Rhonda Wong, CEO and Co-founder of Ohmyhome tells us how they make housing transactions simple, efficient and affordable.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rhonda Wong: We are doing very well. I used to fly to either KL or Manila every week, and while I miss being with my Malaysia and Philippines teams, I take the chance to appreciate having the time in Singapore to be with my family. We are fortunate that throughout this period, our family across Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and Hong Kong have all been healthy and well, which helps us better manage to be away from one another.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Ohmyhome.
Rhonda Wong: My sister, Race, and I first incorporated the business in 2015 and officially launched Ohmyhome in 2016. Since launch, we have transacted over 7,000 homes and rendered a total of over 8,000 services in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, which represents a combined value of over US$1.6 billion.
We started Ohmyhome to create solutions that could revolutionize the entire housing transaction experience, to provide people with a platform and services that are simple, fast, and affordable. For most people, housing is the biggest and most important purchase in their lives, yet the transaction process is often a cumbersome and expensive one. We knew the problems in the market, and our goal was to streamline the entire transaction journey on one platform – Ohmyhome. It’s about giving everyone the option to buy, sell and rent however you want, with Ohmyhome guiding you through the process. Given the importance of housing, it deserves to be well taken care of.
We started Ohmyhome to simplify the process of selling, buying, renting your property so that everyone can manage this process themselves completely free of charge. If they needed an agent to assist, Ohmyhome’s flat fees are more manageable, starting at $2,888. Today, we are the fastest-selling team in the country, selling at 100% on target or higher prices. We have an exceptional team of highly experienced Super Agents, with 5-star ratings on Facebook from our customers, which reaffirms that we’re on the right track.
How does Ohmyhome innovate?
Rhonda Wong: What really sets us apart from the rest is that we have cutting-edge technology to be extremely efficient. We sell fast, sell high and sell stress-free at Ohmyhome.
With our huge database of buyers, dedicated team in customer service, marketing, and technology, and an unlimited marketing budget to accelerate the transaction process, it is common for our fastest deal closings to be at the first viewing.
The platform simplifies the entire process and creates a fuss-free buying and selling experience. We take a seller through the entire process by matching their home for sale with the most number of buyers, followed by seamless conveyancing, mortgage, and renovation services for their next homes. This is something that no other real estate platform or agency can do.
Moreover, our team of Super Agents is highly-professional, tech-enabled, and cost-friendly, and most importantly, they are all hired in-house, which means they are employees of Ohmyhome and not freelance agents as is the case at other agencies.
Another key unique selling point about Ohmyhome is our hybrid model combining agent services with DIY transactions. With Ohmyhome, you can choose how you want to transact your property. For users who prefer to DIY, they can simply scroll through all our unique and genuine listings and secure appointments directly with homeowners themselves at no cost.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Rhonda Wong: When the pandemic first started, the lockdowns around South East Asia were certainly a catalyst of change for Ohmyhome. Operations that required physical presence were disrupted while digitalization in other areas such as virtual meetings and viewings were accelerated. These changes transformed some areas of how we run our teams and the prioritizing of projects.
In Singapore, heightened social distancing measures disallowed property viewing and tours, and all renovation work was suspended, creating delays for property handovers and moving in. The rules also resulted in delays in deal completion.
We had to get creative and quickly adapt to the situation. Fortunately, the tech capabilities that we’d built over the years helped make the changes quick and seamless: we enhanced our virtual viewing feature and shifted toward digital documentation where possible. Our in-house agents sprang into action to create video tour listings and virtual viewing opportunities. We found ourselves taking the lead ushering in a new era, where house buyers can purchase their next homes through virtual viewings without traditional physical viewings.
As the world moves forward, virtual home tours are here to stay as it offers an online alternative for sellers to conduct viewings of their property especially for buyers abroad. It allows viewers to have reduced human interaction while benefiting from the transparency of accurate information on our platform. This wasn’t possible in the past, where online sources of property information may be unreliable. Today, Ohmyhome brings forth a reliable and trustworthy platform for all customers to use for free.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Rhonda Wong: As a tech company, we have always embraced and encouraged the use of technology, automation, and remote working, and therefore have been able to navigate the crisis quite well in terms of management of team members. We have always been lean and are spared from having to lay off any team members.
As leaders, it is our duty to take care of our own employees, especially during trying times. Employees also need to be assured that they are safe in order to perform, rather than worrying every day in this period of uncertainty.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Rhonda Wong: At the start, the lockdown was challenging for many, and our goal is to help tide them through this difficult period. We created digital care packages filled with Covid-19 related resources from ways to stay focused while working from home to how to boost your immune system and self-entertainment during the lockdown.
During the circuit breaker, property transactions dropped to historic low levels, and it was the best time for people to research and to make informed decisions on their next property move. We have also moved things to digital platforms where possible. We hosted live interactive webinar sessions, Ohtalks!, which are free for the public and cover a diverse range of in-depth property and home-related topics. The public can receive helpful guidance on navigating their property journey by interacting with my team of experienced real estate professionals, marketing experts, mortgage advisors, and our in-house interior designers.
To cater to our Chinese-speaking customers, we also conducted a bulk of the webinars in Chinese which was an uncommon move in the property industry. We knew that we had to engage this group of customers, too, who were underserved during Covid-19.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Rhonda Wong: Yes, the government’s JSS grant was very helpful in supporting our growth strategy in an unusual time.
Your final thoughts?
Rhonda Wong: Right now, our top priority is to grow our business in our current markets, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. As a matter of fact, we’ve also just officially launched our renovation services with our in-house interior designers, helping homeowners renovate their dream house.
Ohmyhome currently provides a robust ecosystem offering a total of ten property services on its platform, including – DIY platform (free), agent services, conveyancing, mortgage advisory (free), home-staging, Feng Shui, renovation, painting, moving, and handyman — the only all-in-one property platform in Singapore with post-purchase offerings.
Ohmyhome will continue to be an agent of change and innovation for property transactions and a one-stop property shop.
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