By Joseph Wong firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking a turn from his predecessor, Lim Boon Ping intends to roll out more benefits
PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents’ (MIEA) new president Lim Boon Ping has set out on a mission to continue building its good reputation.
He expressed his desire to keep the high standards set by his predecessors as he believed that this was the way to keep MIEA both relevant and attractive to the new and younger agents and negotiators.
To achieve this, Lim is looking at ways to add value for MIEA members during his two years of residency: “A lot of things are going to roll out very soon. Basically, in terms of IT (information technology) and also in terms of insurance, many things will be rolled out.”
One of MIEA’s biggest challenges in the past for many years was recruiting new members, he revealed, adding that the hindrance was the lack of benefits for its members.
“Over the last two years, our immediate past president Eric Lim managed to turn this around. He managed to bring in different kinds of benefits like corporate discounts with branded car dealers like Mercedes Benz, Volvo and BMW,” he said.
Others include discounts on health screenings, hotel promotions, CTOS and free Starbucks coffee. Additional collaborations under negotiations are with AirAsia and Malindo. With all these added benefits, practitioners start seeing the value in joining MIEA as members, Lim told StarProperty.
“We also hold free monthly seminars for members [to help them upgrade their skills and knowledge],” he said.
“For the past two years, our membership increased from 1,500 to today, 6,000. So, we have 6,000 membership. My biggest challenge is actually to retain the membership numbers. Of course, we still do recruitment but to retain them is actually more important because we want people to grow together with MIEA on a long-term basis,” he said.
Lim, who is born into a family of agents, said his other task is to increase public awareness of MIEA.
While he wants MIEA to elevate to the point where the first thing member of the public will ask is “Are you an MIEA member or not?”.
“This is one of the things we are looking at. We want to create this value and branding,” he said.
This will be achieved through good branding, he said, pointing out that branding is more like an education process.
“You have to be consistent. You have to be regular. I think this is something that MIEA is not quite there but we wish to do more. And also it’s about doing the right things and communicating that to the public at a more regular basis,” he said.
Lim shared his story and aspirations for MIEA as per the transcribed interview below:
Joseph Wong (JW): Tell me a little about yourself.
Lim Boon Ping (LBP): This is actually my first career. Mainly because I was born into a family of agents. My father is one of the first 1,000 people who managed to be registered as an agent about 30 years ago in Malaysia when our Act (Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Act 1981) first started.
He runs a small agency in Johor Bharu. This is why he wanted me to also join this particular industry and he sent me to New Zealand, to the University of Auckland to do a bachelor of the property where I majored in valuation. Right after I graduated, I join my father’s company. One and a half years later, I got my license, my authority to practise.
Actually, we don’t call it a license. The correct words should be the authority to practise. That’s what we called it as an authority to practise. That’s how I started.
At the age of 28, I was the first to become a state chairman of Johor branch and been holding that post for about eight years. After I step down, I became a national council member of MIEA.
Later, I became vice president for a couple of years and the last two years, as president-elect, and this year as a president.
JW: How will you be promoting MIEA publicly?
LBP: We are coming up with a series of strategies, but branding is the key focus. I think it is not just about telling the public who MIEA is. It’s more about telling the public why they should use the services of MIEA members and why MIEA members are different.
We want the public to approach MIEA member because they know they can only get this level of service from MIEA. This is the direction we are heading. We want people to see our benchmark of what a professional real estate agency should be.
JW: How about events?
LBP: The majority of the property exhibition that you find in Malaysia is mostly by developers. Ours is a little unique. With Mapex, we are a hybrid between the secondary property market and primary market, with properties marketed by real estate agencies.
Many people don’t realise is that the sub-sale market is actually much bigger than primary market. The sub-sale market is increasing from 60% to 65%. New projects are around 30% to 35%. If you go around and looking for property expos, it’s all about developers. Despite being the bigger market, you don’t see this kind (sub-sale) in exhibitions. So that is why we feel this is an important angle that MIEA can champion because the majority of our members do sub-sales.
In addition, we are not only doing this in Kuala Lumpur but also in Penang, Johor Bharu, Sabah and we just finished one in Kuching, Sarawak.
JW: Are your new members of a younger age? What is the average age?
LBP: Average age? We never did this analysis, but that is a good question. One thing that I can definitely tell you, they are definitely younger. We can see more and more young people are joining in this industry. Maybe because the real estate industry allows them to be more creative and gives them flexibility.
Five years ago, we see ages of 40, 50 and 60 years. Now, we are looking at 20s and 30s. So you can see these younger generations coming in into the industry, which is a very good sign. I think the average people coming in and passing their exams are in their 30s.
JW: I am curious about the term of each president? Can he or she be re-elected?
LBP: The term is for two years. You cannot ‘sambung’ (continue) the term immediately unless you participate as a president-elect one more time.
JW: Don’t you think that will make it difficult to carry policies forward?
LBP: It was a tough decision to make. We actually think the 2+2 is a great idea. There was strong argument against relooking into our constitution. Imagine, a not-so-fantastic president who stay on for four years. This two-year term exists because of that. But personally, I would agree if Immediate Past President Eric Lim continues for another two years. It's very stressful for me to take over his position because he overachieved.
LBP: Yes. I have to match him. I don’t think that I can surpass him. Even to match his achievement, I’m very stressed. But I will try my best.
JW: This brings me to the last question. What is your outlook of the property market?
LBP: You will know that our Malaysian property market increased exponentially after the year 2000. So exponentially that it worried our government and therefore our government started to put measures to slow the market. One of the most impacting measures was a change in the lending policy. Before 2012, the banks based their lending on gross income.
After 2012, the bank lends money on net income. This effectively increased the difficulty in getting sufficient loan. This is together with all the other 'braking' measures like upfront payment of stamp duties, the removal of DIBS (developers interest bearing scheme) and the loan to value ratio of your third housing loan is at 70 %. These effectively killed a lot of speculators. So all these things coming together and maybe the cooling down of the market, and you can start seeing our lower transactions from 2012 until today.
So, the million dollar question: Are we hitting the bottom yet? So homebuyers and investors want to know when to buy. There are still a lot of people who have cash in hand. Two to three years ago many of clients said to me “I want to wait and see”. So firstly, this is the mentality of many potential buyers. Second thing is, you should look at the latest figures of 2018 in terms of growth, in terms of the transactions in value and volume. These figures have actually started to rise compared to 2017.
You can somehow feel that this could be a sign of a slow recovery. So we should be already there, at the bottom.
This year, basically the government wanted to boost the property market, but at the same time, they want to control the high prices. So they boosted the affordable market, which I personally think, was very effective.
I will give you an example. one agency actually sold 4,000 Pr1ma units over a few months. But of course, only 2,300 loans were approved. The rest were not approved. So that is actually another part of the issue. Firstly, what you can see here is that the market is recovering and secondly, people want to buy but getting the loan is still an issue.
All this while, the developers, MIEA and other professional bodies have been urging the banks and our government to ease lending measures.