If you happen to follow LA developer and realtor Robert Chuang (27) on Instagram you know he has a husky named Stella, travels whenever he has time and you might have even heard him singing. the complex society wants to know what drives the man who says he ‘hates sales’, but got into real estate at the early age of 19, sells million dollar properties and receives raving reviews on Yelp.
Text: Gwen Teo
What kind of buildings have influenced you most while you were growing up?
Contemporary building had influenced me the most. Somehow the philosophy of ‘less is more’ always has resonated with me. The simple design in the straight line provides spaciousness and slickness in a room. However, lately it has been English colonial and Spanish homes as well. Homes with ‘old characters’ seem to resonate with me more and more. Probably because old homes always have something unique, something you cannot find elsewhere. Furthermore: I see more and more people searching for old homes that have been restored with integrity.
‘The simple design in the straight line provides spaciousness and slickness in a room’
You were born in Taiwan. Do you miss living there?
Taiwan is a small country and space is very confined in each city. I prefer a home with a large yard and some land. In that perspective I don’t miss Taiwan. On the other hand: Taiwan is a heaven for foodies! However, my weight always reminds me not to eat like I did back in the days, haha.
At the age of thirteen you moved to Los Angeles. On biggerpockets.com you say you flipped your first house six years later and built a home for your family when you were only 22. How did all of that happen; were you in a hurry to realise the American dream?
It wasn’t the American dream I was after. It was merely inspiration and action. I was raised by a father who is a businessman – being constantly away from his family. The day I turned 21 I wrote him an email saying I appreciated what he had done for our family and that I looked up to him. That was the day ‘the light bulb lit up’ for me. Also, I saw my mom flip a home while I was at university studying construction engineering. I thought: wow, if my mom can do that, so can I. Hahaha, sorry Mom! But these two moments have led to where I am today.
'The day I turned 21 I wrote my father an email saying I appreciated what he had done for our family'
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges of the LA property market today?
That’s a tough question, actually. I will start with the challenges. The LA market is constantly hot – due to lack of housing and high demand. If a deal is advertised correctly it will yield some money. A property will be gone in three days. With the combination of the entry level being so high on one hand (homes starting at 500k and up) and over saturated market competitions on the other, it is extremely difficult to find a deal that will provide a good return on investment nowadays. The biggest opportunity of this difficult market is actually learning how to be creative and preparing myself for the next opportunity when it arises.
'I believe hard sales destroy relationships most of the time'
You once mentioned you ‘hate sales’. Please explain.
I do not like sales; I do not like to sell items or property to people. I believe hard sales destroy relationships most of the time. I like to create value – and present that value to people. Rather value of my knowledge in real estate by providing a service, or finding a deal and structure the value by showing people how they can make money from real estate too.
In March of 2017 you posted something on your Instagram feed about a new tenant: Connie, a single mother of two. You wrote: ‘…instead of higher rent, we selected Connie because she is not only reliable but also appreciative of the opportunity.’ What is the story behind that post?
We were putting a property for rent on the market in San Gabriel, CA. It was a small renovated home. As you know, the LA market is very competitive for rent. People are looking to rent all the time. The first weekend of the home being on the market, I received 21 applications. After reviewing all of them, there were 4 applicants who seemed to be the perfect tenants and paying asking rent. Connie was one of the applicants who did nót make it to the top 4 due to her credit scores. However, she was the only person who followed up and asked me the right questions. I looked into her background and application again and decided to give her a try, because she was a single mother who was in need to reduce her rent due to her new job and her kids leaving for college. My gut feeling was telling me she would be a good tenant and take her responsibilities concerning the property seriously. My gut feeling was right: she is a great tenant who keeps the property organised and there has not been a single problem until this day.
You also started your own development company in 2014, CHR Development. What are you hoping to achieve with that company in the next ten years?
I wish to scale up my development company into multi-family/ apartment development within the next year or two. And hoping the environment will have many more opportunities in the next ten years.
What keeps you grounded?
As an entrepreneur, I feel burned out from time to time and the need to do something else. What keeps me grounded is the want, the desire to leave a good legacy behind. I want to be the person about whom everyone says ‘Robert is a good man, with integrity and value’ when I am not around. And my family, relationship and friends are part of my motivation and inspiration every day.
'What keeps me grounded is the desire to leave a good legacy behind'
Define your ideal home – and with whom you would share it.
My ideal home will be a home with many old, unique characteristics. Perhaps an old manor after renovation. I see myself living in it with my life partner, kid(s), my dog Stella and many other animals.
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