How a Hong Kong Property Agent Should Prepare for Their First Sales Transaction

Take one look at the Hong Kong property market and you’ll immediately see how working as a property agent dealing with home sale transactions in Hong Kong real estate can be a rewarding career. While you can earn a consistent income from rental transactions, it’s property sales that tend to be most lucrative. Monetary gains aside, facilitating a property transaction is an excellent opportunity to hone your craft as a real estate professional and work with more clients—whether they are tenants or landlords, purchasers or vendors. So, don’t let the opportunity pass you by—here’s how you can prepare for your first real estate sale:Know Your ClientPeople buy properties for two reasons: for self-use, or as rental properties. A prospective owner-occupier would likely be looking for a home which is in a neighbourhood that suits their lifestyle, is well-connected to other parts of the city, and has access to facilities such as schools and malls. On the other hand, a pure investor may look for properties that offer a good return on investment as rental homes.What your client wants to get out of their purchase and the reasons behind it should drive the way you present their options, and how you communicate with them. For example, using emotive language when speaking with an owner-occupier could be more effective than going into quantitative detail, which may be best left for investors.Know Your ProductWork up to your first sale by taking clients on as many rental property viewings as reasonably possible. This creates opportunities for inexperienced property agents to explore and learn more about different Hong Kong properties. When working with an investor, understanding what tenants are looking for will also help you gauge the yield potential of a property for sale. You will then be better-informed when speaking with buyers looking for investment properties. And, when working with an owner-occupier, you will be able to paint a better picture of what living in a building or district might look like. Think long-term: make a habit out of staying up to speed on the Hong Kong property market, latest property transactions, real estate news, market research, and even the stock market.Before you go on a viewing, read up on the age of the building, transaction history, property prices in the area, identify possible illegal structures, survey the conditions of the external building, and find out from property management whether the building will undergo renovation anytime soon. If you’re dealing with a village house, look up land ownership details and whether the surrounding land has been gazetted for development. This will initially require rote learning, but, eventually, the process will become more intuitive.As tempting as it may be to do a virtual tour from your desktop, if you’re less experienced and not already familiar with all the major buildings, then Google Street View isn’t quite the same as visiting a location in person. Physically visiting apartments (on your own, or on viewings with rental clients) lets you pick up on details such as a uniquely shaped or boldly coloured building that other people may not know about. If you do not have access to certain properties because they are occupied, try to visit similar vacant units in the building that are on the market. Or at least familiarise yourself with the surroundings, such as the entrance to the residential building—there is nothing worse than getting lost with your client in tow. Your familiarity with the neighbourhood and the homes—from the nitty-gritty to the lesser-known quirks—will give you give you fodder to…Talk the TalkAt this stage, you may not be as experienced as you would like, but by making a good first impression and getting support from your colleagues, you can earn your client’s trust. Having done your research and accumulated a wealth of product knowledge, you should be able to give your client all the information they need (and more), and be the real estate professional who speaks in a confident and assertive manner.But, if you prefer being more up-front, it’s okay to let your client know that although you are relatively inexperienced, you have garnered plenty of experience in dealing with rental properties and made a consistent effort to keep up to date with market research. Paired with your determination to become a good real estate professional, the support of your co-workers empowers you to provide your client with advice and assistance to the best of your ability. There are no hard and fast rules on how property agents should present themselves, but whatever you do, put your best foot forward: many clients who are interested in real estate investing are relatively experienced, and it’s unlikely that they would want to do it through a real estate agent who is less knowledgeable than them.Ask the Right QuestionsOne of the most important things you’ll want to find out from your client is how much cash they have as this affects how much they would need to borrow from the bank, and, thus, the properties that are available to them. Tactfully reveal to your client how much they should expect to pay in cash for a certain property, and advise them to speak with their bank about it. Also ask if they are a Hong Kong permanent resident, and whether they own existing Hong Kong properties, because this could affect taxation on the piece of real estate. Politely ask specific questions about your client’s financial situation while making sure that you explain why you are asking. Help your owner-occupier client move quickly ahead of other potential buyers when they find their desired home by explicitly letting them know that they should be getting funds ready to make a down payment.The more you converse with your client, the more you can pick up on what they are looking for, and the more efficiently you can identify the most suitable real estate listings for them. Take time to build a relationship with your client and to make a lasting impression—even if you don’t end up being the property agent who closes the deal, you’ll have access to more opportunities as a real estate agent who your client remembers.But, be careful not to push too hard: for most people, buying real estate is a big decision and shouldn’t be done in haste. If a client is still exploring their options, build more trust by focusing on educating them and proposing caution, so when they are ready to proceed with their purchase, they can move quickly.Grin and Bear It (Or Not)Ideally, you would want to be the real estate agent for both the vendor and the purchaser. But, if you need to co-op, find an agent you can trust by asking your colleagues who they’ve been working with. If you can’t find any good recommendations from your internal team and database, find a co-op agent who appears to be straightforward and responsive. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid of looking stupid—after all, you’ve got a potential purchaser. Take care not to overdo the confidence and stay sincere when making enquiries: you wouldn’t want other agents to think that you’re only there to fish for information.Cold-calling other property agencies is the more convenient alternative, but be prepared for half-hearted responses. After all, in-person meetings are more effective for developing personal relationships.Maintain Open Communication with Your MentorYour mentor or team leader is there to help, so don’t be afraid to approach them for advice. Internal training workshops and role-playing different scenarios with your mentor can give you an idea of how you could approach specific situations and conversations with clients and landlords. If it gives you assurance, invite your mentor along when meeting your client. Be as well-prepared as you can if you don’t want your mentor to unintentionally show you up.If It Happens, It HappensOften, a real estate agent’s first property sales transaction happens with someone they know. The opportunity may crop up six months, or six years into your real estate career. Being prepared by becoming familiar with buyers’ motives, the sales market and the transaction process will help you find opportunities to expand into sales and take your career to another level: it’s been said that when you’re watching a Hong Kong movie and the details of the buildings appearing in the film automatically come to mind, you know you’ve got it in you to be a great real estate professional.Good luck!Dedicated to growing your personal success? Sign up to receive helpful articles, new listings and market updates!

