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We already have a realtor - RETAINED CORPORATE  REALTORS

"I can't understand the practice of Singapore realtors," Mrs Robinson raised her voice in exasperation after a futile telephone explanation from me about the exclusive rights of the corporate realtors retained by a multinational oil company. "I feel like a ping-pong ball!"

She had phoned me after receiving my email to her husband saying that I had 5 Camelot condos and would be pleased to show her and her husband. 

"I have XXX as my realtor. I don't need any realtor!!" she emphasized to me, as if I was hard selling her my services via email. I presumed that XXX, being a brand name realty firm was what she trusted and she had encountered nasty unforgettable experiences with smaller firms when she relocated to Singapore four years ago. Or that she was brand conscious. 

I tried to mollify her, "Your husband phoned me and gave me his email and mobile telephone number to let him know whether I have Camelot condos for rent.  He said XXX had told him there were no more units at Camelot and asked me to contact him if I had any. As his mobile was not on, I emailed the five listings to him."  I usually phoned rather than emailed prospective tenants.

A one-line email saying I have 5 listings and when he would like to view. I got an angry voice instead.  Why was I the urban cowboy hustling her husband when she obviously did not need any other realtor, having the top firm's attention?

How did Mr Robinson know about me when I did not advertise Camelot in the Singapore Straits Times?

Mr Robinson must have used search engines for "Camelot Singapore" and contacted me through the internet at That is the beauty of the internet. It levels the competition, I want to believe. 

To test it for the reader's benefit, I now clicked on and key in "Camelot+Singapore". The results on Aug 21, 2002 at 5.54 am showed webpage ranked as No. 1 as follows:

Searched English pages for Camelot+Singapore. 
Results 1 - 10 of about 5,470. Search took 0.17 seconds.

1.  0410ASingapore Camelot condos, rental properties, Singapore real ... ... Upscale Singapore condos - Camelot by Kallang River Camelot's bay view units are in great demand. Rentals from $9,000 - $10,000 in May 2002. ... 1103corporate_landlord.htm
 - 32k - Cached - Similar pages 

1238Singapore Camelot, Aspen Height condos, rental properties, ... 1238Singapore real estate, Camelot apartments, HJ Heights condos, houses, properties, property, real estate, for expats relocating to Singapore by Asia USA ...
.  - 21k - Cached - Similar pages [ More results from]   

I can understand wanting the best firm to service Mrs Robinson. I would want too myself if I could afford the best. This is the real world where human resource managers will outsource to the top realty firms for their expatriates. If anything goes wrong, the managers can say that: "XXX is the top firm for you. What more do you expect?"  If they retain a small firm, they may get embroiled in office politics and be perceived as inefficient or worse, to practise corrupted cronyism. 

I had to keep my cool as I knew Mrs Robinson would prefer not to talk to me if she had a choice. This was one of my gut feelings.  

In any case, out of courtesy, I emailed Mr Robinson saying that XXX had contacted me, after his wife had phoned XXX. He was obliged to use XXX and that he should have no problem seeing 5 units of Camelot 2 days later. 

3 days later, Mr Robinson phoned me saying that XXX did not show him two units and presumed that the 8th floor units had been rented out although I had told him that the 8th floor was available at $8,500 2 days ago. 

I explained to him that I could not co-broke with XXX as I was already co-broking the unit with another realtor. By co-broking, we shared 50:50 of the commissions. If XXX comes into the picture, it would be 25:25:50 but I doubted that XXX would want 25% when she could get 50%.  If I had direct owner's listings, I could still co-broke with XXX and she would get 50% of the commission. Mr Robinson now understood the system. 

"We already have a realtor," Mrs Robinson reminded him in the background. Her loyalty to XXX was a rare trait in this dog-eat-dog realty world of expatriate tenants who use multiple agents. I admire her for that.

"Why not ask XXX to find out more about the 8th floor herself?" I propose. If she was unsuccessful, then, maybe you can approach your Chief Executive Officer for a waiver of this tightly controlled regulation to enable you to use outside realtors?"

Mr Robinson is a very polite and gentle man. It is so nice to talk to him and to understand his situation and needs. XXX had already shown him 3 units of Camelot and that was better than zero. I hope he would select a nice one amongst the three units.  

No doubt, I would not close this deal, but the feedback from Mr Robinson regarding his Landlord, his existing condo and his situation was very valuable money can't buy information that would help me be more nimble in this business competing against the retained corporate realtors.

What's the morale of this story?

If you listen to what the customer wants, keep your cool when provoked, you can learn much more about your business than what books and mentors can teach you. You learn about the practices of your competitors from the horse's mouth (the prospective tenant) and you will definitely be better prepared to be successful in your real estate business.  Who knows, Mr Robinson may refer an expatriate friend to me. We always live optimistically.

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