Sunday, July 4, 2010

122. Compassion From Friends Is Not Forever

A father suffering hard times finds it hard to pay for his daughter's education overseas. The father asked me for a small loan to pay for his daughter's accommodation. He said he would pay me back two months later. I rejected him because I had helped him several times and he had not returned any money to me. He persevered. Compassion Fatigue sets in when interest-free loans to help a friend in financial distress are forgotten over the years.

An overseas undergraduate law education costs around A$150,000. The daughter had excellent A-level grades but the 3As could not qualify her to study law in Singapore. 4As would qualify and save the father a lot of financial stress.

She was therefore a "victim of circumstances" and deserved a helpomg jamd. The father's salary was insufficient to support her overseas. The father said to me: "My wife asks me to tell you we eat porridge everyday." I just could not believe my ears but it was probably true. He was the type of father who would "beg, steal of borrow" to ensure that his bright daughter would have sufficient funds to become a lawyer. She was the apple of his eye and she had the brains to be accepted by a top University in Australia to study law.

3 As were academic excellence but not good enough to study law in Singapore as there were many with 4As applying for the law, medical and accountancy courses. This was one lucky young lady as many fathers simply tell the bright progeny that there was no money to study in a subject the latter is interested.

"How's her studies?" I asked the father. I wanted to assess whether this girl deserved help one more time. "Is she getting high distinctions? Is she passing all her examinations?"

The father said: "She is a good girl. She does not go out partying and getting drunk like one of her classmates." This was not the answer I expected. But I did not pursue further as I expected a girl with 3As to pass her undergraduate examinations knowing that her sole breadwinner father had much financial distress to support her.

I don't know how this father is going to support her to graduation. As a lawyer, she would make big bucks as there is a shortfall of lawyers in Singapore. But the road to graduation is now full of financial pot holes. The father could downgrade by selling off the condo and rent a place for the time being. But there was an enbloc sale prospect and he would lose a lot of money. In enbloc sales, the property developer pays a premium price for the apartments.

"What happen to your real estate income over the past years?" I asked. This father had an inborn excellent marketing skills and could close cases unlike many realtors in Singapore. His employer was the compassionate type and permitted him to do real estate work to supplement his income. This was a rare type of employer in Singapore.

When he started as a part-time realtor with my company in 2005, he was grossing $100,000 in agency commissions handling the internet expatriate rental cases referred by me. He needed loans frequently to pay for his debts. After a year, I could no longer afford to give him loans as he borrowed more than he earned. You would assume that an agent earning $100,000 part-time would not need loans from anybody. But he needed more. So I had to cut him off. I was haemorrhaging badly as his loans exceeded his income and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Compassion from friends and acquaintance cannot be not unlimited.

After 5 years, the father needed A$5,000 to pay for his daughter's accommodation. "Why don't you close some real estate cases?" I asked. It is easier said than done as he has to work full-time. His employer was still compassionate as long as he did his job competently and efficiently. This he did for the past 30 years in the same firm but his income was at a maximum for his position. He was not a graduate and I presumed the firm did not promote him further or found that he was not suitable.

He just dared not become self-employed as a realtor as income could be variable. He could be a hero for earning $100,000 a year - 3 times his salary. But he could be a vagabond when recession kicked in as it did in 2008. So, he did not strike out on his own as he had children in school. Which was a pity as I know he could do very well in real estate. Real estate is where the money is if you excel. Veterinary medicine and surgery give you a steady small income but if you want to be wealthy, get into the hot seat of real estate.

"My wife says that I am lucky when I work together with you," the father reminded me. Certainly he did perform as $100,000 in 2005 with me was not peanuts. "Do you have a case where we can work together?" I asked him. "If you close that case, you would be able to earn some money for your daughter's accommodation fees." He has a good network and should have some clients.

"I have a condo which the owner asks me to sell at $3.3 million or rent at $10,000 per month."

"That's great." I said. "Have you advertised this property in the Straits Times?"

The father said: "The Tenant's agent prohibits viewing. He makes it very difficult making various excuses."

"So you did not advertise in the Straits Times?" I inferred. "Straits Times advertisements still are the best way. I had over 10 phone calls a day when I advertised an HDB apartment for resale recently. Did you advertise in the Straits Times? The tenancy is in its last month. You ought to be advertising to secure a buyer or tenant before the lease expires."

Advertising 1 month prior to the expiry of the lease is the professional way to practise real estate in the interest of the realtor and the owner.

An apparently obstructive incumbent Tenant or protective Tenant's agent was no excuse, in my opinion. The owner had entrusted him with the property and he ought to do what was the right thing to do. I sensed that something was not right. Was there more to it than the behaviour of the Tenant's agent in repelling all appointments? The Tenant's agent had to be present for viewing as the Tenant was a multi-national. This Tenant's agent would have no financial income just by being present and therefore it was possible that he would delay or prevent viewings, attributing the rejection to the Tenant's policies.

