BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Saturday, June 28, 2008
“I NOW have a habit of driving past houses and looking at them and thinking to myself, what’s good and what’s bad about them.”
That’s the realtor in Nick Tay speaking of how he turned his love for architecture into a profession. He is executive manager of Pan Villa Properties, a four-year-old company that started out testing the waters in the domestic real estate sector with 10 properties for rent and sale. The firm is responsible for the rent of close to 160 units and the sale of 200 units. It has clearly expanded its business over the years, but Tay has had his own set of challenges to overcome.
“Ten years ago, times were good, business was booming and everything was expensive (in real estate). After that there was a slide and everything went down, people got stuck so they wanted to sell their properties fast so they sold it off at a cheaper price, so the property market in Brunei in terms of value is not doing well.”
If a house was bought at that time for about $300,000, to get it sold at the same value or more today would be difficult to do, he says.
The prohibition of selling property to permanent residents and foreigners has contributed to the lack of significant growth in property value, Tay adds.
“If they open up the sales to permanent residents, the value of property will go up at least by 10 per cent, and if they open up sales to foreigners, then it will be a different story, because then, a lot of investors will come in,” he surmises.
“The value of property in Brunei right now cannot be an investment, and expatriates who want to invest in Brunei can’t do so, so they invest in Malaysia, which has come up with a ‘Second Home’ programme for expatriates to purchase property there and it comes with a five-year visa that is extendable, and they can retire there and be treated like permanent residents.
“In Singapore and Malaysia, people buy property for investment, and in those countries once the development of the units are completed, the value of the property has already gone up!” he adds.
To offset concerns over the size of the domestic market, Pan Villa has expanded its services to include selling to Brunei buyers (expats and permanent residents) foreign property in Malaysia places like Kuala Lumpur, Sabah and most recently, Port Dickson.
While the size of the Brunei property market tends to create the perception that competition is fierce, truth is this sector is far from the battleground that one might think it is.
“We all believe in networking. It is not really competition and the other agencies and I work together. Working with other real estate agencies means that we will also have more people running (making referrals) to make it easier for us,” he says.
He adds that being a realtor takes a lot of hard work, patience and the ability to kowtow to potential clients, but frustration hits when clients decide to make deals of their own directly with the owner.
“We call that undercutting. Once they know the owner, some of them will go directly to the owner, and we can’t do anything about it because there is … no law protecting real estate agents (from this practice).”
His only defence from the challenges he is faced with is to strongly believe and practise the motto that he has nurtured in his business dealings: honesty.
“We believe that we should be truthful and tell clients the exact condition of the homes they are looking at, both the good and the bad, it has to be that way because once there is a company, there is a brand and the brand that we are looking at and the name we want to make for ourselves is to get our clients to trust us.”
To counter the challenges, Tay says it takes an extra effort to provide service for clients, such as working on weekends to provide them time to view houses and so on. “Sometimes on the weekends, our clients will call because that is the only free day they have to view houses, or they would drive past a house which has our signboard on it and they would call us to view the house; so even if our office is not open, we are still on standby,” Tay says.
Four years down the road, is this real estate manager thinking of expanding or branching out to other arenas?
“Yes, we will be looking into development in the future and we are also looking into maintenance management. While the potential for development in Brunei seems very small, we see a bright future in it.
“Nowadays, there are a lot of young couples that want to come out and they don’t want to stay with their parents like the old times, now most couples want their own homes,” he says on why he thinks there is a bright future in development.
Although property values in Brunei seem to be stagnant, Tay says: “There will always be people looking for houses, to rent or to buy, and what makes this job worthwhile is the positive thinking that makes me believe that I am not just finding them the right house, but the right home.”
Source: The Brunei Times