Yip: This industry is a bit like musical chairs, with teams of agents moving around. Every agency is trying to up their game during the annual renewal season in November, which the industry hopes that CEA will change (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) – Having joined Huttons Asia as CEO last November, Mark Yip has turned the office upside down. The warren of box-like offices has given way to a co-working style workplace with pastel-coloured cushy chairs and couches, hot desks, bar counter-worktops, a dry kitchen-pantry and games room. The office space has been expanded a further 15% to 13,000 sq ft at CPF Building at Bishan Place.
Read also: Mark Yip’s plan for ‘new Huttons’
The changes extend beyond the cosmetic. “This business is about human capital,” says Yip. He set about improving the infrastructure and to prepare the firm for the next lap. Over the past two months, Huttons has signed a series of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with various parties to enable their agents to be more effective.
One of the MOUs was with Real Estate Doc, for the use of Redoc.co software that enables end-to-end documentation of real estate deals for Huttons’ agents.
Another MOU was signed with the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union to form a company training committee to identify jobs that are likely to be disrupted due to industry transformation and roles that will be created in new business growth areas. The company training committee will also map out new skills and competencies for Huttons’ real estate salespersons, to enhance professionalism, capabilities and be Industry 4.0-ready, according to Yip.
A third MOU was signed with GOfix, an app for handyman services from air-conditioner services and repairs to plumbing and home improvements. The deal with GOfix, while non-exclusive, will be able to support Huttons’ agents in providing better service to their clients, adds Yip.
Huttons’ new co-working style office at Bishan Place (Photo: Huttons Asia)
New app, new initiatives
Huttons has also officially launched a new app, Huttons Pro+, to enable its agents to “close deals on the go”. The app features an improved user interface with frequently used functions such as the ultimate project search (analysis and reports), Wealth Creation Pro+ (property calculators), project EDM (electronic marketing materials), and more than 130 projects’ microsites for lead generation, where information can be searched by region, namely Core Central Region, Rest of Central Region and Outside Central Region.
New initiatives rolled out include the Millionaire Associates programme to recognise top-producing agents. Last year, there were five Huttons agents who earned at least $1 million in commission over a 12-month period. This year, the number of agents who achieved that seven-
figure income has doubled to 10 by end-September, Yip notes. “I expect the number to hit 12 by end-November,” he adds.
The Millennial programme was introduced earlier this year “to groom a new generation of leaders in this digital era”, says Yip. “They have since committed their time to conduct training and contributed ideas for recruitment and marketing of new projects.”
Huttons is now targeting Generation Z consumers (those born after 1997) via video sharing app TikTok “by creating interesting and educational short-form videos on upcoming and exciting projects”, Yip adds. “I believe in thinking outside the box.”
Lounge style sofas and comfortable chairs for discussions (Photo: Huttons Asia)
Growing sales force
He is confident that the initiatives introduced at Huttons will prove to be effective and place Huttons at the forefront of the industry. Yip is also determined on growing the firm’s sales force, which numbered 3,264 as at Sept 26, according to the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) public register. “We expect to hit 3,500 by end of the year,” says Yip.
This makes Huttons among the four biggest agencies by number of salespersons. In top spot is PropNex with 9,687 agents, followed by ERA in second place with 8,120 agents, and OrangeTee & Tie in third position with 4,225 agents, based on CEA register as at Sept 26.
As the cost of compliance, digitalisation, technology tools, training, branding and market intelligence increases, it is harder for smaller agencies to stay competitive as they lack economies of scale, says Yip.
“I think we will see further consolidation over the next five years,” he adds. “That’s the nature of the business — people crossing over from one agency to another.”
According to Yip, mergers and acquisitions “are difficult”. “It’s very complicated to merge two companies and bring teams over,” he says. “It’s easier to grow organically.”
Huttons has therefore rolled out packages to retain its existing sales force and to recruit new salespersons. These include the “Breakthrough” package targeted at experienced salespersons who want to cross over and “Booster” package for new salespersons. “We are willing to look at people from other fields too — those who are gung-ho and without the baggage,” adds Yip.
In the strata commercial segment, Huttons’ agents also brokered the sale of 10 F&B approved, commercial titled units at CT Hub 2 located at Kallang Way in July (Photo: Huttons Asia)
Revenue diversification is underway as Huttons shifts its focus beyond project marketing. “We are strengthening ourselves in the resale market — from HDB to private property,” adds Yip. He is also hoping to make inroads into the property auction market.
On the capital markets front, Sandra Yiap, associate division head of Huttons, scored a coup when she brokered the sale of the entire block of 20 units at Eden at 2 Draycott Park to the Tsai family of Want Want Holdings for $293 million ($4,827 psf) at the end of March. The seller was Hong Kong developer Swire Properties.
In the strata commercial segment, Huttons’ agents also brokered the sale of 10 F&B approved, commercial titled units at CT Hub 2 located at Kallang Way in July. The purchase price of the 10 units worked out to $8.6 million, or $2,450 psf based on the total strata area of 3,516 sq ft. CT Hubs 1 and 2 are commercial and industrial mixed-use developments by developer Chiu Teng Group. The F&B units are said to be fitted as “cloud kitchens” and are fully leased to established F&B operators such as Da Paolo, Duke of Congee, My Fav Bowl and Petite Pantry. (Find Singapore commercial properties with our commercial directory)
The Huttons Landed Team has also been busy. The agents closed 71% more deals in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the whole of 2020. This is across the board — from terraced houses, to semi-detached and detached houses as well as Good Class Bungalows.
Surveying the new millennial-friendly office, Yip says: “We have done a lot of changes to the hardware and software.” He adds: “This industry is a bit like musical chairs, with migration of teams of agents from one firm to the next. Every agency is trying to up their game during the annual renewal season in November, which the industry hopes that CEA will change.”
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