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  • Writer's pictureSerene Phua

Resilient, honest and determined - How these traits of mine help me in my Real Estate Career path

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Serene Phua

One of my friends used to say to me, more often than once, “Serene, you are too straightforward and honest. You will not be able to make is as a property agent, do not do something you will regret.”

Looking back, I have been in real estate business for 7 years, since 2013. It has been my pleasure to be able to assist many of my clients to secure their dream homes as well as grow their property portfolio through these years.

serene phua

There have been ups and downs through this journey, there was this one time I got so demoralised that the thought of giving up my license seems the easy way out.

Thankfully, the thought never got materialised. It was the people around me who kept encouraging me, my family who always trust me in my decisions and my faith in my religion.

Like most Singapore families, I grew up in a small family, with my parents and my younger brother.

serene phua
One of our rare family photos, my parents do not like to take photographs

My father used to be a property agent, he had his own company and used to bring me to his office, located in Pearls Centre. When I was in my Primary School days, my father was always on the line, talking about property stuff. Greatly influenced by my father, I decided to study something related to Real Estate after I finished my O levels. I guess that explains my affinity with real estate business.

Things do not always go our way, my grades do not allow me to get into my desired course. Disappointed as I was even after my unsuccessful appeal to get into the course I wanted, life had to go on. I went on to do a course in Chemical, graduated and started my life as a working adult.

Over the years, new policies and rules emerge in the real estate industry. Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) was established in October 2010, this was a move by the government, to regulate and develop the real estate agency industry. Individuals who are keen to pursue a career in the real estate needs to attend course and pass the examinations in order to be a licensed property agent.

For as long as I can remember, there has been a constant nagging voice in my head that says,

"Go attend the course and take the exams, get the real estate salesperson license"

I finally made the decision to go through the examinations, something I really dread, in 2012. I was blessed, I passed all the examinations in one attempt, joining one of the market leaders as an associate soon after, under Chris Choo. He has been a mentor whom I am very thankful to, with his guidance, I learnt a lot over the years.

Orange Tee & Tie. Navis

My very first HDB rental case

With my license hot from the oven, I approached a close friend who have a HDB whole unit for rent. Within six weeks of marketing, I got his unit rented out. That made me elated, but my joy soon turned to sorrow.

Third week into the tenancy, my friend called me down to the unit. Upon reaching the unit, he informed me that the tenants illegally subletted out the unit to more than twenty people and he wanted the tenants to leave immediately.

It was a choatic scene; my friend locked the gate with his padlock, refusing entry to the illegal tenants; the tenants insisted their deposit to be returned to them before they leave. Police came down but there was nothing they could do, they informed the landlord that he had to remove the padlock and allow the tenants back to the unit.

The police shared with us any disputes arising from Tenancy Agreement between the landlord and tenant have to engage lawyer(s) to resolve accordingly. I was with my friend the next day, going to law firms, seeking legal advise, doing what I could within my means to help.

After two days, my friend made the decision to return the tenants their deposit so that they can leave right away. He made this decision simply because he wanted a piece of mind.

Throughout the whole incident, my friend never blamed me at all, he told me we were just unlucky to get the wrong tenants. However, for a greenhorn like me at that time, I was greatly impacted by what happened. It was my first case and landlord had to return the deposit.

A silly thought occurred to me, perhaps this was a sign telling me that real estate business is not for me. As I was pregnant with my first child during that period, I took that chance to refrain from any activities involving real estate business for some time.


To be honest, I was fearful ever since the HDB rental case, I kept blaming myself for the subletting that happened, my license was kept in my cabinet from then on. It was only being used for me to clock my CPD points in the next two years.

Every time I wanted to skip the CPD courses and forgo the license, I was reminded of the time and effort I went through for the course and the examinations.

I rejected deals, especially referrals on HDB whole unit rentals, simply because I had no confidence in myself.

overcome fear

Sometimes, you need to overcome your fear in order to move on.

In early 2016, my close girlfriend asked me for help. Her sister wanted to rent out their HDB flat but wanted to find someone reliable instead of calling any agent from the flyers they receive. Her encouragement helped, I gave in and helped her sister, tenants were secured within 2 weeks of marketing. There was no issue with this group of tenants throughout the tenancy.