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  • By OKAY.com

Women: The Future of Real Estate?

Today, real estate is known as a man’s world, but women are finding their place in the once gender-skewed industry. Hong Kong property agencies have some of the largest concentration of women employees in Asia-Pacific, however, only a small number of firms have women in senior positions due to the lack of flexibility which is crucial in their professional success. Per a recent study conducted by Urban Land Institute and professional services firm EY, of the 280 women surveyed in Hong Kong about half said they felt constrained by the challenges of balancing family and work. 60% of the respondents cited the factor as an obstacle. In general, companies are good at bringing women into the industry, but the challenge lies in keeping women employed in the long-term.Fostering an environment where women can thrive while managing familial obligations is just one of the goals for OKAY.com, with a management team that consists of 67% women. In addition, 74 of our 105 employees are women.The Chairman of the Board, Beverly L.W. Sunn, is one of the first American female entrepreneurs to establish a successful corporate relocation firm in Asia and a founding member of the prestigious Women of Influence annual conference. Moreover, the most important senior positions across OKAY.com real estate teams are all held by women, making them responsible for the entire salesforce. The top earners in the company are also women.When it comes to leadership development and other workplace practices related to advancement of employees, OKAY.com advocates gender neutral policies with performance-based approaches. The company has successfully retained and attracted female leadership through their overall philosophy in which people enjoy flexible working arrangements. They receive team support should they be pregnant and flexibility to take time off to focus on their families. Even in the company’s short history, 75% of women leaving for maternity have chosen to return to the company after the arrival of their child.Supporting and developing women is critical to the overall success of the organization, especially given that women comprise almost 75% of the company.Powerful Success Stories That Will Inspire YouOKAY.com has made diversity a priority when structuring the internal operations and the management teams, with the overall mission to create an environment that nurtures talent based on merit, not on gender. The overall company philosophy is about its flexible arrangements, which includes fully flexible hours, working from home, job sharing and a healthy work-life balance. These principles benefit the entire company and are part of the high job satisfaction and very low turnover. The flexibility to choose a schedule based on your needs has empowered the women of OKAY.com to control their time and, choose how busy they want to be.Although this goes against the grain of most companies in Hong Kong that require long working hours, this balance and control has led people to be even more committed to their careers, and OKAY.com generates revenue per agent that is over 3x the industry average. Furthermore, the flexibility has enabled many of the male employees to bear a greater share of family and child obligations, in turn allowing their spouses to pursue their own dreams and careers.OKAY.com is working hard to dispel the negative connotation that is often associated with flexibility, the most common being the fear that individuals would risk being passed over for promotions or raises. Shifting the power back to women to make their own decisions has quickly accelerated their positions within the company.Beyond flexibility, OKAY.com provides several programs that perpetuate the advocacy of women within the organization. Programs such as mentorship alliances, which gives women the opportunity to partner with others to shadow and learn from. Or even the job-sharing aspects which give women the opportunity to reallocate work to their team members if they are too busy, have other obligations or if they simply need a helping hand. The entire organization has embraced this culture and are themselves recruiting others to join the organization, driving the 100% growth seen in the last 12 months.Without excessive hierarchy or the formality of “development programs”, OKAY.com has seen engagement and personal growth occur organically. People here are asked, but not forced, to help their team members, whether in the form of knowledge sharing, mentorships or development. They are welcomed to propose new ideas for professional development or company improvements, and many of the multitude of ideas have been incorporated across technology, marketing, services, pricing, recruitment and training.Studies show that women in executive roles are less inclined to help female newcomers, driven by heightened competition when there’s few other women. This is absolutely not the case at OKAY.com.Women at OKAY.com don’t see others as threats because of the overarching business model. In an industry known for being hyper-competitive, OKAY.com has the reverse approach, focusing on collaboration, teamwork and knowledge sharing. Women are emerging as dominant players who know what they want and how to go about achieving their goals while balancing family and career. And with balance being a key driver in career decisions, this trend is set to continue over the longer term with the power of choice plus power of women generating an industry changing force.We can only imagine what that might mean.Dedicated to growing your personal success? Sign up to receive helpful articles, new listings and market updates!

