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Former high-end realtor casts his lot on affordable homes outside Manila

By: Oscar A. Gomez Jr., January 12th, 2013 04:31 PM

THIS 50-sq m townhouse on a 50-sq m lot in Cavite has three bedrooms and typically sells for P980,000.

There are two sides to the current housing boom. The more visible side is the flurry of high-rise condominiums that are transforming Metro Manila’s skyline. Their prominence is matched only by their own giant billboards and splashy newspaper ads.

Inside the mall or supermarket, you won’t miss the smart-dressed agents showing scale models of their trendy properties.

But the vibrant housing market has a lesser-known side, too. It’s driven by another kind of sales agent-the ones who are spending much time in front of the computer. They could be housewives or employees surfing on their break time. Day and night, they prowl the Internet in search of home buyers. They post, update and monitor constantly on multiple free websites. To add a personal selling touch, some even create their own website.

Their products—mid-priced homes tucked away in suburban Cavite and Pampanga—are runaway hits, according to the founder of a successful realty marketing firm. His agents have cashed in by selling these affordable homes to the vast and hardworking Filipino middle class based here or working abroad.

“This middle market seems bottomless.  About 80 percent of our buyers are first-time home owners, while the rest are looking for a bigger, better home,” says Gabriel “Billy” Dominguez, president of Green Circle Realty, a marketing arm of 12-year-old developer ProFriends, which has completed 52 projects to date and is riding the uptrend with another 34 master-planned communities in progress north and south of Manila.

ProFriends builds an array of three-bedroom models, the most popular of which are priced between P850,000 and P2.5 million.

Green Circle sold a total of 255 homes last November 2012 alone, the best month ever in its six years of operation. During his jampacked monthly sales meeting last Dec. 4, Dominguez introduced the previous month’s biggest producer, a soft-spoken accountant in her 20s who contributed 10 home sales. She had resigned from a commercial bank only three months earlier.

Dominguez credits the Internet proficiency of his agents for generating a high volume of OFW buyers. Most of all, he’s proud of how Green Circle agents overcame early fears to embrace their status as “realty entrepreneurs.” Not a few have already left secure nine-to-five jobs for the opportunity to multiply their incomes.

“It’s the full-time agents who do much better,” Dominguez says, although many part-timers are also hitting a more modest goal to augment their current income.

GOVERNMENT employee-turned-real estate entrepreneur Billy Dominguez

“We’re winning the battle of mindsets,” adds Dominguez, who now recruits about 200 new agents each month. He acknowledges that many Filipinos still dislike working with no fixed salary or simply lack the confidence to get into sales.

In Green Circle, these worries are quickly addressed during the short but lively orientation seminars. “We remind everyone that they are natural sales people. As teenagers, they already convinced their parents to buy them stuff, and didn’t they also sell their way into the hearts of their spouses?”

Dominguez maintains a marketing organization with little frills and no quotas to meet. He adopts a clear commission structure and recognizes top performers with incentives. Green Circle meetings are not confined to fancy suites. The last one, for example, took place in a fast food outlet where he reviewed sales performance using easy-to-read slides. With his usual jokes, parlor games, and inspirational stories, Dominguez cajoles his troops to storm the market in 2013. Finally, together with his wife and business partner Helen, they handed out cash incentives like game show emcees.

A government employee for more than a decade before he went into high-end real estate, Dominguez insists he’s a far cry from the typical image of a sophisticated, well-connected salesperson.

The UST communication arts graduate attributes his success to organization-building skills rather than slick, face-to-face salesmanship.

These days, he draws greater fulfillment from seeing ordinary folks enjoy the purchase of their dream home. The feeling cannot compare with closing a sale for a golf share or a high-rise apartment.

“Some of these upscale properties I sold before are never used by the owners,” he quips.

He’s also inspired by many Green Circle agents who have achieved financial security from selling affordable homes. One may need to work harder to sell 10 homes worth P1 million each, versus clinching a deal on a P10-million condo unit, Dominguez admits. “But you have a lot more buyers in the mid-market than in the high-end. Thus, our sales people realize their success faster.”

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