How PropNex sets itself apart from other agencies

By PropNex / EdgeProp Singapore | November 11, 2022 10:28 AM SGT
Front row (from left): Josephine Chow (COO), Eddie Lim (senior vice-president), Kelvin Fong (executive director), Ismail Gafoor (executive chairman and CEO), Alan Lim (director), Lim Yong Hock (key executive officer) and Cheong Yew Meng (chief financial officer). Back row (from left): Kenny Tan (senior director — corporate strategy & development), Lee Heng Eam (assistant vice-president), Derrick Law (assistant vice-president), Michael Koh (senior director of information technology), Goh Kee Nguan (strategic & development officer), Johnsonwill Hon (financial controller), Alvin Tan (executive director — project marketing) and Carolyn Goh (senior director, corporate communications and marketing) (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
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PropNex Realty, Singapore’s largest real estate agency, has seen a meteoric rise over its 22-year history. Since its formation in 2000, the company has charted consistent growth over the years, emerging at the forefront of the industry.
As of Oct 19, PropNex’s sales force stands at 12,007 people, making it the first agency in Singapore to cross a headcount of 12,000. In 2022 alone, over 1,200 new agents joined the firm. The growth further cements its position as the leading agency by the number of salespersons, with PropNex having over 3,500 agents more than the next biggest agency.
Remarkably, the bulk of PropNex’s expansion has occurred in recent years. Its sales force of over 12,000 agents today is over 60% higher than the 7,400 agents it had as of Jan 1, 2019. Even at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm continued to grow, logging a headcount of 8,324 as of Jan 1, 2020, and 8,918 as of Jan 1, 2021.
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The scale of PropNex’s sales force has also strengthened its market share across all real estate segments. In 2021, PropNex brokered 58% of HDB resale deals by number of units. It also brokered 52% of private resale deals and 44% of units sold at new project launches.
For Ismail Gafoor, executive chairman and CEO of PropNex, the resilient growth is a clear testament to the company’s ability to attract and retain talent, which he attributes to a few key pillars: culture; education and training; technology; and consumer engagement. “These factors are what set us apart,” he asserts.
The company has set its sights on hitting the target of 15,000 agents by 2025. “That will allow us to have more than 50% market share across each market segment, which in turn will help us have economies of scale to create more value for our people and our consumers,” Ismail explains.

Attracting new and experienced agents

PropNex has been able to attract agents from all across the spectrum in terms of experience. Ismail shares that in recent years, the growth in PropNex’s sales force has been driven primarily by two groups of agents — brand-new agents who join after passing the Real Estate Salesperson examination; and experienced salespeople.
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For the former group, PropNex’s established reputation as the leading agency has meant it has become the definitive choice for new agents who are looking for the best organisation to kickstart their careers. Ismail estimates that over 50% of brand-new property agents elect to join the firm. He also highlights that many of these fresh joiners are university graduates, pointing to a wider shift in the profile of PropNex’s agents. “Today, the quality of our salespeople is very different, underpinned by a more educated cohort,” he observes. Over 40% of PropNex’s sales force today are degree-holders.
For the latter group of experienced salespeople that join PropNex, they run the gamut from those with just one or two years of experience all the way to veteran realtors with several years under their belt. These include top agents and team leaders who operate at an elite level, earning commissions exceeding $1 million in a year.

Culture of sharing

Why do champion agents choose to make the switch to PropNex? For Ismail, it’s not a big mystery. “They choose to cross over because they want a platform where they and their team members can grow,” he explains. PropNex, through its well-established stream of activities and training courses (see Page 3), offers a platform for individual and team growth that is unmatched by other players in the industry.
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More importantly, says Ismail, agents choose to join because of PropNex’s embedded culture of sharing and giving. Among all PropNexians, there is a genuine desire to help each other learn and grow rather than operate in a culture of extreme competitiveness.
To be sure, this culture is the nexus of PropNex’s operations, setting it apart from other agencies. “Other organisations can’t imitate our culture, because building culture takes time and must be guided by values,” Ismail observes. At PropNex, these values have been built and fine-tuned over the last two decades, resulting in a strong company culture of sharing, led and cascaded down from top management.
Ismail Gafoor: Other organisations can’t imitate our culture, because building culture takes time and must be guided by values (Picture: PropNex)