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  • By OKAY.com

OKAY.com – Director Promotions: Lily Wong and Andrea Ott

OKAY.com is pleased to announce the promotion of Lily Wong and Andrea Ott to the position of ‘Director – Residential Division’. The appointments follow a record year for the company.Lily Wong has been a respected figure in the Hong Kong real estate industry for over 30 years, having held senior positions in major luxury brokerages prior to joining OKAY.com. Since coming on board, Lily has demonstrated expert leadership skills in building a team of highly successful people that embrace the innovative culture of knowledge sharing, and outperforming with their clients as a result.Andrea Ott continues to be one of OKAY.com’s great success stories. As one of the firm’s first agents, she has rapidly risen in the organization and now oversees one of the most successful teams in the company. Through the encouragement of the Executive Team, she has emerged as a strong manager with an ability to balance both client and team needs while retaining a genuine passion for real estate.Both Lily and Andrea, alongside existing Director, Belinda Woo, have been key drivers of change and innovation. They have been instrumental in guiding corporate strategy, finding solutions to streamline the agent workflow, and working across departments to help position OKAY.com as Hong Kong’s property agency of choice for both clients and agents.In their new roles, they will continue to work closely with the Executive Team in leading the business forward as it enters its next stage of growth - looking to sustainably scale the business while ensuring the company’s overall philosophy and culture remain strong. “Andrea and Lily embody the OKAY.com spirit of stewardship, working collaboratively with those around them, mentoring the organization and surpassing clients’ expectations of what to expect from a real estate professional” said OKAY.com CEO, Joshua Miller. “They both set examples of how one can achieve a higher level of professionalism and success in our industry.”Dedicated to growing your personal success? Sign up to receive helpful articles, new listings and market updates!

