A father suffering
hard times finds it hard to pay for his daughter's
education overseas. The father asked me for a small loan
of $5,000 to pay for his daughter's tuition fees. He said he would pay me
back two months later. I rejected him because I had
helped him several times and he had not returned any
money to me. He persevered. Compassion Fatigue
sets in when interest-free loans to help a friend in
financial distress are forgotten over the years.
An overseas undergraduate law education costs around A$150,000.
The daughter had excellent A-level grades but the 3As could not
qualify her to study law in Singapore. 4As would qualify
and save the father a lot of financial stress.
She was therefore a "victim
of circumstances" and deserved a helping hand. The father's
salary was insufficient to support her overseas. The
father said to me: "My wife asks me to tell you we eat
I just could not believe my ears but
it was probably true. He was the type of father who
would "beg, steal of borrow" to ensure that his
two children would have sufficient funds to receive
tuition and graduate. A university degree opens
the door to a brighter future. The father had never got
a university education and he could see that graduates
becoming his boss in his company despite their lack of
relevant experience for the job.
The daughter was the apple of his eye and she had the brains to
be accepted by a top University in Australia to study
law. So he got her enrolled first and look for money
3 As were not good enough
to study law in Singapore as there were many young
people with 4As
applying for the law, medical and accountancy courses. This
victim of circumstances must be one lucky young lady
as many fathers simply tell the bright progeny that
there is no money to study in a subject the latter is
"How's her studies?" I asked the father. I
wanted to assess whether this girl
deserved financial help from me. It is just that the
father has so many bills to pay and my small loan may
not be used as intended. "Is she getting high
distinctions? Is she passing all her examinations?"
The father said: "She is a good girl. She does not
go out partying and getting drunk like one of her
classmates." This was not the answer I expected. But I
did not pursue further as I expected a girl with 3As to
pass her undergraduate examinations knowing that her
sole breadwinner father had much financial distress to
I don't know how
this father is going to support her to graduation. As a
Singapore lawyer, she would make big bucks as there is a shortfall
of lawyers in Singapore.
But the road to graduation is
now full of financial pot holes. The father could
downgrade by selling off the condo and rent a place for
the time being. But there was an enbloc sale prospect
and he would lose a lot of money. In enbloc sales, the
property developer pays a premium price for the
"What happen to your real estate income over the
past years?" I asked. This
father had an inborn excellent marketing skills and
could close cases unlike many realtors in Singapore. His
employer was the compassionate type and permitted him to
do real estate work to supplement his income. This was a
rare type of employer in Singapore.
When he started as a part-time realtor with my company
in 2005, he was grossing $100,000 in agency
commissions handling the internet expatriate rental
cases referred by me. He needed loans frequently to pay
for his debts. After a year, I could no
longer afford to give him loans as he borrowed more than
he earned. You would assume that
an agent earning $100,000 part-time would not need loans
from anybody. But he needed more. So I had to cut him
off. I was haemorrhaging badly as his loans exceeded his
income and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Compassion from friends and acquaintance cannot be not
After 5 years, the father needed A$5,000 to pay for his
daughter's accommodation. "Why don't you close some real
estate cases?" I asked. It is easier said than done as
he has to work full-time. His employer was still
compassionate as long as he did his job competently and
efficiently. This he did for the past 30 years in the
same firm but his income was at a maximum for his
position. He was not a graduate and I presumed the firm
did not promote him further or found that he was not
He just dared not become self-employed as a realtor as
income could be variable. He could be a hero for earning
$100,000 a year - 3 times his salary. But he could be a
vagabond when recession kicked in as it did in 2008. So,
he did not strike out on his own as he had children in
school. Which was a pity as I
know he could do very well in real estate. Real estate
is where the money is if you excel. Veterinary medicine
and surgery give you a steady small income but if you
want to be wealthy, get into the hot seat of real
"My wife says that I am lucky when I work together with
you," the father reminded me. Certainly he did perform
as $100,000 in 2005 with me was not
peanuts. "Do you have a case where we can work
together?" I asked him. "If you close that case, you
would be able to earn some money for your daughter's
accommodation fees." He has a good network and should
have some clients.
"I have a condo which the owner asks me to sell at $3.3
million or rent at $10,000 per month."
"That's great." I said. "Have you advertised this
property in the Straits Times?"
The father said: "The Tenant's agent prohibits viewing.
He makes it very difficult making various excuses."
"So you did not advertise in the Straits Times?" I
inferred. "Straits Times advertisements still are the
best way. I had over 10 phone calls a day when I
advertised an HDB apartment for resale recently. Did you
advertise in the Straits Times? The tenancy is in its
last month. You ought to be advertising to secure a
buyer or tenant before the lease expires."
Advertising 1 month prior to the expiry of the lease is
the professional way to practise real estate in the
interest of the realtor and the owner.
An apparently obstructive incumbent Tenant or protective
Tenant's agent was no excuse, in my opinion. The owner
had entrusted him with the property and he ought to do
what was the right thing to do. I sensed that something
was not right. Was there more to it than the behaviour
of the Tenant's agent in repelling all appointments? The
Tenant's agent had to be present for viewing as the
Tenant was a multi-national. This Tenant's agent would
have no financial income just by being present and
therefore it was possible that he would delay or prevent
viewings, attributing the rejection to the Tenant's
I enquired about the type and location of the property
the father was given exclusive marketing. The 2009
recession had passed by but the upscale $10,000 -
$20,000 rental market was not booming. There was
considerable interest in buying new property
developments and not this 3-year-old condo.
