Being a real estate agent is tough but the job entails great opportunities to handle an extremely valuable commodity and be part of one of the biggest contributors to Hong Kong's economy.
The responsibilities of a real estate agent are, of course, more than simply communicating with clients. To enter the industry, aspiring individuals must first of all meet the licensing requirements of the Estate Agent Authority. The simpler method is to obtain a salesperson's licence, which enables an employee to carry out everyday duties in estate agency work. Those with higher aspirations would choose to apply for an estate agent's licence, giving the candidates the right to act as the manager of an agency.
"At Midland, we devote lots of resources to help our new staff go through the licensing public examinations. On joining us, recruits without licences have to attend a five-day intensive training programme to help them pass the salesperson's licensing examination. There are lectures, revision sessions and mock examinations," explains Kitty Ip, managing director (corporate), Midland Realty. The programme also includes conveyancing transactions and soft skill training like communications and customer relationship management.
According to Ms Ip, some recruits will opt for the estate agent's licence examination, which is comparatively difficult. "As you advance and become a branch manager, the estate agent's licence is absolutely necessary because it entitles a person to perform all the necessary managerial duties involved, not merely being a salesperson. Some people choose to go for this more difficult examination so that they do not have to pass another public examination when they get promoted," says Ms Ip.
Real estate is a service-oriented business so employee performance is significantly related to company performance. Midland's staff has to take part in an array of programmes from time to time to enhance their professional capabilities.
"The real estate career is rewarding and challenging. Our agents need to acquire the most up-to-date knowledge in order to sustain peak performance," notes Ms Ip.
Midland U, the training department of Midland, is responsible for coordinating training for Midland's staff. Training programmes provided for frontline agents can be categorised into conveyancing transactions, selling and marketing skills, communication skills and self-enhancement. These aim to keep staff abreast of developments in the market and maintain a positive mindset — which is important in any sales-oriented jobs. "The job is highly result-oriented so initiatives are crucial to success," Ms Ip notes.
A professional qualification is not a prerequisite for anyone wishing to join Midland. However, being armed with a university education is an advantage since university graduates are relatively more used to conducting research, which is significant, since agents need sufficient knowledge of the market situation to provide advice for customers.
The prices of properties vary greatly across different districts in Hong Kong. Part of a real estate agent's income is commission from sales, and higher transaction values normally result in more commission. "Our agents are equipped with knowledge and skills to handle both rental and buying and selling of properties. We assign jobs in accordance with the performance, experience and conveyancing transactions of staff," Ms Ip says. For example, newcomers are usually assigned to the small-and-medium-sized markets. This is because these buyers are usually first-time buyers who focus on personal needs. On the other hand, more valuable properties such as commercial buildings, shop premises and luxury apartments require agents with superior technical and market knowledge. Many buyers of these properties are investors who are very experienced about the local property market themselves.
"The income potential of real estate agents is huge, especially when the market is active," Ms Ip stresses.
As well, a Midland agent enjoys ample room for development. A novice who joins the company as a real estate agent has the potential to rise to branch manager, district manager, district director, regional director and so on. "A developed performance appraisal system is in place to reward staff," she adds.
A listed company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Midland employs more than 4,500 agents. Capturing the opportunities in China, the company's affiliated company Midland (China) now plays an active role in the China market. Pointing to the ample career opportunities at the company, Ms Ip says, "The management of our China branches is mostly carried out by Hong Kong staff."