Tyson Yuk and Angeline Ding began their careers in different industries. They met in high school and immediately hit it off as a young couple. Eventually, they decided to get married and start a family. It’s been a long and difficult journey, as they will be the first to tell you. But they’ve come a long way since then, finding their calling, and ultimately their success, in real estate sales and management. Things have changed for the better, they’ve been able to learn and grow together in an industry that has been good to them and allowed them to provide a comfortable living for their family.
Despite the obstacles presented by the pandemic and multiple circuit breakers, the couple managed to secure over S$50 million in sales from their overseas investors. This was accomplished despite the investors not being able to view the property in person due to the border closure. Tyson’s forte is finding undervalued property and polishing it into a real estate gem. Top 10 of Asia had a good fortune recently to speak to the couple about their inspiring story. Find out more in the interview below of a tale of determination and success against the odds.
1. Could you share with us briefly about yourself and your background?
My wife and I have known each other since our school days. We married young and now we have 3 children, my first daughter and son are in school and the younger one is 5 years old. Angeline was initially working as an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines and I was a personal trainer at a gym. As a personal trainer, my career expanded until I became Regional Fitness Director at the Planet Fitness chain, Singapore. I was overseeing 6 mega gyms and managing over 100 trainers.
Later on, I decided to pursue a certificate in Strategic Wealth Management from the Global Academy of Finance and I am certified in Data Science for real estate from MIT School of Architecture.
2. Could you tell us how you got into real estate?
Angeline moved into real estate because she wanted to spend more time with the family. As a stewardess, she was not able to fly when she was pregnant. So, when she was expecting our first child, that was the turning point in her life when she decided to quit flying and find something grounded. She realised that as a real estate agent, she has the flexibility to work and still be a parent and homemaker. That was important to her, that she could contribute financially as well as be a mother to our kids.
In the beginning, it was challenging and Angeline was struggling, so I decided to help her out with some contacts. I established a list of contacts as a personal trainer, some clients have become friends. Some were ultra-high net worth individuals and they preferred exclusive service. So we started to work together and there was a synergy between us, so eventually, I decided to join real estate full time.
We have been doing this for a decade now and real estate is part of our life now. We really enjoy the work, and the relationships we built and to see our foreign clients feel comfortable and happy in Singapore is fulfilling.
3. What were your hopes and vision going into the real estate business?
Honestly, when we started off in real estate we just wanted to make sure we had some income for taking care of our growing family. We did not anticipate becoming wealthy immediately. Obviously, our vision is to achieve a comfortable life for our kids, so they can have a good education and a spacious home.
We joined PropNex, this company held a bright future in Southeast Asia. Our boss is a very humble person, he has a classic rag to riches story and that has made him humble and appreciative. I would say he is an incredible mentor and a role model for me. I appreciate everything he and the company does for us.
4. What do you think has contributed most to your success thus far?
I would say the willingness to learn, accumulate knowledge and also lead and mentor others. I always consider myself more of an advisor rather than a broker. This allows me to assist my clients to achieve the best possible deal when it comes to purchasing a property. As an effective advisor, I must know the needs of my client. So, I pride myself to have this human connection. Once I know their needs, then I can advise them and help them to transform a piece of undervalued real estate into a valuable property. I also ensure that my clients stay away from the murky waters of commercial real estate and legal red tape.
In addition, Angeline and I always work as a team to make sure we do everything possible to make our clients happy. That sometimes includes overseeing renovation work, cleaning the property, and interior fixtures, and fitting in a tenant as well.
For example, when we sold the shophouse at Arab Street, we also found a tenant to fit into that particular shophouse. It works best for both parties since the investor was a foreigner from China, and Covid-19 restricted them to travel to Singapore. So, we had to step in and assist him to find a new tenant. We overlooked all the details from point of sale to the opening of the retail outlet.
5. Tell us more about your particular niche in the industry.
In my opinion, my niche is looking for undervalued properties that can be transformed into very valuable spaces. It’s like finding a raw diamond and then cutting it to bring out the sparkle and create a beautiful space in the end.
