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REITM Focus: Taking successes to new heights through tech

In this issue of CEAnergy, we feature three property agents who have differentiated themselves by making technology part and parcel of how they conduct their work and serve their clients.

Here are the stories of Lester Tan of OrangeTee & Tie (OTT) and the PropertyLimBrothers of PropNex Realty, Melvin Lim and Adrian Lim, who have encouraging experiences to share on how technology has redefined their success as real estate professionals.

“An all-in-one Swiss Army knife” mobile app for agents

By creating his own apps and sharing them with his agents, Lester Tan of OrangeTee & Tie hopes to transform their mindsets towards technology adoption. (Image: Lester Tan)

A real estate advisory and analysis mobile app that provides agents instant information about properties in any segment of the market, from public and private residential, to commercial and industrial, with “a shake of the phone”.

The AAG InstantPro mobile app is a personal favourite of its proud creator, Lester Tan, a Senior Associate Executive Director at OTT. Lester has been “passionately developing” the app over the last 11 years with market-relevant enhancements every six months.

He also invented the “Shake-To-Search-Property” feature on the app, which enables agents to get instant answers to questions regarding properties from all market segments with a shake of their mobile phones.

Apart from property information, the app also has a suite of 14 calculators, including those for calculating a client’s mortgage, Buyer’s Stamp Duty/Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty, Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), resale levy, and CPF Retirement Sum.

The most recent calculator to be included into the app is a “Project Progressive Calculator”. It enables agents to advise their customers on affordability matters at new property launches. It takes into account information such as the TDSR and loan-to-value limits, and reflects the various payment milestones for the property.

Lester terms the AAG InstantPro app as an “all-in-one Swiss Army knife” for agents. “[With the app], our agents become more knowledgeable instantly. Instead of saying ‘let me get back to you’, they can now say, ‘let me share with you’,” he said.

By Agent, For Agent

Lester’s vTourCreator web-based app enables agents to create their own virtual tours in under 15 minutes. (Image: Lester Tan)

Armed with a background in business IT and computer engineering and a “strong passion for coding”, Lester started programming real estate software in 2007, a year after he joined the real estate industry. At that time, he wanted to empower junior agents like himself to use technology to work more efficiently.

Lester also observed that as early as a decade ago, consumers were becoming more equipped with knowledge made available by advancements in technology.

“I felt strongly that it is my calling to be the tech guy who could code apps that truly serve the interest of agents in this new tech-driven world,” recalled Lester.

Lester has created various apps (“By Agent, For Agent” as he terms them) that help agents in many ways such as marketing, co-broking, and viewings. These include:

  • The vTourCreator web-based app that enables agents to create their own virtual tours in under 15 minutes, and allows potential leads to view the property remotely;
  • The SMSGuru desktop app that fosters industry-level co-broking by maximising the reach to a network of co-broke agents beyond Lester’s agency who are marketing similarly priced units in a nearby location; and
  • The RepostGuru desktop app that bumps team members’ listings to the top page on property listing portals, enabling them to generate more leads and close deals within a shorter time.

Transforming mindsets

Lester shared with CEAnergy that the AAG Division that he leads was started with technology in mind, and this resonated well with those who believed in its value.

He recognises that there are still agents who find adopting tech tools challenging. These tend to be agents who have been in the business for a longer time and feel that they are still able to achieve a good performance without leveraging technology.

However, as consumers continue to be empowered by what PropTech start-ups can offer, Lester believes that agents must raise the bar for themselves by developing their own tech competencies.

“At the end of the day, it is not technology that will replace agents. Rather, agents who have embraced technology will replace those who don’t,” he surmised.

The AAG InstantPro mobile app enables agents to get instant answers to questions regarding properties from all market segments with just a shake of their mobile phones. (Image: Lester Tan)

Lester sees it as his role to transform mindsets about technology. He explained, “I use the ‘stairs vs lifts’ analogy. While it is true one can get to the top via the stairs, we can reach the top faster and with less effort if we were to use the lift i.e. technology, giving us more time to do more.”

Lester also believes in encouraging agents to try the apps out for themselves, explaining that giving agents a walkthrough of the apps will shed some light on the benefits and conveniences that can be gained.

“By sharing our apps with our agents for free, we are changing their mindsets towards technology adoption, one agent at a time… My app design philosophy is ‘Simple for newbie. Powerful for experts’. When older agents understand that my app is really designed for those who are not tech-savvy, they’ll be more inclined to embrace change and technology,” elaborated Lester.

Lester envisions that in the next five years, technology will be able to help agents work more effectively in many new ways. While it has already enhanced areas such as marketing, analysis and viewings, technology can further expand its influence in areas like contracts and service. He therefore sees that he has “lots of tech work ahead” to help prepare his agents for the future and its opportunities.

