As I made my way up to the side of the front stage at the iProperty.com Expo to catch Dato Eric Cheng at the end of his very well-received one-hour seminar, I was impressed by his high energy level – pausing only long enough to take a quick sip of water from a nearby bottle, he gave us a friendly smile, and was ready immediately for the rolling camera.
It should be no surprise then, to find out that Cheng is not a man who takes life slowly – after he founded ECG Realty in 2003, his company was entered into the Singapore Book of Records as the “Fastest Growing Real Estate Agency in Singapore”.
As one of Singapore’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award winners, Cheng certainly knows all about the cyclical nature of the property market:“After the implementation of the seller’s stamp duty measures, the market went flat. In my opinion, the first half of 2012 will not see much property market activities”.
However, he is optimistic on the later part of the year, adding: “Prices will stabilize in the 2nd half of 2012 and there will be a slight increase of property prices. He attributes this to the resilience of the domestic economy, because “Singapore will continue to be a property haven for investors”.
With the roots of his entrepreneurial career in property, Cheng has the following advice for those aspiring to join the ranks of real estate professionals and follow in his footsteps: “A real estate agent should not have an employee’s mindset as they command their own pay cheque – and is thus more of an entrepreneur.” Citing the high dropout rates in this field, he says: “On average, only 2 out of every 10 real estate agents remain in the industry in the long-run. This career path is not for the short-term, and the candidate must be willing to be hardworking, have focus, discipline, and have strong organization and service skills”.
As the author of the best-selling book, “Get Rich Through Property Investment”, Cheng also has some valuable advice for those looking to invest in overseas property: “Location is very important. A first-time overseas investor should ensure that he is eligible to buy the property, meets the finance requirements and is able to sell it in the future.” He also points out the importance of external indicators: “Other factors to consider include the stability of the government in the country, the economy and property prices.”
As far as timing the market goes, Cheng believes that “there will never be a right time to invest in the overseas property market. The right time is when the investor has the right cash cow to make decisions”.
Cheng is also keeping a close eye on property markets close to home: “I believe that the undervalued overseas markets in Asia are Malaysia and Thailand.” Taking an experienced investor’s mindset, he says: “To the layman, rental yields are the most important. However, after following property trends, I consider capital gains to be more important”.
Even as an experienced businessman with the stomach for taking risks, Cheng knows that the key pillar to a successful investment strategy is in portfolio diversification, and has one valuable piece of advice for over-eager investors: “Make decisions. Never invest 100% into the property market”.