When you think about the property market and buying or renting a house or flat, what comes to mind? If you’re like us, it is a poor and slow process having to deal with a ton of red tape and agents that do not particularly want to help you.
This is where Singaporean startup Ohmyhome wants to help you avoid that experience by providing you with an option to work directly with homeowners.
Through their platform and highly curated list of properties, Ohmyhome is looking to speed up the process for renters and home-buyers who are sick of the usual long wait. With offices in Singapore and Malaysia, the startup is looking to educate the public about the property market and scale throughout the region.
We spoke to Rhonda Wong, CEO and co-founder of Ohmyhome about the product and their plans. Along with her sister and co-founder Race Wong, Chief Product Officer, they have grown the business and raised a US$2.9 million series A funding.
Before Ohmyhome, Rhonda and Race started Anthill Realtors, a real estate agency, at the age of 29 in 2014. Already an accomplished realtor, Rhonda had experience consulting for developers and was a Savills sales director within a year of joining them.
Thankfully, she found the time to share more about the property market with us and how she’s planning on changing this age-old industry.
Can you explain how the platform works to people not familiar with your service?
Ohmyhome is the market leader in providing a one-stop property transaction platform for buying, selling and renting. Our model is unique; we’re a hybrid platform of a DIY (do-it-yourself) platform and full-fledged agency services. We also offer value-added services such as conveyancing and mortgage advisory, as well as essential transaction services such as renovation, painting and handyman. We take care of the entire transaction process from search and deal closing through to conveyancing and mortgage advisory.
We make housing transactions simple, fast, and affordable by leveraging advanced technology capabilities and our team’s dedication to provide exceptional service to our customers.
Till date, we have facilitated over 5,300 property transactions and provided value-added services to over 8,000 buyers and sellers.
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Can you highlight some of the key areas where technology has helped create efficiencies within the property transaction market?
We created a model to speed up the transaction cycle by two times to achieve the fastest speed of sales and with the aim of achieving the highest prices for our sellers. This is possible because we are the only transaction company that aggregates our huge database of buyers to match them
to each of our sellers, enabling them to have the widest range of offers to select from, as compared to the conventional methods of working with freelance agents which usually involves going through an arduously long process of slow and infrequent viewings. A seller who had engaged other agents might have had to wait three months to find a buyer, but Ohmyhome agents can frequently find a buyer in one month or less.
Buyers on the other hand, are taken care of by our entire company, from licensed agents to renovation, to ensure an honest and transparent purchasing journey with accurate timelines and financial calculations. Our dedicated departments allow them to select between resale and new launch properties and progress their assets through the years with our professionals.
Is it safe to say you are removing a middle layer between the supply and demand segments of the property transaction? How do you overcome the issue of education and regulation for property transactions?
It’s about giving customers an option to choose how they would like to buy or sell their property. Some prefer to DIY, self-manage their purchase or sale, while saving on commissions and that’s what we made our DIY platform for. Our listings are all by homeowners; they are genuine and not duplicated, which saves our buyers a lot of time when searching for a property. We have developed a platform for them to connect with potential buyers and sellers, and provide information and tools to guide them, such as our User Journey guides, Affordability calculator, ShoutOut tool for sellers to reach buyers.
We provide other options too. Ohmyhome is a licensed agency with its team of full-time agents that buyers and sellers can hire. We provide them with the option of having licensed property agents to assist them with the transaction if they prefer to.
What have been some of the biggest differences in the property market between Singapore and Malaysia?
What consumers around the world want in a property transaction are very similar. They are looking for high-quality service that they can trust, a smooth process and finally great results. Those are our key focus that has made our 5,000 transactions and happy customers possible.
The differences that we’ve observed are in the critical customer pain-points. In Malaysia, our customers are most concerned about finding trustworthy agents who can handle their transaction professionally from start to finish. There have been many incidents of rogue agents mis-using homes for illegal reasons.
In Singapore, regulations are stricter and there’s less worry that an unprofessional agent could mismanage your home for illegal purposes. Singaporeans’ main pain point is that the high agent commissions (which is usually 2-3% of the transacted price) are not matching up with the service
and results that are expected of the fees. This is why we have introduced fixed-rate fees for our agents representing HDB flat transactions so that we can make quality services affordable. For private sales, our levels of service, experience and quality are incredibly high, and even after a deal is closed, in post-transaction, our company continues to take care of our customers in the maintenance and leasing of their homes. This seamless experience by Ohmyhome is a first in the market.
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What was the impact of COVID-19 on the property market in Singapore and Malaysia? How were you able to overcome these issues?
The property market has undoubtedly taken a hit on both markets during the Movement Control Order (MCO) and circuit breaker. Singapore condo and HDB flats resale volume plunged in April to the lowest in years.
As a leading proptech player, virtual home viewings have always been available at Ohmyhome where we allow house buyers to purchase their next homes without traditional physical viewings through the Ohmyhome platform. In normal days, virtual viewings would be the minority. However, when the circuit breaker and MCO measures were introduced, all our viewings went virtual and without a doubt we experienced a huge spike in that.
Throughout Covid-19 we were still consistently e-meeting prospective customers, collecting esignatures for documents and more importantly, closing deals. Our sales team continues to lead Singapore with the most number of closings on a per-agent basis.
Fortunately, both property markets are resilient and will undoubtedly see recovery especially in Singapore. The pent up demand post circuit breaker has already been observed in June and July with three times more closings than in May.
What is the greatest barrier to expansion for Ohmyhome within your existing markets and also to new ones?
It is about hiring the right people to get things going. The founders are always personally hiring the first team because they are the ones who will make the biggest difference to whether an expansion is successful or not. The right team will resonate with our vision to make property transactions simple, fast and affordable. From a knowledge perspective, we would also want a team well versed in local regulations, local markets, local consumer behaviour, etc. This is especially crucial when you’re dealing with an asset as expensive as property and customers are trusting you to manage their sale or purchase.
What are Ohmyhome’s expansion plans for the region?
We are currently in two Southeast Asian markets, Singapore and Malaysia and also eyeing expansion into our third South East Asian location that will transform the way they buy, sell and rent properties. Homebuyers and sellers in the new market can look forward to transacting at
record-breaking speed and ease.We believe in Southeast Asia’s potential for a new standard in technology-enabled real estate transactions, which is why we have set our eye for further penetration in the market. These markets often share the same traits: property is expensive, brokers are costly, the process is lengthy, and there’s high information asymmetry between brokers and buyers and sellers. These are all the problems that Ohmyhome can effectively value add to the communities we serve.