A Career In Real Estate: Is It For You? (Part One)

I’ve previously blogged about my first job as a property agent and shared with you the challenges and rewards. I’ve learnt that the job pays well, but finding the right manager is often as difficult as finding the right life partner. And mind you, the consequences of picking the wrong leader to follow can be quite disastrous, as my own example has shown.

I’ve recently had the opportunity of interviewing 3 Division Directors from ERA. Each of them have their own story to tell about their journey into the real estate line so read on…

John Lee ERA

John Lee

1) You studied Building and Property Management in Singapore Polytechnic, but later went into the financial planning line, before returning to the real estate industry again. What made you want to venture into the financial planning industry, and what made you come back to real estate in the end?

I joined ERA in 2006 as a part-time agent and a full-time career in real estate never crossed my mind till the sub-prime crisis in 2008. That year, the financial industry was in a bad shape and investors’ confidence level took a hit. Coincidentally, I had a few clients who were thinking of selling their properties and that’s when I took the plunge to really get started in real estate.

2) Having achieved MDRT and COT, how tough was that decision to give up the recurring income, business you have built up in the insurance line, to get back into real estate?

Oh yes, it took me quite a while to give up my financial planning business totally. Two years after I started my real estate business on a full time basis, I was promoted to ERA DD and achieved the ERA Top 50 Achievers award in a company with over 5000 agents. I knew then that I needed to make a career choice in order to be fair to my clients. I also had to find someone reliable to take over my clients in my financial planning business. It took me quite a while to find this financial planner colleague whom I could trust. 
John Receiving ERA Overall Top Manager Award for Year 2011 among 5000+ Agents in ERA
John Lee

3) What sort of mindset and skill-set do you think you possess, that helped you achieve MDRT, COT, and your current success in your real estate business?

I guess my family background does play a part. I came from a poor family and I have been working part time while studying since I was 11 years old. During those days as a polytechnic student, I worked as a waiter for a 5-star hotel whenever I had some free time and I could work for 12 to 14 hours a day just to make $100+ a day, which was a lot to me during that time. I saved quite a far bit to pay for my daily expenses and school fees.

I also did well academically and qualified for scholarships by SP during my 2nd and 3rd year there. I am very grateful for this. During my national service stint, when most of my peers are partying throughout, I was thankful to have been exposed to motivational authors like Robert Kiyosaki and I started thinking seriously about what I really want for my career and life.

4) As a manager, what are the qualities you are looking out for as you recruit real estate agents to join your team? Have you ever asked anyone to leave – if yes, for what reason?

Attitude, a strong belief and most importantly, this business requires a lot of ACTION!!! Fortunately, most of our agents are team players and we have not encountered termination cases yet. I feel that running a team is just like being the father in the family. If you ‘set’ your culture right, your members will follow your lead as they look up to you.

5) What does your investment portfolio look like, and what property investments have you made?

I am currently staying in an HDB unit in the east. I have also co-invested with my brother, who is also my fellow DD Eugene Lee, on a 4-Bedder condo unit in Toa Payoh and which is currently tenanted out. We got quite a good deal for the Toa Payoh condo unit as the owner was in financial distress and needed to sell it off desperately. I firmly believe that there are always undervalued deals and you need to be really very diligent in order to get such deals. If you do not have the time to do so, get a reliable and trustworthy agent to assist you. Between 2008 to 2009, I also invested some money into blue chips and silver stocks and I plan to hold them for the long haul. Also, because of my background in the financial planning line, I am also a strong believer in insurance and currently am insured for almost $1 million.
 Cody Sim

1) Your clients probably ask you about property trends regularly, so what would you tell them now, taking into account what the PM has announced? 
First, I will assess their needs before I share with them about current trends. If you are buying a property within your means and it is for your own stay, trends would not be a huge concern as when the property is for investment purposes. Property investment is always cyclical and we should invest overseas if the current local market is not favorable.

2) What does it take to be a top producer? 

Good mindset and attitude, apply the right effort , review your work and never give up !!!

3) Why did you decide to enter the real estate industry, and is it the career you have always envisioned you will be in?

Honestly , I didn’t think that I would be doing sales, especially real estate sales, as I can be considered an introvert. I started my full time insurance career in 2001 after graduating from Singapore Polytechnic and achieved MDRT (top 10%) in my second year in the insurance line, Court Of The Table (top 5%) and Top Of The Table (top 1%) at my peak. It was by chance that I learned that property investments are one of the best ways to enhance one’s assets and increase wealth.

