Desmond Sim’s work-life converge at bachelor pad in Namly Place

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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March 25, 2022 8:00 AM SGT
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Desmond Sim and his cat Sophie in their apartment at Namly Place (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore) .
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Desmond Sim, CEO of Edmund Tie, purchased his home after viewing it for just 15 minutes. And he wasn’t even looking for a property then. It was sometime in the middle of last year before he officially joined Edmund Tie on July 1 as CEO. He was previously head of research for Southeast Asia at CBRE.
“I was very intrigued by the prices of new 99-year leasehold project launches, which had risen last year, while prices of older, freehold or 999-year leasehold apartments and condominiums had stagnated,” says Sim. And he decided to do some research to find out why.
In the course of his research, he chanced upon a 1,130 sq ft, 999-year leasehold apartment at Namly Place. The asking price was just north of $1,500 psf. He arranged for a viewing the following Saturday and made an offer for the apartment after 15 minutes. He purchased the property in July, and his next visit to the apartment was on his birthday — Oct 3, 2021.
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On this next visit, he was accompanied by his friend, a renovation contractor. But after inspecting the roof and every inch of the apartment, the verdict was that he didn’t need to have anything fixed. The apartment had been well-renovated by the previous owners in 2017. After the inspection, “I gave myself a high five”, Sim remembers.
BLD 66A NAMLY PLACE - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The staircase leading up to the apartment from the entrance below (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
He had chanced upon a gem. The apartment sits on the second floor of a row of shophouses built in the 1960s, with a 999-year lease from Jan 1, 1967. The row of shops beneath his apartment include the bakery and café Baker & Cook, Italian restaurant Amano and Plank Sourdough Pizza. The surrounding is the Namly private landed housing estate, located off Bukit Timah in prime District 10. Sim has been taking daily walks and exploring the neighbourhood, and “I’m surprised at how connected it is to parks”.
Before moving in last December with his cat Sophie, a 1½ year old Maine Coon Persian mix, Sim had the apartment cat-proofed with “invisible grills” at the windows. One of the attractions of the apartment is the vaulted ceiling of the living and dining area and the well-lighted interiors with half-frosted windows in all the rooms for privacy. The front bedroom is now Sim’s master bedroom while the second bedroom at the rear is now his home office.
All of Sim’s furniture in the apartment has been raised at least 5cm above the floor so that the robotic vacuum cleaner can navigate with ease. The previous owners had even installed three local area network (LAN) connections at various parts of the apartment, which is ideal for work from home (WFH).
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Parallels

Sim sees parallels between his new apartment and Edmund Tie. And it is not just the timing of his change in residence which coincided with his career move. “Edmund Tie is an established property consultancy and a well-oiled machine,” notes Sim. “It is like this well-renovated apartment: You only need to personalise it, rely on technology and prepare for the future.”
BLD 66A NAMLY PLACE - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The vaulted ceiling of the living and dining area (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Over the past nine months with Edmund Tie, he has had to change his mindset in order to adapt to the new environment. After all, Sim had spent 10 years with JLL and another nine years with CBRE before landing at Edmund Tie. “Coming from an MNC to an SME, you realise that you have to change your own mindset,” he says. “You cannot force people to have the same mindset as you.”
Even Edmund Tie today is no longer the firm it was when it was founded back in 1995. Edmund Tie himself stepped down as chairman in 2019 but remains on the board as the honorary advisor. The chairman today is Roland Ng, managing director and group CEO of cranes and heavy equipment company, Tat Hong Holdings. Ng’s family investment firm Triplestar Holdings and extended family investment arm, TH Investments, own 60% of Edmund Tie today. Ng’s son Christopher is COO of Edmund Tie and works closely with Sim.
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Being an SME has its advantages, says Sim. He wants to focus on supporting other fellow SMEs with the offer of Edmund Tie’s real estate services, which covers the entire life-cycle of a property, he says.“After all, SMEs are a key pillar of Singapore’s economy that contributes close to half of the country’s GDP [gross domestic product],” he adds. “We are involved in various working partnerships and have signed MOUs [memorandum of understanding] with various partners.”
An example is the MOU signed between Edmund Tie and One RHT last September. It marks Edmund Tie’s foray into tokenisation of real estate as well as its entry into environmental, social and governance (ESG) consulting with One RHT as its advisor. One RHT already has an existing team of sustainability consultants to provide ESG solutions for property management and real estate development.
BLD 66A NAMLY PLACE - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The living and dining area of the 1,130 sq ft, two-bedroom apartment at Namly Place (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
“Tokenisation allows individual investors to participate in development projects or invest in big commercial buildings, something they didn’t have access to in the past,” says Sim. “We can basically do club deals by putting accredited high net-worth investors in touch with developers or building owners.”
Over the years, Edmund Tie’s forte has been in property management, with the business headed by Kwok Sai Kuai, executive director and head of property management services in Singapore and the region. Prime condos managed by Edmund Tie, with the offer of concierge service, include Gramercy Park, New Futura and Nouvel 18. Condominiums that have been managed by Edmund Tie since their completion are Marina Bay Residences (2010), Marina Bay Suites (2014) and Scotts Square (2011). At the luxury waterfront residential enclave of Sentosa Cove, Edmund Tie manages six out of the 10 condominium projects, namely The Berth by the Cove, The Azure, The Oceanfront, Cape Royale, Seascape and Turquoise. (Discover insightful data of any Singapore condominium with our condo directory)
Sim sees opportunity in leveraging the firm’s property management skills to expand into asset management across all sectors — residential, commercial, industrial and hospitality. “We will be able to help manage and optimise the real estate portfolios of family-owned businesses, family offices and high net worth individuals,” he adds.

