Apr 26, 2010
a day with Anthea Yeo
Homing in on $1 million
That is the income Anthea Yeo and her husband, both property agents, are aiming for this year
By john lui
Property agent Anthea Yeo is in a hurry. Not just because she is in a rush to see her client, but because the mother of two has set a target of $1 million this year in income between her and her husband.
At age 34, the PropNex agent is in the prime of her earning years in a market that is hitting historical highs in prices.
She is at the right age, with the right amount of experience. She is talking on her hands-free unit while driving.
'Don't bargain. You get a sea view, no noon sun,' she tells one prospective buyer.
She rattles off other facts about the unit - where the bedroom doors face, the size of the balcony - from memory. At any one time, she remembers detailed information about 15 properties.
'Clients don't want to hear, 'Hold on, I will call you back with the information',' she says. According to her, this instant recall is what sets the pros apart from the wannabes.
Everyone has a relative or friend who is a property or insurance agent. But the majority of them are dabblers - people who wait for deals to come to them. What distinguishes Ms Yeo from your aunt or cousin who holds an agent's licence is that she goes after the deals, with a vengeance.
At night, when most people are watching television, she is making cold calls to owners, asking them to sell or rent through her.
She is designing flyers, placing ads in The Straits Times or on property websites, scanning documents for overseas clients or updating her Facebook page or personal website with the latest units.
The $1-million mark is not impossible. She and her husband have hit it before, though on average they make between $20,000 and $50,000 a month. Achieving it took some doing.
In 2006, when she was starting out, she staked out new condominiums for weeks, buttonholing owners as they left the building, hoping they would appoint her as their sales agent. Or she would make cold calls from lists purchased from property database agencies. Each name cost $3.
Of course, not everyone is pleased to receive a call from her.
'You have to develop bulletproof skin,' she says.
Her mother is looking after her children, a 21/2-year-old girl and a boy of eight months, while she and her husband, Mr Jude Teem, 37, a tattoo artist- turned-property agent, chase their dream. She grabs time with them when she can, sometimes taking her daughter on the road with her.
Once Ms Yeo has reached her career goals, which include earning a steady income as a team manager, she will be able to give her children her time as well as the best life they could ask for, she says.
A couple of milestones have been reached: The couple own their dream car, a BMW convertible, in addition to a Honda Stream MPV, and they have just bought a $1.8-million terrace home at the new Luxus Hill development in Ang Mo Kio, which will be completed in three years. By which time, she hopes to spend more time with her children by becoming a sales manager.
So, on top of everything else, she and her husband are recruiting and training agents for their team, now 25 strong. She mentors them, gives them sales leads and gets a small slice of their commissions.
She is near her goal.
'When you are young and girlish, the clients don't trust you. When you get too old, they think you are too slow,' she says.
Her first appointment of the day is 9.30am. Leaving from her three- room HDB flat in Ang Mo Kio, she arrives at the Marbella condo in Mount Sinai Road 10 minutes early.
'You wait for the client, you never make the client wait for you,' she says.
She parks her Honda Stream and, once inside the two-bedroom, 18th-floor apartment, she draws open the curtains and switches on the air-conditioner to freshen up the air.
The potential renters, a German couple, come on time. The foreigners, like many others, are baffled by the bomb shelter and Ms Yeo rattles off the explanation.
'If anything happens, stay in there and wait for help,' she says with the practised ease of a comedian making the same joke for some time.
The couple nod and make a joke about the nuclear bomb-grade shelters in Switzerland.
Clothes-drying is another area ripe with cultural confusion, so the couple's own agent advises the Westerners, who are assumed to have never hung washing on a line before, how to use the drying area.
'Hang your towels out till they are 70 per cent dry, then use the dryer so they get fluffy,' she says.
Ms Yeo, who represents the apartment's owners, likes working with other agents. Though her commission is halved, she makes up for it with volume and speed.
Agent-to-agent conversations cut right to the chase, without the waffling and emotional handholding that owners and buyers often need. Other agents have the units she wants for her buyers and vice-versa.
