In this exclusive interview, Celeste Loh, an entrepreneur and a mother of five, shares the secrets to her rapid success in the world of property. Explaining that her extensive experience in high-end hospitality has boosted her talents as a realtor, she discusses how the unique service-oriented approach she has adopted during her time in the trade has resulted in countless profitable transactions, delighting clients — and capturing headlines.
Earlier this year, Celeste made news when she sealed a $1.12 million deal on a second-floor, original pre-war Tiong Bahru apartment, which fetched a remarkable $1,084 psf. A few agents tried and gave up, but Celeste’s abilities and determination paid off. It took Celeste 15 months to successfully seal the deal at a record price. During this time she displayed tenacity and confidence in the value of the apartment, despite there only being 42 years left on the leasehold. “I’m convinced this unit will prove an excellent investment for the buyer, just as it has for the previous owner,” she says.
Recounting experiences from her own early days as a young investor, Celeste recalls, “I initially got exposed to property at the age of 21 when I bought my first HDB. My father was always telling me, as soon as you can afford it, buy property.” Tracing her path to becoming a property professional, she explains that while she got her real estate license more than a decade ago, she didn’t become an agent full-time until more recently.
Turning Adversity into Opportunity
Celeste’s story is a terrific example of adaptability in the face of unexpected challenges, turning adversities into opportunities. She explains that up until 2020, she’d been running a successful consulting and training business in the hospitality industry, worked for hundreds of hotels across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa as well as teaching as part-time lecturer at local polytechnics.
“However, when the COVID pandemic hit and the hospitality business crashed, I had to replace the significant income that I’d lost. So I decided to put my real estate license to use,” she says. “I’ve been working full-time in the real estate business for three years now, and from day 1, I have leveraged my background in hospitality and my consulting experience to help clients with their property needs.”
Celeste says challenging negotiations are par for the course in real estate. “My approach to negotiation is rooted in client-centricity and responsible value proposition,” she explains. “When I am entrusted by my clients to sell their properties, I set a price with them that we believe in and don’t easily compromise. Instead of techniques, I focus on presenting the value of the property on behalf of my clients. I believe in negotiating based on the property’s worth, not lowering the price just for the sake of closing a deal. Anyone can do that. My clients choose to work with me because they know that I always have their best interests at heart!”
Negotiation and Co-operation
She advocates a principled, steadfast approach to negotiation. “I remain confident in the value I present and strive to help potential buyers/investors understand the true worth of a property. When a less favourable offer is made, I work hard to educate the buyer on the property’s values, which often leads to a better understanding and ultimately a more fitting offer.”
In Celeste’s opinion, “Price should be the last consideration in the negotiation process, not the first.” She negotiates in a way where both buyer and vendor feel they’ve reached a fair and equitable agreement.
In Real Estate, Relationships are Key
Celeste’s interpersonal skills help set her apart from the pack. “My ability to connect with people is a key factor,” she notes. “I make clients feel comfortable and positive, even in challenging situations. I believe in leading with purpose and influencing people for their benefit. My extensive network and business background also play a significant role in my success.”
It’s often said that your network is your net worth, and that certainly rings true for Celeste. “I’d built really strong contacts as a solopreneur, working as a hospitality consultant, and those relationships remained with me when I made the shift into real estate,” she says. Her knack for connecting with people and being trustworthy and consistent have been the key to her accomplishments in the industry.
Fostering empathy with her clients and sensitively guiding them through what can be an enormously stressful experience is one of the best things a real estate agent can do for their clients, Celeste believes. Of course, financial savvy is equally vital. “The people person that I am helps but it means nothing to my clients if the numbers don’t add up. For this reason, I rely on facts and data because it complements the emotional aspects of my clients’ experience perfectly,” she says.
“Especially when it comes to own-stay properties, clients can be very emotional. But it is essential to balance emotions with financial considerations in real estate,” she emphasises. “While emotions are important, I help clients find a balance. I believe that it is possible to achieve both the emotional and financial goals for my clients. With the right conversation and a sincere appreciation for your clients’ aspirations and concerns, they would never be forced to choose between either set of goals.”
Profit from Personal Experience
Celeste’s own personal experiences as an investor influence the way she advises and services. “After buying my first HDB flat at 21, later I upgraded to provide a better environment for my family,” she recounts. “I’ve experienced buying and selling a number of properties over the years, and this has taught me the importance of not getting attached to a property,” she says.
Celeste laughs. “My husband hates it, because he doesn’t like change, he doesn’t like relocating, but when you’ve made your profit, you have to sell a property and move on! There’s no use sitting in a gold mine and not doing anything with it. That’s what I advise clients, to view properties as investments and be open to change when needed or when it makes good financial sense.
Just as she has done during her journey as a home-owner and property investor, Celeste encourages her clients to look at properties pragmatically — to see them as investments, not emotional attachments. “I believe there’s no such thing as a ‘forever house,’” she asserts. “It’s better to view properties as assets that can be bought and sold strategically to achieve financial goals. It’s essential to be adaptable and not overly attached to a single property.” Clients must approach real estate with a strategic mindset, Celeste says.
Similarly, her own personal experiences add dimension to the way Celeste deals with families and their property needs. “I’m a mother of five — I must be crazy, being a mother of five in Singapore, right?! But that has taught me what I call my Three Rs: responsibility, resilience, and the importance of reputation,” she reflects.
Celeste says, “Taking care of a bigger family is never smooth sailing for me. The daily demands, the never-ending needs, the nagging concern that I may fail my children if I do not do well; these can be overwhelming if I do not put them in their rightful places.” Yet, with the support of family, friends, bosses and clients, Celeste says, “I have turned these challenges into growth opportunities.”
Finding the Courage to Overcome Obstacles
In Celeste’s view, challenges can be a source of courage. “I have learnt that it takes more courage to own up to our responsibilities than to give up,” she says. “That in turn powers me to stay on course when the going gets tough. When I live like this consistently enough, this builds a reputation of trust which is the ultimate ingredient, not only to do the unpopular but needful things for my clients, but also to sustain any long-term relationship.”
Contrasting the client-agent relationship with parenthood, Celeste says, “As a realtor, we are not the heroes, the customers are. But in a family setting, parents tend to be the hero to their family, striving to provide the best nurturing environment and life to their loved-ones. Good parents are real heroes.” An agent has an awesome responsibility to their client, just as a parent does to their child. “For both, if you make the wrong move, you can give them a terrible setback,” Celeste says. “But if you do the right things, you can set them up for a great life ahead.”
In Property, Time is of the Essence
If you’re wondering how best to move forward in your real estate journey, don’t hesitate to contact Celeste for a casual, no-obligation discussion of the potential options for you and your family. Visit Celeste’s website or call / WhatsApp +65 9770 0775
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