99.co’s Agent Success Stories: Navin Bafna, the math genius crafting the way for future real estate agents
In this series entitled Agent Success Stories, we sit down with agency leaders to find out their side of the story. From their humble beginnings to the challenges they have faced on the road to success, we learn that a career in the real estate industry is one filled with boundless opportunities – if you know where to look.
Navin Bafna, Associate Division Director takes on the real estate industry using a completely different approach. With a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), he offers his clients unique value with ground-up marketing research and financial literacy. Over the years, he has become amongst the most reputable names in the commercial real estate industry as a top-notch commercial broker and trainer, with more than 250+ transactions and more than half a billion dollars (SGD) worth in transactions over the last 8 years of his career.
From a young age, Navin had taken an interest in numbers and went on to achieve his MBA degree with a major in investment banking. With his qualifications, he was able to secure well-paying jobs in his native country. He eventually decided to settle down in Singapore to set up a family office for a multinational corporation as a Group Representative in Southeast Asia.
As someone who enjoyed applying his financial literacy skills, Navin stumbled upon a gap within the property industry. As an expert in numbers, he saw the need for the property industry to have someone who understands tax regimes and macro-economics well. To prove this hypothesis, he began analysing Singapore’s real estate industry and engaged in market research during his free time. He pitched his completed research to his friends, who were blown away by his findings and analyses. He found this approach to be very effective in stoking people’s interest in properties. Some of these friends who were privy to his research even went on to get properties as recommended by him.
In 2011, at the young age of 28, he left his stable, high income job as a Director to register as a qualified real estate agent. Since then, he has won PropNex Top 20 over the last 8 years, and achieved “Champion Commercial Property Transactor” in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Using numbers to bring his A-game
As a foreigner, Navin found himself struggling from the lack of network support when he first started out in the industry. To push for sales, he made it a point to increase his closure rate and relied heavily on numbers and research to close as many transactions as possible. Things took an turn when the government announced a revision of the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) in 2013, which mandated that Singaporeans pay additional taxes when purchasing their second property.
Unlike other agents who got discouraged by the introduction of ABSD, Navin saw an opportunity in favour of commercial real estate and decided to shift his focus.
Carving a niche in high-end residential and commercial properties, Navin understood the importance of speaking the same lingo as his corporate clientele. He knew the way to convince them would be via their language and that property decisions were driven mostly by an investment mindset. That is also why he makes extra effort to hone his understanding of capital gains and tax structures by engaging in both retail and on-the-ground research.
Unlike most agents, Navin also takes time daily to study the newspapers and other publications to better understand market trends. Tapping on to his existing knowledge, he often finds himself coming up with hypotheses about the property investment market and would strengthen them with research before pitching to clients.
With every client he engages, Navin prioritises core-level research over meeting a mere sales objective. Priding himself in serving with honesty, integrity and sincerity, Navin believes in convincing clients with hard data and would only propose property buys that he was convinced would be good investments.
He even went the extra mile to create an app, Singapore Commercial Space, to ease the process for clients to search for commercial properties on the go. With the app, clients are able to see listings containing information ranging from price, floor area, price per square foot (psf) and even car parking charges to make their search process a much easier one.
Navin’s years of experience and research-driven approach has worked to his advantage. His constant need to challenge himself and his affinity for numbers has allowed him to adopt an increasingly macro understanding of the economy. As someone with foresight, he is able to advise his clients ten steps ahead and often reminds them not to equate the least expensive property to being most profitable–a common pitfall for many investors.
To Navin, he believes his role is in guiding his buyers to be opportunity driven, compared to impulsively buying the cheapest unit. He cites the example of expensive shophouses and how only by adding value would there be more opportunities and a spike in greater profitability. “When speaking to bigger clients, you need to speak the same language: ROE and ROI. It is an entirely different thought process. After a while, when you become equipped with the basics of financial literacy and market research, helping a client make profit becomes a technical formula with definite results.”
Becoming the man he is today
Navin was a born with a severe stammering problem and stammered for the most of his childhood leading up to his teenage years. Throughout his academic years, even though he was often the brightest kid in class and could do no wrong with numbers, he struggled with presentations. To overcome that, he doubled his efforts to improve his speech. It was no easy journey but his desire to become a better version of himself pushed Navin to overcome his speech issues. Today, he is one of the most engaging speakers/trainers you will find in the industry.
PropNex, the agency Navin is in, has also played a crucial role in his success. He is thankful for PropNex’s open and accepting culture. “Regardless of which department you are in, everyone is always watching out for one another,” he affirms. He cites examples of the support he was given as a new agent: a colleague in PropNex who barely knew him travelled across Singapore to pass him a physical copy of a commercial Option to Purchase.
By starting his new agent journey in PropNex, Navin not only found himself grateful for the camaraderie, but also for the supportive networks where he could easily reach consultants whenever he needed guidance. “If not for PNG [one of the top Divisions in Propnex], I may not have succeeded. Success is about the people who make you succeed. You are just lucky to be helped by others. I am lucky. Now, having been helped before, I want to help others. This is why I’ve decided to build a team of my own–with agents who are driven and hungry to make a change.”
Conducting trainings to spread his knowledge and love for numbers
Navin has earned his reputation in commercial real estate through his excellent sales record as well as the grooming of many well-known agents who have successfully made their mark today. During his training, he dives into the ongoing commercial office segment and shares tips on identifying profitable opportunities for agents to help value-add to their clients.
Navin also reminds those under his wing to stay rooted to their true objective of placing the client first. “Whenever someone thinks about investment, many people tend to venture towards residential as they perceive commercial investment sales as a ‘big boys’ game. That is not true,” he clarified. “Real estate is not just about lead generation and closing a deal but understanding how to add value to the client with a concrete entry and exit plan. By addressing the clients’ needs, a mutually beneficial relationship can develop; not only will the client be happy, the agent will witness sales growth and personal fulfilment.”
Through Navin’s training, agents are able to learn more about investment sales market predominantly in the CBD. He emphasises the importance of engaging in market research alongside segmentation of the target audience. Only by doing so will an agent be able to plan and propose strategies according to the needs of their clients. He believes it is essential for every agent to be versatile and understand how to interact with different groups of people, in particular private bankers and wealth managers who form a bulk of their target audience.
To Navin, properties are huge investment decisions and it is essential for agents to have basic financial literacy and ability to engage in market research to help take it up another notch for success. He pushes his students to understand the quantifiable statistics of every office building, such as how many transactions are made per year, the grading of the building and analysing the tenant mix. He prompts them to dive deeper into data and feel the ground to add greater value compared to the “wait for a call” and “let me show you” agent who makes the majority of the real estate agent population. By doing so, they will be able to differentiate themselves and pave a road to success.
Becoming the future stars of Real Estate
As Singaporean agents, Navin asserts that agents need to recognise the huge potential in the investment sales domain that is currently monopolised by consultancies and challenge the status quo. He believes with digitalisation and AI, technology is changing the way society interact and learn. He prompt agents in his team to take the initiative and make use of the high availability of resources online and offline to develop their strengths in order to take on the bigger consultancies.
Navin believes that agents need to make strategic changes in how they conduct their business in the coming decade. “The market is becoming increasingly convoluted as the future of Singapore property lies in the hands of more than 30,000 agents. With the help of technology, there is less of a distinction between a good or a not-so-good agent. The gap becomes narrowed,” he shares. “You will need to learn the art of interacting using technology, become an analyst to spot good deals and master the art of negotiation. With just these 3 components, you will be all set to become the future stars of the real estate industry!”
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This content was originally published here.