PropertyGuru caught up with Koh and learned a few things from the man of the year himself
Francis Koh, managing director and group CEO of Koh Brothers Group Limited, was named the Real Estate Personality of the Year 2016, and was presented his trophy at the South East Asia Property Awards (Singapore) on 24 November 2016. PropertyGuru caught up with Koh at the sidelines of the Awards, and here are a few things we learned.
1. It’s not about where you come from, it’s where you end up.
In his acceptance speech, Koh mentioned the homes he lived in, starting out first in what he termed “squatter” homes during Singapore’s early years, before moving to Toa Payoh, then into a HDB flat, and finally into his current home. Koh told a story of his company and his family that reflects Singapore’s rise, and reminds us that hard work, passion and drive, together with the right opportunities, are key ingredients for our success in life.
2. Passion is necessary.
Most real estate industry insiders will tell you that Koh is a passionate and driven man. Koh told PropertyGuru that one of the key factors to the success of his enterprise is their passion to build good residences for their buyers – “to build houses, then homes, then finally a lifestyle”. The passion to delivery quality products is what has continued to drive himself, and the business.
3. Sustainability will play a large part in developing properties.
When speaking about how homes will look like in the future, Koh mentioned that smart homes, connected appliances and apps would play a large part in how homes will change. However, as we make homes smarter, Koh also emphasized that we have to make homes greener, with features such as water conservation and solar power, areas where costs have fallen, and therefore make it more possible to include in future projects.
4. It’s still possible to make family businesses work.
Family businesses are notorious for being difficult to manage. After all, when professional relationships get tangled with close personal relationships, like those between parent and child, or between siblings, any conflicts or issues are often exacerbated. Koh tells us that “the corporate governance involved in being a listed company helps us to run the company in a very professional way.” Keeping processes transparent also means that it is clear to everyone that when rewards are given, it is based on contributions, rather than family relations.
5. Selling executive condos is a long game.
Koh Brothers is currently developing Westwood Residences, an Executive Condo close to the Boon Lay area. However, EC transactions have been slow of late, with private condos reducing prices, while an overabundance of EC sites released by the government in the last few years meant that the market is seeing a bit of an oversupply. However, Koh assures us that ECs “won’t sell very fast, but will have steady sales.” Koh also remains confident in the affordability of their pricing strategy and the potential capital appreciation buyers will get to enjoy for the project.
6. En blocs are possible but sellers need to be realistic.
While Koh says that en bloc sales are a possibility, there is a mismatch in expectations between buyers and sellers. “The sellers are looking at a certain price that might be above expectations, while the developers are looking for lower prices so that they can sell better”, and as a result, en bloc sales will remain slow. Developers looking to collectively purchase a project are also looking at more than just the site costs alone, as they have to take into account development fees, topping up the strata lease, and the like.