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Co-founder of HugProperty Shares About The Pattern of Dodgy Property Agents

Article Contributed by PropertyHug

Co-authored by Mr. Ku Swee Yong, Co-founder of HugProperty with Janice Chin Li Ping, undergraduate from the Department of Real Estate, National University of Singapore. 

In today’s competitive services market, real estate agents are not only caught in the strife of industry competition, they also have to grapple with being made redundant by technology. To say that there are many real estate agents in Singapore is an understatement — there are more than 28,000 licensed agents or about 1 agent serving every 140 residents; and this is probably the principal cause of the stiff competition in the industry. The competition is exacerbated by the growing number of buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants who opt for self-service through web applications. We are concerned that some agents have compromised their integrity and their “duty of care” for their clients in order to trump the competition.

Infographic 1: Summary of the key points in the article . Image: HugProperty

So, buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants: beware! We want to highlight to you that many of the listings on property portals and websites are not real. Those seemingly attractive and enticing deals may just be potholes for you to step into. We have encountered several of these unfortunate events ourselves, and in this article, we highlight some red flags that you should keep a lookout for. It is vital that you take precaution to ensure that you do not fall into the traps created by a few crafty agents.

Scenario A — Fake news and listings are increasingly common: The agent you call does not have an actual listing of the property you saw online.

 

A property listing is an advertisement of a property that is put up for sale or for lease. Listings may appear on property portals or in traditional print media, such as the classified ads in the newspapers. Sellers and landlords may appoint one or more licensed real estate agents to list the properties to attract buyers and tenants. Conversely, buyers and tenants may also engage real estate agents to source for suitable properties that meet their budgets and needs.

 

To think that all listings of properties are genuine and available at any point in time is to picture a world of sunshine and rainbows. The sad truth is: there are many cases of fake listings put up to bait direct buyers and tenants.

 

We term these fake listings “imitations”. Why so? They look almost identical to other real listings, but upon careful inspection, something may be amiss. These imitations sometimes use photos or descriptive information copied from listed properties posted by other property agents. Sometimes, even after a property has been sold, unscrupulous agents might copy the property’s photos for use in their fake listings. We have experienced several of such cases and we have highlighted these imitations to the owners of the apartments. These agents would quickly remove the imitations after the owners have called to inquire if the agents were given the permission to represent them for sale or for rent.

Usually, imitations use very attractively low prices to entice buyers and tenants because they look like “good deals that should not be missed”. Then when direct clients call these agents to enquire, the usual responses are that the property is “sold” or “taken” or “no longer available”, and the agents will immediately ask, “May I show you another apartment in the same block?” If the agent received calls from other property agents who are representing buyers, they either do not pick up the calls or they do not return calls. This is commonly seen in districts 9, 10 and 11 where transaction values are higher and the probability of attracting unsuspecting foreign buyers and tenants is likewise higher. Higher value properties also translate to a higher quantum of the 1% agent fees, which is sufficiently rewarding for the agents to put in efforts to pull such tricks.

 

We estimate that up to 20% of the listings posted online are not genuine. The percentage could be higher for luxury developments. Buyers who receive such replies from agents should immediately congratulate the agent that the property is already sold or leased out, and then hang up the phone. To avoid being further prospected by that agent, buyers would do well to appoint a trustworthy agent to do their home search. Let your agent represent you and let him sieve out and deal with the numerous imitations in the property portals.

 

Scenario B — The agent has actual properties to list, but the information is misleading

 

Fake-lister agents deliberately post listings of properties with incredibly low prices to attract direct buyers and tenants. Unsuspecting buyers and tenants will then ring the agents up because they may reflect the lowest dollar per square foot price ($psf) or rental for that condominium unit. The $psf may give a different impression in different contexts. For example, if a buyer wishes to compare prices in the same district or perhaps properties with similar attributes but in different condominium blocks, $psf will be a key metric in measuring the relative value of the properties. Merely showing the buyers how cheap a property is based on $psf comparisons without describing much about the size and layout of the property does not reveal much about whether the property is really well-priced.

 

The buyer may see an advertisement for a 750 sqft apartment for sale at $980psf (i.e. $735,000) in a condominium where the average transacted prices in the last year were around $1,200 psf. It gives the impression of a $220 psf discount from the recent transacted average. However, only when the buyer views the apartment will he realise that the very “cheap” 750 sqft apartment is a shoebox unit with 450 sqft of built-in area, a 260 sqft patio and another 40 sqft air-conditioner ledge. Or it could be a “penthouse” unit with 400 sqft of built-in area, a 300 sqft roof terrace and a 50 sqft stairwell. The low $psf price is deliberately highlighted to create the impression that the property is a great buy. Buyers and tenants, do take note! Many other variations of the same pattern exist. Most times, information that is not revealed is more important than information that is highlighted.

