Work Life Balance Thru Self-employment
Immediately after graduating from NUS, I became espoused with my husband, the man whom I dated for many years. Encouraged by government initiatives, family planning started shortly after my marriage.
Dilemma Between Family And Career
I gave birth to my son while I was still learning the ropes during early stage of my career. I began to struggle coping with my new born and work as a civil engineer. Prior to that, it had never occurred to me that looking after children and trying to do my job well at the same time could be onerous, especially as a young mother.
To make matter worse, my son was diagnosed with asthma, making it challenging to enroll him in a child care centre, even after 2 years of baby-sitting by my mum.
As my son was being babysit at my mum's place, I could only bring him back over the weekends. This arrangement would never be good for our family bonding, notwithstanding the first 5 years of upbringing being the most crucial years in developing a child’s communication, behaviour, social and other essential skill sets.
It would be irreversible once the window of opportunity is lost.
Moreover, my treasured family time over the weekends were often disrupted by ad-hoc meetings or urgent works to be completed. Such disruptions, though necessary to fulfill the tasks, had been happening too frequently.
Tearing my heart between doing well in my job and finding time to be with the family, put me in deep thoughts about my career prospect.
“When in doubt, choose the kids. There will be plenty of time later to choose work.” – Anna Quindlen, Author
Desire For Change
I decided to take a few years off from work to go full time nurturing my son and building a strong family bond.
Financially, we could still sustain just on my husband's income. However, it would not be enough to save for our retirement in the future.
Therefore, despite being a full-time housewife looking after my son, I had also been constantly looking out for ways to supplement my family income. Much thoughts had been put in while I was searching around.
After spending a few years looking after my son, he had grown to be independent and was about to attend primary school. I realised that teaching could be a good option as the job nature of a teacher could accommodate the kind of working hours that allowed me to continue overseeing my son's growing process.
I applied for a teaching post and was accepted. My school teaching journey progressed for a few years.
It came to a point where I was given opportunity for management post in the school.
However, my passion and the burning desire to teach was so great that I did not see myself to be holding any management post.
In fact, I was inclined in exposing myself to other areas in education and began sourcing for avenues to teach outside a public school. However, teaching outside a public school would mean that I would be teaching after my son’s regular school hours - no one to look after him.
Exploring New Areas
Meanwhile, my daughter was born and a domestic helper was engaged to look after my children, though it was never my preference to leave my kids to someone else.
Eventually, I decided to pursuit further my teaching passion and took up assignments spanning from school Olympiad Mathematics enrichment classes, Secondary Mathematics in an International School, tutor in private tuition centers and private home tuition.
I ended up earning a few times more than I was teaching in a public school and the satisfaction I had from teaching these students was great.
It was a very fulfilling and enriching experience, which had also greatly enhanced my teaching pedagogy, which also helped me better guide my children in their studies subsequently.
“Sometimes in life, you do things you don't want to. Sometimes you sacrifice, sometimes you compromise. Sometimes you let go and sometimes you fight. It's all about deciding what's worth losing and what's worth keeping.” - Lindy Zart
I cut down on the teaching assignments after receiving complains about the misbehaviour of my son and his apparent decline in school results.
I also do away with the domestic helper and put my daughter in a child care centre. This would allow me more time to guide my son after his school, while still able to continue my teaching assignments in the morning.
This goes on for a couple of years until my son passed his PSLE with flying colours. My daughter was enrolled into Primary School.
Venturing Into Uncharted Sector
I was contented with my state until a secondary school friend approached me to join him in real estate career. My key considerations following his invitation were as follows:
I could expand my current earning portfolio.
It did not interfere with my current teaching assignments.
It's time to pick up skills and learn about property investments.
I could work from home.
Many learning opportunities in marketing, managing and understanding people.
I could keep myself abreast with prevailing property market conditions.
Furthermore, my hubby and I were of no difference from the general public; we were very conservative and cautious in putting huge sum of money in property.
Should we had access to a right professional advice, we would likely to have hold on and not sold our second property that resulted in a loss at that time.
Coupled with the fact that most of the tycoons created their wealth from property, I would very much want to learn the intricacy of property markets and its related investments.
So that I could grow our wealth and assets through our own property investments.
In addition, the prior good experience of being my own boss, and the idea of expanding my teaching business into another sector actually enticed me. Hence, after some careful considerations, I readily became a real estate agent.
Sustaining Financial Stability
Being a real estate agent did not affect my existing teaching assignments. In hindsight, opting for a part-time nature in real estate was an ideal option for me. It was critical to ensure financial sustainability in the first 6 months, especially, while becoming a real estate agent without any clientele base.
Definitely, it was a good choice to begin as a part-timer, allowing me to test the depth before plunging into the water.
Starting From Scratch
Although I have never thought of ending up in sales, I was also never concerned with how my friends and relatives would perceive, especially where I was surrounded by a group of peers who were practicing engineering as a profession.
Instead, I approached friends and relatives to announce that I was a real estate agent. Not so much to source for business, but just to provide an option for them to engage someone whom they were familiar and comfortable to deal with their properties.
Blessed, a friend of mine who had migrated to Netherlands became my first customer, asking me to sell her HDB flat that was rented out by another agent.
At the onset, I really did not know which marketing method would work. I kept trying out different possible ways, while learning from others.