Angeline on the other hand is natural at connecting with people. She makes sure that the client has what they need and that their property goes through the needed renovations and adjustments to become a comfortable home. By doing so, the property becomes a safe haven for the family that will soon live there. These new homeowners are normally also foreigners so we do take extra effort to make sure they feel at home in Singapore.
6. Tell us about some of the milestones you have achieved.
There are a few milestones we achieved, one of them is, that we managed to secure some SGD$50 million, approximately RM150 million in transactions from our overseas clients. This actually took place during the Covid-19 restrictions period. It was a challenging time since our clients couldn’t physically travel here to see the properties. However, through video calls and virtual tours, we were able to communicate with the clients and gain their trust as well as secure the deals.
7. What were some of the most notable challenges you have faced?
Back in 2008, during the Lehman Brothers crisis, I lost all the life savings that I had invested in stocks and shares. I even lost an insurance legacy that my late mum had left for me. It was definitely a dark time for me, depressed we also were having our second child on the way. I lost my mom to cancer and this was heartbreaking for me because she was the only parent I had and was very dear to me. My mom single handed-ly brought me up, she worked 2 jobs. I wanted to give back for all she did, so I was working all the time. I regret that move because I didn’t spend enough time with her.
To make matters worse, I also lost my capital at a business venture I was part of. This venture failed and I was in debt. It was a hard phase to go through in my life. This was a hard learning curve in my life. So, with all the strength I could summon up, I picked myself up and moved forward. I started to redefine the meaning of success in my life. Angeline was always a pillar of strength, and I have to say I wouldn’t be here if it was not for her patience and support.
8. How would you describe your management and leadership styles?
Yes, in Propnex I was managing my own team, we started the Propnex Luxury division. I was training new agents on how to serve high net-worth clients. Conventionally we are a sales team, with clients’ best interests at our heart. My style is easy, I just set some achievable goals and give them direction to achieve them. They need to be creative and if they have any issues or questions my door is always open. Everything can be discussed and settled in a calm manner, I believe in meritocracy and this has worked so far.
9. What do you envision the business to be in five or ten years’ time?
Real estate is going to be here for a long time to come, the market is quite stable. The prices in Singapore are still compatible, it is a hub for business in Southeast Asia. We notice that like the report from CBRE says that Singapore has been chosen in 2020 & 2021 to be the Top 3 cities to invest in properties in Asia. These kinds of reports give us confidence that there is still room for the market to grow.
As we are leaving the pandemic behind and international borders are opening again, we do feel foreign investors will be interested to explore properties in Southeast Asia or Singapore in particular. Look, everyone needs a home to stay in and business needs an office to keep working, retail and restaurants are needed. If you talk about e-commerce booming then there is a need for warehouses. Being connected to the internet means you need space for server farms and data centres. So all these are interconnected to real estate.
10. How do you achieve a balance between your professional and personal life?
I feel that my professional life and my personal life are very much interrelated. I have learned to make smart business decisions and I have learned to become a role model to my children and my wife. I have the support of Angeline to overlook the matters at home. She is a wonderful mom to our kids. I give her all the credit for being a pillar of strength and always being there for me when I need her. She also works, perhaps that is why real estate is a good choice for women, it gives them flexibility and freedom to work and also still maintain being a homemaker.
I am a firm believer in technology and constant change is good for the real estate industry. Innovation is something that definitely helps me to balance my work life. Technology has changed the way we do things and made things easier for all of us. Especially when we were under restrictions due to Covid-19, we worked from home and it was a good experience. We need to admit that, without all these innovators and start-ups we will be stuck with hours of work and miss out on living our life.
11. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in life?
Having a loving wife and three lovely kids is the best achievement. Providing them with a comfortable life is my main role, being a good role model and dad to them. All the achievements financially or career-wise only is important when my family is happy together. Their happiness is my greatest achievement.
12. What advice would you give to young people hoping to follow in your footsteps?
I have been through many ups and downs in my life and always try my best to move forward. For younger ones, we must remember that connections are very important and that family comes first. In order to succeed, we need to stay humble and grounded. Also, do not let the opinions of others affect your decision or limit who you are. You must know your true value. True success is about paying it forward and knowing how to create value in others.