From Engineer To Real Estate - Property Wealth Planner.

Peter Tan, Property Wealth Planner
From Engineer to Real Estate - Property Wealth Planner

20 plus years in the Real Estate Industry since 1995. An engineering train person like me, I am amazed that I can be in this real estate industry for so long. But I never regret that I have chosen this trade as my Career. Let me share with you my storey.

Real Estate Agent
My first job - car mechanic

I took up a course in Automotive Engineering, and Industrial Technician Certificate conducted by The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) in 1984, then after I went for my National Service as store personnel in the Navy.

I completed my National Services in 1986. After 3 months of job hunting, finally got my first job as a car mechanic apprentice. Back then, having a monthly salary and a fixed over time, my salary is only gross of S$450.00

I always dreamt of having my own car mechanics workshop, so I find ways and means to upgrade myself. Taking night courses related to my field, car inspection course, workshop management course etc..,

2 years down the road, I realized that Car Mechanic is not a Career that is suitable for me. I quit the job and joined a corporate gift company as a salesperson. I am an outgoing person, like to meet people, talk to people, and need more interaction.

I am a class monitor and also head prefect during my school days. I use to train and give instructions to all my school prefects, which made me a person that not easy to take instructions from others.

Due to the above reasons, I went back to assist my father in his business, he was running a goldsmith workshop. I share with his customers the type of designs that will be trendy and obtained orders from them, then bring them back to my workers to manufacture them.

I got married in 1993, and bought my first HDB BTO flat, back then I was 29 years old.

Due to the financial crisis, luxury items are not selling well, and my father's business is being affected and not doing well, so I have to find something else to do.

I started a delivery and courier services company, but the revenue was not enough to meet the month-end needs. I have to find other sources of income, I tried MLM sales, never made it because I could not agree to the MLM system, I feel like I am cheating people.

How Did I Start With My Real Estate Career?

In March 1995, I saw this advertisement in The Strait Times.

Free 5 days training course and you can make at least S$3,000 monthly part-time.

Very Attractive right?

Since my newly started business was not doing well, I need search for more revenues to support my family. This extra S$3,000 income will be excellent for me.

I was running my own business, and my timing is flexible, so I decided to do it as a part-timer for the start.

I signed up for the course. The course taught me all the papers works that I needed to know in the real estate industry during these five days of free courses and 1 was assigned to a manager after completing the training.

My manager was always busy, he never had time for me, he was supposed to mentor and guide me but was very disappointed, he did nothing, and I am left alone sorting out things all by myself.

Was It Easy To Be A Real Estate Agent?

Back then in 1995, no training, no support from your upline was the norm.

How to start? I was lost.

Well, I am not a person that easily gives up, and I always believe

There is a will, there will be a way. Never Say Die!

I approached the admin to check how other agents are doing. I mirrored them.

I subscribed to the daily "For Sale By Owner" listings, my company will fax it to me. No internet services back then.

Handphone was a luxury, my only communication was by pager.

Cold calling
cold calling

I faced a lot of rejections and criticisms when I did my telemarketing. No training was provided by the company and my manager, I didn't know how to talk to prospects!

I do not have any property sales background and I was not trained for it, but I persevered. Finally, I managed to get one appointment ( the joy will never be able to relate ) with a property owner who wanted to sell her bungalow on Pierce Road, located in District 10, one of the luxurious residential areas in Singapore.

It was a very embarrassing experience for this meeting. My Manager never accompanies me to secure the listing and I just go there by myself not prepared.

And 2 lessons learned.

“Madam, why do you want to sell your property?”

This is the first question I asked the seller,

The first lesson I learned

I had to be more diplomatic in asking a question. I was too blunt, nobody would ask such a question, especially to a landed property owner ( GCB owner some more)

I didn't get to market her house in the end ( she definitely senses I am a novice in this industry). She highlighted to me that I have to be equipped with the knowledge of the Real Estate Industry.

The 2nd lesson I learned

Do your homework!

