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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Marketing property professionally

MALAYSIAN property developers seem poised to undertake megaprojects with world-class facilities but the country lacks marketing specialists able to sell effectively to international investors.

But property consultant Michael Geh, senior partner at Raine & Horne International Zaki + Partners Sdn Bhd, has a vision to help improve the marketing skills of not only his fellow real estate practitioners and agents but developers and their marketing staff.

Newly elected as the FIABCI vice president for network and marketing for 2008 to 2010, Geh will make a case at the federation's meeting this month in Amsterdam for internationally-recognised professional real estate courses to be introduced in Malaysia.

Based in Paris, FIABCI is the French acronym for The International Real Estate Federation. Some 100 national real estate associations representing 1.5 million professionals are affiliated to the federation.

“During my two-year term, I'm committed to do something to enhance the level of real estate marketing skills in Malaysia,” said Geh.

Geh pointing to the condo development site in Teluk Air Tawar

“As FIABCI's elected representative in the Asia-Pacific region for network and marketing, there are certainly a few things which I can contribute.

“In the Malaysian property sector, there are currently two crucial things lacking, international marketing skills and transnational marketing skills for both agents and developers. At best, such skills are at a very low level.

“Even if there are courses available, only bosses get to attend international seminars or meetings to learn about trans-national marketing skills. What about the marketing managers and other executives?”

Geh plans to get the approval of FIABCI headquarters in Paris to allow courses from their FIABCI University (www.fiabciuniversity. org) to be conducted here.

Said Geh: “I look forward to getting FIABCI University, which is like London's Open University, to conduct courses in Malaysia. This is to enable FIABCI members in this region to benefit from such a development.

“Another possibility is to have the Certified International Property Specialists (CIPS) course by the United States National Association of Realtors to be introduced here,” he said, adding that he qualified as a CIPS member in Bangkok two years ago.

There are only three people in Malaysia who have CIPS qualification.


Geh envisaged that with readily available opportunities to improve themselves, real estate agents will be motivated to act more professionally especially if they are duly rewarded.

He cited the Malaysia My Second Home scheme as a prime example of how better international marketing skills can promote the programme more effectively.

Professional agents will encourage foreigners who target South-east Asia as a possible base to relocate or buy a vacation home here.

Said Geh: “We also need world class real estate practitioners to handle world class projects.

“Developers in general have a limited understanding of international sales and their attitude towards their sales agents is equally limited. They don't really take it seriously.

“When it comes to international sales, developers deem it adequate to allocate 1% to 2% sales commission.

“In Singapore, Hong Kong and Europe, developers use estate agents as part of their marketing plans during the pre-launch and even the developmental stage. Obviously, the developers also have their own inhouse marketing team as the backbone to take care of details.

“Major international sales are conducted by highly-skilled estate agents with important networking connections. There are such factors as international co-brokering and referrals.

“Our real estate business is limited to a person to person basis. Currently, the fees are at a lowly 1% to 2% of the transacted price. We are simply not competitive enough to sell internationally except, perhaps, to Indonesia. International referrals are not forthcoming.”

In this situation, Geh pointed out that property websites flourish and developers are putting their money in such websites. But as skill levels increase, transactions will go back to a person-to-person basis and there will be a higher degree of networking success.

In mature markets, for example, in the U.S. and Europe, everything is done on a cobrokering basis. In the Philippines, the fee is 5% of the transacted price.

“For international transactions to be facilitated, we need to have 3% to 5% sales commission for international co-brokering and referrals.”

But Geh stressed that skills can't be gained “overnight”.

“We need to have professional training and expertise to be taught here. But some say that by promoting such courses, I'm just creating more competitors for myself. But I don't see it that way. By having such courses here, we can all benefit.

“Real estate transactions should be a high value, high trust and high fee form of business. These three elements must be there to promote greater professionalism.”

By The Star

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