07 Aug 2012

People - OS Hotshot

Mohamed Ismail, Chief Executive Officer, PropNex

When he speaks, their ears prop up and listen. From bankers to property agents and even their children, they hang on to every word he says. Little wonder he’s written three books given the captivating storyteller he is.


When he speaks, their ears prop up and listen. From bankers to property agents and even their children, they hang on to every word he says. Little wonder he’s written three books given the captivating storyteller he is. Not mere fables, but steeped in lessons of life to value-add to the lives of those around him. Mohamed Ismail is CEO of real estate agency, PropNex.

Mohamed Ismail, CEO of real estate agency, PropNex.

Formed in July 2000, the company was birthed from the merger of Mr Mohamed’s agency Nooris Consultants which he operated with his wife, with other agencies to achieve economies of scale. “Though we were the biggest Malay-Muslim company, we had our limitations. We wanted a bigger slice of the market, and that’s where we joined forces with some other companies and we created PropNex,” he shares of the fire in his belly to grow the business.

Singularly Steadfast on Dual Tracks

Seeing possibilities when no one else did – Mr Mohamed’s foresight propelled him to conceive a ‘dual career path’ in the real estate industry in 2000. “Prior to the formation of PropNex, real estate agents operated purely as peddling sales one to one… they were only doing sales, “ he tells us. “But we created a scheme (where) a sales person can come in as a real estate sales person for a couple of years, but once he has the desire to build a team, he can build a team together with us.”

Mr Mohamed elaborates: “My top team leader without closing one sale, earns fifty thousand dollars a month from a profit sharing on his team’s performance and the company’s support. So that’s a career that I have invented which today has become an industry norm. When I started in 2000, we were the only one; all the other companies resisted because I have to cut my profit to share with them. But I am able to do that because I’ve managed my operations more effectively. So there’s cost savings (and) I pass the cost savings as profit sharing to my leaders. So that was how we grew to the size and the strength we are today.” Truly visionary.

A dedicated family man and father of three, Mr Mohamed

Of Pens & Penthouses

It was at a programme Mr Mohamed had attended by American motivational speaker Anthony Robbins that got him “very hyped” to touch as many people as he could. To do that, he turned to books to propagate the concept of belief systems. Coupled with the fact that he had been giving a fair amount of motivational talks to his agents’ children, his venture into writing made every sense. His first book, You Can Fly, is a story about life told through the story of an eaglethow it was reared by chicken and chose to think it was a chicken and how it didn’t believe it could fly until another eagle came to it and said, ‘You are an eagle’. The book has since been translated into Malay and Chinese with Singapore’s former President S.R. Nathan writing the foreword.

His second book, Ultimate Guide to Real Estate, already in its third print was born out of realisation that Singaporeans generally lacked “in-depth knowledge about property investment and…a herd mentality that was very dangerous” existed. His most recent release last December was a motivational book aptly titled The Timeless Gift, underscoring his philosophy - the more you share, the more you get.

Mr Mohamed with a copy of his latest book, The Timeless Gift

A Man On A Mission

Mr Mohamed was an army officer up till 1995 when he hung up his uniform to take a stab at entrepreneurship - a decision he says wasn’t easy primarily because he’d been selected to come under the pensionable officer scheme. “I’m supposed to get a million dollars and my pension backdates to my recruit days when I was an 18-year-old,” he says, mulling over what could have been.  The many photographs and plagues hanging on his office wall bear testament to his illustrious career in the Singapore Armed Forces.

Ultimately the question he says he asked himself a hundred times over was: “What do I really want?” He qualifies that he still enjoys the army where he continues to serve as an NS man. “In fact, I’m on National Service from August 22nd to September 3rd. After I finish, I fly straightaway (to Australia for the SG Buzz series).” How’s that for a man who’s sharp enough to live by such thin margins?

Primed on Property

A graduate in land economics from the University of Technology Sydney, Mr Mohamed is well versed with demand and supply and these impact property prices. Does he think Singaporeans overseas have a huge concern at hand with regard to owning property in Singapore when they return?

“Put it this way, even in Australia it’s a fraction of Singapore’s cost if you want to buy a nice landed property and so on. But if you’re buying in Sydney and right downtown, it’s also pricey. Singapore being a city has been land scarce, has all the while been. But on people have made a fortune in Singapore through capital appreciation. From an investment angle it has always been very good. For a Singaporean wanting to start a family here, it’s not that difficult with the various government grants that are available.

Returning home isn’t just an option for younger Singaporeans, “regardless of their age, they can be fifty and sixty, they’re still entitled to all these grants, as long as they’ve not utilised it before. And one can always come back and take advantage of these,” advises Mr Mohamed. Not all is lost and out of reach for Singaporeans living abroad who plan to return home down the road. But he acknowledges the catch - you cannot own private and overseas properties.

Yet every case of a Singaporean returning and wanting to own a home may present its unique challenges. Yet Mr Mohamed doesn’t think it’s the be-all-and-end-all: “I think HDB may be able to look at it case by case, but the mitigating factor has to be really strong”.

“Because public housing is always considered as tax payer-subsidised, the government must ensure there’s no form of abuse. I think the HDB is more helpful in really needy situations because they think that as a Singaporean, if you don’t have a roof over the head and you have a family.  For those who can afford, they can always buy a resale HDB. But for those people who cannot buy a resale HDB because they have an overseas property, in such a scenario there’s a very strong chance that the HDB will be able to look into the case if you’re coming back to relocate and your child is going to national service and you have an overseas property because you’re working there and you need a property.”

What is Mr Mohamed’s forecast of the Singapore property market for the rest of 2012 and next year? What other advice can he dispense concerning purchasing an apartment back home in Singapore?

Pose him your questions in person in three Australian cities in September 2012 as SG Buzz heads to Hobart (5 Sept), Adelaide (7 Sept) and Brisbane (9 Sept). Register today!

Some of the many awards and recognition Mr Mohamed has received over the years