“What did you close today?” was the question Lester’s mum asked at the dinner table when Lester just started out in the real estate industry. 

And for the first 3 months of his career as a property agent, his answer was always, “Nothing.” 

When Lester Tan left his job as a programmer and joined the industry as a full time property agent 13 years ago, he spent the first few months struggling to close his first deal from showflat duties.

And after 3 months of hard work and grit, Lester brought home his very first paycheck that amounted to his full year’s salary as a programmer. 

“It was a struggle switching from being a programmer to a property agent as programmers think in absolute but being an agent requires a different set of skillset.” 

Lester was determined to make a difference and use the skill set he had as a programmer to improve the life of the agents in his division better, so that they won’t have to fumble like how he did. 

When he was a new entrant into the property industry, Lester found it hard to answer many questions that property seekers had due to the ever-changing market conditions and the different selling points of each property. He had to rely on his leader who could answer any questions immediately, which impressed him. 

Now a Senior Associate Executive Director leading the largest division at Orange Tee & Tie Pte Ltd, ApexAchieversGroup (AAG), the story behind Lester’s success is a very unique one.

Merging two into one 

After realising that data is everywhere, Lester was prompted to create an application that houses different types of relevant data – to make information more accessible for agents.

Then came the “Shake to Search” feature. It all started when Lester’s friend showed him that he can undo texts on the iPhone just by shaking his phone. And from there, that was his source of inspiration. 

“It would be so cool if I could also shake my phone for relevant nearby data to appear,” proclaimed Lester enthusiastically. 

When he shared the idea with his wife, she immediately shot the idea down, citing that no agent would search for data in that manner.

But the app became an industry breakthrough, and within just a year after launch, the app saw many agents hopping on the platform and copies of the feature began to emerge. 

Just by lightly shaking the phone, the application will reflect information on the nearby properties, with the nearest showing first. When agents select a property, in depth and targeted information such as the units for sale/rent, previous transactions and more will appear. 

“This feature will also allow agents to be prepared for potential questions that lead to the final decision making process,” added Lester. “Because nowadays, agents cannot engage property seekers with uncertainty.”

Today’s code is tomorrow’s solution 

“Before PropertyGuru came into the picture and revolutionised Proptech, processes were very old-fashioned and I felt that I can fill the gap,” said Lester. 

Lester’s initial aim to fill the gap was to become more efficient personally as an agent by solving the issues he commonly faced. Little did he realize that he was not alone. 

As the application evolved over the past 10 years, so did the number of agents under Lester, growing from 5 agents to 1,400 strong and counting.

Showing PropertyGuru on how he recruits agents, Lester formulated a code according to 5 variables:

Lester Tan quote

Code dissected:

  1. If you are currently taking Real Estate Salesperson (RES) course, you are welcomed to join AAG’s Revision Class.
  2. If you have just passed your (RES) course, you should attend AAG’s Career Talk.
  3. If you are currently an experienced agent, you are welcomed to attend AAG’s Tech Empowerment Talk.
  4. If you are currently a team manager, you are welcomed to join AAG’s Tech Empowerment talk.
  5. Otherwise, just join AAG anyway.

Despite being a strong advocate of technological adoption, Lester still believes that agents need to build and maintain a soft touch with property seekers. 

As technology continues to advance, property seekers would be more likely to do ample research before viewing a property. But this doesn’t mean that agents cease to value-add to these property seekers.

“As agents, we are the eyes on the ground. This means that we have the most updated information on the market, even before official public announcements, and will then be able to provide them with the most updated figures.” 

With the current generation being more data-driven, agents can go a step further when making a sales transaction and engage them in a different manner. The latest transactions and figures matter, but not as much anymore. Property seekers are more interested in the big picture, and how they can plan ahead when buying a home. 

Now, agents are slowly taking on a more consultative role, mapping out the goals property seekers have, and thereafter, advising them on the necessary steps to reach the goals. Data helps educate property seekers while agents act as the bridge to create the need for further education. 

“So, by leveraging on technology and being aligned to the future, we are riding in the same direction,” Lester added. “After all, there is no way to resist the onslaught of technology. Instead we ought to adopt and ride on top of it.”

The only application featured by the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA‎)

Even though the application is created free for all AAG agents, at the expense of Lester’s personal time, he feels that he does not lose out on anything.

“As a leader, it is my job to empower agents under me. Other leaders form of empowerment is through training, but I take on a different approach for us to grow.” 

To Lester, if he keeps all the benefits of this application to himself, he will “be just like every other agent.” 

For his new agents, they will benefit from the application because they need not struggle like how he did, and it also gives them an edge above others as it helps them look more professional and experienced, enabling them to earn the trust of property seekers and quickly close their first deal. 

Although the application is free for agents own personal usage, collectively, they are eyes on the ground and will still be able to help each other out, allowing them to achieve the best of both worlds.

The success of this application is a testament to the number of awards bagged by Lester’s division during the 2018 Orange Tee & Tie Award Ceremony. The team finished strong and emerged champion in all six Top Division Awards.

Looking into the future, Lester is unsure of what it holds, especially with the unpredictable market conditions. But he hopes to go into the area of predictive analysis.

But in the meantime, he is continuing to improve himself, in the hope of creating better features on the application, specially for his agents. 

Thank you, Lester, for being a part of PropertyGuru!