I enquired about the type and location of the property the father was given exclusive marketing. The 2009 recession had passed by but the upscale $10,000 - $20,000 rental market was not booming. There was considerable interest in buying new property developments and not this 3-year-old condo.

"I will pay for the Straits Times Advertisements 2 to 3 times a week if you will split 50:50 on a successful outcome," I said. Advertisement of 3-lines cost around S$35.00/insert. It would be money down the drain if there was no response.

I advertised the property for sale at $3.45 million for the first week on a Wednesday and a Saturday. Not even one phone call. During the second week, there was only one phone call from an agent of a prospective buyer. The father made the appointment for the prospective buyer's wife to view. A second viewing with the husband was made two days later. "This case will close," the happy father said as the couple had asked about bank loans.

"Well, don't count your chickens before the eggs are hatched. The prospective buyer's wife was practically selling the advantages of the property to the husband during the viewing." I did not want to dampen the spirits of this father. He was a real estate veteran and now he had had unbridled optimism. I had stopped the newspaper advertisements as I did not want to throw good money away as the phone call response had been very poor. Money down the drain.

Several days passed. The eggs did not hatch. The tenancy would expire in 10 days. The owner texted saying that he would need a tenant to defray his mortgage loans. I placed 4 advertisements to rent over two weeks. Only 3 enquiries. I was pessimistic. It was my advertisement money down the drain. Nowadays, I don't do large Straits Times advertisement for properties as I find that they seldom effective. Many realtors now resort to mass-texting their properties for rent or sale as I received at least two per day on my mobile phone.

A victim of circumstances need the money. Of the 3 rental enquiries to my mobile phone, two prospective tenants with the budget of $12,000 rental wanted to view the apartment on Friday at 2.30 pm. The Tenant's agent was creating obstacles saying the Occupant prohibited viewing during her last week of tenancy. The Occupant would vacate the property in 3 days' time.

"So, what are you going to do?" I asked the father. He suggested waiting as the Tenant's Agent rejected him. I suspected that the Tenant's Agent had no time to be present on this Friday 2.30 pm viewing and therefore said that the Tenant would not permit viewing. This is because there was no financial incentive for the Tenant's Agent to close. Not a dime. So why should he oblige?

"You don't wait in real estate," I admonished the father gently. He was a very patient man not prone to raise his voice or get angry during our encounters. A smooth-talking guy? "These two prospects have the budget. No other phone queries. Do something."

But what could the father do? He phoned the Tenant's Agent and the owner but his head was butting against a brick wall. So he suggested that we wait for the Occupant to vacate the properties in 3 days' time as he would have the keys to the condo.

Now, there were two interested qualified prospective Tenants. Was there a solution to this problem? I had to think. Yes, there was one. I said to the father, "Is there not a clause in the tenancy agreement that the Tenant is to permit viewing of properties for rental or sale?"

"Yes," the father said.

"What happens if the Tenant breach the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement? Will he have to pay penalties to the Landlord for loss of income?" I didn't have to state that the Landlord could deduct from the rental deposit and litigate for loss of income due to the Tenant's breach. The Tenant's Agent had to be given notice now and he should know how to advise his client early. He would lose his multi-national client if he was inert. However, the father had to know what to do without me telling him.

The father texted a message to the Tenant's Agent, c.c. to me. It read as follows:

"There is a prospective tenant willing to pay 11K fr the aptmt n yr tenant is deprivd my owner opportunity to show the aptmt this is breach of the terms n conditions of the tenancy agmt thanks."
The Tenant's Agent permitted a viewing on Saturday 10.30 am instead of Friday 2.30 pm. Well, that was a chance now.

I spent around $380 for the newspaper advertisements and there was a successful outcome. One of the expatriates rented the property. This is an incredible happy ending as I had only 2 qualified prospects from 4 rental advertisements placed over 10 days. Time is of the essence in real estate. Strike while the iron is hot. Life is full of hurdles to jump across. Be able to close a case. Performance counts in real life, not awards for being the top realtor.
God was kind to this father if you believe in Divine Powers. I am very happy for the victim of circumstance, a young lady I had never met. The laws of real estate contract had helped her as the case was closed. I hope she would study very hard and get High Distinctions. Lately, I know of a Singaporean who failed his first year at Murdoch University and came home. His sister had paid for his studies and he had failed. This was not good for the airline cabin crew sister who worked so hard.

Overseas undergraduates whose parents and family members have "apparently" no problems to finance their overseas studies must note that they have a rare opportunity to better themselves through education. Though they may not aim to get High Distinctions, passing their examinations and graduate will be the least they can do.

No comments:

Post a Comment