By Lyn Chan
SINGAPORE — Unethical property agents, inconsistent communication with interior designers, and ballooned contractor bills commonly feature in Singapore’s horror housing stories.
These horror stories were a motivating factor for Rhonda Wong, chief executive officer and co-founder at Ohmyhome Pte Ltd., to start her own company to offer a one-stop solution for those looking to buy, sell or rent their homes.
“A friend who was going through a divorce was ‘tricked’ into selling her home and placing a deposit for another property which she couldn’t afford," the 35-year-old Wong shared with Yahoo Finance Singapore in a recent interview. "Her freelance agent didn't do the relevant financial calculations for her which would have helped her realised that she couldn’t afford the new property. As a result, she had to forfeit her deposit and find another home.”
Rhonda Wong and her sister, Race, started Ohmyhome in 2016, to “streamline the entire transaction journey on one platform”. The duo felt that there was a better way to transact properties, and was determined to be the ones to find it. Wong's sister takes the role of chief product officer. Both have previous experience in Singapore’s real estate industry.
In less than a year, Ohmyhome was ranked Singapore’s #1 HDB app. Not only was it the most downloaded app for HDB-related matters, it was lauded for having the most number of genuine listings. The following year in 2018, Ohmyhome became the “the company who sold the fastest on average, and (we have) stayed there ever since,” said Wong, adding that 100 per cent of its closing offers was higher than the previous offer by a competitor.
These achievements did not breeze in on sheer luck. Sceptics abounded when Ohmyhome hit the ground five years ago with the market’s first hybrid do-it-yourself (DIY) and full-fledged agency services. The DIY or self-serve platform allows homeowners and searchers to connect directly at no cost.
Wong strove to win the naysayers over. “We dove deep into the details of providing a great user experience both on our digital platform as well as our agent services,” she said, adding that once Ohmyhome’s advantages became evident, the take-up rate grew.
Last month Ohmyhome launched its renovation services, adding a post-purchase option to the company’s suite of end-to-end services. Renovation is a part of the housing process, Wong said, calling it “the next largest hardship, after the transaction of the property”.
Ohmyhome has since expanded to Malaysia and the Philippines. Bolstered with a S$4 million funding led by Golden Equator Capital, Wong and her team of 90 employees have their sight on growing the business in the three countries. To date, Ohmyhome has racked up more than 7,000 home transactions and 8,000 rendered services, totalling a combined value of S$1.6 billion.
“Ohmyhome has achieved tremendous success in our current markets, so bringing our game-changing model to other markets in the next few years is definitely in the pipeline,” Wong said. “We like to measure success based on the number of happy homeowners we have assisted."
The mother of a four-year-old boy, Ashton, Rhonda shares with Yahoo Finance Singapore about being an entrepreneur, who inspires her, and International Women’s Day.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
This year’s IWD theme is especially powerful for me because #ChooseToChallenge is something that everyone can participate in. I believe in recognising the beauty of individuality, and forging an environment without barriers, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and more.
At Ohmyhome, we have always been very fair in our hiring process and the grooming of key members to leadership positions, based on merits, not gender.
We believe in championing diversity, and have built a workplace culture inclusive of women, whether single or with children. When we remove the stigma that mothers of young children face in the workplace, they are able to express themselves fully as a person – a professional, a mum, a wife, a friend, a daughter. I believe that a lot of women are stronger and more capable than they think they are. What we can do is to provide them with the right guidance and encouragement.
Who inspires you?
My sister, Race.
We have definitely come a long way since we first launched Ohmyhome. Obstacles are expected, hard work is a given, and Race has never faltered. Her resilience and perseverance are outstanding — we inspire one another to grow Ohmyhome into a company that we can be proud of every day.
What are some lessons you've learnt from the entrepreneurial experience?
Kindness, empathy, generosity. We’ve been given so much, we need to use our lives to be useful to the world. Work is only meaningful when there’s a positive impact on people’s lives. I’ve also learnt to face each set of challenges with calm and poise so that I can be a steady beacon for my team.
Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Before getting started, one should study the market demand, the size of the potential market, the existing solutions in the market, and the longevity of the business. Also, research on funding possibilities and ensure that you have a good team to start with.