Published: 4 July 2019 in Astro Awani
KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore-based property tech startup Ohmyhome is all set to kick off operations in the Klang Valley by the end of June.
The firm’s foray into Malaysia marks an ambitious push to expand its footprint in the region. It is, in a way, homecoming for founders Rhonda and Race Wong; the siblings were originally from Dungun, Terengganu.
“Being born here and having so many relatives around, we’ve always wanted to be in Malaysia,” says Rhonda. “Of course, it is also a much bigger market for us.”
“But starting in Singapore allowed us to establish very high service standards. We have learnt from our mistakes, which otherwise would have been more costly if we had started our business in Malaysia – and we are now ready to serve the market here.”
Launched in September 2016, Ohmyhome, a licensed real estate agency, seeks to simplify property transactions by making the experience fast, affordable and hassle-free.
The platform offers do-it-yourself transactions (no charge to both buyers/tenants and sellers/landlords). They also provide in-house agents to hire for a fee.
But unlike online marketplaces, only homeowners and in-house agents can advertise on Ohmyhome, making it free from fake and duplicate listings that often permeates classified-like property portals.
And by removing the clutter, Ohmyhome is able to promise speedier transactions – and it has the numbers to back its pledge.
Out of 2,500 transactions (through agents) completed in Singapore, Rhonda says they are two times as fast compared to other agencies. “The average time it takes to sell a property in the market is 140 days. We sell it under 70 days.”
With over 50,000 monthly active users, the platform has become Singapore’s top application for HDB property transactions.
Total transaction value, meanwhile, has surpassed one billion Singapore dollar – a feat that Rhonda is very proud of, and credits her small team of staff and sales agents.
“We only have 23 property agents but we rank fifth in total volume sales (in Singapore),” says Rhonda. “Most of the agencies have over 3000 agents.”
“We have a very lean sales team because our technology takes care about 80 to 90 percent of the work.”
‘Lean and mean’ is how Rhonda aims to run the team in Malaysia, and hopefully replicate its success, too.
“There is a huge oversupply situation. It is sluggish,” she says of the property market in the Klang Valley and Johor, its next target location for expansion.
“We love to be here (Malaysia) because when a market is not performing as well, our solutions will be more readily picked up. People like options that will help them save money,” she adds.
“And we hope to help solve the biggest pain point here – which is the lack of trust.”
We all have heard the horror stories; landlords left in a lurch from non-paying tenants, units turned into a mess, or worse, used for dubious activities. Illegal agents, meanwhile, remain a persistent problem in Malaysia.
“We have full-time professional agents. They only work for Ohmyhome and go through very rigorous training.” Rhonda adds that agents are evaluated based on customers’ rating to encourage high level of service.
(While agents in its Singapore office charge a fixed rate, Malaysian agents will charge a two to three percent commission, in line with market rate)
Ohmyhome also prides itself as a one-stop solution agency, offering client-agent matching, advertising, mortgage broking and lawyer conveyancing services – all these with additional fee, of course. “We provide renovation services too,” says Rhonda.
“We want to make sure that we are able to cover all your needs from the time you search for a home to signing the paperwork.”
Quality service and good customer experience are crucial aspects to setting a real estate property apart from the rest; key traits that Rhonda – already a respected entrepreneur and who also used to be a treasury bonds trader in Chicago – cultivated from her first property venture, Anthill Realtors.
Started in June 2014, the consultancy serves investors who are largely high net-worth individuals.
“We only served about a hundred customers. All of them have property ranging from 20 to 100 million Singapore dollars.”
But Rhonda, who has always been into volunteerism, wanted to pursue something more meaningful – to help more people make better decisions when purchasing or selling a home – and to enjoy good service at an affordable cost.
That’s when she teamed up with equally well-known sister Race (who was formerly part of the Hong Kong Cantopop duo 2R) to start Ohmyhome.
“We wanted to build a powerful company – not just from a business perspective but in terms of reach and social impact contribution too.”
According to Rhonda, she started Ohmyhome with her co-founder and sister, Race because they wanted to help people overcome the challenges of their home transactions.
“Ohmyhome was inspired by the people around us who came to us with their HDB transaction problems in Singapore. We heard stories of how people were struggling due to divorce, loan sharks chasing after them, financial difficulties, lack of knowledge, lack of time, being misled by agents,” says Rhonda.
When the sisters gathered sufficient personal funds to create an app, this group of people was the first that they wanted to help, she adds.
“It was actually my mom and dad who said, ‘Rhonda, you like to do charity and volunteer work. How is it you are not investing all your time into a company that does more than making money?'”
The mother-of-one credits her success to her parents, who ‘worked really, really hard’ to give the sisters a comfortable life in Singapore.
“Race and I are very fortunate. We have supportive parents and husbands,” says the mother-of-one. “Their support allows us to focus on our work. Otherwise, it would have been quite impossible for us to spend so much time building the company.”
When asked about her leadership style, Rhonda says she and Race make it a point to hire people smarter than them.
“If we hire someone at marketing, he or she has to be better at marketing than us. The person will then be able to share expertise and advice for the company.”
“We also believe in having levelled conversations and healthy debates in the company instead of just commanding.”
“We always look for honesty and hardworking personality traits – that is our number one rule. So, always character over skill sets.”