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  • By OKAY.com


The Evolution of HR in the Start-Up Economy

Why would anyone from an established and well-known organisation join a younger, high-growth company? This is the first question I get asked when discussing my transition from Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana to the tech-driven property agency OKAY.com.My answer is quite simple. Naturally, a large, well established company offers in-house expertise, name recognition and scale - unequivocally influential factors in career growth. However, high-growth start-ups are fast paced, innovative and dynamic. The opportunity to learn more and gain visibility from company leaders is far greater in this type of environment.As transformational changes in technology continue to increase the complexity of business around us, professionals need to be mindful of the unrelenting competition and globalisation that are altering the way we perform our roles. Specifically, the HR profession is in the middle of a shift as companies are redefining what it is, how it’s managed and how valuable it is. Transitioning my career from more of a traditional HR role into the startup industry, I’ve had to shift my focus to be more strategic in how I influence the company’s bottom line. Below are the top four questions about HR in the start-up industry and how I’ve had to change my mindset to fit the dynamic economy.Four questions about changing the HR mindset in the start-up industryHow does the growing start-up scene affect the HR landscape?Start-ups and SMEs tend to run lean and often one of the first departments to get cut or overlooked is the HR department, mostly because these types of enterprises don’t understand its true value. The HR landscape is facing challenges as these industries continue to grow because of technology adoption and its undertaking in replacing functional admin roles like benefits, payroll and more. Although these operational aspects may one day be replaced by technology completely, the business aspect of this role will never go away. The HR landscape is shifting from the once “people person” role to more of a businessperson ideology with a focus on optimising the productivity and performance of individuals through technology. These practitioners need to think about how to develop the next generation of leaders and create a culture that attracts the best and most talented of employees.Do HR professionals need to adapt and adjust their role for these high-growth companies?Regardless of the industry, size or location, companies face similar challenges that require organisations to adapt and build new capabilities. Rapid change is perhaps the greatest challenge companies face in adjusting and embracing continuous transformation. HR professionals need to learn quickly and innovate constantly to take on new strategic executions faster and more effectively. The new role for HR will be to act as a strategic partner in defining the architecture of the organisation. Becoming a strategic partner demands more knowledge about business strategy, markets and even the economy. They must quantify their role in terms of the value they create for the organisation. The effectiveness is measured in terms of business acumen rather than engagement and cultural transformation.Since many start-ups operate in the “new economy”, with new business models and employees who think differently, which HR skills are transferrable?In the new economy, the most transferrable skills are creativity, analytical skills and a “stakeholder” mindset.Smaller, fast-growing companies often have the double-edged sword of being more nimble but with more limited resources. They rely on attracting and retaining great talent, in part because they don’t have as well known a brand to lean on. This means today’s HR professional must think creatively about how to achieve objectives with limited resources. It’s very rewarding to be part of a culture that is willing to take risks and give you the freedom to try your ideas. Resourcefulness is the top determinant of success as a HR practitioner in the new economy.Analytical skills are also critical to new economy companies, and thus are highly transferable. Analytics and data have already transformed the world of talent. Companies look to HR practitioners to utilise employee data to make informed people management decisions. Organisations now understand the value of big data and will work across their administrations to effectively answer important talent questions. For most companies, their human resources departments already own this data so it is up to these HR professionals to identify drivers of actual business outcomes. HR leaders will also have to answer the “So what?” question asked by CEOs. Senior executives are now looking to them to identify the ROI of people investments and other initiatives. Start-ups and tech-focused companies have an ingrained culture built around data. This means senior management better appreciates HR professionals who think analytically.Finally, HR professionals can find great success if they think of themselves as stakeholders, not employees. Start-up leaders look for this quality in all their people, especially in strategic positions such as talent management. With great people, great things can be built – that’s what younger companies are aiming for, not incremental growth or simple job security.What is the current training/development structure like at OKAY.com and how does it compare to your previous roles?It’s hard to compare considering the industries are so different, but I what I can tell you is that the training and development here is phenomenal. To begin, everyone that joins goes through a two-week onboarding process. This is by far the longest training I have seen in any company I’ve worked with. Also, what is extremely unique here is the open and collaborative environment. Given the property industry’s reputation of being fiercely competitive and highly individualistic, it’s been a (positive) surprise to see real estate agents not only work together to share information and close their deals, but also work together with the IT department and the marketing team to think of new ideas to help the company and, ultimately, clients. This type of open environment is the recipe for success.This article was first published by Human Resources and is republished with permission. The original article can be found at http://www.humanresourcesonline.net/the-evolution-of-hr-in-the-start-up-economy/.Dedicated to growing your personal success? Sign up to receive helpful articles, new listings and market updates!

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  • By OKAY.com

Are Dads Struggling with Work-Life Balance?

