Hey Dee Dee,
First off thank you for taking the time to get involved in this interview for my readers.
We first met at the co-working office in Penang when you serenaded me most mornings with your heels, as we were the few who worked in the open space.
I found out you worked in real estate alongside Sam who helped our family with all our rental properties in Penang.
I was keen to get the lowdown on being a property agent in Malaysia, as it’s a little different from the experience I’ve had in the UK. It would be super useful to newcomers to Malaysia too.
So, thanks again Dee Dee, let’s jump straight into this with our first question.
1. Can you give us a little background information on you and your back story? For example, where you’re from, where you grew up.
I am originally from Segamat, Johore, and have lived in Penang since 2009.
I was studying at Inti International College for B.A. Hons in Marketing under the certificate of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and Business Studies at Jönköping International Business School, Sweden.
I have started my career in the Real Estate Industry as a property negotiator from 2011 until now.
Currently, I am in the process of pursuing a Real Estate License for my career advancement. (In case you are confused, all the agent/negotiator that attached under Real Estate Agency without license holder is known as “Real Estate Negotiator” and they are registered under the board.
However, if you obtained the Real Estate License Holder, then you are known as “Real Estate Agent” and you are able to have an agency on your own or have 30 Real Estate Negotiator registered under your license.)
2. How did you get into being a realtor? What are the pros and cons of working in the property market?
After working as an Inside Sales Representative in Dell Corporate for almost 2 years, I started to questioned and decided to work for myself because I feel that if I am having the capability in earning for others, why not I do it for myself instead?!
There are a few pros already working as a real estate agent and among all, the best motivation to keep us moving is the unlimited income potential. You will feel that your destiny is in your own hand.
You are your own boss to decide how much you want to earn, how much effort you want to put in for the result, and also the strategy. Not only that, but time flexibility is also one of the main attractions as a property agent.
You run your own schedule and have more work-life balance. The greatest things are when you help yourself to make your own dreams come true, you are actually also helping others to accomplish their dreams and goals.
Helping them to get their dream home or invest in the right property. In this line, we will have the opportunity to explore and exposure to different kinds of people. It helps to widen our perspective in seeing and doing things differently than others. In other words, it helps us to grow and improve ourselves.
As many pros as I can list down, naturally, there are also two sides of the same coin.
As much as you wish to earn unlimited income, you actually also have no safety net and need saving to cover your personal and professional costs.
Not only that, due to time flexibility, but you will also have no set hours and might end up working more especially during the weekend and holidays.
Your working hour is 24/7.
It is a competitive market and therefore, a lot of hard work is needed for you to be successful. Even though the startup is not easy however, once your engine is running, the rewards are lucrative.
3. In my experience of renting properties in Penang, I always found it strange that so many parties are involved. It’s not unusual when viewing properties to have 5-6 people following you around.
Yes, the property business system in Malaysia is totally different than in most of the western countries.
In Europe, there are only 1 or 2 exclusive lister agents for one property and therefore, the buyer/tenant only needs to direct contact with the exclusive lister.
Normally once the agent is appointed, keys will be given to them for handling the viewing themselves. However, it is a totally different business model in Malaysia as most of the seller/landlord would find many agents (sometimes all the agent in town) to market their property.
Therefore, most of the time, you will see buyer/tenant will engage their own agent and the seller/landlord will have another agent of their own a.k.a co-broking/co-agency. (Co-broking means different agent in the same company and co-agency means different agent in a different company working together).
Hence, when you are viewings properties in Malaysia, don’t be surprised when you walk into a property with a lot of people surrounded.
You will have the agent from buyer/tenant side, agent from seller/landlord side, the landlord (and sometimes with their family together), and the buyer (which at times also with their family)
4. There are some naughty tricks that I have come across from less scrupulous agents, without naming any names, what do you have watch out for?
There are a few platforms that you need to watch out.
For instance, if you are looking property for sale/rent via an online platform, most of the time you will see agents posting different prices for the same listing or some listing has already sold/rented,
You can also see properties still posted on the internet at the lower price in order to fish buyer/tenant to contact them directly (see box below) and then they will call the real lister to work together with them.
One of the easiest ways for you to identify this practice is whenever you saw an online listing without the interior photos and without mentioning “deal with direct owner” in the remarks section, chances are the posting is fake!
