Property investor turned multi-millionaire developer
Her path to financial success is an accelerated one. Within seven short years, Prudence Wong, group brand manager turned property investor turned property developer-cum-entrepreneur, achieved the exospheres (the highest level of atmosphere around planet earth) of success. Well, to her she might just be at troposphere (the layer of atmosphere closest to Earth), but to a fellow investor, she is certainly achieving the dream success of many.
A student of Milan Doshi, a property investment guru in Malaysia, nothing seems impossible for Wong. StarProperty.my met up with the intrepid pint-sized Wong, who shared her success story and her first project as a developer (Qube in Shah Alam).
Tell us about yourself and your investment journey. How many years did it take for you to achieve financial freedom? Prior to investing, I spent more than 10 years working in a public listed pharmaceutical company and multinational nutritional company as group brand/product manager. Basically, my job entailed brand building and brand management. This was more than 10 years ago. In year 2002, I attended my first property seminar. It was Milan’s (Doshi) course; the first property course I ever attended. The first property I purchased was in year 2003. I did not purchase immediately. Actually, I was very gung-ho after the seminar. But after one to two months I couldn’t find the property that I wanted – my ideal property, you know, good price, good deal and all that.
When did you purchase your first property? I bought my first property during the SARS crisis time. I bought it from an owner who was from Hong Kong. That time, the SARS was very bad. So I bought a few units and I got my first unit 20 percent below market price and the rental yield was about 14 percent. My first tenant was from the Middle East. He stayed there, got married and two children were born there. Very Ong (prosperous) place for him (laughs). He stayed there until I sold it.
How much did you buy it for and when did you sell it? I bought it for RM180,000 in year 2003 and sold it for RM240,000 in year 2006.
At which point, did you become a property developer? At that time (year 2003), I did not resign. I still worked for two years during my real estate investment journey. I bought a lot of properties. Two years later, close to the end of year 2005, I met my business partner and we co-purchase properties. We bought shops and it was that time that I decided to go (into investing) full-time.
Prudent Prudence: “I have a system of keeping all my things. To me, information is money,” says Wong, the director for the development of Qube (which aims to be an icon in Shah Alam).
What types of properties did you purchase? Apartments and flats.
So you went for the low- and medium-cost ones. Yes.
Which areas were these properties at? Shah Alam, Ampang and also in Puchong.
Why did you select these areas? When I was a marketing executive for a telecommunications company, I was seconded to Shah Alam and at that time, this area (Shah Alam) just started (to develop). I also stayed in Shah Alam for about six years. So I know Shah Alam pretty well.
The other day, after I shared my story (at Juanita Chin’s ‘Secrets of buying from property developers’), more investors are coming into this area. I know of a few investors who only buy in Shah Alam. When I started a joint-venture with my partner, we decided to look at shops and also factories.
When I bought land one and a half years ago, I did not think of becoming a developer. I thought that maybe I should just open a furniture mall or something like ‘Asia Cafe’ type of outlet. Until one day, my friend said to me, “This is a fabulous location. If you don ‘t develop this land, it will be such a waste.” So that’s how I became a developer.
Flats, apartments, condos, shops, factories, bungalow land, land and now development – that’s my investment journey.
So your investment journey is about seven years so far? Yes, about there. I am still an investor. Every year I make sure that I buy, but not every month. Last time I used to buy every month.
How did you find the time and energy to do all that?! I did full-time! I have the passion to do all of these things.
So by that time, your passive income was enough to cover your expenses? Yes. The time my passive income can cover. So I tendered, I said “Sayonara!” That’s why I don’t encourage people to resign before their passive income can cover their expenses. The moment I can cover, I resigned and did full-time. In one day I could see so many properties, I was so happy (laughs).
What was the biggest mistake and best decision you made in property investment? The best decision I made; there were a few properties that were very run down. One of them was a hidden jewel. I turned it around, added value to it and it gave me triple or four times of profit.
Was it a commercial property? Yes, commercial.
Where were these hidden jewels? There were actually two. One was a rundown factory. I picked it up when it was in a horrible state. I touched it up and put up a good tenant. That actually gave me triple value. One bungalow; I bought in an auction. Until today, it still gives me very good rent.
You do a lot of property research. But has property investment got a lot to do with instincts as well? I would say that my instinct is pretty strong (laughs).
Some people can do all the research and can still make the wrong decisions.
For me, I would say that my research is both official and unofficial. Sometimes, I get report from valuers. Sometimes, I talk to the people, the locals. Then I would decide.
On average, how much time would you spend on research before purchasing? If it is a new area, I need about a few days to study the area and everything. Sometimes, like my neighbour (the shoplot beside Qube’s office-cum-showroom), I did not even see. I have purchased a few properties which I didn’t even see because I know the area very well. Sometimes, I even know which unit because I have been there before.