Being a parent and a professional is certainly a balancing act and it applies to every working parent, including the often-excluded fathers. We often hear the challenges working women face to have it all, but we rarely talk about fathers who may be experiencing the same types of guilt and pressure women face when balancing careers and fatherhood.According to Pew Research Center, 48% of working dads say they spend too little time with their kids, compared to just 26% of working moms. Today’s fathers are just as likely as working mothers to say that finding a balance between their jobs and family life is challenging. There has certainly been a shift in mindset, where dads are making a conscious effort in providing both emotional and financial support to their families.How can companies support and embrace fatherhood and what can we learn from fathers who are successful at home and in the work place?Torbjörn Dimblad and familyIt’s been well documented that when companies give their people greater freedom and fulfillment, their employees are happier, more loyal and care more about what they do. Google, Starbucks and Nokia are all known for this.Although some career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being engaged in day to day activities with a young family, there are a growing number of companies that are flexible in making changes to meet individual and business needs.At OKAY.com, focusing on doing a great job is far more important than counting the number of hours worked. Joshua Han Miller, CEO of OKAY.com explains, “I’ve never told any employee that they must work until a certain time, and I’ve never needed to. If anything, I’ve always felt that encouraging balance and time with family leads to greater long-term dedication. I’ve seen it at OKAY.com, and within myself.”This is especially true for property agents who of course have personal lives and responsibilities, but whose clients need them to be available during weekends and evenings. Trusting people to manage their own time allows them to control their success. This in turn means they’re more passionate about what they do for their clients – the opposite of a factory mentality.Agents at OKAY.com have the option to selecting the way they work. They can opt for a full-time structure with a salary + commission structure or on a pure commission basis with no fixed hours (most select this structure given the higher commissions). Both structures have the same remote access to the company’s systems, database tools and support. Although “full-time” agents (with a basic salary) would seem bound to be in the office more, OKAY.com doesn’t force office hours on full-time agents.Joshua explains, “The choice of financial package is a personal one relating to someone’s fiscal situation and risk/reward preference. It doesn’t relate to their professionalism or dedication. Full-time agents are out with clients on weekends and can choose when to work from the office or from home. Commission-only agents are just as dedicated to their careers, sometimes even more so given their success and income are tied 100% to how well they serve their clients. The preconception that ‘freelance’ agents are less dedicated, professional or accountable is not at all the case. Both freelance and full-time agents have the flexibility to balance work with their personal lives.”Stewart Shaw and familyEven with the flexibility to control one’s own schedule, being a hands-on parent and a successful professional is still challenging (as any parent will tell you). Stewart Shaw, a property consultant and a father of two, explains that planning and creating a schedule is key. He says, “My wife and I sit down together every week and we plan out our children’s activities and routines. We then factor in our work schedules and determine who is responsible for what. For us, staying on track means planning and scheduling in advance, nothing works without it.”Colin Lew, a property consultant and father of an 18-month old child, describes his approach, saying “It can be difficult to juggle, but not impossible to manage, as long as partners are clear in their career objectives and personal/family objectives.”Colin Lew and familyColin will often book time during the day to spend with his daughter, ensuring that he does so between client viewings or office appointments. He explains that the OKAY.com culture has encouraged balance outside of the workplace.He says, “I have the flexibility to work in a way that best suits me whether it be in the office or out of the office. Certainly, our mobile technology ensures that I can choose to work anywhere with an internet connection whether using a computer or smartphone.”Establishing this type of culture was important for Joshua, who is also a father. He explains that “Running a company can be all-consuming, but maintaining daily touch points with my family during the week are important. Since my children are still very young, I usually can’t be home for their 6pm dinnertime, but I make sure to get home before their bedtime to talk about their day and be part of their winding-down. Then I’ll eat dinner and clean the kitchen to give my wife a small break, and work remotely at night. More importantly, I know how important it is for people in the company to be energized and have balance in their lives –it’s the only way to achieve long-term success.”For Torbjörn Dimblad, CTO of OKAY.com, balancing fatherhood and career has been easy thanks to his understanding wife and family. He explains that in general, he is committed to work during weekdays while his wife takes care of the household.He says, “Having flexibility at the office has been and continues to be very important to me and I make sure I attend special events for the kids at school. On occasion, I surprise them by making it back for a football practice or dinner with everyone.”For Torbjörn, working for OKAY.com has helped him find this balance. He says, “There is definitely encouragement from management that a work-life-family balance is important. The company values what you get done and deliver, not that you spend hours and hours at the office. I certainly take advantage of this.”In today’s professional environment, flexibility is key in attracting and retaining talent. There are mutual benefits for both employees and employers as the overall productivity increases and so does morale and engagement levels.Senior executives in companies who sincerely share this philosophy (dads and moms!) need to live by example to show the rest of the organization that they won’t be penalized for work-life-balance.At the end of the day, it’s the small things that matter with your kids. For the new fathers, Joshua advises them to, “enjoy every minute and to look for opportunities to be a part of your child’s every experience. And don’t forget to appreciate your spouse – they are your partner in life and, by extension, your partner in achieving success in your career.”It’s important to do what makes you happy, challenged and energized – this balance is different for every father and for every family situation. If you air on the side of work, do remember that your kids grow up very quickly, and the time you prioritize elsewhere can’t be given back.Dedicated to growing your personal success? Sign up to receive helpful articles, new listings and market updates!

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  • By OKAY.com


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