Special Feature

According to Desmond Liew, the best time to buy is yesterday

Desmond Liew of PropNex Realty receiving the Top 10 Transactor Condo (New) award from Cowie Tan, chief marketing officer at EdgeProp Singapore (Picture: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore)
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Making capital gains and growing your portfolio through property isn’t just a line that Desmond Liew uses to garner interest from clients. It’s an experience he’s actually had himself. At the age of 30, well before most of us had entered the property market, Liew had an impressive range of five freehold properties which he subsequently sold off at a significant profit.
“I bought my first HDB unit at the age of 21 when I was working for the Republic of Singapore Navy as a Naval Engineering Officer,” he explains. “I had an interest in growing my assets so I could retire early and I started buying property as soon as I could. By 25, I’d sold that unit and I used it to finance my subsequent purchases in private property. Over the next few years, I bought five properties and I lived in one while renting out the rest.”
Liew: My own experience as an engineer and a leader in the Navy taught me how to guide agents from all walks of life to achieve their goals

An early property investor

At the time, Singapore had not implemented cooling measures on the ownership of multiple properties, which made things much easier. The first deposit of 5% was all he needed to buy a property, and the remainder was loaned from the bank. Once they were rented out, the units bankrolled themselves while giving him additional passive income each month.
“While a lot of my peers were interested in investing in property, I think I was really an early mover at the time,” he recalls. “I had a secure and well-paying job so I wasn’t worried about not making loan repayments. I didn’t have an extravagant lifestyle. In addition, property prices at the time were also far lower than they are today, which made all the difference.”
Liew spent the next 20 years in the Navy before he finally decided to leave when he reached a superscale rank as the head of maritime security. “I wanted to do something different in the second half of my life,” he considered. “But I didn’t want my knowledge and expertise to go to waste and my interest in property made me wonder if I could combine the two. So I took the Real Estate Salesperson (RES) certification just over four years ago and I’ve been a professional property advocate since.”
Liew has been a millionaire producer for the last three years

Engineering his success

Coming into the industry at a later age than his peers and just before the pandemic hit made Liew realise he needed to work smarter to stay ahead. “I didn’t have contacts in the industry and the ensuing lockdown meant we could not hold events to build up my network, so at the start, I relied on digital marketing to connect with interested buyers,” he explained. “But I began to apply my engineering experience to formulate a process that would help to connect with and take my clients through their property journey. More importantly, I used my own experience to really demonstrate how property could be a valuable investment and tool for capital gains in the short, medium, and long term.”
His efforts speak for themselves. He achieved the Top Rookie of the Year award from PropNex in his first year with the company and has been a consistent chart-topper in the last three years, winning multiple Platinum (100K) and Super Platinum (250K) awards. This year, Liew is one of the Top Transactors for New Sales Condos in the country. A millionaire producer for the last three years, he credits his success to his methodology as well as the team that he’s built. “We have a very diverse and varied team that has a mix of experience in different property segments, and we also have a strong onboarding process to help new teammates learn the skills they need to achieve a deal,” he says.
“My own experience as an engineer and a leader in the Navy taught me how to guide agents from all walks of life to achieve their goals,” he adds. “We use data and modelling to create a step-by-step programme that helps them gain experience, confidence, and the skills they need to close a deal. We couple that with first-hand experience gained from a mentor-mentee partnership, and building an emotional and social support system that integrates them closely.”
“What I have done is to analyse the entire sale process and break it down into specific, manageable tasks. This system means that everyone in my team can master it no matter what their experience or seniority is,” he explains further. “I have refined this system that I’ve developed through data and feedback and it’s enabling my team members from all levels to achieve Platinum awards each month.”

What lies ahead

He applies that same analytical background to examining trends in the market and spotting anomalies or opportunities for his clients and himself to seize at the right moments. Right now, Liew sees the Core Central Region (CCR) as an excellent opportunity due to several unique circumstances. “It’s unusual that you have a market where the CCR and suburban areas are close to parity in pricing,” he points out. “Now this is because there are rejuvenation plans in outlying areas that are lifting prices, but that means that when the CCR goes through the same process, their prices will rise further. However, there will still be a shortfall of housing units in Singapore. This means prices across the country will rise, so you should try to get into the market as soon as possible.”
In addition, he advises his clients to avoid thinking of property as a perennial investment. “I often see people wanting to buy a property because the interiors are spectacular or worrying about future needs,” he notes. “I think it’s more important to develop an adaptable attitude. Whether you choose to live in it, rent it out, or sell it eventually, this is an asset that will continue to gain in value for some time.” He admits that in his youth, he made the error of thinking about property like a stock that would rise and fall, not realising its full potential for wealth-building.
He understands that there are many challenges facing potential buyers today, such as the upfront capital outlay which may be stressful for many people. But he points out that it’s even more stressful to be a renter, as rental prices are subject to market conditions. “Let’s say you have a certain amount for the down payment of an apartment. If you hesitate for even a year or two, you will end up getting less for more,” he wisely notes. “When you look back, you’ll realise that the best time to buy was, in fact, yesterday, not tomorrow.”
For more information,
Contact Desmond Liew | 82682081
Associate Group District Director (R060699I)

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