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Chantel Teo, The Romantic Pragmatic Realtor

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

In the blink of an eye, the 2-month circuit breaker has finally come to an end. The circuit breaker was an excellent time for recalibration and self-improvement. I was really grateful for the time to reflect and improve.

During the circuit breaker, I decided to commit to a routine of workout including burpees. Here's my exercise log during this circuit breaker.

What motivated me to push through?

I was (still am) determined to cultivate the best version of myself and I know physical fitness is the most fundamental place to start.

To me being the best version of myself is important, because I recognize that when I am a better version of myself, I can execute the ideas and plans that I otherwise will not have the confidence and courage to do.

For example, starting this website is something that I had wanted to do since 10 years ago. A friend joked that it takes a world crisis, for me to launch my website.

In this post, I like to share my story of why I choose to become a real estate agent (realtor).

Ask, Seek, Knock

I was at Toa Payoh Central with a friend.

Me: I want to be a real estate agent.

Friend: How? Are you sure?

Me: Yes, do you want to accompany me to go knock on doors and ask how I can be an agent?

Friend: huh… are you serious?

And this is how it all started, I literally went to a real estate agency, knock on their doors and ask how can I be an agent?

I was not very convinced by the first agency. So I went to knock on a second agency. And then I started to ask around and started looking at jobstreet ….

This was me at age 21.

Finally, I found an agency that I felt I should join. But I realize there is a joining fee and I need to submit a corporate photo.

I do not have the means to pay for the joining fee and I also do not have a corporate photo.

So I saved up for the joining fee by giving tuition and decided to get creative with the corporate photo. I was fearful that taking corporate photos will be exorbitant.

So I went into a boutique that sold nice and sharp suits, picked up a nice shirt and blazer, went into the changing room, whipped out my MacBook, launched my photo booth and took the first corporate shot of my life.

Why Did I Want to be a Real Estate Agent?

I really love the term romantic pragmatic, the first time I came across this term was in a Time’s article, and it was used to describe Obama’s mother, Ann Durham to be a person who embodies the elements of idealism and practicality.

Being a real estate agent was my romantic way to address a very practical problem and some burdens that were within my heart.

My Practical Problem

I was pursuing a mass communication degree when my family was hit by some financial difficulties. As a result, I have to pause my studies and figure my next steps. At the same time, we were in arrears for our home loans and I have seen some of the most threatening letters from HDB :/

My Burdens

During the same period, I was very impacted by a news article of a bridge collapsing in another country during a festivity due to shoddy workmanship. Many people died. I felt really burden that this should not be the case. I felt very strongly that people should have access to proper housing and building structure.

My Romantic Approach

I have a natural love for buildings and houses. In my teens, I would wander around landed estates to appreciate the different house designs. I was so passionate and curious that I recall once seeking permission from the workers to let me walk in and explore a house that is almost completed >.<

My 21 year old brain decided that being a Real Estate Agent will be the best way for me to find joy while dealing with the problems before me,

The Journey

My First 10 years of training

My 1st job was at age 11 when I started as a stall assistant in my mom’s coffee stall. I could make a mean teh c kosong :) I think it’s through this job that I learn how to fake it till I make it and it has developed my work ethics since an early stage.

Fake it in the sense that, there is no room to say I don’t know, if a task is given, it needs to be done and you have to figure it and do it well. My mom is a hard worker and also super-efficient, she expects the same for those who work for her.

I recalled when she decided to expand her business to selling bak kut teh, I have to do the dishes which include scrubbing super big and heavy pots that were used to soak the trotters. I remember the first time having to do it, it felt very much like an impossible task,

My hands were so small, the pots so huge and oily, the piles of dishes so massive.

During festive seasons, it also meant standing and working 16hours shifts.

In the 10 years I have worked for my mom, I understood, hard work, hustle and grit, also I am good at doing dishes.

My First Year in Real Estate

I thought surely, with these hard-working ethics I can surely make it.

However, my first year in real estate was not very fruitful. I only closed a rental at the end of that first year. And I sustain that year teaching tuition.