I have thus helped clients in preserving their wealth through insurance and increasing their net worth through property investments. After I embarked on a property career full time in 2008, I achieved ERA Top 300 in my first year and TOP 50 in my second year and am consistently in the list of top achievers every year since. I have also recruited and nurtured agents who aspire to have control over their time and achieve the lifestyle they have always wanted. It gives me a great sense of achievement to assist people in achieving their dreams.
Cody Receiving IEA (Institute of Estate Agents) Award at National Level:
Cody receiving IEA Awards
The 3 Division Directors, together with their Team Mates, Achieving IEA (Institute of Estate Agents) Award at National Level on March 2013 at Marina Bay Sands: ERA Division Directors

4) From whom did you learn how to be such a good salesperson? What are the books you have read and highly recommend, or courses you have attended that led to your breakthroughs in your sales performance?

I recommend books like ” Think and Grow Rich ” by Napolean Hill. Also, my spiritual teacher, Tsemtulku Rinpoche,  has inspired me. Developing spiritual happiness is as important as achieving material success. How can one be successful and achieve breakthroughs? It is all in your hands.


Eugene LeeEugene Lee

1) You joined the real estate industry since you graduated from NUS and you’re still in this line. Most people tend to experience a few job changes before eventually settling on one. How did you manage to decide so early on, and stay the course? 

In fact, I joined this real estate industry during my 3rd year in university – even before I had graduated!
What made me do this was:
1) The Money: I will be lying if I say it’s not for the money! Potentially, I can be earning a monthly income which is the equivalent of my peers’ yearly income as an 8-to-5 employee, or even more!
2) I see myself as a consultant. By giving people my most sincere advice and services, I realize I have helped a lot of people get out of their difficult situations, improve on their finances, etc. The satisfaction you get out of all these is something you can’t get it anywhere else!

2) Despite your impressive achievements, you are said to be “stunningly humble and sincere”. How do you stay humble after achieving a level of success that your peers may never attain?

I am currently staying in a 3-room HDB flat, and drive a six year old Nissan Latio. I don’t buy branded goods and am still wearing my 300 dollar watch from five years ago – a treasured gift from my wife. Everyone yearns for flashy cars, houses, clothing and accessories. But these items are secondary to me now as I am more focused on using the monies I have earned to acquire assets, build on my business and to enjoy life to the fullest with regular holiday trips, good food (which need not be expensive food, but at least we don’t have to keep looking at price tags before deciding on where and what to eat, like when I was younger and poorer).

3) Your personal motto is that “Success is attained through helping a lot more people”. What does this actually mean to you? Is “success” only limited to financial success?

I believe that through unconditional sharing and helping others, one will get intangible rewards in the future even though there aren’t any immediate monetary rewards. “Success is attained through helping a lot more people” is actually a quote from a famous salesperson and motivator, Zig Ziglar, whose books I have read. To me, being successful does not require me to be super rich.. As long as I am able to make my family and loved ones happy, and am able to do the things I want to do, whenever I want, without having to worry about money, I would think that I am content!
Eugene Receiving IEA (Institute of Estate Agents) Award at National Level
Eugene Receiving IEA Realtor Gold Award at Marina Bay Sands

4) Which is the most memorable property sale you have done?

The sale of an HDB flat in Simei. The owners cried as they loved the flat but due to financial difficulties, they had no choice but to sell it. It was not an easy sale for me as it broke my heart when I heard of their situation. They paid my commission in small installments over 7 years.


ERA Horizon Group

Contact these Division Directors and their Group of over 300 Agents at www.teamhorizon.sg and ‘Like’ their facebook page www.facebook.com/horizongroupsingapore for more property updates!



Related Articles:

Part Two of this series: Strategies For Success As A Real Estate Agent

Part Three of this series: Interview with a Sales Champion


4 thoughts on “A Career In Real Estate: Is It For You? (Part One)

  1. Nice sharing…
    Personally, I have given a shot to be a Real Estate Agent myself.
    Took the exam 3 times and retook the entire course.
    I am still unable to pass it 😦

    • Hi Jared (I believe?), the exams were not easy to pass, back when I took them. However, I was still studying in NUS at that time, so writing essays was what I was good at. 😀 Many agents, who had been in the line for decades, failed the exams.

      So don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you did your best, that’s good enough.

      Good luck with whatever you are doing now. 🙂

  2. Pingback: A Career In Real Estate: Is It For You? (Part Two) | Working With Grace

  3. Pingback: A Career In Real Estate: Is It For You? (Part 3) Interview With A Sales Champion | Working With Grace

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