Beyond a numbers game

In 2017, Edmund Tie and OrangeTee had joined forces to create OrangeTee & Tie, which at that time, was the third biggest real estate agency by salesforce. It had over 4,000 agents. But last October, four out of five managing partners of Navis Living Group, one of the biggest teams at OrangeTee & Tie, exited the firm to join Huttons Asia, while the fifth managing partner departed for PropNex.
BLD 66A NAMLY PLACE - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The kitchen, with the bathroom and the second bedroom-turned-home office beyond (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
OrangeTee & Tie’s sales force stood at 3,147 agents as at March 23. And it has since swapped positions with Huttons, with the latter moving to third place with 4,328 agents today.
“While the numbers game does play a part in residential sales at new launches, developers shouldn’t leave out the smaller players,” says Sim. “Sometimes a dedicated team can achieve better results.” (Browse newly launched condos in Singapore right now)
Over the past year, real estate agencies such as ERA, Huttons and One Global have announced diversification plans, with their entry into capital markets and investment sales, as well as property auctions. Another real estate agency SRI had already formed its own capital markets business in 2019, headed by managing partner Low Choon Sin, who was previously with CBRE’s capital markets team. It had also entered the auction business which is now headed by Mok Sze Sze, who was previously the head of auction at JLL.
At Edmund Tie, the capital markets business is headed by Swee Shou Fern, executive director of investment advisory, while the auction business is headed by senior director and auctioneer Joy Tan. “Competition keeps us on our toes,” says Sim. “We cannot deny that there’s competition and that these agencies won’t disrupt our business. The share of the pie will get smaller, and the profit margins will be even thinner.”
BLD 66A NAMLY PLACE - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The bedroom turned home office (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
However, Sim feels it is important not just to work hard, but to keep reassessing one’s position in the market. “It’s not only the fear of losing market share, but it’s also the talent drain,” he says.
As an SME, one of the biggest challenges is talent acquisition and retention, notes Sim. He feels it is important to focus not just on the existing team, but the next wave of new hires. “They represent the next generation of the company,” he says. “So we have to look beyond a five-year time frame.”
In Singapore, Edmund Tie has a staff strength of about 250, with over 400 including Malaysia and Thailand, through long-term affiliates. To further expand its footprint, Edmund Tie has signed an MOU with a business partner in Shanghai, and is “on the cusp of signing an MOU with a partner in the UK”, he says.
Sim is clearly looking to rebrand the company. Just as his apartment now reflects his personality (and Sophie’s), Edmund Tie will also take on a new character under its new CEO.

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