A friend saw that I was struggling, and introduced me to Stuart’s team. That was a tipping point in my career where I learned the ropes to do TOP projects. After attending training, shadowing producers in different projects, armed with a file of floor plans and $3000 of savings to last me for a month, I gave my all.

That year I managed to close more than 30 transactions in one newly completed Condo. The first time, I held a 5 figure paycheck at age 23, I was overjoyed and I was happy to be able to help settle the arrears with HDB :)

Interesting People

Interestingly, through the first project that I worked on, I gained the opportunity to work with 2 MNCS, one is a construction company and another a civil engineering company to help them with the relocation of their employees.

Over the years as I bring them around for viewings, we often get to have coffee breaks, where I can have interesting conversations with engineers, urban planners and even CEOs on construction and outlook of the regional economy.

skypark at somerset
Skypark at somerset

Eventually, I move on to doing more projects in Novena and Tanjong Pagar which eventually lead to referrals and open doors to different properties in different areas.

One highlight was the year that I managed to sell 2 of these beautiful penthouse like apartments at Skypark at Somerset with my partners.

I recall feeling really grateful as I have moved from a rookie agent wondering how other people sold these houses to actually doing it.

The Low

Being self-employed, and paid fully in commission also means that having no sales over a long period of time

with high expenses will result in dire financial stress. I recall in my lowest moment, my bank account had less than $2.

I used to share with some of my friends that the rejection at work is also akin to being ditched in a relationship. Because sometimes I might spend many months on a deal and in the end due to some reasons the deal fell through. Sometimes having multiple deals falling through will be very bad for the heart.

Let’s call a spade a spade

I have learned to not internalize failures to the point that they crippled me (This lesson warrants for an article of its own).

Over the years I have also adopted a mentality to call a spade a spade, that is to not overthink my failures and objectively evaluate the deals that didn’t go well and set improvement points if required, and move on from there.

Calling, Identity, Divine Destiny

I once shared with a group of friends that I believe, when we find our calling, and develop our identity we will walk into our divine destiny. And I see that at play in my real estate work.

For me, I’m certain about my calling in real estate because I see the purpose and meaning in the work that I do, beyond buying and selling, I also help my clients to look out for their blindspots, And this work is truly meaningful to me.

Currently, I am solidifying my identity as a good realtor by improving my knowledge and tenacity in giving good advice to my clients. Hence building this website to share what i know.

As I grow and improve, I do have a bigger dream to build a company to do good work in the area of tech, lifestyle, and real estate as a means to address the burdens in my heart.

“Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike” - Theodore Roosevelt.

This is a quote that I really love. Hence, I believe in order for me to be successful in building my dreams, I need to first build my character, ie...BURPEES!

This is my real estate story and journey, I hope it will somehow encourage you in your journey as well.

The circuit breaker ends today, and the Singapore economy will start to open up in phases, I hope during this time of unprecedented change, you will be able to overcome the challenges in your life, find your calling and have a better sense of your identity and take steps towards your divine destiny too :)


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About The Author

Chantel Teo is fiercely loyal, insatiably curious and always hungry.

A licensed real estate broker based in Singapore. She has transacted properties with a combined value of more than $60 million, from Tanjong Pagar to Orchard to SengKang to Bukit Panjang. In the journey of helping her clients, buy, sell, lease and manage their properties, she has collected many stories and life lessons.

She writes as a form of catharsis and connection. Through her writing she hopes to share practical and useful insights as well as stories that can enrich her readers.

Buildings and houses is her passion and she has a special love for walk-up apartments and buildings built before the 90s, probably because of the character, charm and history that comes with these buildings. Besides buildings that can stand the test of time, she also appreciates the cultivation of personal substance and character that endures.

One of her favourite quotes goes

“Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike” - Theodore Roosevelt. Her belief is that good character will be a solid foundation in which she builds her career and the people around her.

When she is not hustling at work, she enjoys nice coffee, hearty meals, long walks and a good read. She also has a soft spot for all things furry.


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