’t be serving at the same price as Ohmyhome because we’re closing 10 deals a month per agent, you’re closing one deal a month per six months.
How can you compare the two? And the good thing about an agent and… so in Ohmyhome our agents are divided into geographic regions. Now, what that means for you is that if you are selling in Sengkang, the agent that is serving you as an expert in Sengkang , he has been transacting Sengkang day in, day out every day, every night.
So for him to understand your property, it is a given. And with our research report, we further support and substantiate that research and that experience that the agent has. And that agent also has a lot of buyers that he’s currently serving, that he can bring to your property.
If you engage your freelance agent that serves everyone in Singapore, how can someone who understands Joorong , understand Simei as well. It’s very difficult. They’re not specialized, but they try. And that’s why freelance agents who are successful have to be extremely hardworking because you have to run around Singapore. You have to try to be a Jack of all trades. It’s not easy. We have a lot of respect for those agents as well, but as a company they won’t be efficient, you know, if you think about, on a yearly basis, whereas for our team, if you call in and you say, look, I’m selling at Bukit Batok , the agent that’s serving you is an expert there.
So it’s very different. And this is why the service that you get from our agents, it’s a very different level of service. It’s really not comparable.
Troy: You spoken about a lot of advantages about Ohmyhome , but there are definitely flaws as compared to conventional agents. But right now I can’t think of any flaws that you guys have.
Rhonda: I don’t think there is. No, no, there, there isn’t. Because one of the advantages people always think about freelance agent is that because freelance agents are incentivized by their commission, they will work very hard for their property. They will sell at the best price in order to get higher commission.
It is a myth. A person who is trying to close, the best thing a freelance agent can do for themselves is to close the deal. Getting you another $10,000 for your home and jeopardizing the deal does not benefit them. No. And another $10,000 is not a big increment to their commission. It’s a big increment to the seller, it’s not a big increment to the agent. The agent risk losing the entire deal when they try to fight for a better price.
That is very dangerous. The best way to get the best price, which is what Ohmyhome is doing is to bring the most number of buyers. That is the best way to get the best price, because neither should you get a buyer to keep increasing the price of a property that may not suit them.
So being an ethical company is still very important at the end of the day. While we want to achieve the best price for the seller, we’re not going to achieve that at the expense of the buyer. The only reason why our buyers outbeat the last price is because they really liked the home and it’s a popular home. It’s not because Ohmyhome agent is there pressuring them that, hey, another 10 grand and you get the home, that’s wrong.
Troy: So you’re following a natural demand and supply. If the demand increases and the supply is the same, then the price increases.
Rhonda: That’s right. So the, the real way to get the best selling price is to have the most number of buyers but a freelance agent can’t get that because how many buyers do they have? You know, they have their phone book.
You know, so that’s why like even the myth and the misconception that a freelance agent will fight for the best price because of that commission is not true. And at the end of the day, sometimes because of fighting for the commission, they lose the deal.
Troy: And it’s not beneficial to them.
Rhonda: It’s not beneficial to anyone, you know, in the whole thing. And also I think the industry will gradually move towards this model, but easier said than done, because to move towards our motto, you have to completely overhaul the entire industry. So Ohmyhome can do that because Race and I are running the business, we get to do it the way we want it.
And our team is happy because they come to work, they’re not facing competitors. They’re facing colleagues, facing teammates who work together with them. And it becomes like a, like, I think like a school, like college environment, everyone comes in, they can talk about their property that they’re serving.
They can brainstorm how to best sell it. They walk over to the marketing department and they can discuss like, hey guys, I have this property, you know, we’ve done all of these things and what else can we do? So it’s a very fun environment. It’s not like, I don’t want to tell you about it because you might steal my customer, which is what happens in the industry out there.
Troy: Yeah. I think out there is a dog eat dog world.
Rhonda: Yes. And it’s no fault of the agent. It’s the fault of the way the industry has been structured.
Troy: The whole business model. So is there a next step that Ohmyhome is focusing on right now?
Rhonda: The next step for us is really being a one-stop shop. So we have always been focused on transactions for the past four years.
But after they have bought or sold that property, that next question is generally, for the seller, is where should I buy next? So that’s why we have condos, we have new launches, all of that to serve our client. And even foreign investment because it could be that sometimes people, they move in with their kids or their parents.
They don’t need to buy another home, but they want to invest so we can show them investment in Malaysia and Philippines via our platform. For the buyer’s side, after they buy the question is always, how do I renovate? You know, I don’t trust renovation companies. Can you recommend me one? So Ohmyhome, we have mortgage, we have legal, we have renovation, we have home maintenance.
And so down to your painting, your air con servicing, we have all of that. We want to make sure that as long as it comes to their home, we are going to be there for them throughout the years and generations to come.
Troy: Can I visualize a super app, like, like a Grab, you know, everything is inside.
Rhonda: That’s right. A one-stop housing platform.
Troy: That’s very interesting.
Rhonda: It’s very cool. So we, we get to be in our customer’s lives regularly. So even the client who has finished purchasing, finished renovating with us, we get to, you know, get in touch with them with every air-con servicing and then, you know, we get to see them again and honestly, Troy, it makes us happy.
