June 17, 2007

Ex-estate agents back for the big bucks

By Jessica Lim

THE prospect of making big bucks in the property boom has lured former estate agents back into the game.

Experts reckon that about 15 per cent of agents recruited by big firms recently comprise old hands ready to have another go at it.

Dennis Wee Properties has taken on about 750 agents with about 100 of those returnees.

Said director Chris Koh: 'When the housing market is less vibrant, competition forces some agents out and they leave to take up more stable jobs.

'With the current rosy property market, ex-agents are returning. Now, everyone wants to become an agent.'

Returnees account for about 50 out of the 250 new hires each month at HSR Property Group.

At PropNex, returnees number about 20 of the 220 agents recruited each month.

PropNex's chief executive, Mr Mohamad Ismail, said these former agents want another shot at financial success.

Mr Ryan Tan, 39, is one of them. The 39-year-old O-level holder quit the real estate business nine years ago and started selling insurance.

But he gave that up two months ago to join PropNex, where he says he now draws between $10,000 and $15,000 a month.

'The only mistake I made was not to have rejoined the business earlier,' said Mr Tan, who closes at least one deal a week. In the grim days of 1998, he took several months to close just one deal.

Ms Lucy Tan is another ex-agent who has returned to the property fray. The 46-year-old HSR representative quit in 2002 after six years in the business when her income dropped to $5,000 a month.

She stopped working to look after her ill brother but is back with a vengeance, making about $20,000 a month. She is rewarding herself within the next few months with a new car.

Said Ms Tan, who rejoined the business last year: 'It was worth it coming back. This job pays well and allows you to manage your time too. I hope to earn even more over time.'

For Ms Joyce Lau, 29, it is all a matter of timing. She spent 21/2 years working as a flight attendant after quitting the business.

She returned in 2005 just when the market was picking up. 'Leaving when times are bad and returning when times are good is the best way to maximise earnings,' said Ms Lau, who earns about $25,000 a month at ERA.

The battle-scarred returnees are also well aware that the boom will not last forever.

Having lived through the last downturn, Mr Tan, a father of two young children, said: 'Times are good now, but concentrating too much on real estate might mean a big fall if the market collapses.'

His back-up plan: Selling insurance policies on the side and ensuring his wife draws a fixed income.