Servcorp helps Japan Property Central go from blog to successful real-estate company

Serviced Office client at Aoyama Palacio Tower

real estate blog

Japan Property Central helps buyers from around the world while managing a popular real-estate blog focusing on the latest movements and developments in the domestic market. The company has utilized a Servcorp office in Aoyama Palacio Tower since Zoe Ward founded the company in 2014. Servcorp sat down with Zoe to learn more about her exciting business and how Servcorp came to be the base of her operations.

“When I need to impress not only clients - but also the seller's agents as well, they look at the address and see that it's a nice address and a nice building, which in Japan is very important.”

Zoe Ward
Aoyama Palacio Tower
Serviced Office client

Creating Japan Property Central...

How did Japan Property first start?

We started as a blog, actually. I first came to Japan back in the end of 2006, just after graduating from university. I lived here for about 5 years, before I moved back to Australia just before the big earthquake in 2011. During that time I had worked at several real-estate companies including a company that specialized in renting share houses to expats and a Japanese company that focused on selling property.

So eventually you decided to startup your own company? You must have faced some challenges setting up your own business.

That’s putting it lightly. (Laughs) First I had to set up a real-estate company before I could get a business visa, and to do that you need an office. I know from my real-estate experience that if you want a commercial space you’re looking at a 12-month down payment, and they won’t even consider you if you don’t have a proper company with history and turnover. On top of that, being a foreigner without a residence in Japan made it even more difficult, so I didn’t even consider that option. That left me with Servcorp or one of your major competitors. Everyone has heard of Servcorp in Australia, they are quite big in Brisbane and Sydney, and the competitors’ properties were a little dingy, so I decided to look into office space with Servcorp.

What was the first year of being a legitimate company and not just a blog like?

It was really stressful; starting a new business, trying to get clients, and the market was really starting to heat up at that point. You would have several offices competing on one property. So we would have some clients who lived overseas and would say “I want to see this apartment. I’ll be there on Friday.” And the night before an offer would come in from a Japanese buyer and it would have sold. The longer a property was on the market the price would go up instead of down. So the first year or two was difficult but we have settled into a good position now and business is already looking good for next year.

Bringing in Clients & the Servcorp Advantage...

Has the blog helped stabilize business and bring in clients?

Yes, I would say maybe half of our clients come through the website. Of course we also get referrals and people who have been recommended by previous clients or people I’ve met day to day. We have even started getting some Japanese clients this year which has been interesting. Some of them are Nikkei, like Japanese-American, and are living in the U.S. but they come here and want someplace to open up their business. They only speak English so it’s kind of funny, because during the inspection the Japanese agent is trying to talk to them in Japanese and I end up being the one translating. (Laughs)

Do you often meet with your clients at your Servcorp office?

Actually most of my client interaction takes place outside of the office. We usually meet up at the property. So it’s maybe once a year that I use this meeting room, which is perfect because if I’m not using it every month then there’s no need for my own meeting room. It’s great that you can rent this space when you need it. And it’s flash too.

Do you use any of our Telephone services like Intercept?

Yes, the front desk will answer calls under my company name and then forward it to my mobile. I had one old coworker who started his own business and he called me up to chat one day and he said that whoever answered the phone has really polite Japanese, they are very well-spoken. (Laughs)

"I have the flexibility to upgrade and move to a bigger office and not have to update my address and business cards.”

Looking to the Future...

We are creating a whole lot of coworking lounges now which might change the nature of the floor slightly. How do you feel about that?

That’s exciting! This year when they put in the new kitchen and they gave us some more tables and chairs, at first it was just me and maybe one other person going there for lunch, but if you go there now around 12:30 all the seats are taken. So it’s really popular and a lot of companies talk to each other.

One final question, how are you expecting to grow over the next 5 years and are you looking to change the way you work in terms of the space that you have?

I would like to have another person on board, because I’m the only one that obviously speaks English. My assistant doesn’t speak English, so I do most of the client handling, which is very time consuming. I probably could add one more person now, but I’m in the industry where if you speak English and have real-estate experience you could work anywhere at the moment. Most of the major developers are trying to get that kind of staff. You have to maybe settle for somebody without real-estate experience but who speaks good English, because at least you can teach them about the real-estate side of things.

As for the space itself, currently Japan is kind of an old-school / old-generation, and one of the reasons I chose Servcorp over one of those trendy, young places is having my own office that I can shut and keep things private and it’s got a more mature atmosphere. When I need to impress not only clients - but also the seller’s agents as well, they look at the address and see that it’s a nice address and a nice building, which in Japan is very important.


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