Another method is when you contacting them, they will tell you that the property has already just sold and there is another property that they can introduce at a higher price.
At times they will also agent that seeing you putting up a signboard in a property and the next day, the property will be flooded with others’ agency signboard. This is also one of their method to fish the buyer/tenant to contact them. When you contacted them, they will call the direct agent to work together with them.
My Experience: I wanted to briefly share my experience when searching for a rental property in Penang.
One particular realtor (thankfully not you guys) based in Penang often put lots of property pictures online in the typically bait and switch approach.
On two occasions we saw our own property online! I even contacted her and said I was interested, but mostly because I was living in it!
5. I was a bit confused with the costs involved when renting properties, in terms of the agent and landlord, etc. It would be good to explain for newcomers to Penang the fees to expect.
The costs that need to be met by the tenant when renting a property are stamping and documentation fees, agency fees, utility payments such as electricity, water, Sewage, and wifi/sewage Bill.
The landlord has to pay for the management fees, fire insurance, quit rent, and assessment.
Fees for Buying Property in Malaysia
If you are planning to buy property in Malaysia as a foreigner, you need to pay:
- State consent fees (RM10,000 for residential property & RM20,000 for commercial property)
- 3% foreign levy (subject to change)
- Stamp duty
- Agency fees
- Legal fees for the Sale and Purchase and loan legal documentation
- Stamping and valuation fees (only applied if you are getting a loan)
However, if you are buying new development from the developer, at times some of the above-mentioned costs will be absorbed by the developer as a sale package.
Bear in mind that you need to also know about RPGT (Real Estate Property Gain Tax) when you are selling off your property later. However, there are some deductible expenses such as renovation, legal documentation, agency fees and etc for the RPGT and the percentage of the tax are subject to change every year.
Source: Real Property Gains Tax
6. I know you work mostly with expats moving to Penang. This has been an interesting year with COVID19 and has affected your business. How’s it been on the ground the last 6-months?
In the last 6-months, I have realized that there are many expats who wanted to move to Penang from KL or other cities especially after the MCO as they realized that they want to have a nicer and more serene environment to stay in.
And in Penang, you will get all sorts of different living experiences from having a sea view property, city life, and to the UNESCO Heritage site.
The market is not as bad as predicted, there are people especially from Hong Kong who are still active in purchasing a property in Malaysia.
Some have already viewed since last year and decided to purchase the property during the lockdown or even now when they can’t travel.
7. How are you adapting to the changing times and what sets you out from the other property agents?
I think it is an opportune time for learning and reflection.
In the past, we have to keep chasing for the sale or servicing clients and do not really have the time to sit down and think about how to improve or what is the next step to go forward and be better.
Driving from one destination to another for property viewings takes a lot of time during the day, it’s easy to lose many hours in transit without thinking about business growth.
For property agents who want to move forward at this time, we have to learn and increase our skills in video shooting, modeling (KOI), and change to another platform in attracting buyers or even keep in touch with your customer in all sorts of method that we could think of.
I am now continually looking to improve and believe in giving the best services, giving honest advice, and being direct to my customer. And I am lucky enough that most of the time, my customer will refer or even promote me to their acquaintances, friends, and families.
Now most of them are more than a customer to me and we have become friends.
8. For anyone looking to move to Penang, or anywhere in Malaysia, what are your tips for finding the ideal property? And for finding the best legit agent to work with?
You will never know which property will be ideal for you until you can view the property in person. However, for the first time moving into Penang or Malaysia, I suggest studying the location and accessibility as these are the most important things for you to look into.
Only then can you zoom into the property near the location that you deem fit for your lifestyle.
Some people might be into a convenience lifestyle and some are into resort living or holiday home feeling. Use a professional real estate negotiator to give you advice and proposal.
The most important is to know what you want and what kind of life you want to get in living here and then talk to your agent and get a proposal from them before flying over to Penang or Malaysia.
Once you get the property, remember to read your lease term before signing it.
You need to find a legitimate agent and ask them for their Agent Tag or name card (with REN/PEA/REA number). Find an agent that is friendly, easy to communicate, and will run the extra mile for you!
Thanks for your time again Dee Dee.
Anyone looking for help in finding that great rental or property in Penang I recommended getting in touch with Dee Dee.