SRI crosses 1,000 agents, expands into auction business

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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January 15, 2021 6:00 AM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Singapore’s fifth-largest real estate agency, Singapore Realtors Inc (SRI) achieved a major milestone this month when the number of agents crossed 1,000.
As at Jan 11, SRI has 1,004 agents and the number could be higher by the end of the month, says CEO Tony Koe.
The latest tally is a 17.6% jump from the 854 agents that SRI had at the start of 2020, based on Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) figures. In 2018, SRI had just 250 agents. Hence, the number of agents has quadrupled in just three years.
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From left: Managing partners Ken Low, Benson Koh and Bruce Lye with COO Tricia Teo and CEO Tony Koe (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Most of the increase in the number of agents is credited to Ken Low, who joined the firm in September 2018 as managing partner, alongside founding managing partners Bruce Lye and Benson Koh.

Punching above their weight

Low was previously with Huttons Asia, the fourth biggest agency by number of agents, which had established a name for itself in developers’ project sales.
With him on board, SRI was able to muscle its way into new project launches, which until then, had been dominated by ERA Realty Network, Huttons Asia and PropNex Realty.
SRI made its debut as a joint marketing agency of Logan Property’s 1,410-unit The Florence Residences in March 2019. To date, 950 units (67.4%) of the project has been sold.
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SRI once again showed its ability to punch above its weight at the launch of 1,074-unit Avenue South Residence in September 2019 when it was appointed a joint marketing agency alongside heavyweights PropNex, ERA Realty Network and Huttons Asia.
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The Florence Residence, by Logan Property, is a redevelopment of the former HUDC estate Florence Regency. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
According to Low, new projects in the pipeline for launch this year where SRI has been appointed a joint marketing agency include the biggest project launch this year, Kingsford Development’s 1,862-unit Normanton Park; GuocoLand’s Midtown Modern at Tan Quee Lan Street; and a new 115-unit project at Jalan Bunga Rampai by Wee Hur Development.
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New sales versus resales

Based on URA data, there are 140 projects launched by developers to date and which still have unsold inventory. SRI is marketing 80 of them, says Koe.
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Even then, the split between new project sales and resales at SRI is 40:60 today, notes Lye. Part of SRI’s success in marketing new project launches is because its agents are adept at resales as well, and are able to introduce their clients in the resale market to new projects and vice versa, he adds. “It’s a hybrid system.”
Another reason for SRI’s success is its focus not just on growing headcount, but revenue per agent, says Lye. The average revenue per agent at SRI is about $60,000 per annum “which is higher than the market average, based on figures available from public listed property agencies”, he adds.
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Breaking into the project marketing business also allows the firm to expand its business offerings as well, notes Koe. For instance, having been appointed one of the marketing agencies at Frasers Property’s Riviere at Jiak Kim Street last year, SRI has recently been appointed joint marketing agency for the leasing of Frasers Property’s Valley Point Office Building on River Valley Road.

High retention, new businesses

SRI has carved a niche for itself as a realtor of luxury homes in Singapore — in both landed and non-landed segments. This year, it has also made headway in the ultra-luxury segment, having been appointed joint marketing agency with List Sotheby’s International Realty, for Hong Kong-listed Shun Tak Holdings’ Les Maisons Nassim. The boutique development contains just 14 luxury apartments. The units, designed as “bungalows in the sky”, range from 6,000 to 8,000 sq ft, and are said to be priced “above $30 million apiece”.
SRI has also enjoyed a high retention rate of close to 98% for its agents at renewal each year, says Koh. “The reason why we have such a high retention rate is that our focus is on ensuring that our agents are able to achieve their best performance, rather than just expanding quickly,” he says.
The company is also interested in diversifying its business. In 2019, Low Choon Sin joined SRI as the head of capital partners. Low was previously with CBRE capital markets for nine years before joining SRI. The capital markets team at SRI has also grown, with more than 10 agents today. On Jan 4, SRI launched Surrey Point, a residential project on Newton Road, for collective sale. The price tag is $55 million or $1,661 psf per plot ratio. The tender will close on Feb 9.
“A lot of collective sales that had failed to take off over the past two years have been reignited,” says Koe.
SRI also has industrial expertise, with the business headed by COO Tricia Teo. SRI also intends to enter the auctions business next month, says Lye. There are also plans to venture into the international project marketing business, he adds.

Funding growth organically

With ERA and PropNex being listed, the other two big agencies, namely Huttons Asia and OrangeTee & Tie are also exploring a listing on the Singapore Exchange.
SRI, on the other hand, does not have a similar ambition. “We can be a lot more nimble, and try new things by staying private,” says Koh.
Lye agrees. “Over the past few years, we have accumulated a $3 million war chest, which we intend to pump into the business once we have 1,000 agents,” he says. The company has also been able to achieve a gross profit margin of about 5% each year, he adds.
Therefore, the company has been able to grow by reinvesting its profit into the business, notes Lye.
Today, the company occupies a shop space of 2,000 to 3,000 sq ft on Eng Watt Street in Tiong Bahru. However, with over 1,000 agents today, the company will be moving to new premises of 7,000 sq ft located on top of a shopping mall.
Check out the latest listings near Avenue South Residence, Normanton Park, Riviere