Raising industry standards

Guided by its culture and its position at the forefront of the industry, it’s little wonder that PropNex has paved the way for raising professional standards in the real estate industry.
For example, the company has a strict no-internal-poaching policy, which prohibits team members in a particular division within PropNex from switching to another division. The reason for this, Ismail says, is to prevent silos and an unwanted culture of ultra-competitiveness leading to internal poaching within the firm. “If we allow this, leaders may be less willing to share their knowledge and experience with agents outside their team,” he elaborates.
Last October, in an industry first, the agency announced the formation of the PropNex Real Estate Salespersons Chapter — Agents’ Voice Matters. A memorandum of understanding was signed with the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (SISEU) — a trade union affiliated with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) — to set up the chapter, which aims to protect the welfare of real estate salespersons and enhance business and industry practices.
Front row (from left): Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex Realty; and Richard Sim, SISEU General Secretary. Back row (from left): Goh Kee Nguan, Advisor to the PropNex Real Estate Salespersons Chapter; Ng Chee Meng, NTUC Secretary-General; and Kelvin Fong, Executive Director of PropNex Realty (Picture: PropNex)
Through the chapter, PropNex agents have a platform to raise issues, governed by a formalised framework supported by SISEU. An internal representative committee made up of eight PropNex salespersons has been elected to serve as the “voices” of PropNex’s agents, raising concerns on behalf of their fellow members.
The impetus for the chapter’s formation is the goal to be a fair and progressive real estate agency, notes Ismail. “PropNex has committed to be transparent to our salespeople at all times,” he explains, noting that unfair practices that hurt agents are still rampant in the industry, such as inflated penalties for switching agencies, unreasonable lock-ins, denying rightful team leaders’ and project leaders’ overriding commission when one resigns, and undercutting commissions.
In response to this, the PropNex Real Estate Chapter, guided by SISEU, will ensure fair terms and conditions for PropNex salespersons’ contracts. It also provides a mechanism for dispute resolution for agents. The decision to form the chapter is also timely, given PropNex’s growth as an agency. With over 12,000 agents, it helps ensure that every single agent is empowered with a voice and has their rights protected. PropNex has subsidised all its agents to be part of the chapter, signifying a clear commitment to the organisation and its members’ interests.
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Empowering agents with best-in-industry training

Facilitators of the PropNex salesperson bootcamp, one of the signature training sessions held almost every month (Picture: PropNex)
At the heart of PropNex are its people. To that end, the agency has flourished over the last two decades to reach its sales force of over 12,000 today by prioritising the development of its agents, underpinned by a culture of sharing.
The agency invests heavily in the training and upskilling of its sales force. Over the years, it has crafted expansive training programmes and courses that are designed to help its salespersons in every single facet of the profession.
PropNex’s training curriculum covers every topic, segment or skill relevant to any agent, regardless of where they are on their real estate journey. For aspiring agents, there are courses to prepare for the RES exam, while for brand-new agents, there are seminars geared towards familiarising themselves with the industry and discovering one’s niche. Experienced agents will be able to leverage courses on topics such as digital marketing, tapping PropNex’s suite of proprietary tools, and elevating sales.
There are also targeted training programmes focusing on different property types and asset classes, including HDB flats, executive condominiums, landed properties, commercial properties, and so on. “The sector-specific training helps agents learn about a particular segment and see if that’s what they want to focus on,” says PropNex executive director Kelvin Fong.
The programmes, which are overseen by Kelvin and PropNex senior vice president Eddie Lim, are constantly updated and take into account the latest developments and trends in the industry. In addition, the programmes and seminars are led by PropNex’s leading agents who can provide greater insight and on-the-ground knowledge beneficial to agents, helping them to stay ahead of the curve.

Signature bootcamps

A truly unique feature of PropNex’s development offerings is its bootcamps, which have grown to become signature events held by the agency. Comprising leadership and salesperson bootcamps, each bootcamp entails an intensive two-day programme, where attendees are taken through specially curated exercises designed to provide maximum impact and power meaningful growth.
According to Kelvin, the highly popular bootcamps see roughly 200 attendees in each batch. “We train over 2,000 people over 12 or more bootcamps in a year,” he shares. Attendees are broken into small teams of five people each, with each team being assigned a facilitator who will guide them through the programme.
Kelvin Fong, executive director of PropNex Realty, oversees the agency’s extensive training and development programmes (Picture: PropNex)
Facilitators for the bootcamps are made up of fellow PropNexians that are already successfully established. “Every facilitator is a champion producer,” Kelvin notes. He adds that PropNex provides the platform for these achievers and attendees to see the value in helping others. “The paying-forward notion will drive them to succeed and nurture the desire to grow beyond monetary returns. This trust that we are building in these programmes will impact and influence others in their lives,” he says.
Being a facilitator during a bootcamp is certainly no easy task. While facilitators are required to give their full commitment in terms of time and energy, they are not paid and participate on a voluntary basis. They must also abide by stringent rules, such as not using their phone and not being assigned to guide members from their own division during the bootcamp.
And yet, PropNex’s roster does not lack top agents willing to take on the role, which Kelvin says reflects the agency’s culture of sharing and giving. “They want to volunteer because they get to gain the satisfaction of helping members achieve breakthroughs. It’s something that renews their energy, and gives them motivation,” Kelvin explains. He adds that it demonstrates the power of receiving through giving, further reinforcing the agency’s culture
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Powerful proprietary tools & technology give PropNex agents a winning edge

