OrangeTee, currently the fourth-largest real estate agency in Singapore in terms of headcount — 2,646 agents to be exact — reckons it could increase in size to about 3,600 in the coming months, says Gary Chua, senior associate executive director at OrangeTee.

This could push OrangeTee into third place, ahead of Huttons Asia, currently ranked third largest with 3,100 agents, and below the two biggest, PropNex Realty and ERA Realty Network, with over 6,000 agents each.

Chua’s confidence stems from an announcement in April that his group from ERA and another from Savills Residential with a combined sales force of 1,300 will be merging and joining OrangeTee in batches. The five founding members from the two groups joined OrangeTee in April to form Navis Living Group (NLG).

Numbers game
The team from ERA, which calls itself Property Navigator, or Navis, was formed in 2006, and is headed by founding members Jay Ong, Jason Tan and Chua. So far, around 440 agents in Navis’ team have crossed over to OrangeTee since the beginning of April.

“At one point, Navis had a total of 1,100 agents and was the largest group of agents under ERA,” says Chua. It was ranked as ERA Singapore’s top team in 2009 and 2011, as well as ERA Asia Pacific’s Top 3 Brokers in 2008, 2009, and 2011 to 2015.

Meanwhile, the team from Savills Residential, which calls itself East Living Group, was founded in 2006 and initially focused on properties in the East Coast neighbourhood, but has since expanded to the prime districts. The two founders of East Living Group — Stuart Chng and Jackie Mang — moved to OrangeTee in April, along with 110 agents.

“The initial discussion to merge the two groups and join OrangeTee began in mid-4Q2016,” says Chng, senior associate executive director at OrangeTee. “The reason we came over was because we felt that in order to grow the group’s business, we needed a place where the management team is proactive and has a long-term vision on how to grow the agency’s business.” Incidentally, Chng, together with Mang, will oversee all of NLG’s training programmes.

“So far, about 550 members from both groups have come over and I am confident that more will be joining us in the coming months,” says Chua. “We will be able to grow the group’s strength to 800 by year-end.”

Chua will oversee NLG’s recruitment and business development activities. He says the group is currently in talks with the remaining agents in East Living Group and Navis, as well as several teams from other agencies that are keen to join them. He estimates that even if 80% of the 1,300 agents from Navis and East Living cross over, and assuming there are no departures from OrangeTee, the total headcount for OrangeTee could reach 3,600 agents.

Capacity to expand
“OrangeTee is probably the only agency to have its own 16-storey building, which is located right in the heart of Toa Payoh Central and next to the HDB Hub,” says Chua. The advantage is the agency does not have to move office every few years when leases are renewed and the landlord raises the rent. “This is very disruptive to operations. What is more, there is still capacity at the building for OrangeTee to expand.”

Another pull factor for the NLG team is OrangeTee’s willingness to invest in IT systems and applications to ensure its agents have access to all the data and latest tools to simplify their job and help their clients make informed decisions.

“An example is the online submission system that OrangeTee has had in place for 12 years and that the other agencies only [adopted] three to four years ago,” says Tan, senior associate executive director at OrangeTee, who oversees NLG’s IT initiatives. “OrangeTee has also been keeping floor plans of various developments here digitally for more than 10 years, something which some of the agencies have just started doing. Last year, it introduced a property agent review portal, and we have yet to see the other agencies doing something similar.”

According to Chua, since NLG joined OrangeTee, OrangeTee has secured the marketing of two projects: JForte’s Forte Suites, a 106-unit freehold condominium development completed in 2016; and City Development’s 266-unit Venue Residences, which obtained its Temporary Occupation Permit in April. OrangeTee’s appointment was to sell the remaining units at Forte Suites (28 units) and Venue Residences (14 units). Chua is optimistic that with the expanded sales force, OrangeTee will be able to participate in the next few project launches.

For the five founding members of NLG, the decision to leave their previous company was not easy. Chua, for one, had spent 17 years at ERA. Ong and Tan, the other two co-founders at Navis, had been with ERA for 11 and 12 years, respectively. Meanwhile, Chng and Mang were with Savills Residential for 10 years.

“I do miss the camaraderie among some of the team leaders and project ICs [in-charge] from the other groups at ERA,” admits Ong, senior associate executive director at OrangeTee. “Maybe one day, they will join us.