A rebound in the property market is expected to generate job opportunities as property agencies seek professionals to provide services for prospective clients. 'We have noted a turnaround in the market over the past three months, and we expect the market to really pick up in 2004,' said Edina Wong, senior director, residential leasing at FPDSavills Hong Kong. Ms Wong's team primarily serves client corporations looking for residential properties for their senior or expatriate executives. 'Most of our clients have told us they will resume hiring expatriate staff in the coming year. This will provide us with good business opportunities.' During the economic downturn, the company was forced to carry out cost-cutting exercises. 'Those days we had to manage staff better and be very competitive in order to stay ahead of the game,' Ms Wong said. Since January 1999, all property consultants are required to obtain a licence from the Estate Agents Authority (EAA) in order to practise in the market. The company says it will hire only those qualified agents who have experience and proven ethical and professional standards. Other attributes the firm will be looking for in consultants are good language and communication skills (in Chinese and English) and the ability to blend with the company's corporate image. Ms Wong said property consultants should have a good knowledge of a district's layout, and the amenities available to residents. 'When we serve clients who are new to Hong Kong, we have to advise them on a variety of details,' she said. Clients should be made aware of transport links, shopping and other facilities, and whatever the neighbourhood has to offer residents. The company is proud of the fact that it has a relatively low staff turnover rate. Most of FPDSavills employees have been with the company for a long time. 'We provide good benefits, and we do care about our staff. Some local property agencies employ hundreds of consultants, and companies will inevitably have a high staff turnover rate. In contrast, we have a smaller but close-knit team that works well together,' Ms Wong said. As in any service industry, interaction with people from all walks of life is part of the day's work. 'This is truly a people business. Excellent people skills are therefore of prime importance. We must know when to push and when to go slow. At the end of the day, we must try to make everyone happy,' she said. Property professionals should have a sound knowledge of the product. This includes a knowledge of the overall property market, upcoming development projects, and individual buildings and premises. 'Property professionals should be motivated, organised and hard-working,' she said. One of the great satisfactions of the job, Ms Wong said, was the opportunity to meet people and help them to meet their requirements. 'The best part is meeting so many people. This is not a desk job that limits you to paperwork only.' Property agents are not the only organisations that are grooming professionals for the market and seeking to raise standards of professionalism in the industry. The Estate Agents Authority is putting in much effort to lift the industry. It regulates and administers licensing examinations, organises training programmes, handles complaints and reinforces ethical practices and regulations.