"I will pay for the Straits Times Advertisements 2 to 3
times a week if you will split 50:50 on a successful
outcome," I said. Advertisement of 3-lines cost around
S$35.00/insert. It would be money down the drain if
there was no response.
I advertised the property for sale at $3.45 million for
the first week on a Wednesday and a Saturday. Not even
one phone call. During the second week, there was only
one phone call from an agent of a prospective buyer. The
father made the appointment for the prospective buyer's wife to view. A second viewing with the husband
was made two days later. "This case will close," the
happy father said as the couple had asked about bank
"Well, don't count your chickens before the eggs are
hatched. The prospective buyer's wife was practically
selling the advantages of the property to the husband
during the viewing." I did not want to dampen the spirits of this
father. He was a real estate veteran and now he had had
unbridled optimism. I had stopped the newspaper advertisements as I did not
want to throw good money away as the phone call response
had been very poor. Money down the drain.
Several days passed. The eggs did not hatch. The tenancy
would expire in 10 days. The owner texted saying that he
would need a tenant to defray his mortgage loans. I
placed 4 advertisements to rent over two weeks. Only 3 enquiries. I was pessimistic. It was my
advertisement money down the drain. Nowadays, I don't do
large Straits Times advertisement for properties as I
find that they seldom effective. Many realtors now resort to mass-texting their properties for
rent or sale as I received at least two per day on my
A victim of circumstances need the money.
Of the 3 rental enquiries to my mobile phone, two
prospective tenants with the budget of $12,000 rental
wanted to view the apartment on Friday at 2.30 pm. The Tenant's agent was
creating obstacles saying the Occupant prohibited
viewing during her last week of tenancy. The Occupant would vacate the property in 3
"So, what are you going to do?" I asked the father. He
suggested waiting as the Tenant's Agent rejected him. I suspected that the Tenant's
Agent had no time to be present on this Friday 2.30 pm
viewing and therefore said that the Tenant would not
permit viewing. This is because there was no financial
incentive for the Tenant's Agent to close. Not a dime.
So why should he oblige?
"You don't wait in real estate," I admonished the father
gently. He was a very patient man not prone to raise his
voice or get angry during our encounters. A
smooth-talking guy? "These two prospects have the budget.
No other phone queries. Do something."
But what could the father do? He phoned the Tenant's
Agent and the owner but his head was butting against a brick wall.
So he suggested that we wait for the Occupant to vacate
the properties in 3 days' time as he would have the keys
to the condo.
Now, there were two interested qualified prospective
Was there a solution to this problem? I had to think.
Yes, there was one. I said to the father, "Is there not
a clause in the tenancy agreement that the Tenant is to
permit viewing of properties for rental or sale?"
"Yes," the father said.
"What happens if the Tenant breach the terms and
conditions of the tenancy agreement? Will he have to pay
penalties to the Landlord for loss of income?" I
didn't have to state that the Landlord could deduct from
the rental deposit and litigate for loss of income due
to the Tenant's breach. The Tenant's Agent had to be
given notice now and he should know how to advise his
client early. He would lose his multi-national client if
he was inert. However, the father had to know what to do
without me telling him.
The father texted a message to the Tenant's Agent, c.c.
to me. It read as follows:
"There is a
prospective tenant willing to pay 11K fr the aptmt
n yr tenant is deprivd my owner opportunity to
show the aptmt this is breach of the terms n
conditions of the tenancy agmt thanks."
Tenant's Agent permitted a viewing on Saturday 10.30 am
instead of Friday 2.30 pm. Well, that was a chance now.
I spent around $380 for the
newspaper advertisements and there
was a successful outcome. One of the expatriates rented the property
The commission for the father
would be $5,500 less $380 and
divided by two. This amounted to
$2,560. It is a sum not to be
sniggered at as the father earns
that amount in a month as an
This is an incredible but true
story. It has a happy ending as I
had only 2 qualified prospects
from 4 rental advertisements
placed over 10 days. Time is of
the essence in real estate. Strike
while the iron is hot. Life is
full of hurdles to jump across. Be
a case. Performance counts when
the chips are down and the father
is kind to this father
if you believe in Divine Powers
and not just luck. The rental
market for rentals over $10,000 is
not a big market as most
expatriates are usually given much
less rentals as companies are just
recovering from the 2008 - 2009
very happy for this
young lady whom I have never met. The laws of real
estate contract applied by her
father's text message had helped
her as the case was closed soon
after the viewing.
she would study very hard and get High Distinctions.
Lately, I know of a Singaporean
who failed his first year at
Murdoch University and came home.
His sister had paid for his
studies and he had failed. This
was not good for the airline cabin
crew sister who
worked so hard.
Overseas undergraduates whose
parents and family members have
"apparently" no problems to
finance their overseas studies
must note that they have a rare
opportunity to better themselves
through education. Though they may
not aim to get High Distinctions,
passing their examinations and
graduating will be the least they
can do for their parents and for
For this girl whose parents live
hand to mouth just to ensure that
she can graduate, she just need to
work much harder. To get the top
grades in law school and she will
have the doors of top legal firms
open widely for her upon