My passion in real estate business was re-ignified after this, I never looked back. I get excited whenever visiting a new property, whether for viewings or taking listings. It is a valuable encounter, to meet the different people from all walks of life and hearing their experiences.

Learning never ends, no matter which industry you are in.

I became more active in the business; I started acquiring more knowledge on industrial properties transactions and got involved in new project launches.

new launch
Me in duty queue at my first new project launch

HDB resale transactions are as not simple as many of us think, with the ever-changing HDB policies for the different types of situations.

‘Black sheep’ are business partners in our industry who do not follow the way things should be carried out properly, what we call unprofessional ethics. Typically, agents representing buyers share the commission with the agents representing the sellers because of the higher quantum.

customer service

I had a very bad experience with this lady agent who was marketing a private residential property at about $1.3 million a few years back. The short tele-conversation that we had, she told me that she is unable to share her 2% commisson with me. I must collect my commission from my buyer if my buyer wants to view the unit, otherwise, she will not show us the unit. As a seller’s agent, she is not being professional, she did not consider her sellers’ interests as she has restricted the buyers pool by not sharing her commission with the buyer’s agent.


There is one thing thing my close friend shared with me, which I apply to my daily real estate work, that is, to look at different angles of problems we face.

There were occasions when I meet ‘black sheep’, resulting in burst deals most of the time. Instead of getting angry for a very long time, I learnt to analyse the possible reason(s) for every unsuccessful case and improve myself.

Being in the real estate business, it is not only about the sales commission that I clock every month. To me, it is about doing things the correct way. It is important to listen to my clients’ needs, understand their needs and helping them to achieve their goals.

serene phua realtor
My first sale, thanks to my friend :)

Recently, my client who reside in Indonesia now with her daughter, couriered me handmade cookies. This client of mine has certain requirements on the tenant profile for her properties, I followed her instructions and has not failed her on getting wrong tenants. It is her way of thanking me to help manage her property portfolio without her worrying about it.

My pillar of strength comes from my family, especially my two darling daughters I love dearly. Their smiles never fail to bring joy to my face, whatever the circumstances. My elder daughter amuses me most of the time with her actions. She likes to mimick me, pretending to be on the line, confirming viewing appointments.

serene phua
My darlings
serene phua
At Alishan

I may not be able to give my children the highest standard of material things in life, but I will do my best to spend quality time with them whenever possible. We went for our family holiday last December, to our favourite country, Taiwan.

It was definitely a challenging and tiring holiday, handling a one year old baby, but it was also a really enjoyable one.

serene phua
My family

Last year, wanting to take on more challenges, I took a leap of faith to join my friend, Jacquelyn Wong at NAVIS. She is a great mentor and an amazing friend who has helped me so much the past year. I am very thankful to have meet her, I aspire to be like her and the NAVIS leaders one day, selfless and caring.

This real estate journey of mine has not been the easiest journey, especially in times like this, but definitely a journey that gives me much satisfaction. Whenever clients send me words of gratitude or I see the smiles on their faces after I assisted them on their property needs, it never fails to bring me great joy and satisfaction I cannot describe with words.

Moving ahead, there will be many changes to the real estate business. Online sharing sessions, online training, documents to be signed in wet ink and sent with courier services, etc. Virtual viewings are the new norm and it looks set to stay, even after the circuit breaker is over. I will continue learning in order to be able to serve my clients well.

I hope this sharing of my real estate journey motivates you in one way or another. It is common to have setbacks in our lives, we have to to persevere and overcome the situation.

Remember: never give up, the light is at the end of the tunnel.

serene phua decisive


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About The Author

serene phua realtor

Serene is the Senior Associate Director of Orange Tee & Tie and has been in the real estate business since 2013. Through the years, she has assisted many clients in their different property needs. Many of these clients eventually become her friends over the years, something that she is very thankful for.

She is a fan of TV serials, Hong Kong, Taiwan, not forgetting local productions too. Singing is her way of releasing stress, especially with her ktv khakis. Whenever she gets to travel, her number one choice is definitely Taiwan, the food and the shopping is awesome! :)

She is also a mother to two lovely girls , elder sister is a bubbly 7 years old girl with the younger one coming to the terrible 2 this year. They are both her pride and joy, the elder one often helps out in the little things such as folding mailers in Serene's real estate business too.

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