Because we get to see their lives and, you know, after buying their home, how do they live in there? Are they happy with their purchase? You know, seeing is believing, right? So sometimes when you see your customers in that home, that, you know, you have painstakingly managed to secure for them, then you feel like, wow, that was worth it, you know, they’re happy, you know their mom is living with them.
Their children have their own room. Finally, they have a good study area because these days our renovation team is very focused on building study area, working areas for the homes. You know, now with this work from home new norm. So the way we design homes have changed and seeing them live in it is very exciting for us because we feel like, hey, that was a good design. You know, it’s not just on paper, it’s not just collecting the next invoice.
Troy: One last question, Rhonda, what actually keeps you going every day?
Rhonda: What keeps me going everyday? I love my team. Because I don’t… I’m not the one facing customers every day. It’s my team who’s facing customers. So they get the joy from the customers more.
I don’t get it as much. I get to see the testimonials but largely it’s really my team that I enjoy coming to work for, you know, like everyone saying, like work from home, but the thing is I miss my team. I miss the office, you know? So, you know, even on Zoom, we’ll be like, when can we have our next gathering? When can we have our next brainstorming session?
I think this is the first of all, the business model, the problem we’re facing that we’re trying to solve is a global problem. We’re not just solving it for Singapore, where we want to keep expanding. We want to solve it for the world. You, you look at housing in other countries. When they get the housing wrong, their lives actually get messed up because their entire savings is there.
They’re now tied to a mortgage and they’re living in a place that’s going to flood. So the problem that we’re solving is really not just like, hey, get your transaction right. We can make it smooth for you, you know? That’s Singapore, when we go to other countries we are talking about placing you in the right location, where you and your family can be safe.
Because you’re not going to buy a home. A lot of times these communities, they’re not going to buy a home in the next 20 years. So we’re only doing a one-time business with them, but we need to make sure we get that right. And when I think about this, it’s what keeps me awake. You know, because I think about, wow, if we can get this right, you will stop reading about evacuation, you know, because people are not even placed in those areas anymore.
People should be placed in an area that… we’re talking about Philippines. There’s volcano, there’s earthquakes. There’s fire. There’s typhoon and this is very regular. How can you solve that for those people? Because sometimes when they buy, they don’t even know they’re buying the wrong homes. So what can change that? Data can change that. Knowledge, information can change that. They don’t have it today, Ohmyhome can provide that.
Troy: You feel like you’re making a dent in the universe.
Rhonda: It’s a, it’s a very, very important problem to solve. We’ve seen too many hardship cases. We’ve seen too many problems of people coming to us in Singapore and Malaysia and Philippines.
And you wish you were there earlier for them. And they say the same. They say, I wish Ohmyhome was here before I bought my home. We wish so it’s for them too, but we, we can’t undo it, but we can do it right for the future.
Troy: Hey guys. Thanks for taking time to tune in. I hope you have learned a little bit more about property investing today. If you feel that you have benefited from this podcast, do share this with your loved ones and also do follow us on all our socials and join our community Telegram group and tell us what you’re interested to know about next. Everything is in the description below. Have a great day guys and always remember: when we are better prepared, the next opportunity is just around the corner. See you next week.
It’s pretty interesting to understand deeper what are the constraints that traditional real estate agents face, and of course, how does Ohmyhome work. It makes sense to me now that Ohmyhome my home agents have more time and energy to serve their clients.
Because there are people in the company who are taking care of the other aspects in a property transaction. And I believe that if this plays out in real life, then we as consumers benefit. I mean, let’s say if I have a home, I want to sell my home, I want to sell my home at the best price in the fastest time possible.
Whoever can get me the best price I will use the agent la, you know, very simple. I mean, that’s for me la, I don’t own a home yet. I’m not in the situation yet. So that’s for me right now. I can’t say that this is true for everyone la. And, you know, everyone has their own preferences, have their own considerations.
Will Ohmyhome be the future of real estate transactions?I feel that disruptions in any industry, they happen because there’s a void. People see a better way to serve consumers and they fill in the gap, and that’s how disruptions happen.
I think that if Ohmyhome can create top-notch service with its low fees and high quality service, and help customers achieve our goals, I don’t see why all my home cannot be the future, but of course, there’s also a critical human aspect to consider. If the agent knows that he can get higher reward being a traditional agent and he or she has financial obligations, then it’s hard to see why they would come into Ohmyhome, unless Ohmyhome can really convince them to see the long-term benefits.
I think Rhonda and I also agree on a point that marketing is really important, but at the same time, you can’t just throw marketing in because you have to take note of the costs, it’s a startup, there’s a lot of costs and there are also factors to consider on all my homes.
And first thing, they want more exposure, but is the returns of marketing worth it if they were to market to the whole Singapore for an extended period of time? Because only a small fraction of the population will care about Ohmyhome and that’s when they want to sell or buy their homes.