So if a place is good, you won’t purchase just one? If it is a good one, I will buy a few. But if it is not a good one, I will put it on hold because I always believe that good deals are always on the way. If I did not get this good deal, I will always get another. That’s what I believe. I don’t get emotional like “I’ve got to get it, I’ve got to get it!”. I just let it be.
What was your biggest mistake? There was one incident. I didn’t do enough research. I lost RM100,000, half of the 2% booking fee for a commercial property.
Was your best decision after your biggest mistake? Yes. Half the 2% deposit was gone. But I made up that money somewhere else. But of course, I feel sad that part of the deposit was gone.
Apart from sadness, what did you feel? Did it make you even more determined? It made me more careful; to do more research even though I did a lot of research.
What was the main reason for the error? I trusted the agent, who was my friend.
Why didn’t the deal go through? I found out something later and I pulled out. Sometimes, I have to cut losses. I would rather cut here and earn somewhere else. After I pay the 2%, only I went to do the research. Alamak! (Oh dear!)
In a recent property seminar (Milan Doshi’s property investment preview), you mentioned that you still keep thousands of property listings that you cut out from the paper until today. Why? Actually, Milan (from her first property seminar) asked me to make a book. All the thousands of listings I cut out are more like properties that I have seen. I have a software system of keeping all my things. To me, information is money.
Apart from Milan’s, which other course(s) did you attend? I attended a lot. Milan’s was the first one. I tried another one, Dolf de Roos, who used to be Rich Dad’s (Robert Kiyosaki) property guru. Another guy is Steven Molnar Australia/New Zealand, who has now become a friend. I read a lot of books - Renesial Leong, Milan. I also read a lot of Donald Trump’s and Robert Kiyosaki’s books.
Before you started in property investment, did you try a lot of other things? There is one business I have done which is very funny. You know which one? Selling condoms online (laughs).
Chic and contemporary: Qube’s interesting 548sq ft show-office
How did that work out for you? This was before Milan’s course, right? Yes, at that time my husband was in that line. He was working for a manufacturer. So I asked whether I can sell it or not and I went to study the condoms.
Then I set up an e-commerce store and I only made one transaction. Then I realised that the pricing is terrible because China and India can really throw prices. So I found out that trading is not my core.
How long did you do that? I think about eight months. Then I stopped and focussed only on properties.
Is that the only online business you have tried? Yes. I realised that property is better than online trading.
Did you attend any courses for online? I attended ‘How to make money in your pyjamas’. That’s how I met Nancy Ng (full-time real estate agent, property millionaire and project sales director of The Qube). I didn’t realise that selling condoms need skills too (laughs).
Do you have a particular go-to strategy when it comes to property investment? Always buy niche. Of course, one must look at basics such as pricing and location. I also look into Feng Shui as I believe in Qi energy. I always go for something very niche. I always go for places that are in high demand, but with less supply. I don’t like to fight with people. I always go for corner (lots) and I always add value to the properties.
How do you add value? Renovate the kitchen, add lighting; things like that. Sometimes, I redevelop the whole property and it all depends on costing versus revenue.
Tell us about your company and Qube. There are two partners in the company. I chose to develop in Shah Alam because I am familiar with that area. Qube will be officially launched in early August 2010. Qube is an icon in Shah Alam. It is in a very strategic location with high visibility. Qube is located at the north-west intersection between Federal Highway and the North-South Expressway Central Link (ELITE Highway). It faces the Federal Highway and ELITE is on the left of the building.
Qube features a modern design and is an eco-friendly high-tech building. We call it the first high-end corporate office in Shah Alam. For the design, we are working with the award-winning team from PDI Design & Associates. We make sure that the building is chic and contemporary in both its exterior and interior. It is also designed according to the Feng Shui principles of Master David Koh. So, as you can see, the whole team comprises consultants who have more than 35 years of experience in development industries.
What are the types of build-up sizes? Qube features 15 storeys of business individual suites, three levels of retail and four levels of basement carpark. The office lots start from 548sq ft to the bigger size, which is 11,000sq ft for corporations, if they want to buy the whole floor. The fifth floor is reserved for bulk purchase buyers. Individual units are from 548sq ft to 2,379sq ft.
Tell us about the price per square foot. We are selling the units from RM423 per sq ft. The price might increase, as after the soft launch, we have sold 70 percent of the units. You are a first-time developer. Many people are naturally sceptical. Why shouldn’t they be?
I would qualify myself as an investor because I myself am an investor. So I would know what is good for property investment or ownership. I know what a buyer wants. In terms of knowledge, skill and developing, I have strong team and their experience adds up to more than 35 years. As a buyer, you want to get the best. For me, I know what the best is for an investor as I have managed more than 50 tenants in my seven years of investing. So basically I know what an investor wants and what a tenant wants.
When is the scheduled completion? In year 2013.