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An analytical approach to property buying

Beyond being successful, being able to help my customers find the right undervalued properties, or to outperform their expectations for a sale, gives me great satisfaction

Wendeline Goh shows a series of charts that she has created her- self for her clients, to help them understand how property prices have evolved in specific locations over time. She highlights a chart showing how resale prices around Districts 5 and 21 have risen in recent years, well above the national average.

“The key to maintaining and earning good value with resale properties is to look out for undervalued properties at the right locations,” she explains.
“By right location, I’m referring both to a property having a unique quality among other comparative estates, or in a neighbourhood that’s experiencing regeneration or new developments. It’s not just about the inherent value of the property itself, but also its surroundings,” she adds.

Goh’s keen and analytical assessment of property values has made her a self-taught expert on spotting good acquisitions. That’s why she is one of the Top Transactor in Resale Condo award winners in this year’s EdgeProp Excellence Awards.

She spends a significant amount of time doing research on the market, a habit that she has carried over from her past career in marketing.

“I was previously working with a major paint company, which I guess is related to real estate. I managed repainting projects for buildings, which led me to develop an interest in architectural design,” she explains.

She adds: “So, I started off managing painting projects for condominiums before moving into marketing for the brand’s home interior products. The marketing experience gave me a headstart towards analysing how big the market or potential market for housing is in Singapore.”

It was family that led her to reconsider her career. After her second child was born, she felt that she needed to find a job with a more flexible schedule so that she could be more involved in her children’s development during the formative years. “At the time, it was a challenge to have to manage both a career and care for a family. I didn’t feel like it was fair to my parents or in-laws to have to take care of my children, and we don’t have a helper at home,” she explains.

Goh also felt that she needed a breakthrough in her career, and when she heard about how well a friend’s partner was doing in real estate, she was intrigued. “I’ve always loved architecture and interiors and colours, which is why I ended up studying civil engineering in university and later joined a paint company,” she adds. “So I decided to become a real estate agent, to learn more about using data and analytics to pick the right properties that would reap greater profits for buyers.”

Being a real estate agent gave her a certain amount of flexibility with her work schedule. “But you have to be smart about how you manage your time with your family,” she says. “Like most service industries, you’re busy when others are not.”

The non-regular income was a point of stress for her for the first couple of years, but once she started to think of it as her own business, she began to come to terms with how to manage each aspect of her work, from marketing her expertise to using technology and apps to grow her business. “The old adage is that you have to spend money to make money and at the start, this can seem like an oxymoron of sorts. But as the business grows and more opportunities and leads come in, you realise that it’s very true,” she says with a smile. “But beyond being successful, being able to help my customers find the right undervalued properties, or to outperform their expectations for a sale, gives me great satisfaction.”

Goh thinks of each client and project as a partnership, whether it’s to buy or sell a unit. “I’m not razor-focused on things like how much commission I must make from the transaction, or if it must be an exclusive for me. It’s really about trust,” she points out. “Sure, there are times when you have to push back and forth on certain issues, but if there’s no synergy with the buyer or seller, it makes it doubly hard to secure a deal.”

With each client, she starts out by finding out about their motivations for buying or selling. “I try to help them in terms of full-fledged planning, so before that it’s important to understand what’s driving them to act now. Is it a need? Is it viable? If not, I will advise them to reconsider,” she says.

With prices of new property developments at a high, she points out the attractiveness of older estates to buyers. “When you look at private estates which are around 15 years old or so, you start to realise that in many parts of Singapore, they have great asset value. Even though the bulk of the profits are taken by the first buyer, the costs per square foot of slightly older estates at the moment are close to, and usually lower than, newbuilds,” she analyses. 

“That means that in places where other developments are emerging, or new infrastructure is developing, older estates are a smart buy.”

With more clients looking for bigger properties in the post-pandemic era, resale properties are fast becoming an attractive option for many. Goh points out that the need for in-home facilities such as a large balcony, home offices that are private for couples and singles, and immediate occupancy, has led to an uptake in resale properties. Even then, she notes that it is important to look for the right ones as not all resale properties will have considerable future profits.

There are also instances where the resale properties in the area have reached their peak value. That’s when she suggests to her clients to sell their units and invest in a better holding property. These may be new or resale units, depending on market conditions.

Goh advocates looking for estates with unique qualities in their neighbourhoods, such as a freehold property in an area where most developments are leasehold, especially if there is parity in the prices. Other examples include areas where redevelopment is occurring, in which case leasehold properties are unaffected and in fact make for good capital appreciation.

“Today, people are less concerned about freehold or leasehold unless you’re buying a really old property. Unless the leasehold property is beyond 15 years old, newer leasehold properties actually have good growth potential in their early years,” she explains. “They are also easier on the wallet and usually available in good locations with amenities and transport nodes.”

Through her analytics and comparing Singapore to other markets, she considers it to be an ideal investment opportunity. “Singapore is still relatively affordable compared with Tokyo, Hong Kong, Zurich and other key cities across the world. That’s why we still have an influx of overseas buyers, even with the increase in taxes on buying multiple private properties,” she points out.

When it comes to property as an investment, Goh advises thinking long-term, to be able to assess its potential for growth. She spends hours doing stress-tests and studying property value changes in different districts and locations to understand which developments will be interesting to her clients.

“You have to spend time to examine what you’re planning to buy. If the price you’re buying at offers good value compared with what others are purchasing at, then the opportunity for profitability in the future will be good,” she says. “Generally speaking, prices will increase over time. I can’t tell you by how much, but I can tell you based on my analysis, which are good buys right now.”

Her analytics have been a proven success for her own property investments, as she points out how the value of one of her properties increased by a six-digit figure in a three-year period. “It’s not serendipity. I simply did the research and analysis, and the results paid off,” she says. “The data doesn’t lie.

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