She has a Good Class Bungalow! ( so embarrassing) and I had no knowledge of the type of landed properties available in Singapore. ( Back in 1995, no course related to Singapore Property is available, especially for Real Estate Agents)

Good Class Bungalow
Good Class Bungalow

But where can I obtain the information and knowledge of the Real Estate Industry?

There are no courses conducted for property agents.

Luckily, there are some writes up on some of the Residential development in Singapore. I bought these books on all the private condominium developments in Singapore.

This is how I managed to understand more about the industry bits by bits. The real estate industry is not that simple, there are so many sectors involved, endless learning.

In the year 1995, most of the agents were asked to focus on HDB transactions. It was the biggest real estate market in Singapore. Buy and sell. Knowledge of property investment was unheard of.

My first commission cheque came from a friend from the People Association Youth Group Community Club. She bought an HDB 3room flat in Toa Payoh for the price of S$75K, 1% commission from the buyer, my commission is S$750, after a 30/70 cut from the company, my commission left with only S$525.

My second commission was also from a friend from the People Association Youth Group Community Club.

He bought a 2-bedroom private condo in district 10 for the price of S$700k, give me a commission of S$3,500, 30/70 cut, commission paid to me was S$2450.That’s is after 6 months I am in the Real Estate Business.

That was my result after 6 months in the real estate business. Not satisfied but I am still happy with the results without any guidance from my manager, I managed to make some extra income as a part-time agent.

I was slow but I still had transactions now and then. Most of the transactions are from people I know, relatives and friends. Thank you for your support, you know who you are. I am grateful you are still with me now.

I was very fortunate, that my father's friend, Mr Goh, an experienced veteran real estate professional, had shared his knowledge on landed houses, redevelopment and private housing with me, that other areas that I manage to gain my knowledge in Real Estate.

Today, you can get any information about an owner just a click away from the internet. Back then, just checking for ownership and details of the unit/house, was not only costly, but time is also very consuming. Let me remind you again that the internet wasn't available and documents in black & white meant physical paper and ink.

You have to go all the way to SLA personally, queue to pay for submitting your application (easily 2 hours), then they will give you a microchip where you check and selected the document you want, ask them to photocopy (info per page is S$5 to S$10 ), if you need the land site plan of the house, you pay additional for it. Easily, you need to spend one whole day there.

Before 2009, any registered company in Singapore can do real estate transactions, and agents do not need to have an individual license to operate, they will associate with the registered Agency license. Training is in house, not recognized by the trade.

There was no governing body. You can imagine how complicated it is during those days.

Disputes between buyer and seller arise, and agents, undercut each other.

Till then the government start to look into the matters, they start to provide courses and equip the Real Estate Agents with the proper knowledge. There is also where the real estate industry gets its bad name from. There is no transparency in the system.

Common Examination for House Agents (CEHA)
Common Examination for House Agents (CEHA)

SISV was the first entity to provide courses related to the Real Estate Industry, they provided the Common Examination for House Agents (CEHA), which consists of 3 papers, The Estate agency management, The law about real estate practised and Real Estate marketing.

Certify Property Agent License

To make sure I am on par with the market, I took up the course in CEHA (Common Examination for House Agents) in 2005. Unfortunately, I didn't pass the exam. Since an individual license is not necessary, I stop taking the exam.

In 2009, the government decided that all practising agents must obtain an individual license. All agents have to pass the CES exam, then they will only be given a certified license to practice. I manage to pass the CES exam in October 2009. Now, it is called the RES (Real estate salesperson)

CEA certificate and Agent ID card
My CEA certificate and ID card

A lot of agents are being forced to leave the industry when they didn't pass the CES exam in 2009.

Following up in the year 2010, the authority decided to raise the criteria. minimum entry to obtain a RES License, You must have at least 4 “O” level passes, and a credit in the English language is necessary before you can sit for the exam. if you want to know more about the RES exam, you can visit my blog "How long does the RES Course take?"

My delivery and courier services business not doing well, so I decided to focus on Real Estate, I switch to another agency and did only secondary markets sales.

The sentimental of running the real estate agency changes, this real estate compa