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Story of an Unlikely Real Estate Agent

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

For most of my working life, I worked in the finance industry, doing fund management and equity/stock research. 12 years in total, to be exact.

I joined the fund management industry in 2005, almost fresh out of school. It was a small miracle; finance was a notoriously difficult industry to enter at the time. I did not have a business or finance degree, but a degree in accountancy. I did not graduate from an Ivy League school, but good old Nanyang Technological University. My family was middle class, at best. I had no “connections” to help me.

Somehow, I landed the job. And I loved my job. There was so much to learn, and every moment was new. I could not have asked for better mentors and colleagues, a number of whom are still good friends today. They were smart, worldly, but yet kind. I did well in my role, the young blood helping the company improve its processes, pick out money making stocks, and avoiding stocks with accounting red flags.

Property was a side-passion / hustle for many of my colleagues. This was in the mid-2000s; in the office, almost as much talk as there was about stocks, there was about properties.

While I was making a good living at my job, sufficient to be buying my own property, I simply never felt comfortable. In my mind, I was just a child. A child from a very ordinary family, I could not fathom the thought of buying my own private property at that age. Still, it was fascinating learning about the market, and the investments that my colleagues were making.

The Great Financial Crisis rolled around in 2007/08. It was a very surreal time to be in fund management at the time. Things seemed turbulent, yet calm. The market moved as it wanted. We didn’t seem to matter, picking stocks didn’t seem to matter.

Subsequently, as governments pumped in stimulus, markets swiftly recovered. Stocks and property boomed once again.

The Young and the Restless

Feeling comfortable and somewhat secure again, and always looking for new adventures in life, I decided to leave the company. The years to come were to teach me a lot about myself, life, and people.

I funded and helped a friend set up a company, which eventually folded due to disagreements about roles, responsibilities and money.

I went back to the finance industry, joining a Japanese investment bank as an analyst. Having worked on the “buy-side” before, I had always been curious about life on the “sell-side”. At the bank, I covered the Singapore property market and property stocks. I visited developers and their projects in Singapore and overseas, both residential and commercial, analyzing their prospects and value for clients.

Settling Down, and Adulting

A job in an investment bank may appear glamorous and jet-setting, but it was also political and soul-sucking. I had always missed the familial environment of my first fund management employer; looking back on my decision to leave them, even today, does always fill me with some sadness. Thus, I re-joined the "buy-side", at another fund management company.

I settled back into a familiar life. Around this time, as the property market went into a lull after successive cooling measures, I finally purchased my own home.

Strange Encounters (with Property Agents)

In preparing to buy my own property (and previously, while I was an analyst covering the property market), I visited many showflats and resale condominium units. Given my understanding of both finance and property, a number of my friends also asked me for help when they were buying or renting their own properties. For a while, I could be found looking at properties on most weekends.

I met many property agents, and truth be told, it was almost never a positive experience. Some of these encounters:

1) "Bad Vibes" Agent

An expatriate friend asked me to view some properties for rental with him. At a particular viewing, the agent was strangely aggressive towards me, up until almost the end of the viewing. He asked me something about my "agency", and that was when I realised - he had thought I was a cobroke, swooping in at the last minute to split the commission with him! His entire demeanour took a 180 degree turn after I cleared things up.

While we both liked the development and the apartment, my friend did not lease the unit from him in the end. It was probably the bad vibes from the viewing!

2) "One of Many, Slow to the Party" Agent

I put an offer in on a house, meeting the seller quickly at the price that her agent said would seal the deal, as I felt that the house was undervalued. I remember writing the cheque with trembly hands, and passing it to the agent just before going into the cinema for a movie (I am not that cool, we had bought the tickets days earlier).

After the movie, I was told by the agent that the seller had accepted another offer. She sent me a photo of the torn-up cheque, and that was that.