 

While some agents withhold information, other agents offer a lot of information about the properties to show how knowledgeable they are about a particular condominium or district. They would purposely post many listings in a particular district they claim to be active in, to impress upon prospective buyers and tenants that they “specialise” in that neighbourhood. Unsuspecting clients may be dazzled by these agents, but tell-tale signs could be seen from their overenthusiasm. For example, in a listing for a condominium in Sentosa Cove, the agent included a description “near HarbourFront MRT Station”. An agent who understands the needs of the residents in Sentosa Cove will not highlight the MRT station, and will certainly not say that HarbourFront Station is near.

 

While we would love to believe that some agents are really familiar with certain districts or market segments, we need to be mindful that many of them just want to create that impression so that they have a higher chance of being contacted by prospective clients.

 

We have merely touched on a handful of examples of the many patterns we have encountered. To discuss all the cases we regularly see will require too many pages. The ultimate aim of these agents is simple: to cut out other agents in order to get direct clients to call them, to swing these clients to their own actual listings or to get the clients to appoint them as a buyer’s representative.

Unfortunately, in trying to outwit the competition, they create misinformation in the market.

 

In the speech on Budget 2017, the Minister of State for National Development Dr Koh Poh Koon spoke about how “it may be more important for property agents now to hone their skills in servicing clients and building up their credentials rather than just competing on marketing and closing transactions.” We wish that more agents will adopt this attitude and compete on service, rather than conjuring smoke and mirrors.

 

 

 

We at HugProperty are deeply concerned about the clients’ interest and we wrote this piece to raise awareness about the patterns displayed by dodgy agents to fend off competition. We recommend clients to carefully select an agent that they feel comfortable with and to appoint the agent exclusively to represent them, whether it is for a property search (for purchase or rent), or to list a property (for sale or let). The appointed agent will be fully motivated to represent the clients’ best interests and diligently assist clients in marketing or searching for properties.

 

More importantly, your exclusive agent will be able to ward off the dodgy agents with colourful patterns.

 

P.S: While we were researching and preparing this article, the Council for Estate Agencies published a disciplinary case in their 02/2017 newsletter titled “Cost of misleading and false ads – $17,500”. The CEA highlighted several cautionary points arising from the errant property agent’s actions: placing fake or dummy advertisements, placing advertisements without property owners’ consent and omitting mandatory details in advertisements. Readers who are keen to know more about the case may refer to the online newsletter here: https://www.cea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module/newsletter/2-2017/website/cost-ofmisleading-and-false-ads.html

 

Super Evil Megacorp Raises $19M From Its Existing Investors

Super Evil Megacorp, creators of Vainglory, has raised $19 million in funding from its existing investors bringing total funding amount to date to $63 million. Super Evil Megacorp’s backers include General Catalyst, Index Ventures, Signia Venture Partners, Korea Investment Partners, CrossCut Ventures, Initial Capital, The Raine Group, ZhenFund, Yuri Milner, and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital

“Already the most competitive mobile MOBA on the market, with an active global esports scene and growing community, Vainglory is off to a great start,” CEO Kristian Segerstrale said. “Together with our investors we’re doubling down on our missions to build the best core gaming experiences for the touchscreen generation, and to create a home for talented game developers who are passionate about pushing the boundaries of the industry.

Super Evil will utilize the additional funding to continue to grow its team of masters-at-their-craft game designers, engineers and artists. Having recently doubled its San Mateo office space, the company has grown from 50 to 80 in the last six months alone and is looking to expand further. Super Evil will also use the investment to continue developing its proprietary, console-grade, multi-platform E.V.I.L. engine that has made Vainglory’s stunning graphics, beautiful visual effects and realistic animations possible. Currently, the studio is heavily focused on developing Vainglory’s upcoming 5v5 game mode, which will add to the strategic depth of the game and offer more to the already thriving Vainglory competitive community.

About Vainglory

Vainglory is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game, developed and published by Super Evil Megacorp for iOS and Android devices. The game features traditional elements of the PC game genre, where players of two opposing teams fight to destroy the enemy base by controlling the path between the bases, which is lined by turrets and guarded by AI controlled enemy creatures. Players may also battle for control points that supply extra resources, often giving teams the edge in destroying the enemy base.

 

Optimized for touch-based controls and portability, Vainglory features simplified gameplay mechanics and an intuitive interface for the ultimate mobile MOBA experience. Powered by the proprietary E.V.I.L.™ engine, Super Evil games deliver console-quality graphics, precision controls and online gameplay experiences not possible with an out-of-the-box tablet engine solution.

Criteo Reports Strong Results for 2nd Quarter 2017

SINGAPORE – August 3, 2017 – Criteo S.A. (Stock Quote: CRTO), the commerce marketing technology company, today announced financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2017.

 

  • Revenue increased 33% (or 35% at constant currency[1]) to $542 million.
  • Revenue excluding Traffic Acquisition Costs, or Revenue ex-TAC,[2] grew 32% (or 34% at constant currency) to $220 million, or 41% of revenue.
  • Adjusted EBITDA2 grew 38% (or 42% at constant currency) to $54 million, or 25% of Revenue ex-TAC.
  • Cash flow from operating activities increased 214% to $60 million.
  • Free Cash Flow2 increased $37 million to $33 million.
  • Net Income decreased 44% to $8 million, driven by the accounting impact of the HookLogic, Inc. (“HookLogic”) acquisition and restructuring costs in China in the second quarter.
  • Adjusted Net Income per diluted share2 increased 18% to $0.39.

