Published: 14 July 2019 in ExquisiteMag
Missing price. Hidden costs. Shady locations. Crumbling interiors. Exhorbitant agents’ fees. Mortgage issues. These are some of the nightmares home buyers, sellers and renters face when they engage in property transactions in Singapore.
The newspapers round off property estimations based on location but that could mean anything. Sometimes the price of a property goes by per square foot or per square metre, but who has the time to look at architectural plans and do the calculations? Why can’t things be quick and simple – where you can see the price and required information of a living space at-a-glance? Why can’t things be more affordable instead of paying agents ridiculous fees in Singapore’s already expensive real estate market?
These are the questions sisters Rhonda and Race Wong bounced around in their respective experiences in treasury bonds, real estate investment, retail and other business ventures. They saw a need to create a platform that connects property sellers, buyers, landlords and renters together to make the process as seamless and painless as possible. The platform has to be convenient and simple, in a language that everybody understands.
After a lot of research and discussion, the sisters launch the Ohmyhome app and platform in 2016 where straightforward property transactions can take place easily at an affordable outcome. Ohmyhome Property agents are still available on this app for those who require extra help with the deals.
The young Malaysia-born, now Singaporean siblings plan to expand the Ohmyhome platform beyond property transactions to include services homeowners require such as plumbing, furniture, electrical, renovation and so forth.
Elder sister Race is COO, while Rhonda is CEO of Ohmyhome, with both of them co-founders. Before Ohmyhome, Rhonda, 33, started real estate agency Anthill Realtors at the age of 29 in 2014. Headquartered in Singapore, Anthill Realtors’ forte is sourcing investment grade properties from within and abroad.
If Race, 37, looks familiar that’s because she was a Cantopop artiste in Hong Kong for many years with music albums, TV dramas and feature films under her belt.
With the Ohmyhome platform and app, the sisters hope Singaporeans will take the leading role in one of the most important events of their lives – owning a home.
A Chat with Ohmyhome co-founders and Wong sisters Rhonda, CEO, and Race, COO
1. What are some of the issues people face when buying, selling and renting a home via traditional means – both HDB and Private in Singapore?
Rhonda: When it comes to buying, selling and renting of homes in Singapore, the categories of issues that people encounter are similar across both HDB and Private property transactions. The issues usually are surrounding the lack of information, knowledge and expertise, the lengthy time it takes, the stress and the high costs involved in housing transactions.
The industry’s average time taken to sell a property in Singapore ranges between 3-7 months and the transaction journey often causes stress within the family.
Knowing these common issues, Ohmyhome revolutionise the entire housing transaction experience, providing our consumers with an online to offline platform, from free of charge DIY services to fixed rates in house agents, complemented by our team of mortgage, law and home improvement partners. Ohmyhome makes housing transaction simple, fast (3 times faster than industry average) and affordable, putting the control back into the hands of the home buyers and sellers.
2. You both co-founded Ohmyhome to alleviate some of these issues. What were the challenges you faced when you first started your Proptech Marketplace for housing transactions?
Race: Our hybrid model combining Do-It-Yourself and fixed-rate agents is the very first in the market, and is unique like no other hence some amount of education was required to show that Ohmyhome agents could provide quality service at a wallet-friendly price. We took the time to introduce our cutting-edge technology and dedicated customer service team that allowed us to deliver effective results.
Rhonda: We managed to garner many supportive customers who positively reviewed us on Facebook and referred us to their friends and family. Being well received quickly made us Singapore’s #1 HDB app!
3. Longevity and staying power is key to any business venture. How do you plan to stay relevant throughout the coming years?
Rhonda: As Singapore’s first one-stop housing solution, Ohmyhome will continue to provide end-to-end services for property transactions, constantly elevating the standards of service and incorporating innovations that can better serve our consumers.
For example, we are implementing Machine Learning to help sellers accelerate home sales. Smart image classification and detection of fake images for home searchers will enhance the customer experience with our DIY platform.
4. Were you confident about Ohmyhome’s success when you started it in 2016?
Race: One can never be too confident! Prior to Ohmyhome, we were already in the real estate industry for a few years and we understood the business and its pain points. Therefore, when we were conceptualizing Ohmyhome, it was created to fill the gaps in the market. We knew that the market will benefit from our services and that our value proposition allowed us to solve inefficiencies in the current process of housing transactions, thus were confident of pushing this through.
Furthermore, being a hybrid model that offers a DIY platform and end-to-end services for the entire housing transaction process, we are uniquely positioned in the property industry that combines the ‘best of both worlds’, making our USPs extremely strong.
5. You both have a lot of experience in real estate and property and business. What are some of your work experiences and jobs before starting Ohmyhome?
Race: I started my professional career in Kim Eng in Hong Kong in a marketing role, and subsequently progressed to equity sales, all whilst juggling my MBA studies at the same time. It was a rewarding experience but I often thought about home and my family. Hence, I returned back to Singapore and worked with Rhonda to establish Anthill Realtors where we sourced investment grade properties for our clients. It was a lucrative business but it only helped an extremely small group.
We wanted to use our expertise and experience to help more people, hence Ohmyhome was created. So that we can help the everyday man and woman with their housing transactions which tends to be an extremely tedious and frustrating process. We want to make the transaction process as smooth as possible for our customers.
6. Do both of you have the same tastes in homes and interior design?
Rhonda: Yes and no. No because unlike me, Race is extremely talented in designs, colours and selection of materials and therefore all of our homes and offices have had a lot of her contributions, little of mine. Yes, is because I agree with her taste, which makes us have the same taste (if that counts).
Race: Home is a feeling, not a place! I think we are rather similar. We like a home that feels like a home, where the choice of designs and furniture should serve to provide unity and togetherness, where families can spend time together and also enjoy moments of quiet time as well. We like a home where we arrive and go “oh my home”.
7. How do you relax after a hard day at work?
Rhonda: We both look forward to seeing our little ones. Having a child is such a wonderful thing, cuddling, reading and kissing my son soothes all my tension and stress away.
Race: That’s true! Well, a hot bath and some peaceful reading works too. I also enjoy yoga very much.
8. If a young girl wants to embark on her own start-up venture what advice would you give her?
Race: Always put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask what else you can do for them. When you provide a good service and your customers can sense your sincerity in your intention, customers will be willing to support you. That’s how we won clients over, time and again.
Rhonda: Never doubt yourself. You’re strong, smart and beautiful – whatever you set your mind on, you can do it! As what Amelia Earhart says, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” Surround yourself with a positive support system who encourages you to achieve your dreams.