The Internet has changed the way we communicate, interact and learn. It has embedded itself in almost every household, produced new industries, transformed existing ones and become a global cultural phenomenon.
The new generation of consumers and investors, savvy and well read, flock online in search of free information,seeking and demanding articulate answers to their questions.
With so many turning to the Internet for information, there has been a change in the property purchasing trend. Property websites and forums have been drawing much interest and attention. Online forums that have appeared on the scene in recent years include lowyat.net, pjnet.my, realestate123.com and thinkproperty.com.my.
However, some of these forums, though popular, are not focused and do not provide answers that are detailed enough for the more savvy investor. With this in mind, two investors decided to start an online forum in July last year, focusing on property investment. They named it propertywtf.com.my.
Although relatively new, the forum has attracted the interest of property buyers and investors seeking information, deals and opportunities for their next investment.
As at May 15, the forum had garnered 1,465 members and 21,861 posts, covering some 633 topics. The founders are planning to register the forum as a company soon. They have even received a buyout offer from a popular online property website group, which the founders declined to name.
The forum’s founders recently decided to bring together property investors, comprising mainly the forum’s members, to set up an informal “Online Property Investor Network”. It held its first gathering on April 29.
Another larger event, dubbed OPIN2.0, is being planned for the anniversary of the forum’s launch on July 29.
City & Country caught up with the two founders of propertywtf.com recently. They want to remain anonymous, preferring to be known as X and Y in line with the nature of the online forum. Members can remain anonymous or not use their real names to protect their privacy, online identity and full-time jobs. Y is a highly qualified professional while X is a businessman.
So, what does WTF stand for? The founders, probably used to the question, chuckle. “I guess we have a cheeky side. Obviously, we wanted a fun and catchy name that would stick. After much discussion, we decided to go with propertywtf mainly because we like the idea of what it stands for: ‘Property — what, where, when to find,” says Y.
What makes this online forum different is that it offers its members deals — bulk purchases that are obtained directly from the developers — thus eliminating the agents.
“We noticed a trend [in bulk purchases] picking up in the last two to three years. Being forumers ourselves, we realised that there wasn’t enough focused and quality discussions on property in the other forums, which are basically a convergence of all topics imaginable,” explains Y.
propertywtf.com.my also offers insights into new launches while various stakeholders in the industry, such as lawyers, architects, engineers, bankers and developer representatives, share their expertise and viewpoints.
With so many parties involved, how do the administrators moderate the site? “Well, we won’t say it is easy to moderate a forum as we don’t want to impede freedom of speech. We just need to remind investors that every project has its pros and cons, and in a forum, we value and encourage open discussion and constructive criticism,” says X.
In cases where the posts are racist, derogatory or offensive, the administrators do not hesitate to ban the user’s account based on the IP address. The users can also file a complaint against other forumers for spamming or flaming.
So, what’s in it for the forum founders? “Well, for one, we are able to attain deals and offers because of our ties with the developers. Basically, we are facilitating a network of buyers. Unlike marketers, we put our money where our mouth is — we are seasoned investors ourselves. Hence, we have a vested interest in the properties that we feature. By working directly with the developers, we are able to get good rates and better located lots.”
“The bulk purchasing trend is something that is happening and here to stay. If you know there’s a network of investors, join the network la,” X says. He adds, however, that they do occasionally deal and work with the exclusive agents of the developers.
Groups of investors who met through the forum have gathered in small numbers all over town for teh tarik sessions, which spurred them to organise OPIN. “We found that through networking, some forumers met people who eventually became their mentors. Based on their track records, one can trust the judgement of certain people who are naturally talented at spotting good buys and investing in the right places.”
Forum member Lee, a petite 27-year-old who works at a multinational oil and gas company, claims to have acquired seven houses since she started following online forums. Chan, a middle-aged forumer who works in a biotechnology company, says he has made “quite a few” good homebuying decisions since he started participating in the online forums.
The founders of propertywtf.com.my say the maiden OPIN event (see sidebar) saw a better-than-expected turnout.
“We prepared the exact number of seats for 45 confirmed and pre-selected attendees, who consisted of our most active forumers. However, close to 70 turned up. So, looking ahead, we hope to secure a private venue as well as some sponsors.”
As for expansion, “we have been getting traffic from the neighbouring countries, so who knows, we might just expand there”, Y declares. His partner nods, saying that though they rejected a buyout offer from another site, they are open to joint-venture opportunities in the future.
Good turnout at OPIN1.0
City & Country was invited to the maiden gathering of OPIN at a cosy but bustling coffee house to join the group of forumers who decided to venture out from behind their computer screens on a warm Sunday afternoon. They comprised a mix of wide-eyed yuppies to silver-haired investors.
After a brief introduction to the forum’s website, property investor and director of Platinum Property Ventures Sdn Bhd, Kam Wei Tsung, took the mike.
Kam, who was a speaker at The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate in 2009, is known for his property investment acumen, having acquired 24 residential properties and RM8.3 million worth of commercial properties within three years.
He shared his personal experience of how he dabbled in property investing before stumbling on the idea and opportunity of bulk purchasing.
The second speaker was the forum’s resident columnist Faizul Ridzuan, who wrote the attention-grabbing book WTF? 23 properties by 30, which is currently on the local bestseller’s lists at MPH and Kinokuniya.
He confidently went through several topics, including trends, opportunities, loopholes and what to do going forward.
The event wrapped up with a preview of an upcoming condominium project, which will be located close to the second Penang bridge. The organisers refused to name the project and its developer. Prices are tentatively at a very affordable RM200,000 to RM300,000.
Also spotted at the OPIN gathering were two developers with projects in Cyberjaya who said they were there as they were interested in understanding and learning more about the new online investing trend.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 911, May 21-27, 2012
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