The downside is the frustration of working with one of the many newbies and dabblers choking up the market now. It makes her blood boil when she has to carry the slack, yet split her commission.
The rent of $4,800 is in a zone where there are more landlords than renters, so the German couple can afford to be picky.
The problem for Ms Yeo is that Singaporean landlords are picky, too. Many of them have 'holding power', she says, in that they are in no hurry to rent or sell their properties. This has led to situations such as the one at the appointment we go to in the afternoon.
This 1,200 sq ft, three-bedroom condo unit in the Novena area is her problem child.
She has shown it to 30 prospects in three months, many times the average for a unit to find a tenant. It is old and the din of construction nearby is ever- present.
We see one potential renter, a man in his 40s, who says he likes the large living room. He takes some pictures and leaves without expressing too much interest.
This unit has eaten up hours of her time because the owner refuses to budge on the $4,900 rent, thanks to almost- daily news reports about the surging property market.
Dealing with tycoons
Ms Yeo, an accountancy graduate from Nanyang Technological University, had tried being a Singapore Airlines stewardess and teaching business at the Institute of Technical Education, but felt frustrated by poor pay, boredom or office politics.
She and her husband wanted to make money for themselves, not earn a salary, but had a natural resistance, as many do, to doing sales. Then they met her husband's nephew, who was earning $10,000 a month as a property agent. So in 2006, she dropped out of a master's programme at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in National University of Singapore to pursue the dream.
On the same day as the Novena and Mount Sinai appointments, we meet a client from the Mauritius, in town with his family for a holiday as well as to shop for property as an investment.
We meet at the sales office of The Adria in River Valley Road. The actual development will be located in Derbyshire Road in the Novena area, which is Ms Yeo's speciality.
The 40something man is a property dealer in his home country and walks the lavishly appointed showflat quickly. He stabs at the floor plan with his finger and peppers the Far East Organization sales representative with questions.
'Is the planter box included in the quoted floor area?' he asks. It is. Pros like him and Ms Yeo know how showflats are meant to enhance reality. Doors and some walls are omitted and balconies are treated as part of the living room to make the space look larger.
Sometimes, it is better not to look at the showflat, he says, because it skews cold-hearted business judgment.
'An ugly place might be the one that will make the most money,' he says.
There is location and square footage, of course, but he is also concerned that the Adria units he likes are next to the lift, which could be noisy and a turn-off to potential tenants. He is also worried about the windows, which he thinks give the neighbours too much of the view inside.
Ms Yeo speaks to the millionaire on equal terms. Her advice to the agents in her and her husband's team: Do not be intimidated by clients or you will never be able to give honest advice.
She also asks the client to check with his wife before making a decision.
Spouses are a tricky business for agents. The unconsulted partner can turn vengeful when left out of the decision and cause all kinds of problems. Angry wives have accused her of using her feminine wiles to close deals.
The tycoon has researched the property on the Internet before coming to Singapore, so agents now must know information not on the Web, she says, such as the latest benchmark figures for rent and sales in the area not yet reflected on any website.
There is one more visit, to a $6.5- million penthouse off Orchard Road that the owner, an expatriate, wants to sell.
It is 6pm and it is her last viewing for the day. She works when clients have free time. This means she is busiest on weekends. She takes lunch in her car, either before or after the normal noon-to-2pm slot. She dares to switch off her mobile phone on only one day a year, the first day of Chinese New Year.
She does not have a 10pm viewing tonight as she did the previous evening, but she will be working at home in any case.
The $1-million target is in sight and the clock is ticking.
'Clients don't want to hear, 'Hold on, I will call you back with the information''
Ms Anthea Yeo, on remembering details of the properties she is marketing
'You have to develop bulletproof skin'
On making cold calls to home owners
'When you are young and girlish, the clients don't trust you. When you get too old, they think you are too slow'
On being at her prime in the industry
'You wait for the client, you never make the client wait for you'
On being early for her appointments
Chasing deals with a vengeance, Ms Yeo has detailed information of about 15 properties at her fingertips and makes cold calls at night. -- ST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG