Ohmyhome Co-Founder Race Wong and UrbanZoom Founder Michael Cho discuss why PropTech is the future of selling and buying real estate, and Wong shares tips on up and coming areas to invest in Singapore and Malaysia.
Ohmyhome Co-Founder Race Wong, was recognized as an outstanding entrepreneur, for her efforts to simplify how Malaysians buy, sell and rent property. After clinching the Outstanding Woman award in Entrepreneur Category at Women Glamour Award 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently, Wong’s contribution to simplifying the entire value chain in property acquisition in South East Asia is not going unnoticed.
Within three years since launching, Ohmyhome emerged as Singapore’s number one HDB flat transaction app and recently expanded its footprint into Malaysia.
On achieving industry recognition, Wong says she’s honoured to be in the company of serious competition.
“It is a great privilege and honour to be recognized alongside the many outstanding women. The purpose of the award is to encourage other women by sharing our stories. If I am able to achieve my dreams and goals, many others can do so too! Making housing transactions simple, fast and affordable is at the heart of everything we do, and we’re delighted that the recognition places Ohmyhome at the forefront of the start-up industry,” says Wong.
Ohmyhome is a DIY platform connecting homeowners and searchers directly at no cost.
Features such as ‘ShoutOut’ and ‘Open House’ enhance the overall user experience. For those who prefer comprehensive and professional assistance, competitively priced agent services are available from 1% commission for Condo Agent Service, and at flat fees from SGD 588 to SGD 4,888 net for HDB Flat Agent Services.
Wong claims the App is powered by advanced technology and trusted by customers, Since launch, Wong says more than 4,500 homes have been transacted through Ohmyhome which represents a combined value of over SGD 1 billion.
We asked Wong to share her opinion on the key indicators of market buoyancy with regard to buyer and seller sentiment going into Q4 2019. According to Wong, competitive mortgage interest rate has remained relatively unchanged since August this year, which may still attract buyers to make commitments to purchase now.
Wong says there are a huge number of unsold units available. The quarter on quarter unsold units have increased 60% from 24,193 (Q1 2018) to 38,710 (Q1 2019). Only a drop-in no of unsold unit is seen in Q2 2019 at 35,538 units. The number of resale transactions in the private resale market has increased from Q1 2019 1,858 units to Q2 2019 2,371 units.
“These statistics by developers and resale market suggests a pickup in market activities in Q2. While we hope that the momentum will continue into Q4, it may be unlikely. Q4 is a time when activities start to moderate as seen in historical trends, combined this with the ample supply of unsold units that can take years to be absorbed with more units coming in the pipeline, we find that market buoyancy could be a stretch for Q4,” says Wong.
According to Wong, we can expect demand increasing due to housing availability going into 2020.
“With the introduction of a new enhanced housing grant (EHG) earlier in September 2019, we would expect to see an increase in demand for housing and the HDB resale market to be more active as these measures make public housing more affordable and accessible to lower and middle-upper income households. It helps young families set up their first homes at ease with more options in the resale market. Singaporeans will also enjoy more flexibility in choosing the size of their flats, the convenience in terms of location and affordability,” says Wong.
In regard to demand, Wong says investors should keep an eye on the most popular suburbs to rent and buy in Singapore and Malaysia, particularly property that have direct access to the greater southern waterfront.
“D16,18,19 and 23 are currently the most popular to rent. Investors should keep an eye on areas that have direct access to the greater southern waterfront,” says Wong.
Ohmyhome recently expanded its service offerings to home renovation and relocation services. We asked Wong what were the driving factors behind this decision.
“Though housing is the biggest and most important purchase in one’s life, the whole transaction process is often a cumbersome and expensive one. We know the problems in the market and our goal is to streamline the entire transaction journey on one platform. We’re always looking at ways to improve our customer experience and saw a growing need for homebuyers to have easy access to services such as renovation and moving. With the new services introduced to its ecosystem, customers can now enjoy the convenience of utilizing multiple services on a single app,” says Wong.
According to Wong the expectation for real estate agencies to be part of the post-sales process is all part of value creation for the customer.
