The ‘Wan way’ to succeed in real estate

By EdgeProp Team / EdgeProp | November 18, 2018 8:00 AM SGT
 - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
PropNex real estate agents from Ken Ng Division, under Wan’s direct boss, at their mid-year retreat at Owl Bar in September (Credit: Aaron Wan)
After he joined PropNex Realty in October last year, Aaron Wan quickly grew his team to 70 real estate agents. On Nov 14 this year, the group division director snagged two titles at PropNex’s third Quarterly Convention 2018. He clinched first place as Top Associate Group Division Director, after his team achieved more than $1 million in sales commission in August and September; and second place as Top Individual Producer, recognising Wan’s own contribution of more than $400,000 in sales commission from July to September.
Wan, 31, believes that to achieve robust sales, one must adopt a personal approach in picking suitable properties for clients. He typically meets his clients first to understand their requirements before recommending properties tailored to their taste.
“When you serve buyers, it’s very challenging because you have only the weekends,” he says. “Each day, you probably can serve only two buyers”, as most buyers prefer to view properties later in the morning. And the nights are a no-go for viewing, as there is no natural light.
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Wan attributes his team’s sales achievements to the “healthy culture” at PropNex. With more than 7,600 sales agents, it is the largest real estate agency in Singapore. One factor that has contributed to the strong culture is the firm’s “no internal crossing” policy, he says. This regulation prevents a team leader from poaching top-performing agents from another team to achieve his team’s sales target. Property agents from one team are banned from joining another unless they leave the company and come back after a year.
Serving a wide range of buyers
Wan serves buyers from a wide range of backgrounds, and 60% to 70% of his clientele are locals. He works with two large groups: bankers and migration consultants. The latter bring in China nationals to work in Singapore, and some of them invest in properties in the hope of becoming a permanent resident in the country, Wan explains. “Chinese people, they like to buy, not to rent.”
Wan attributes the majority of his leads to referrals, and describes himself as a “very aggressive referral hunter”. Local and foreign clients with whom he has worked before would recommend their friends to him. Wan also approaches people whom he crosses path with, such as vendors, contractors, lawyers and bankers, and asks them whether they know of people who want to buy property. “If you refer me, we could work out something,” he would tell them. It is totally legal to give a referral fee in such instances, he explains.
He also believes that sincerity is key when serving buyers. “The same customer can be spoken to by three different agents, yet he chooses only one to deal with,” Wan says. “It boils down to our character, [tone of voice,] mannerism, figures of speech, how I sit when I speak to you.”
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Growth as a leader
 - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Wan’s team achieved over $1 million in two-month sales commission, bagging him the title of Top Associate Group Division Director at PropNex’s quarterly awards (Credit: Aaron Wan)
Before Wan made the move to PropNex in 2017, he was determined to learn the skills of managing people. “I wanted to step up to the next level, because in real estate sales, we believe that one day, sales figures will go down,” he says. Even if he is no longer an agent one day, these skills can still be applied elsewhere, he adds.
Wan faces challenges in managing agents, such as when he has to lead a group of agents who are largely older than he. But he is thankful that he is able to exercise leadership because the agents “see me as someone who is very far-sighted”, he says. “They trust me because I am able to point out things they don’t see.” Wan used to doubt himself when he started out, but he reminds himself constantly to “always do what I think is right for [my agents]”.
In turn, he looks for two traits in them: They need to be passionate about the job and good at time management. Real estate agents have to deal with many clients, Wan says, and they should be able to prioritise and give a definite timeline for each case, lest they lose out on more lucrative deals.
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For property agents who are starting out, Wan believes two things are key — a portal to advertise property listings; and a research tool to analyse property trends. Agents should also have a six-month cushion to cover living costs. The industry is for hard workers, and requires agents to sell properties through roadshows, telemarketing and approaching potential customers by going door to door. “You must invest a lot of time to be on the ground meeting people,” he says. This was how Wan himself started out.
A different background
Wan reckons that some of his strengths and experiences have helped him in his career in real estate. For instance, he came from an accounting and financial background, which enables him to give sound financial advice to his clients. He worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore as a tax consultant for three years and, prior to that, as a banker at Credit Suisse. Before joining PropNex, he was with ERA Singapore.
Wan describes himself as an “opportunist”, a trait that helps him scout for good property deals. In his younger days, he used to dabble in a variety of activities, including buying Fred Perry apparel overseas and reselling it in Singapore at a higher price. Those days, the apparel brand had no official store in Singapore. As a teenager, he had also made a low five-figure sum within a month, dealing with virtual currencies.
As proof that he is a savvy investor, Wan points out that his own properties have appreciated in value by about $500,000 each since he bought them. For his matrimonial home, he purchased a two-bedroom unit in District 9, at Watermark @ Robertson Quay for $1.5 million, and it is now worth $2 million. Last year, he bought another property — a three-bedroom unit at The Sea View on Amber Road in District 15 — for $2.3 million. The asset is now priced at more than $2.8 million, Wan shares.
He says he has learnt much from his direct boss, Ken Ng, who is senior group district director. He often puts himself in Ng’s shoes when a tricky situation arises. “Would he have answered [clients] the way I answered?” he says.
Looking ahead, Wan wants to focus on nurturing leaders in his team. “For Aaron Wan to repeat this success again, to [lead] another 60 people is not difficult — because I’ve done it,” he says. “However, if I were to pick out five or six people to individually lead 10 or 20 agents each, that would be more amazing.”