Tips on adopting technology

Lester has these tips to share with agents looking at using technology in their work:

  • Go out and look at what others have done. Learn from your competitors, especially those who have done it right.
  • Do not reinvent the wheel. Leverage what is out there and only build on what others do not have.
  • Repeat the above two points every now and then. The technology landscape changes constantly and there is always a need to keep up with the evolution.

Home video tours that tell a story

Adrian Lim (left) and Melvin Lim, known as the PropertyLimBrothers, believe that agents should explore how adopting tech tools can enable them to do more for their clients and enhance their clients’ property transaction experiences. (Image: PropertyLimBrothers)

From being co-trainees during their days as prison officers to firm business partners now known as the PropertyLimBrothers.

Melvin Lim (Group District Director) and Adrian Lim (Associate Division Director) of PropNex Realty have certainly come a long way together as good friends, as has their property business. Melvin runs a team, of which Adrian is a part of, with more than 50 associates.

When they joined the real estate industry 11 years ago after serving as prison officers with the Ministry of Home Affairs for three years, Melvin and Adrian started off their property careers in a completely different environment. There were no smartphones then, and property ads were placed in the Classifieds section of the newspapers.

Fast forward to today.

The PropertyLimBrothers (the catchy name was a suggestion from a client who thought that the “brand name sounds good”) continue to focus on the residential market clientele in selling properties. A “huge part” of their business uses creative angles, video content, and social media marketing to help their clients achieve their goals.

Melvin and Adrian developed their marketing mix after observing people’s media consumption preferences.

“A lot of people are increasingly on social media channels…We realised that videos form a big part of (their media) consumption… that’s where all the attention is,” they observed.

Their first video home tour of a property they were helping to sell in December 2016 was very well-received, and catalysed the sale of the property in 30 days. Melvin and Adrian attributed this success to a combination of good video content, a unique marketing angle for the property, and a sound digital marketing strategy.

“Since then, we became more aggressive and started creating more and more video home tours and using digital marketing for our sellers… This in turn has brought about a great amount of attention to their properties, enabling us to help sell their places effectively,” they said.

Lights, camera, action… and more

An in-house team with a broad range of expertise from photography, videography, and social marketing strategy support the Property Lim Brothers. (Image: PropertyLimBrothers)

There is certainly a lot that goes into the marketing of each property.

Melvin and Adrian have put together a team with the relevant expertise and have put in place a system to make things work smoothly. This is to ensure that they can serve their clients in the most efficient and effective way.

Melvin and Adrian shared the thought flow that goes into the marketing for each property:

  • Analysing the market for the property, and doing a “reverse engineering” process to consider who would be a target audience and create a story angle for the property.
  • Enhancing the consumer’s viewing experience by staging the property before the video shoot, and tapping their photographers and videographers to script and create the video.
  • Planning and implementing a digital marketing strategy to increase the video’s visibility across different online platforms to reach the right audiences.

The efforts have borne fruit. The Property Lim Brothers have sold close to 60 homes since November 2017. But what they consider an even greater achievement was that most of these clients initially had difficulties selling their properties.

After observing that consumers are spending more time on social media channels and are paying greater attention to video content, Melvin and Adrian embarked on a strategy that strongly features video home tours and digital marketing for their sellers. (Image: PropertyLimBrothers)

For instance, Melvin and Adrian’s marketing strategy helped to move the sale of a property that was on the market for four months with four other agents. They also helped to sell another property in 14 days when it was on the market for 12 months. The former owners of these properties are just a handful of the PropertyLimBrothers’ happy clients.

Putting the clients first before the business

For Melvin and Adrian, the return on investment for offline marketing is “decreasing rapidly”. They therefore see themselves investing in technology for online marketing platforms as consumers continue to seek greater convenience and time-saving options in their property hunt.

“Everyone is becoming very tech savvy now. Information is transparent. It allows all of us to be able to make informed decisions before engaging a service provider. Clients will definitely conduct research about a particular agent before engaging his or her service. Expectations in recent years have increased tremendously and clients want to know how you can add more value instead on relying purely on the standard traditional property portals to list their properties,” said Melvin and Adrian.

This motivation to adapt continuously to consumers’ preferences and needs stems from Melvin and Adrian’s desire to bring greater value to their clients. They believe that agents should not view tech adoption merely as an end in itself to help them keep up with the competition and survive in their business. Instead, agents should explore how adopting tech tools can enable them to do more for their clients and enhance their clients’ property transaction experiences.

Melvin and Adrian’s philosophy is therefore clear: Business will be there as long as agents can continue to bring value to their clients. This is because clients can differentiate such agents from the rest, and will appreciate the value they create.

Eager to find out more about current and emerging technology and trends in the real estate industry as well as some of the digital tools such as apps and virtual reality technologies?

Sign up now for the two-day SkillsFuture for the Digital Workplace programme tailored for real estate professionals! Remember to sign up for courses with “RES” indicated in the batch ID in the course schedule.