Thankfully, the HDB flat was sold within a month after numerous viewing sessions. As an agent whom she trusted, I was able to carry out my due diligent without much difficulty, in liaising with her Power of Attorney and, eventually, crediting her cash proceed into her bank account.
The closing of my first deal had a great impact in boosting my confidence in the real estate business.
Gradually, I picked up the skills from my agency's training, seasoned investors whom I met and through face to face interaction with co-broke agents and fellow colleagues.
My First New Launch
I can still recall during my first new launch project, I was overjoyed for being able to close my first show flat unit after recommending a unit based on the requirements and profile of a first time walk-in customer, who bought it on the spot.
Instantly, I was envied by many of my fellow agents and many had said that I had the newcomer's luck.
Nevertheless, no one knew the amount of homework I had done in studying the development in details and conducting a few outside presentations of the project to some clients before the preview.
These prior preparatory works had enhanced my understanding of the intricate details of the project at finger tips. Thus, I was able to recommend the right unit to this buyer based on his needs.
Recently, I was delighted to receive a message from this loyal buyer after a decade, asking me to help him buy an upcoming integrated development at Pasir Ris.
Since then, I have been diligently monitoring the launch of this condominium, waiting to provide him first hand information.
Learning from my Clients
With the right marketing approach, on-the-job training and hard work, my sales turned out to be a reasonably good salesperson as a new rookie in the first year.
I decided to switch to full time in real estate, to be fully committed and be fair to my clients who had entrusted their property matters to me.
In my real estate career, I was quite amazed by the people whom I met. There was this lady boss, who had little formal education but was managing a SME with about 100 employees.
The company was doing well and had been established for more than a decade. I met her during one of my show flat duties, where she was a walk-in customer. Subsequently, she often picked me up in her Mercedes for viewing appointments.
Thereafter, I had assisted her in upgrading her home stay property, acquiring a few investment properties and also procuring an industrial property for her business at Changi South area.
As a business owner, she was very decisive and was not emotionally attached to the properties she bought for investments. I am glad that she gained from the properties that I had helped her transact.
I learnt good lessons from people whom I met along the way. I am also inspired by some of these people, like this lady boss. Despite without much formal education or good financial background, they are able to overcome adversities in life and persevere in solving their day-to-day challenges.
Dive Into Uncomfortable Zone
Nonetheless, real estate is not always a bed of roses. I do encounter bad times when sales was generally no good. That was also when time I began to ponder if I should venture into the leasing sector.
After teaming up with a group of friends to focus on TOP (temporary occupation permit) condominium, I started to take up property rental, which I had shirk previously to avoid handling difficult situations between Tenant and Landlord.
After going through a few rounds of closing rental deals, I realised that I was also good in handling the different aspects of rental issues and saw myself closing at least one rental every week. It kept my business momentum going and led me to more deals.
As I gained more experience in the property markets, I became more confident and was able to give advice to landlords or sellers on the price to rent or sell.
Once, I was referred to a landlord of a 4-bedder penthouse unit at a precinct where rental transactions of this unit type was only going at about $3,800.
Although the landlord was asking only for the prevailing market rental pricing, I told her that she could get a higher rental for her flat based on my experience.
True enough, there were many interested tenants came to view the unit, even when I was advertising the monthly rental at $4,499. However, most tenants who viewed would naturally only willing to offer close to the transacted value.
As a result, the landlord's confidence in getting a higher rent was fading and began asking me to lower my advertised rental to below $4,000 in order to rent out fast.
From my years of experience in studying the prevailing market conditions and pricing, I was convinced that I would be able to rent out at a higher rental.
I asked the landlord to give me another weekend as there were still many respondents to that highly advertised rental.
Over that weekend, I managed to clinch two offers higher than $4,000 with better tenant profiles. The deal was closed at $4.200 for two years, while the entire rental process only took slightly more than a month.
Dedication And Passion Paid Off
After a decade in the real estate industry, apart from the knowledge acquired, I have also learnt a lot in terms of marketing, interpersonal, negotiation and analysis skills in property markets.
Progressing from a green horn of simply selling properties at a price client wanted, to an experienced agent who advise her clients promptly on the appropriate pricing, and now, to a property consultant proposing to clients how to increase their properties portfolio leap by leap.
Having experienced my own success in property investments, I have also shared those experiences with my clients.
With so many rounds of property cooling measures, it is especially important these days, to be able to advise my clients appropriately on financial calculations for property investments.
My greatest satisfaction in real estate is helping my clients acquire the property they desired and seeing them gained from their property transactions.
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No Looking Back
My journey in the real estate has opened my horizons by interacting with people from all walks of life. This career is able to fulfill what I envisioned myself to be - carrying out work with dignity and integrity.
Dealings and processes that aligned well with my principles and value system are crucial.
The sense of satisfaction after helping someone find that perfect home or making a good property investment is always worth the efforts. Notwithstanding, I may also earn a nice commission after the deal. Sometimes, deals in real estate may seem to work out so nicely and piece up so perfectly.
More importantly, I have learnt to grow my own investment portfolio in the course of my real estate work over the past 10 years, positioning myself not too far from financial freedom.
I really want to thank all my clients who have entrusted me with their property matters and also those who have recommended their friends for me to handle their properties.
I also encourage anyone who like the flexible working time, enjoy unlimited income and wanting to become self-employed to feel free to arrange a session that is convenient to you from the following calendar at a click :