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Saturday, August 11, 2012

The real estate open book

President of Reapfield Properties David Ong (left) and Kho have come together to share over four decades of experience knowledge in a priceless tell-all guide.

Reapfield CEO Gerard Kho answers questions about the evolution of Malaysia's real estate sector and his book Thrust Real Estate Riches which he co-authored with founder and president David Ong. This e-mail interview was done in conjunction with BookFest@Malaysia 2012. Star Publications (M) Bhd is a media partner.

1. What prompted you to write Thrust - Real Estate Riches and how long did you take to complete it?

We initially took on this writing project as part of a branding exercise but within writing about 10 pages of the book, we got bored with the contents and decided to change direction to one where we made a choice to tell the industry and our customers what Reapfield was doing and has done in the last 28 years to arrive where we are today, but more importantly what we are doing to ensure that we constantly remained competitive. We have shared in this book as much as we could what we did as an organisation. There are lots of practical information anyone running a real estate agency can adopt. Many of the principles about how to grow a business profitably while adding value to people's lives are also inspiring. The book took us 15 months to complete.

2. There are so many books on properties in Malaysia today by investors and those involved in the property sector. How different is your book from the rest?

We write not from the angle that we know all there is to know in the sector, or that we are the best in the industry. We don't provide the fish but we teach people how to fish. We have shared all the “secrets” we use in our organisation to the point that we are a real open book. By sharing everything we know, we walk the talk. Second, we are now forced to find new and innovative ways to run our business so that we are able to share more in our next book.

3. What was the most challenging part of writing Thrust?

The most challenging part was keeping to the timeframe to complete the book and at the same time to be succinct about what we wanted to share. There is a lot more we could have shared but we were limited by time because we wanted to get it published.

4. How have the many years living in Australia shaped the book?

It has helped me see that the real estate business is the same everywhere. Real estate business is never about the property. It is about the people whom we serve. People are all the same everywhere. At the fundamental level, they want to be served something of value and in return for that value, they will reward you with a well deserved “fee.” The thing many of us have done wrong in the past is to focus on sales, sales and more sales. In our pursuit of sales, we have forgotten about people. If we place people first, be it our customers, our own agents, our fellow colleagues in the real estate industry and the industry partners we work with, we will surely be one step closer to creating followers for life. Be it Australia, Singapore, Malaysia or the United States, the real estate industry is all about the people first. The property just happened to be the item of exchange.

5. How has it shaped your views as a real estate professional now that you are back in Malaysia and leading one of the largest real estate company with about 800 negotiators?

People come first. It is not about being number one in the industry. It is about building our people and agents, to be the best, the most productive, to have the highest standard possible and to have ethics. Only then will they be able to service the customers.

The market will continue to evolve and all of us in the profession will need to be humble enough to grow and to learn, to unlearn and relearn constantly. Only when we adopt this attitude can we succeed. There is a huge opportunity for Malaysians to train and nurture the best real estate agents in the world because of the nature and diversity of our people.

6. How different is the Malaysian property sector compared with Australia's?

The pace of real estate transactions is a lot faster here in Malaysia. People are more willing to learn and less sceptical of new ideas.

Though there are many areas we can improve, it is more exciting to be in Malaysia because there are still so many opportunities for the real estate market to grow and for the real estate industry to develop. We are probably what Australia was 10 years ago or so. Look at the number of cranes, the amount of construction and the way people buy and sell properties. The pace signals the optimism. Despite the inefficiencies in any country and system, there is opportunity for growth. It is terribly exciting to be in Malaysia right now as it is just only beginning to boom! We are on the threshold of being a developed nation status! I wouldn't want to be in any other place but a developing nation.

7. How do you see the property sector for the next six months of this year, and in 2013?

The next 6 months may see (the price of) properties in the key areas in Klang Valley moving upwards as the number of properties available for sale continue to fall. These are properties that are priced correctly by motivated sellers. We have noticed increasingly that the asking price of properties are on the rise while the number of listings continue to decline. This will create an upward pressure on prices. Agents in the last three months are finding it difficult to get listings that are sellable. Buyers are willing to purchase properties that are priced correctly In the short term, prices are expected to increase, or at worst, remain stable. There is much optimism. The transaction numbers are less this year compared with same time period last year. This is due to properties not being priced correctly. We have experienced earlier this year a decreased volume of properties transacted, but an increase in the total value transacted. This is attributed to the fact that property prices have increased in that period compared with same period last year.

8. When did you return to Malaysia and what prompted you to make this move?

I returned to Malaysia four years ago. I was offered to help grow the Reapfield group, to streamline the organisation and to bring out the best of it. It was a real challenge for me but it was a great opportunity. Since then, we have almost doubled the fees collected and the number of negotiators.

9. Are there plans for a second book?

Yes, there will be. Writing a book brought clarity to the leaders in Reapfield. It gave us focus. It also allowed us to share with the industry the inner workings of our organisation. Sharing our experiences was one way we could contribute back to the industry in a productive manner. Our wish is for more people in the real estate industry to be more profitable and to build organisations and businesses that last beyond the leader's time. This is part of our succession planning and we want to help more businesses to give priority to this area.

10. As a real estate professional, what, in your opinion are the three most important things a property purchaser should consider besides location in today's fluid and volatile market?

You must consider the following:

● Know how to leverage your limited financial resources to get more into property investment. Have the end in mind;

● Don't buy just because there are great financing schemes that makes it easy for you to buy; and

● Get to know as many real estate agents as possible. They can profit you in your journey in property investment.

Kho will be present at the BookFest@Malaysia on Aug 18 between 3pm and 3.45pm. The launch will be held from Aug 18-26 (10am-10pm) at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Admission is with purchase of the BookFest catalogue, at RM2.50 per entry or RM10 for multiple entries over the nine days. Catalogues are available at all Popular and Harris bookstore outlets nationwide and at the BookFest entrance. Entrance is free for students who are 18 years old and below and for senior citizens aged 60 and above. For more information, visit

By The Star

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