So that’s a chicken and egg problem la. If you, if you market, you know, there’s going to be a lot of costs and it might not be guaranteed that people will come find you, but if you don’t market, then only a small percentage of the population will know that Ohmyhome exists. So, yeah, it’s, it’s a hard position for them personally. Like I mentioned, I never used Ohmyhome before. I don’t have a property and I don’t have friends who have used their service before. So as much as I want to recommend you that service, I can’t say it from firsthand experience, and I wish I can.
So for anyone who has used Ohmyhome before, let us know on our Telegram group how they are, and maybe you can recommend to the other friends, if you think they are good. Starting a business to serve people better, it’s never easy, because you are always seen as the outsider, as the disruptor.
But when I was interviewing Rhonda, I was with her in the room, in my home office. I could feel the drive in Rhonda to make things happen. I could, I could hear it through the voice. I could see the sparkle through her eyes when she was talking about her business. There’s an innate drive in her, you know, to want to serve consumers better.
It’s definitely not easy to manage a company that is trying to make a change in the real estate industry. And of course, hard work doesn’t mean results because in the end, the consumer, Singaporeans, will still make their judgment. The consumers will judge based on their experience, based on what they gain out of it.
And I think those are the things that will keep the company moving forward. So yeah, I mean that, that’s my thoughts for the episode today. I hope you learned something and yes, remember to share on the Telegram group if you have experienced, you have used Ohmyhome services before, so that’s it for today. I hope you learned something. See you next week!
Ep 13: 3 Questions Everyone Should Answer Before Deciding What Property They Want – David Baey from Mortgage Master
In episode #13 of Coconut Avenue, we are joined by David Baey, the Co-founder of Mortgage Master. David has been a driving force in the mortgage industry for almost 10 years. He started out at DBS, specializing in mortgages and rose to become Branch Business Senior Relationship manager. He then led the Mortgage department at MoneySmart before co-founding Mortgage Master in 2019. And today, he will talk about something so important, but almost always neglected in a property purchase journey until the last stage – mortgage loan. Tune in as we discuss with David about mortgage loans. How is the credit score in Singapore calculated? Is your mortgage loan so important that it can make or break your property purchase be it for your own stay or investment? With that said, how can you then prevent yourself from purchasing the wrong property due to insufficient knowledge about mortgages? What’s the difference between like effective interest rates and flat interest rates? What are the 3 questions everyone should answer before deciding what property they want? Tune in to find out!
In episode #12 of Coconut Avenue, we are joined by Jacqueline, the Co-founder of JMD. JMD has built outstanding investment properties in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. They’re headquartered in Singapore and their expertise focuses on major commercial properties with strong experience in the shophouse sector. Tune in as we discuss with Jacqueline about strata commercial properties. What are some qualities to look at for commercial strata properties? How does fragmented owners and location affect the demand of your commercial strata properties? How do you reverse engineer to estimate the demand of your commercial strata properties and better predict the rent structure? How is remote working affecting the demand of commercial strata offices and what direction is it heading? What are some advice she has for first time property buyers who are interested in investing in commercial strata spaces?
Ep 11: What Are Some Important Matrixes & Thought Processes Behind Shophouse Investing? – Jacqueline Wang from JMD
In episode #11 of Coconut Avenue, we are joined by Jacqueline, the Co-founder of JMD. JMD has built outstanding investment properties in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. They’re headquartered in Singapore and their expertise focuses on major commercial properties with strong experience in the shophouse sector. Tune in as we discuss with Jacqueline about commercial properties and shophouses. What are some matrixes and thought processes behind valuing and investing commercial assets or shophouses? Can these processes be applied for residential investing? How does the condition, fundamental land value, neighbouring land value and assets all affect the valuation process? What are some important questions to ask before investing in commercial or shophouse properties?
Ep 10: What are the Major Investing Pillars in US Real Estate Investment? – Mark Ho from RealVantage
In episode #10 of Coconut Avenue, we are joined by Mark, the Managing Director of RealVantage, a property investment fund that invests in properties in the UK, USA, Australia and most recently, Singapore. With 18 years of experience in the real estate industry, he’s here to share with you in depth about the USA property markets. Tune in as we discuss with Mark on property investment in USA. What are some key reasons why he like the US property market? How to determine if a property is worth buying in US? How do they increase the yield for a different classes of property? How attractive is Singapore property market compared to the properties Australia and US? How are property taxation and transaction cost in US like? What are some pitfalls Singaporean commonly faced when investing in US property market?
Ep 9: What are some Important Factors to consider in a Foreign Property Investment? – Keith Ong from RealVantage
In episode #9 of Coconut Avenue, we are joined by Keith, the co-founder of RealVantage, a property investment fund that invests in properties in the UK, USA, Australia and most recently, Singapore. Tune in as we discuss with Keith on property investment in Australia. What are some key reasons why he like the Australian property market? How will the tension between China and Australia affect the property market of Australia? What are some major metrics to look at when investing in Australian property markets? How to increase your property yield? How should investors manage currency risks when investing in overseas property? What are some risks of investing in Australian property markets for retail investors? What are the key factors that drive real estate prices What to look out for when investing with property investment funds? Tune in to find out!