Turning Millenials’ Homeownership Dreams Into Reality
This new app is not going to cost you a cent but is going to save you thousands
Realising the needs of the masses has led to some of the world’s greatest inventions. Rhonda Wong, CEO of Singapore’s leading DIY HDB app platform (Ohmyhome), aspires to make the next break-through in the real-estate market with her company’s new app.
After a year and a half working as a treasury bonds trader, Wong earned her first million at 25 and set her sights on the lucrative real estate market in South East Asia by starting her own real estate consultancy firm serving investors – Anthill Realtors. It was during this business venture that she realised the various issues home seekers face which eventually led to the inception of Ohmyhome – a real estate platform and a CEA licensed real estate agency which lets users buy, sell or rent HDB flats on their own. Users can directly liaise with homeowners or buyers through the app free of charge or engage in the company’s agent services at a fixed rate of $2888.
Since its launch a year ago, Ohmyhome has transacted over S$100 million in HDB flat deals and has served over 500 successful HDB sales. Some of the fastest purchases have taken just two days to secure a buyer.
We sit down with Wong to uncover how she aims to turn the millennials’ home ownership aspirations from an elusive dream into a reality.
Tell us more about your exciting foray into app market. How did you come to the realisation that there was a gap in the real estate market that needed to be filled?
Prior to Ohmyhome, I founded my own personal real estate consultancy firm, Anthill Realtors, where clients were largely high net worth individuals. However, friends and family who had difficulties in transacting their HDBs came to us for help as well, which at that point was not a segment we served. The main issue was the limited consumer choice when it came to selling or buying homes. To engage an agent is very costly for the average family, with market rates standing at one or two percent of the price of the HDB flat. This adds up to roughly $4500 to $9000 per sale.
This made me realise that the mass-market sector could very well deal directly among themselves in a cost-free manner, if only they had the option to. Singapore has one of the highest smart phone penetration rates in the world. All people need is an app that simplified the entire process and they would be ready to start.
Ohmyhome eventually emerged with my desire to extend quality service and real estate education a step further to the most important sector of our market. We wanted to help HDB dwellers simplify their HDB transaction process and enjoy savings by taking control of their own homes, starting from buying, selling and renting.
Was it a daunting task to break into what is often considered a male-dominated tech industry?
I have never thought of starting a business as a gender-based matter. Especially now that so much is done over computers and the Internet, the fixation on the gender that sits behind the screen really pales in comparison to days when face-to-face meetings were the main method of conversing. When I hire, merits and culture fit are most important, the person’s gender does not affect my decision-making process.
What were some of the major hurdles you had to cross while embarking on this business venture?
Running Ohmyhome was a complete change of lifestyle for me, and my high opportunity cost was the biggest hurdle. With the app, everything is provided free of charge. Yet in order to make this free solution possible it has cost us millions, however, it is our way of providing a smarter option to our community without any cost to them.
I had to be a 100 per cent committed to this cause, which is why the reason one starts a business is so important. The core of Ohmyhome is something that aligns with my life’s calling of wanting to contribute to society; jumping the curve and providing a solution that improves the way people live. Therefore, since the day I made up my mind to embark on Ohmyhome, I have never stopped working on making it a success. When there’s a will, there’s a way. The other hurdles that all start-ups face such as fund raising, hiring, gaining market share, etc., we face them too but that can all be overcome with the willingness to learn, taking criticisms on board as well as sheer grit.
Do you think government regulation is necessary for service apps or do you think it would hinder its efficiency?
When it comes to safety and security, regulation is necessary but there always should be room left to provide opportunity for a sincere start-up to justify how they can do better. While on one hand we should tread carefully with new technologies, on the other hand, being overly cautious is what is causing our country to fall behind in becoming a smart nation. This is not a competition to be first for superficial reasons, but by hindering simpler and faster ways of doing things, it prevents the opportunity for people to use the time saved for other things that matter like family and health.
As the app market continues to grow exponentially and new technologies are disrupting traditional business models, where do you see the future of the real estate business heading?
The future of the real estate business will undoubtedly be digital. Over 50 per cent of consumers who transact their homes have spent copious amounts of time researching online. The transparency brought on by the Internet has equipped people with the ability to make more informed decisions. I look forward to the day where transaction time is severely shortened, contracts are digitised, payments are made online on more secure platforms than ever before and this entire experience to be achieved via Ohmyhome, so that our consumers can say, ‘That was simple’.