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Improve rental yield through social networks, says 99.co founder Darius Cheung

Buck the trend and improve returns on property rental.

Prices of private homes may have fallen for the sixth straight quarter, but the continued enforcement of cooling measures and a tightened credit environment remain deterrents to prospective buyers. Renting out property instead of selling could be a smarter move for current home owners, says Darius Cheung, founder of online property portal 99.co.

For best returns, engage a proactive real estate agent “who regularly follows up and updates your listing”, says the 34-year-old. He adds: “Check the quality of listings that an agent creates and how much effort he has put into posting good pictures – neat homes with a lot of natural light are more photogenic – and writing in-depth descriptions for other houses he has worked on.”

Cheung – who sold his mobile security start-up Tencube to US software giant Mcafee in 2010 for a reported US$11 million (S$15 million) – speaks from personal experience. After moving here from Hong Kong 21 years ago to study, the Singaporean found house hunting an ordeal. Not only was there a lack of reliable information on property websites, he had to sift through duplicate listings with contradictory pricings. The desire for a user-friendly and efficient site led the serial technopreneur to set up 99.co, which launched this January and has nearly 80,000 listings. Facebook co-founder and Singapore resident Eduardo Saverin is a major investor.

As for pricing, it all depends on the urgency of a home owner. “To rent it out fast, look at other properties within a 500m radius and price competitively. But if waiting three to four months is not an issue, take time to highlight unique features to justify a higher price.”

Above all, never underestimate the power of social networks. Cheung says: “Share a listing with family or friends. Word-of-mouth is often the most reliable tool.”