Savills Senior Director, Investment Sales & Capital Markets, Yap Hui Yee (L) and ERA Realty's Division Director Jazreel Lim (R)

How realtors dealt with the new realities of the real estate market 

An expert from Savills said the market has become increasingly international in its outlook. 

Apart from client demands, realtors in Singapore also had to deal with changes in the real estate industry, which include the market being more driven by global challenges like inflation, rising interest rates, and the pandemic.

To keep up with the new realities, ERA Realty's Division Director, Jazreel Lim said she had to change her mindset and the way she approached her clients.

Lim said she went back to “being a new agent” and worked to further expand her sphere of influence when she had difficulty selling in the first quarter of the year due to an all-time low inventory.

“In any market, referrals are usually the best source of leads…Simply put, if the fishes aren't biting, I have to go where they are," she told Singapore Business Review.

According to Lim, she was only able to transact at least four homes in Q121, but in Q222, she had zero. In the same period, only 1,825 new private homes were sold in Singapore, a 47.8% decrease from the same period last year. 

"I was panicking to see such a stark difference, but I think as real estate agents, we have to always keep cool. We have to understand that we can't change the market, so what we can do is change our mindset and the way we approach our clients," Lim, the youngest amongst SBR's most notable real estate agents under 40 for 2022, said.

In approaching clients, Lim said it's important that realtors educate their buyers about the market and its conditions.

"As long as we are able to educate buyers and help them with their decision making, that will help boost their confidence [into buying properties]," said Lim.

Lim said she educates her buyers by painting them a "proper picture" of what the market looks like, presenting them with charts and figures, and even helping them with proper planning. 

Apart from educating buyers, Lim said it is also important to understand their needs.

Savills Senior Director, Investment Sales & Capital Markets, Yap Hui Yee, echoed the sentiment, adding that understanding what clients truly want and providing bespoke services based on their needs is the secret to success in the real estate industry.

"There isn’t an easy sale in the real estate market. The key to a successful sale is a combination of preparation, planning and understanding the market plus your client's needs and wish list," Yap, who was recognised as amongst Singapore Business Review’s most notable real estate agents under 40 for 2022, advised.

"Provide dedicated service with a good old-fashioned personal touch," she added.

For the buyers, Lim advised them to "buy based on budget and needs," instead of timing the market.

"Inflation, high mortgage rates and record high home prices are chipping away housing affordability...waiting may not be a viable option because there isn't likely to be any significant improvements in the prices or the interest rates. I believe trying to predict what might happen next year is not the best home buying strategy," Lim added.

Embrace global

Another reality that realtors had to face, according to Yap, was the market becoming increasingly international in its outlook – be it marketing to overseas buyers or acting on behalf of offshore clients.

“Real estate has historically been viewed as a local phenomenon…but with the influx of international capital, it is almost impossible for real estate brokers to live in a vacuum and protect oneself from global influences,” Yap told Singapore Business Review.

This is why, she said, it is important for realtors to “ now look beyond local and embrace this new global reality to surf the waves.”

"This is not to say that local is not important – it is, and it always will be – but factors including  solid international reputation and political stability have solidified Singapore as a safe harbour for wealthy international investors to navigate turbulent seas," Yap added.

Admittedly, she said embracing this new reality and strategising how she could expand her reach globally was a challenge – but, thankfully, she had colleagues from different regions who helped her to have a more extensive global clientele.

"There is a saying that while what you know is important, who you know can be more relevant," she said.

“I have been working closely with Savills’ counterpart offices and colleagues to expand my regional network. Across the different regional offices, we work hand-in-hand to ensure that we have in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of capital flows,” she added.

Yap said her extensive global outreach, paired with an “out of the box thinking” was what led her to successfully sell the national monument House of Tan Yeok Nee in a span of three months.

“Thinking out of the box, we started imagining the space and exploring other potential uses, such as a café, private clubhouse or arts gallery. The purchasers valued the research and the breadth of knowledge demonstrated as part of our service, and eventually they loved what we had proposed,” she said.

“When I clinched the exclusive appointment, I knew that I’d leave no stone unturned. I tapped into every possible network to broaden my pool of buyers, going on to issue press releases to the Chinese and Hong Kong media in addition to our Singapore media,” she added.

Yap sold the national moment to an Indonesian family for about $85m in March 2022.

Yap hoped Singapore would reopen borders completely and other markets like China and Hong Kong would follow suit so that she could meet clients residing in these areas face-to-face.

“In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, it can be an especially tough landscape to traverse because global clients are almost always mobile clients. The best way for real estate brokers to do this is to accommodate the needs of international investors by approaching everything with creativity and extra care to their needs,” she said.

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