She left fame to help people find homes
New homegrown app Ohmyhome aims to let S'poreans handle their property transactions on their own, bypassing the middleman. HARIZ BAHARUDIN (firstname.lastname@example.org) speaks to its founders
Miss Race Wong might seem familiar to some.
The 34-year-old, along with her sister Roseanne, used to be part of award-winning Cantopop duo 2R. The pair, who were active in the Hong Kong entertainment scene, gained fans, not just with their singing, but their acting chops too.
But the allure of fame did not last long.
Now the executive director of new real estate app Ohmyhome (OMH), Miss Race Wong tells The New Paper on Sunday: "While I will always be appreciative of the support I get from people, I realised that the life of fame had become stale.
"I felt like I could do more for myself and for others."
She immediately thought about her younger sister Rhonda Wong, a treasury bonds trader who started real estate agency Anthill Realtors in June 2014.
Miss Rhonda, 30, was also looking to do something different with her life.
"Anthill Realtors was a successful real estate investment business. But I wanted to do more to help people," she says.
The sisters started discussions last year and through their research, came to the conclusion that Singaporeans spend an unnecessary amount on housing agents.
Says Miss Race: "The core problem is that every year, at least $200 million is spent in commission fees when people enlist agents to help them sell or rent. This is money that could be saved."
After months of brainstorming and researching, the sisters came up with the idea to set up OMH, a real estate app that connects HDB buyers and tenants directly to potential sellers and landlords, without the need for any agents.
The app, which had its soft launch two months ago, will officially be launched in September.
With the app, the sisters want to give Singaporeans the power to take charge of their property transactions.
Miss Rhonda, who is the chief executive officer of OMH, says: "What could be more important than one's own home? Wouldn't it be good to be able to make decisions by yourself, without relying on others?"
According to the sisters, the reason why so much is spent in commission fees is that people do not have enough information and are not sure how to handle the transaction.
This is the gap that OMH hopes to bridge. With the app, buyers and sellers can do their own paperwork and attend HDB appointments to transact without an agent.
For those who still need help, OMH also has its own team of agents that both buyers and sellers can hire.
YOUNGER DAYS: Miss Race Wong when she was in Cantopop group 2R. PHOTOS: UNIVERSAL MUSIC
"People spend because they do not have access to information and they lack confidence," says Miss Race.
The sisters have bigger plans for their app.
Once their database of users is large enough, they hope to rope in furniture manufacturers and electrical appliance dealers to offer attractive deals that will benefit OMH users.
There is also a plan to expand the app to include a listing of trusted home-service providers, like plumbers, repairmen and electricians.
"It's all so exciting, we're just starting out and based on the reception we've been getting, it looks very good," Miss Race says with a smile.
About the app
Ohmyhome (OMH) hopes to empower property buyers, sellers and renters, without having to hire a real estate agent.
The app uses a consolidated user-generated database to help users get details of HDB homes that are for sale or rent.
Users can also craft their own listings for the properties they wish to rent or sell.
This means there are no duplicated listings and each listing is genuine.
Buyers and tenants will also be able to contact the owners directly, without the need to pay commission fees to agents.
Buyers and sellers can then do their own paperwork and attend HDB appointments to transact without an agent.
According to the Wong sisters, Singaporeans spend more than $200 million each year in commission fees to agents. With OMH, they hope buyers and sellers can save some money.
But for those who still need help, OMH also has its own team of agents.
Says Miss Rhonda Wong: "An average HDB flat (sells for) around $450,000.
"The typical commission fee (to be paid) for a seller is 2 per cent which would be $9,000 and 1 per cent for the buyer which would be $4,500.
"In comparison, (with OMH agents) we are charging buyers and sellers only (a flat rate of) $2,888 each"