I later found out that the property had been sold for a lower price than what I had offered. It was likely that as the seller had engaged multiple agents, each agent was unfortunately incentivised more to close the deal, than to get her the best price or fair price.

Such encounters and my curiosity to learn more about how the property market truly worked led me to take the Real Estate Salesperson (RES) course and exams in 2018. At the time, it was purely for knowledge, and simply to help myself, friends, and family in property transactions. I never intended to become a realtor. In any case, I was licensed under the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) at the time due to my work, and it was prohibited by MAS to concurrently be licensed as a real estate agent.

Busy with Work, no Time for Life, Until..

Meanwhile, the demands of work grew and grew.

As COVID-19 hit, it only became more demanding, as markets turned more volatile. Furthermore, Zoom meant that you could have a meeting or attend a call at any time, in any time zone. I was working day and night.

Until one day, it all stopped. My company, headquartered and listed in Toronto, had decided to start closing the Singapore office to cut costs.

It was sudden, but not a huge surprise, with restructuring being a common occurrence in the industry. I found it to be quite the welcome break, giving me time for myself. I read, and did yoga. It was probably the first time I had time for consistent exercise since I left school. I learnt to do some programming in Python, which I had meant to do for awhile already, but never found the time for.

Going back to finance was an “easy” option that kept beckoning. I received a number of calls from firms and headhunters. However, no longer caught up in a daily grind, I took the time to reconsider my life, and how I wanted to spend my life and time.

I realised I had enjoyed my work in finance the most when it was new, and I was learning things every day. Being naturally curious, I love to learn and spend time exploring things in great depth, which was the job when it was new, and not when it had turned into a routine. It was also quite difficult to take time out, with a routine yet demanding job.

I wanted more control of my time. To be able to spend it how I wanted, and with who I wanted.

Becoming a Real Estate Agent

Suddenly, I remembered the RES exam that I had taken two years prior. Its validity was about to expire! After some research, I joined the RealTeam, led by Vivian Chong, under the Rainmakers division of the Huttons NAVIS Group.

Truth be told, I was still not entirely convinced at this point that this was the career for me. With over 30,000 registered agents in Singapore, it seemed almost everyone must have an uncle, aunty, or friend who was an agent. How was I to compete?

Indeed, my first client was a good friend who had been looking to buy a house for a few years already. We discussed her finances and options, and in a few months successfully purchased a beautiful home for her. Even though there was another bidder for the house, we managed to negotiate a price that was within our expectations and her comfort zone.

I was invited to her housewarming party, where friends and family gushed over the house. It was a proud moment when she said how much she loved the house herself, and how happy she was to call this place her own.

My work felt truly meaningful. That was the start of my real estate career.

Life as a Real Estate Agent Today

As a realtor, I lucked out to once again have great mentors and colleagues, such as Vivian Chong, James Yeow, Yap Boon Seng, Stuart Chng.. the list goes on. I have been so blessed in this new career.

Today, I spend most of my time in the commercial segment, focusing mainly on shophouses and other commercial spaces in the prime districts of central Singapore - around Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar, Bugis, etc. After all, I had worked for so many years in the Central Business District, I knew many of these areas like the back of my hand.

I enjoy very much talking to business owners and entrepreneurs to understand their plans, requirements, and considerations. It is both educational, and inspirational. Being able to match the right spaces to the right businesses is highly satisfying.

In the residential segment, I help friends and clients as their trusted analyst and advisor. Drawing on my own experiences, I can see where things could be different with expert advice and help; which is what I wish I had received myself, and thus what I always aim to provide.

Every day is a new day, with much to see, much to learn, much to do. I look forward, to each wonderful day.


About the Author

In her former life as an equity analyst, Evon analyzed companies and stocks to find the best ones for her investors to put their money in, with over a decade of consistent outperformance. Now as a realtor, she enjoys using her analytical skills to help her client secure the best properties to invest in, and finds the greatest joy in journeying with clients towards their dream homes and ideal units.

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