The 31-year old Briton shares stories of frustration and hope.
Candid Properties, billed as first agency in Hong Kong with 0% commission for clients, was started out by a 31-year old Briton who was frustrated at existing real estate agencies in Hong Kong. Alastair Hoyne, a former investment banker who moved to Hong Kong in 2009, complains that websites of realtors in the city had very few pictures or descriptions, which would result in a lot of blind dates viewing properties that for the most part, ended up being unsuitable. Moreover, he adds that the agents who were being paid primarily on commission were driven by their own personal self-gain and not helping others find something within budget.
“It drove me mad that I had done all the searching, found the places myself and all the agents had done was fundamentally open the door to the property. I had to pay them half a month’s commission for nothing!,” he said.
As a result, Alastair decided there had to be a better process and created Candid Properties. It aims to make both property search and selling/leasing properties a little easier and less frustrating.
First, their website aims to give all the property pictures and features upfront. Alastair said that with their user-friendly website and detailed property information, they save clients’ time when making their property choices. Candid Properties’ relationship managers meanwhile will work with property owners to ensure that all the crucial information are provided in their listings to reduce their hassle in answering all the questions their potential buyer/tenant might have.
Secondly, Alastair noted that their relationship managers are paid to put customers first, and that their bonus scheme is paid and driven not just by sales but more importantly by their level of service.
Lastly, there is no commission to pay if clients buy/rent from their listings. Property owners are instead charged on fixed fees. On the residential side, 1% for sale and ½ month’s rent for rentals.
How it started?
As with other entrepreneurs, Alastair had difficulty to get the business off the ground. As a company using technology to scale/efficiency rather than a pure tech company and entering one of the most competitive sectors in Hong Kong, Alastair shared that he had to bootstrap the business on his own for over a year to refine the business plan, start building contacts and find good people who wanted to join.
“For the most part I self-funded the company with help from my family and friends, and also was very lucky to secure a leading investor who provided me free offices in return for equity, which saved me a lot of money,” he said.
According to Alastair, he was literally living off pot noodles and struggling to survive for a whole year. He earned some spare money by doing some acting work including filming a commercial for the HK Rugby 7s, stand in actor work for Chinese company marketing material and some other film set work.
“I bought nothing for myself the whole year, in fact I only recently replaced my shoes which were completely falling apart to the point where my socks would get wet from puddles. I can’t really tell you the sacrifices; I went from drinking at the pub to drinking beers outside the pub from 7/11 to ensure I could still spend time with friends. Some of my dogs were very ill that year as well, so they got their treatment first, my wife and I came second, I was just lucky she was working and helping to support the both of us,” he shared.
At times, Alastair confessed that he did feel that he might have to go back to industry, save up again and start again a few years later when he had more savings.
Candid Properties started out with around $1.5m HKD in funding. Although a lot of that has been spent already, Alastair said that they are now starting to generate revenue and hoping that within 6 months they’d be in the black and on the way to profitability.
According to Alastair, they aim to bring their service to the rest of Asia as soon as possible, to Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo.
“Thankfully, our primary investor has given us free offices in those locations as well so now it’s just about finding great people to work for us there who share our vision and desire to improve the traditional property sector for the better,” he shared.
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