If training represents one side of the coin when it comes to developing and growing as a real estate agent, the other side would indubitably be technology. Technology and digital tools play a crucial role in allowing agents to value-add to their clients, thus contributing to their sustained success. “A salesperson that doesn’t utilise data or have knowledge of market trends is of little value,” opines PropNex’s Ismail Gafoor.
To that end, PropNex’s utmost priority is to ensure all its agents have access to powerful digital tools as well as the tech literacy to fully make use of those tools, allowing them to efficiently access mass amounts of information at their fingertips to obtain useful insights.
PropNex has a team of over 40 full-time app developers who work on its extensive suite of tools that are constantly being fine-tuned. The tools are housed in the agency’s two signature apps — the PropNex Sales Suite and the PropNex Investment Suite.
A training event held by PropNex leader Jason Tan on using the Investment Suite app (Picture: PropNex)

PropNex Sales Suite

“The PropNex Sales Suite is designed to help agents prospect for sales, shorten the sales cycle, and resolve various pain points faced by agents in their day-to-day tasks,” remarks Michael Koh, senior director of information technology at PropNex.
To help agents find properties that match what clients are looking for, they can use the app to easily filter through property listings through multiple criteria, including budget, location, size, number of bedrooms and distance to key amenities. The app also functions as a customer relationship management platform, allowing agents to engage with clients and keep track of communications, simplifying a normally time-consuming, manual process.
A function in the app, called Spot, allows agents to filter projects by size and number of bedrooms for all projects within a particular region. It then helps to collate and compare price trends across projects, with the goal of helping agents “spot” properties that may provide a good entry point in terms of price.
Another function, called Chope, is aimed at streamlining the process of sharing listings. Through Chope, a PropNex salesperson is able to find other agents to help them market a property, widening the pool of potential buyers being reached while keeping the marketing process consistent and controlled by the agent with the original listing. It also makes it easier for team leaders to share listings with their team members.
Michael Koh, PropNex senior director of information technology, helps to fast-forward the digital front for the agency’s salespersons (Picture: PropNex)
Yet another available function is Magic Touch, a landing page generator within the Sales Suite app that agents can use as part of their wider marketing approach. The function was created to resolve the issue many agents have when creating must-have digital marketing content such as a website, newsletter, or blog posts, which often has a steep learning curve and requires hefty spending to acquire.
Addressing this concern, PropNex created the Magic Touch function, which is loaded with customised templates that their salespersons can use to easily generate quality marketing content that pulls the latest market information available from PropNex’s extensive database.

PropNex Investment Suite

Another tool is the PropNex Investment Suite, which is geared towards helping agents identify market trends across various property segments, be it residential, commercial or industrial. Recognising the extensive research agents have to do when marketing properties, the app was created to provide in-depth analysis with a click of a button.
“The app is able to drill down data by property type, location or even specific developments, giving agents everything they need to know at a glance,” Michael explains. For example, if a client is considering a condominium in a particular area, a PropNex agent will be able to use the app to quickly pull out historical data analysis detailing the price trends for that condominium in the last several years, rental yields, recent transactions, comparisons with nearby properties, and more.
To help agents make full use of the powerful app, PropNex regularly conducts training sessions that thoroughly explain how to unlock the full potential of the information that can be accessed and how it can be incorporated into their marketing.
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Inimitable consumer engagement: From property investment seminars to Monopoly tournaments

When it comes to engaging with consumers, no agency does it like PropNex. The company has been championing consumer engagement as a core strategy for a decade. “PropNex strongly believes that we need to engage and empower consumers in their decision-making process,” comments Ismail Gafoor, PropNex’s executive chairman and CEO.
Ismail notes that the company’s engagement efforts started off humbly, consisting of printed flyers with information about the real estate market that was distributed to households. “That was how archaic it was, but we had to start from somewhere,” he laughs.
Since then, PropNex’s consumer engagement activities have come a long way. It now hosts consumer-targeted seminars which are aimed at educating the public on the property market and how to invest in real estate. The sessions are held with remarkable frequency, including both free and paid events. “We conduct more than 80 consumer seminars annually,” shares Ismail.

