The realities of being your own boss
By Yanika Liew
As Malaysians begin to move away from the more traditional career paths, more young people are considering a career in real estate. Especially after the pandemic, the promise of flexible hours, unlimited income and being your own boss is an appealing prospect.
“To build to last in this real estate industry, find out the big why or the purpose beyond money. The big why will keep your momentum in this industry,” Malaysia Institute of Estate Agents general secretary Evon Heng said.
“Invest in your education and continuously expand your knowledge about real estate trends, laws, regulations and market conditions. Attend seminars, workshops and training programs to gain insight,” she advised.
She encouraged any aspiring agent to embrace technology, social media, online advertising, and video marketing systems to boost efficiency. It was also important to build a strong network.
“Focus on building long-term relationships with clients, even if they don't result in immediate sales. Providing exceptional customer service and maintaining regular contact with your clients can lead to referrals and repeat business,” she said.
Registered estate agent Royston Lau would be the first to agree.
“We always hear the phrase, the sky's the limit… However, [newcomers] must understand, before they can enjoy the unlimited income and the flexibility, they must first be willing to sacrifice,” Lau said.
As with any career, Lau pointed out that the benefits of a real estate agent had to be earned.
“Sacrifice comfort. No doubt the work is no longer 9-5, but it could be extended to any day, the working day. It is not encouraging to tell the client this is my off day,” he said.
Newcomers would also have to sacrifice time. In real estate, time is money, especially at the beginning of the career. It is only after the business and the income has been stabilised, that the time spent can be adjusted.
Lau noted that there was also a need to put aside ego when it comes to work. As real estate is a people business, it’s about the relationship of one another. People like to work with those they feel comfortable with, therefore work on having good relationships with clients.
“Besides a good relationship with the clients, good contacts are an added value. Therefore, young people are advised to work and gain experience in other sectors, meeting many people. Such as banks, development companies, property advertising firms or some professional business companies which can earn them high-end quality clientele,” Lau said.
He also pointed to property portals as an important place to assist or grow the business. He advised those entering the field to subscribe to at least one website to advertise their property listing.
Resilience and dedication
When entering a new job for the first time, especially in real estate, very few know where to begin. The reality of being a beginner in real estate means that oftentimes, agents and negotiators may not secure a deal within the first few months of their new career.
“Everything is hard in the beginning, a newly joint negotiator steps into this industry without any experience and products in hand to sell,” Lau said.
“Do keep some savings before resigning from the existing job as usually a newly joint estate agent, or negotiator, may not have income for a certain period of time, estimated 3 months, therefore it is advisable to have some savings that can last for 3 months,” he added.
“Partnering with the senior negotiators, assisting them and getting to learn the proper skills on closing deals may help you gain some experience or maybe exchange for some commission share,”
He noted that newcomers could join project marketing firms with many existing properties that allow the new agent to have products to sell immediately.
As with Heng’s advice, Lau agreed that they could also attend training courses, conducted and recognised by established organisations in order to gain the necessary knowledge and sharpen their skill in certain areas.
Attending property launching, and visiting developer showrooms, besides obtaining more listings, newcomers would be able to learn from the way the salesperson presents. Frequently visit the property management office and get to know some owners, he added.
“As I recall back then, I was worried, but I readjusted my focus to do rental deals at the same time, brush up my skills, learn whatever was necessary, connect with the co-agent, build my network and develop a robust online presence,” Heng said.
“Property buyers are getting younger compared to a decade or two ago and they are one of the biggest markets that developers would like to capture. In view of that, the new developments are designed and packaged to suit their requirements,” Lau said.
These would come in the form of flexible living and bigger spaces, Heng pointed out.
“With remote work becoming more prevalent, buyers are looking for homes with dedicated home office spaces or flexible layouts that accommodate their changing needs,” she said.
There was also more of a preference for convenience and connectivity. Buyers seek homes near amenities such as grocery stores, schools, medical, and easy access.
“Most new age buyers will prefer the location of the project near amenities, such as MRT and LRT, besides their own convenience. For those who are buying for investment, that will make it easier to rent out, especially sub-letting of rooms,” Lau added.
“Many homeowners nowadays like to add rooms to rent out by room instead of renting the whole unit to a single Tenant, they foresee that renting out room by room will get them a higher return on investment. Usually, a unit of three rooms will be increased to five to six rooms by turning the living hall and kitchen into room,” he pointed out.
However, Lau also noted that the concept of adding rooms had been banned for the properties in the Federal Territories. The Commissioner of Buildings (COB) department announced on DBKL’s official website on 5 August 2023 that adding rooms for subletting is illegal.
Additional buyer trends indicate that there is also an increased interest in sustainable and energy-efficient homes.
The REA journey
“Becoming a licensed real estate agent (REA) is encouraging. However, persistence is one of the important factors to determine an individual to be able to complete the whole process,” Lau said.
The whole process of becoming an REA would easily take five years or more.
This would include a two-year course to attain a diploma in estate agent conducted by an institution recognised by The Board of Valuers, Appraiser, Estate Agent & Property Manager (BOVAEP). Once completed, the candidate would be a Probationary Estate Agent (PEA) who must undertake two years of practical training under supervision.
After that, the candidate would be called for a professional interview.
“The intention of BOVAEP is to make sure REA will be able to conduct the business in a very professional way and be able to supervise their real estate negotiators to complete their duties,” Lau said.
“The professionalism of the property agent will let the public feel secure and confident on handing their property to them,” he added.