Leap of faith pays off for property agent

6 min read

By Lorna Tan | lornatan@sph.com.sg

Published date: Sunday, January 13, 2019

Making the switch from construction to real estate helps him reach financial goals

Property agent Kelvin Neo took a leap of faith eight years ago when he joined the real estate industry but he knew in his heart that he needed a change.

He had spent 15 years of his life in the construction industry, which he joined as a 20-year-old with his O-level qualifications after national service. Mr Neo rose from a sales executive position to business development manager, and subsequently worked as an associate director, dealing mainly with building materials.

“After being in the construction industry for about 15 years, my wife and I were still unable to reach our financial goals, and work became a dreaded daily routine. After paying the bills, we could hardly have any savings for ourselves, so I decided it was time for a change,” he recalls.

Mr Neo, 43, is now a senior division director at ERA, which he joined with the encouragement of a childhood friend. He liked that ERA is a well-recognised brand and it markets many of Singapore’s projects. He still believes that the sky’s the limit, especially in the property industry.

Since joining ERA, he has bought and sold several properties, making capital gains along the way. Ask him for his money attitude and he says: “Be content with what you have, and just be yourself. Don’t be blinded by the promises of riches, or the glamorous lifestyles of multi-millionaires. 

“To me, it’s always important to work hard, and be content with being able to provide a comfortable lifestyle for your loved ones.”

Mr Neo’s wife, also 43, is an executive assistant to the managing director of the Asia Pacific region for an American global executive search and leadership consulting firm. The couple have a 15-year old son.


Mr Neo bought his three-bedroom unit at the Corals at Keppel Bay (above) condominium for $2.85 million in 2017.
Mr Neo on the balcony of his home at Corals at Keppel Bay. He says that when it comes to investing in property, holding power is important.


Q Describe your home.

A I bought a 1,400 sq ft three-bedroom unit at Corals at Keppel Bay condominium in October 2017 for $2.85 million. It has a great location with close proximity to the MRT as well as many amenities such as shopping mall, supermarket, school, foodcourts and more. As I have a son, having a good school with all the amenities in the neighbourhood is a great bonus.

I love every part of the home. The balcony of the master bedroom is facing Keppel Marina and the living room is facing Mount Faber. As the unit I bought was actually a showflat, the interior is lavishly furnished and I was really impressed when I first saw it. I believe most people may not go for this as an investment but I would like to prove to my clients that showflats can also be a good buy. I always believe that investing in value and quality, you will save yourself a lot of stress and hassle. The price of my house has increased by 10 per cent.


Q What’s in your property portfolio?

A In 2008, I sold my first home, a HDB flat, for $380,000, and bought a two-bedroom condo (Botannia in West Coast Park) for $646,000. But it was only in May 2010, after I left my 15-year stint in the construction industry to join ERA, that my life was fully transformed.

At ERA, they have a wonderful culture of sharing and the leaders are very hands-on when guiding new associates like me to succeed. During this period, I gained key insights into the real market industry from my leaders and realised that property investment can be a low-risk strategy to create more abundance in life. I was taught the ropes of property investment from the keen guidance of my leaders in ERA, I managed to help many customers secure valuable dream homes. My network grew quickly and I managed to become the top 102nd achiever earning more than $250,000 in sales commission within 12 months of joining ERA.

Thanks to ERA, with their tried-and-tested property investment strategy, I realised that property investment can be a low-risk game and I began to invest my hard-earned money into properties myself.

In 2011, I sold my two-bedroom unit at Botannia for $908,000 and upgraded to a three-bedroom unit for $1.31 million in the same condominium, which was later sold at $1.58 million in 2017.

In 2012, I started investing in a one-bedroom condo (Palm Isles near Upper Changi Road North) for $460,000, and it was sold in 2016 for $580,000. I also invested in a three-bedroom condo in 2012 (Parc Olympia, in the same area) for $805,000, which was sold in 2016 at $920,000.

Besides working hard to maintain my top achievements (I have consistently been among the top

50th-150th achievers each year since I joined ERA), I also created passive income through rental before I resold the properties. Most of the properties were sold after a few years of rental with a minimum gain of 15 per cent. 


Q Describe your property investing strategy.

A I was attracted to my current home because it offers a quality life-style and comfort. I believe that one doesn’t have to choose only cheap buys as an investment as long as you can afford it.

The most important factor for me is accessibility, such as close proximity to the MRT, shopping centre and my son’s school. Secondly, the surrounding environment matters, the neighbours that you see everyday, as well as the surrounding views which affect your experience as a resident too. 

If you’re planning to buy property, holding power is important. If you are able to hold for your property for the long term, especially Singapore property, you will definitely achieve a profit. Many people are concerned and would want to avoid the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty, but there’s no need to go out of your way to avoid it, as this is not something that we can change. As property agents, it is our job to identify good investment opportunities for our clients, and to help them make good investment decisions.


Q What’s your view of the property market?

A I’m very positive about the Singapore property market, but as mentioned, holding power is very important.


Q What’s your financing strategy?

A l would usually go for the minimum loan of about 40 per cent to 50 per cent, as I don’t think it’s a good idea to overstretch yourself with a 75 per cent or maximum loan, if possible. Note that during an economic crisis, many banks will come to you for loan interest revision, and that will end up costing you a lot more.


Q Do you have insurance cover for property and contents?

A Yes, the insurance coverage is about $1.6 million. The insurance covers (various things) from property mortgage to life insurance.


Q What’s your overall investing strategy?

A l invest in insurance savings plans and pay a monthly premium of $1,000. On top of that, I invest in medical coverage for myself and my family. My insurance policies include AIA Platinum Term ($1.6 million) for death and total permanent disability coverage, AIA Prime Life for death and early critical illness, AIA Healthshield Gold Max A with Essential A for hospital expenses,

AIA Solitaire Personal Accident for death benefits and medical reimbursements, as well as a 20-year PruWealth investment plan.

I’m a strong believer that investing in yourself and your family is the best investment.


Q My dream home is…

A My current house is a dream come true. Many people say that for the same price, I can purchase a landed property but that isn’t a priority for me. The location of this home is fantastic, I love the interior design, the gorgeous view, and the comfortable lifestyle, so my current place is most definitely my dream home.

The location of the home is a winner for me – even though it’s a 99-year lease instead of a freehold property, I still think it’s great as an investment property due to the stellar location.


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