 

Operating Highlights

 

  • The year-over-year growth in same-client Revenue ex-TAC accelerated from the prior quarter to 17% at constant currency, the result of better technology and a broader supply network.
  • We added a total of 950 net clients, ending the quarter with more than 16,000 commerce and brand clients, while maintaining a 90% client retention across the business.
  • Criteo User Device Graph, continued to grow in scale and efficiency, with 76% of Revenue ex-TAC generated from users matched in the graph.
  • Criteo Direct Bidder, our next generation header bidding technology, is now connected to over 450 publishers globally, helping increase their average yield by 20% to 40%.
  • We are testing several new product initiatives with promising results, including app installs, CRM onboarding for brands and retailers, and Store-to-web retargeting campaigns.

 

 

 

[1] Growth at constant currency excludes the impact of foreign currency fluctuations and is computed by applying the 2016 average exchange rates for the relevant period to 2017 figures.

[2] Revenue ex-TAC, Adjusted EBITDA, Adjusted Net Income per diluted share and Free Cash Flow are not measures calculated in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

 

Read full press release

Criteo reports strong 2017Q2_result

 

I2I 2011: Training, mentoring and funding

Idea to Investment (I2I) for the Media Industry is the leading training program in Singapore for the media and interactive and digital media (IDM) companies. Co-organized by Expara and the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA). I2I has trained and put in front of investors more than 540 entrepreneurs from 272 companies since 2007.

During the two-day, intensive, hands-onm workshop, participants will develop the key elementsof their business strategy, business plan, financial model and investor presentations.

I2I is open to all sectors of media industry, and to companies of all sizes, maturity and stage of development. We help existing companies to grow and new companies to get started.

To know more about this event, visit www.expara.com

Venture capital improves corporate governance

COMPANIES receiving venture capital backing are generally better at corporate governance when they list on the stock exchange than those that have not gone down the venture capital path, according to a study by the Australian School of Business.

Based on 11 years of research by Associate Professor Jo-Ann Suchard in association with the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, the study examined corporate governance at companies that had gone through an initial public offering.

It finds that listed companies with VC-backed boards have more independent directors and a higher percentage of independent directors with industry experience than non-VC companies that have gone to an IPO.

“It is established in international markets that venture capitalists add value through various types of activities beyond just giving money,” Suchard says.

Her research shows VC-backed firms have more independent directors. “These were not just non-executives, but directors who didn’t have any prior or existing relationship with the company, so they weren’t lawyers or bankers or accountants who had a prior working relationship,” she says.

Suchard says VCs use their networks to bring in specialist independent directors to help run companies, and therefore provide better corporate governance, which should help protect shareholder interests and contribute to better performance over time.

Luceille Outhred, chief executive of South Australian technology innovation group Digislide Holdings, says having VC backing has definitely helped her company achieve stronger corporate governance.

“We’ve gone through seed capital raising and angel raising, and each time we’ve gone through a different stage, as a natural consequence of the business growing but also as a necessity for raising additional capital at a higher level, our policies and procedures have tightened up,” she says.

“We always had a goal of listing on the ASX or the New York Stock Exchange, or Nasdaq, so we have constantly been upgrading our policies and our procedures, both operational and governance.


“Digislide has received about $12 million in venture capital funding and we would be in a position to lodge with ASIC for an ASX-listed company if we choose to do so, because all our policies are at the highest level and the implementation is at the highest level.”

Dr Katherine Woodthorpe, chief executive of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, says VC-backed companies are used to working with a board, whereas many other companies that list for the first time have not previously done so.

“A lot of companies think they don’t need a board in the earlier stages of being a company and so people are just not used to having a board,” Woodthorpe says.

“It is difficult, however, finding independent directors, particularly people who are interested in working with smaller technology companies, which are perceived as having higher risk.”

Ivan Kaye, director of BSI Australia, which provides venture capital funding through its Australian Distributed Incubator arm, says a condition of putting money into a company is that they move towards having the right structures in place.

“There are generally independent or non-executive board members put on by the VC.

“As a result of that, the shift from a private company to listing is smaller than with a company that hasn’t had VC backing.”

Mike Hershorn, director of Four Hats Capital, manager of the Nanyang Innovation Fund, says one of the first things to improve in the field of corporate governance is a company’s financial reporting.

“That’s really the first step, because if the board doesn’t have accurate financial reports it can’t work well to improve the company.”

VENTURE FORTH
* Companies with venture capital backing tend to have better corporate governance

* Independent directors have a stronger presence on the board

* The right governance structures are often a condition of VC funding

* Better governance brings better financial reporting

Source: The Australian, 28 Nov 2008