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Moving up in the world

Published on Friday, 10 Jan 2014
Illustration: iStockphoto
Koh Keng-shing
Keith Chang

Opportunities abound for real estate agents with experience of overseas living and culture

The government's policies to cool the property market have driven luxury property agents to look overseas for business.

Koh Keng-shing, chief executive and founder of Landscope Christie's International Real Estate, says that property investors are gaining interest in overseas markets such as Britain, the US and Southeast Asia.

"I predict the local property market will maintain a steady growth in the coming years," he says. "As a result, investors' interest has turned away from the Hong Kong market to overseas, and that is an area we are definitely looking to expand."

To match the company's plan to tap global property markets, Christie's is looking for sales staff with experience living overseas. "We have openings for a couple of project leaders who will be in charge of running a sales team, and also three sales staff whose main duty is to serve clients," Koh says.

For both openings, candidates would need to demonstrate fluency in written and spoken English. "Project leaders must have no less than 10 years of experience working in the overseas property market," Koh says. "They are responsible for running sales campaigns to promote properties that are on sale and for supervising sales staff."

Sales staff must speak Putonghua and English, while knowledge of other dialects is also an advantage. "We are looking for [sales staff] with two to three years of experience in the overseas market," Koh says. "It is also crucial that they have lived in a foreign country before, so that they can draw on their own experience to explain overseas living conditions and cultures to clients."

The posts are based in Hong Kong, but staff will need to travel often to receive training and serve clients. "We work closely with our overseas partners to allow our sales team to learn as much about a property as possible before promoting it to clients," Koh says. "This includes ensuring that our sales team have visited the properties before promoting them. Our company also offers a mentor scheme in which more experienced sales staff will take newcomers under their wing to help them learn on the job."

The UK is currently one of the most popular locations for investors from Hong Kong and the mainland. "London is a hotspot that represents new opportunities for our sales team," Koh says. "Hong Kong has a long and close relationship with Britain and many Hong Kongers have relatives living there or children studying there. This makes it a popular destination for property investment."

The laws in Britain are quite similar to those in Hong Kong, which is another reason why Hong Kong investors like parking their cash there. "The property market in Britain has a long history of catering for international investors," Koh says. "It is a transparent market and very energetic, with investments coming in from around the globe.

"Investors no longer limit themselves to housing in London. They are looking at shops, offices and hotels in smaller cities like Manchester."

With the emergence of investors from the mainland and Asia, Koh predicts that more uncompleted property will be put on sale in the UK and other European markets. "Sales of uncompleted properties are not popular in Europe, but I think it will become more of a trend to cater for Asian buyers," he says.

Keith Chang, managing director of Savills Associates, thinks that for a salesperson to succeed in the luxury property market, he or she must have a passion for the real estate industry, an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to work well with different types of people.

Savills Associates is currently looking for both independent consultants and someone to head up a team of independent consultants. Both posts require excellent command of spoken and written English, while candidates also need to know how to speak Cantonese and Putonghua. "We prefer candidates with an outgoing and aggressive personality with good negotiation and communication skills," Chang says. "They also need to be holders of a valid Estate Agent's Licence."

Another key quality that Savills agents must possess is team spirit. "Our team is more than the sum of its parts," Chang says. "Every success builds upon our member-driven culture and track record and is recognised as a team effort. Savills treats the synergy created by members as the key to success.

"We seek only the highest calibre of people - people we believe can make a real difference to our business almost as soon as they join us. So if you join Savills as a consultant, there are two major factors that should give you a great deal of pleasure. First, that you will be able to work closely with some of the very best minds in the global property industry. Second, that we believe you have the potential to be one of these people."

Savills offers a diverse and inclusive environment which gives staff international experience as they develop their careers, Chang says.

"We believe diversity and inclusion are the key drivers of business, creativity, innovation and growth," he adds. "We value talents from different backgrounds and provide them with a comprehensive platform to stand out from the crowd and develop into professional real estate consultants."

Consultants at Savills not only drive business in the local market, but are also encouraged to explore development potential all over the world, Chang says. "We provide a comprehensive training programme for all consultants," he explains. "From basic instructions on Savills' database system applications to in-depth seminars on updated knowledge to keep track of the market, our classified sessions are tailored for both beginners and seniors."

For long-term development, Savills enables consultants to build up their own team and develop their own business. "This optimised partnership model not only allows consultants to recruit and train their teammates without any start-up or operating costs, but also offers higher commissions due to its multi-level system," Chang says.

The company believes that increasing the skills and knowledge of staff is the key to producing high-achievers. "We offer all-round support and training to those who are keen to forge a successful career," Chang says. "We focus on making sure our people are satisfied with their career and personal development, and are able to work well as a team to achieve our business objectives."

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