Property Wealth System

Through its extensive outreach to consumers via seminars and the positive feedback received, PropNex was encouraged to create a more intensive programme that could provide consumers with a better deep-dive into the market and property investment strategies.
Hence, the Property Wealth System (PWS) Master Class was created in 2020. Consisting of a full two-day programme, the seminar offers an in-depth course that walks participants through everything they need to know about building their wealth portfolio through residential real estate, including how to identify opportunities, risk mitigation plans, optimising exit strategies, and more.
The Master Class is conducted by Ismail himself, as well as other top members of PropNex’s leadership bench, including executive director Kelvin Fong, key executive officer Lim Yong Hock and senior vice president Eddie Lim.
PropNex senior vice president Eddie Lim speaking at Property Wealth System Master Class, one of the agency’s many consumer engagement events (Picture: PropNex)
The PWS Master Class has received overwhelming response. PropNex held a Master Class at Suntec Convention Centre on Sept 10 and 11 that was fully sold-out, with about 800 attendees. On Oct 29 and 30, it held another Master Class, this time at Marina Bay Sands, for 700 participants.
Eddie highlights that the Master Class is priced competitively, well below the costs for running the programme. “We invest and conduct these Master Classes that are important for consumers,” he says, sharing that it is more important for consumers to have an understanding of the real estate market and the challenges and risks involved. “Consumers are at a crossroads. The property market today is different from the past, where the market was stable and property cycles happened every seven to 10 years,” he observes.
Instead, property investors today face a constantly shifting market, with developments that can change sentiment quickly, and ripple effects that can impact separate segments differently. This much more complex market is another reason why the PWS Master Class has become a key focus for PropNex. “Consumers must be given enough info for them to make property-related decisions,” he asserts.
Full attendance at Property Wealth System Master Class (Picture: PropNex)
Apart from the PWS Master Class, PropNex also strives to create seminars useful for consumers based on timely events and market developments. For example, in response to the strong performance and interest surrounding the landed property segment, the company organised a landed property exhibition in September. Held at Furama Riverfront Hotel on Sept 18, the event featured over 100 landed listings and some 600 attendees.

PropNex Monopoly Championship to make a return

PropNex made a splash this year when it announced a Monopoly Championship for the public, featuring the agency’s own version of the beloved boardgame. PropNex acquired the licensing rights from Hasbro and subsequently launched Monopoly PropNex Edition in 2021.
The tournament was designed to introduce insights into the Singapore residential property market. “Singapore has one of the highest homeownership rates in the world, and with that, real estate knowledge and financial literacy are necessities for all Singaporeans,” Ismail says. To that end, the Monopoly Championship was envisioned as a fun way to help educate the public.
Besides using the PropNex edition of the boardgame that comes with recognisable venues such as Sengkang, Jurong East/West and Marina Bay Financial Centre, it also incorporated dynamics of the property cooling measures that were announced in December 2021, including additional buyer’s stamp duty for second and subsequent property purchases.
From left: Alan Lim, director of PropNex Realty; Lim Yong Hock, key executive officer of PropNex Realty; Ng Lan Ying, grand champion, PropNex Monopoly Championship 2022; Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex Realty; and Joanna White, senior manager, promotions & partnerships, APAC (Hasbro Consumer Products) (Picture: PropNex)
The tournament was held between May and August, and was a resounding success with nearly 10,000 participants vying for the $108,000 top prize money. The grand final was held on Aug 28 and saw Ng Lan Ying emerge as the champion. A total of $300,000 in prizes was awarded to winners and finalists.
Given the overwhelming response to the event, PropNex will be bringing back the Monopoly Championship in 2023, again featuring a grand prize of $108,000 in cash. It will also be launching a separate tournament in Malaysia, with an RM108,000 grand prize up for grabs.
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Championing charities: Giving over $5 mil to community

PropNex has a longstanding track record in charity work, something that CEO Ismail Gafoor says is a fundamental part of the company. “It’s something that stems from our core values and beliefs,” he says, noting that it also ties in strongly with the company’s culture of giving and sharing.
In fact, PropNex’s charity and community work dates back all the way to 2009, when it embarked on a programme in Cambodia to help build schools. Through fundraising events and collaboration with the Cambodian government, PropNex was able to help build two schools which were handed over to the Cambodian education ministry.
Spurred by this impactful initiative, PropNex turned to focus on local communities in Singapore. In 2013, it set up a partnership with government organisation Community Chest to facilitate a donation drive from across its sales force — an initiative that is still going strong today. Through the partnership, sales agents are able to authorise PropNex to deduct a portion of the commissions they earn to Community Chest.
Charity cheque presentation to Community Chest by PropNex (Picture: PropNex)
When the partnership was established in 2013, PropNex had set an ambitious goal of contributing $5 million in donations by 2023. Starting with a donation of $100,000 in 2013, the company has gradually increased its donation amounts every year. Given the generosity of its sales force, topped up by donations from the company, PropNex was able to hit the goal of $5 million in donations this year, a full year ahead of target. For 2022, a total of $800,000 was raised, which will be channelled to programmes supporting children with special needs and those from lower income families.
Separately, PropNex will be contributing $400,000 to the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home. This will add to the $250,000 it raised for the home last year.
For Ismail, giving back to the community is part of PropNex’s DNA. “We now give more than a million dollars in donations,” he says. He sees it as a social responsibility that everyone must undertake, be it at the company or individual level.

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