“With the new services introduced to our ecosystem, Ohmyhome has raised the bar as we now have a robust ecosystem offering a total of ten property services on its platform including – DIY platform, agent services, conveyancing, mortgage advisory, home-staging, renovation, moving etc; as different agencies have different business models, they might focus on what they are good at currently, instead of post-sales services,” says Wong.
Another PropTech ‘matchmaking’ service in Singapore is the recently launched UrbanMatch, launched in Partnership with ERA Realty Network. According to UrbanZoom founder Michael Cho, its AI-driven matchmaking service provides curated homes-for-sale that best fit home buyers’ criterium.
“We offer a curated, private list of properties posted by verified home sellers and exclusive listing agents, will be sent in the format of automated messages via WhatsApp to home buyers. This screening process driven by smart algorithms – like those used in dating apps – and UrbanZoom’s concierge team, differentiates UrbanMatch from existing property listing portals, where users must manually search for listings and have no practical way of ascertaining whether the listings are genuine. UrbanMatch uses a set of criteria to verify the list of properties on-sale by direct home owners or exclusive listing agents, as well as the home-buying intent of potential buyers,” says Cho.
According to Cho, home sellers are often frustrated with ‘window shoppers’ with no genuine interests, while home buyers are put off by duplicate or even fake listings on public portals.
“This lack of trust leads to time and energy-consuming search periods – very much like poor dating matches. UrbanMatch wants to reinvent this process by first verifying the authenticity and intent of both parties, while leveraging on machine learning algorithms like those used in popular dating apps, where we prioritize matches based on an understanding of the individual users’ preferences that we collate over time, alongside personal screening by our concierge team. The net effect we hope to achieve is a high signal-to-noise ratio in the matches we make, and ultimately a faster route towards actual transactions,” says Cho.
ERA CEO Jack Chua says UrbanMatch has partnered with ERA Realty Network in Singapore, to supply properties managed by ERA’s agents. He says this partnership will provide a sizeable and verified inventory of more than a thousand HDB flats, condominiums and landed homes-for-sale.
“We’re excited about this partnership as it enables us to expand the channels for lead generation by allowing our agents to be connected with genuine buyers. UrbanMatch is unique in creating a safe and trusted community for qualified sellers, buyers and agents who have already been vetted by the portal,” says Chua.
According to Cho, all licensed property agents from various estate agencies are welcomed to post properties-for-sale on UrbanMatch, with the key criteria being: they must be the exclusive listing agent, or in other words, no open listings.
“This is to prioritise quality over quantity and remove any potential duplicates. Any agents found to have posted fake properties-for-sale in a phishing attempt will immediately be dispelled from the platform,” says Cho.
Cho says sellers who value privacy will appreciate UrbanMatch as there is no search function for public-facing listings. He says this allows them to soft sound the market privately as their homes are only being sent to a select group of qualified buyers. Cho says UrbanMatch also offers home sellers a free ‘UrbanZoom Home Report’ that is generated based on latest available market data.
“UrbanMatch will check all registered home sellers against the Singapore Land Authority’s Land Titles Registry, to provide buyers with assurance that the property is put up for sale by the legitimate home owners. In fact, UrbanMatch takes a serious approach to prevent scamming, and has committed to pay SGD 50 to the home buyer if a fake home-for-sale has been reported and proven,” says Cho.
According to Cho, home buyers and sellers who require further expert advice may opt to engage a licensed agent via UrbanAgents. Users who prefer to manage the entire process on their own, can also opt for services such as basic documentation, legal conveyancing and home inspection, through UrbanMatch’s partners.
“Public-facing property portals will still play the major role of surfacing listings, but UrbanMatch can be a great complementary tool to use alongside them. While these portals focus on search functionalities and quantity of listings, we choose to focus on quality of each curated match, and with that the benefits of time-saving and privacy. We think users don’t have to pick one or the other, they should try both public portals and UrbanMatch to increase their chances of getting a good match,” said Cho.
(Ed. UrbanZoom is an AI-enabled research tool for home buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants in Singapore. UrbanZoom owns UrbanAgents and UrbanMatch.
ERA Realty Network is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SGX Mainboard Listed, APAC Realty Limited. The Group has a network of offices throughout APAC and SE Asia. Featured image of CoFounder Race Wong courtesy of Ohmyhome.)