Property Agents Making Use of Online Virtual Property Viewing,
Adapting to Changes and Improving Employee Morale in Times of Adversity
|Mr Louis Chan
Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (Residential)
- Asia Pacific at Centaline
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all walks of life are
severely affected. Employees tend to feel anxious
about their career prospects. As an awardee of the
Employer of Choice Award, Centaline Property
understands employees thoughts and quickly adapts
to changes to keep the companys performance up
in times of adversity. In 2020, as expected, Centaline
had managed to increase its profit margins, retain
its talents and recruit elites from other industries in
preparation for further business expansion.
Mr. Louis Chan, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Offi cer
(Residential) Asia Pacific of Centaline, said 2020 was an
extraordinary year. Four successive waves of epidemics have
severely impacted all industries. Fortunately, our sales fi gures had
just fallen by 3% last year, with over 60,000 cases of transactions,
which were similar to those in 2019. We were barely profi table,
which was already better than other industries. This also refl ected
peoples support for Centaline. We feel grateful for this!
He continued, in the past when property market was
thriving, Centaline strove for further improvement. Yet in last
year, Centaline focused on keeping employees safe and healthy,
maintaining the companys competitive edge to survive in the
market. In 2020, it was important to survive! Centaline is
responsible for maintaining the employees standards of living!
As a matter fact, compared against other industries, the
real estate agency industry was less affected by the COVID-19
pandemic. Louis explained that there were two main reasons.
First, there were QE policies all over the world, leading to
persistent depreciation. Hence, the middle-income class bought
more properties to counterbalance the effects of depreciation
and interest rate drop. Second, since 2019, Hong Kong has been
offering HighAdvance Mortgage loans of up to HK$10 million.
These two factors have attracted more young homebuyers.
Last Year: Hong Kong People Buying Local Properties
He added, in the past few years, Centaline mostly sold
first-hand properties; however, since the implementation of
the border closure and restrictions on gatherings, mainland and overseas investors could hardly enter Hong Kong. Hence,
property developers modified their sales strategies accordingly.
Compared against the previous year, there were 30% less new
properties available in 2020. Contrastively, the sales of secondhand
properties had grown by leaps and bounds in 2020. Last
year, most of the customers were aged 30 or below and they
tended to buy properties priced from $4 million to $5 million
in the New Territories. It is said to be Hong Kong people
buying Hong Kong properties.
In addition to the changes in the properties nature
and target customers, Centaline had drastically changed
its business model last year. Business facilitated through
online channels has expanded by 30%. Since 10 years ago,
we has gained insight into the need to accelerate digital
transformation. Centaline has invested over $200 million
annually to optimize its IT system and mobile app. Property
owners and Centalines employees can use mobile phones to
list second-hand properties instantly. Frontline agents can also
take photos and videos on-site and upload them to Centalines
website and mobile apps, as well as social media platforms,
to reach even more potential customers. Last year, Centaline
had developed the platform VR Guide, allowing agents to
broadcast property viewing to online audience. Customers can
view properties online and make enquiries in the live streaming
in real time.
Practical Introduction by
Real Estate KOLs to Attract Customers
Roughly speaking, there are over 60,000 videos about
different properties on Centaline's website at present. Over
500 new videos are uploaded monthly. Louis said, many
young agents have become Real Estate KOLs. The younger
generation are native to IT and love communicating online.
They use internet slangs to introduce properties and are highly
welcomed by customers.
"Owing to the epidemic, Centaline has accelerated
its online business transformation in preparation for the
challenges in 2021. More resources will be invested in this
aspect. Even without the pandemic, online sales are destined to
be the major trends!
Louis added, both frontline agents and back-office staff
were the successful factors to overcome challenges last year.
The IT Department had contributed a lot. Basically, there
are countless Zoom meetings involving
3,000 employers every day. Success lies
in the comprehensive hardware support
and back-office staffs contribution,
especially from the IT Department.
from the Aviation and
It is known that the attrition rate
among real estate agents has always
been high; hence, Centaline has been
recruiting staff constantly. Since last
year, practitioners from the aviation and
tourism industries have been attractedto join Centaline. We believe elites from these two industries
are fit to become property agents, all of whom should be
human-centred and possess effective communication skills.
Since the first wave of the pandemic, Centaline has been hiring
elites from other industries. There are approximately 200 new
employees shifting from other industries, and Centaline has
6,000 employees serving over 400 branches at present.
According to the Estate Agent Ordinance in Hong Kong,
agents must possess a valid license. There are two major
categories, including the salesperson's licenses and estate
agent's licenses. The former is a basic requirement to work as
an agent; the latter is required to take control of the companys
Louis continued, last year, Centaline Training Institute
had changed from providing multi-dimensional continuous
education courses, to offering intensive courses, guiding agentsto-
be to achieve their only goal of getting the salesperson's
licenses and estate agent's licenses. This year, the key is to
survive. Upon obtaining the licenses, they can close business
deals and earn commissions, maintaining their standards of
Keeping Employees Jobs,
Backing Employees Up
Louis expressed, it was difficult to maintain employees
sense of belongingness as they were required to work from
home whilst all large-scale meetings, celebrative dinners
and annual dinners were cancelled due to the pandemic.
However, we believe their sense of closeness to Centaline
can be strengthened when the company can keep them safe
and healthy. To fight against the COVID-19 crisis, we allowed
employees to work from home. Most of them could gain
access to Centalines server through their home computers.
They were well supported to carry out business activities. They
felt encouraged as the real estate industry was less affected by
Louis said employees felt motivational as Centaline
is awarded the Employer of Choice Award, Retention
Strategy Award and Asia Pacific Outstanding Employer
Award again. He emphasized, 2020 was an extraordinary
year. He would like to thank his coworkers for their diligence
at work, and wish all citizens would enjoy good health,
overcoming challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.