Property Hunt

Yup, the Singapore Property market has been trending slowly downwards in recent years. Not a drastic drop – which would probably prompt the government to remove the ABSD regulations.

Well, I have been standing at the sideline hoping for the market to trend lower. Given that a number of developers will be impacted by the QC and ABSD for unsold units, the next couple of months or next year would be an interesting time.

The consensus among property agents I hear often is that currently, it is ‘nobody’s market’. It is neither the buyer nor seller’s market. Well, interest rates are still relatively low, so owners with outstanding loans are not in a rush to sell (since they can still afford the monthly loan repayments), however rental market is terrible. Incidentally, with older developments, most owners would have fully paid for these properties (with no outstanding loans).
On the other hand, buyers are restricted by the numerous taxes and regulations such as ABSD and TDSR, while property prices have not dropped drastically. Hence, there is also no fire sale.

In short: Sale transactions are low.

I tend to take property agents’ words with a pinch of salt since they are often acting in the interest of the sellers. They receive commissions from the seller for the sale (not the buyer). The higher the selling price, the better for them.

So yup, I have been dragging my wife and son for viewing of properties. Like I said, ‘interesting times’. My wife and son, not as enthusiastic about it. This is especially so if it is a hot afternoon and the development is not near any public transport node (eg. MRT station / bus stops) since we don’t have a car. However, my wife does get excited if she saw a good unit.

I have been thinking of buying a resale property, not a new launch (somewhere in the city fringe).

Why resale property and not new launch? There are numerous reasons, but the main reason is because I felt that resale properties offer better value. New properties tend to be smaller, and frankly I feel that residential design nowadays seem to be too over regulated. Don’t get me wrong, regulations are a good thing – it ensure that the designs cater to different groups of design. But with a smaller as-built area, developers often try to squeeze too many of these into a tiny space. The need for bomb shelters, elderly friendly toilet features, open and small kitchen, large proportion of areas used for ac ledges / balconies ….

A typical 3 bedroom condo units nowadays is approximately 800++ to 900++ sqft, with a high PSF. Some of the bedrooms are really tiny (can probably only fit the single bed and a wardrobe .. with very little else).

20 years ago, we have 1300++ to 1500++ sqft 3 bedroom units which are freehold and are currently selling at a lower PSF. Ultimately, if you bother to search for it, you might find a resale freehold property which is cheaper, bigger and located at a better location (as compared to nearby new launch 99 yr leasehold property). Of course the design might be a bit dated and there would be wear and tear.

A resale unit also allow you to view the unit in its entirety – there is no need to imagine or to second guess. It is all there. The noisy roads / MRT tracks, neighboring blocks that are too near, the afternoon sun and heat, the lack of view, the views out to the pool / bin centre / sub-station / schools / religious buildings…. you can see. You can also sometime see for yourself if the development consists of mostly tenants or are owner occupied.

Ok, shall talk about about a few of these visits I had to view the properties.

1st Property unit:
Low rise development.
Condo / Freehold
Completed in 1997.
Not a big development (101 units in total).
City fringe
Unit located at the 3rd storey. Development is 15 mins walk from MRT station.

When we first enter, we realized that the lifts are kind of ‘tricky’. We had to press the unit number at the intercom prior to entering the lift (if you press the wrong unit or forgot to press the unit no., you had to get out of the lift, wait for lift door to close & open to try again).

The lady owner is there with 2 property agents. As we were late, we joined another 2 families to view the unit.

The unit is a 3BR unit. As built area is big at 1400++ sqft, and efficiently laid out (and the as-built areas are almost 100% enclosed / sheltered — eg. with no balconies and excess areas for AC ledges). Good layout – rectangular with no curves or triangular corners. North facing (no issue with western sun).
The unit is well maintained. Although the design is rather dated, it is obvious that it was not rented out (to bad tenants) and was owner occupied. There was not much evidence of drastic damage or wear and tear due to neglect. I guess to some (whom had bad experience with tenants), the feeling is that nobody cares more about your apartment than you.

It is a case of the empty nester (children have grown up and the elderly parents decide to sell the unit and downgrade).

The downside to this property is that it is facing a busy driveway. As the unit is only at the 3rd storey, there are trees and plants screening direct views into the unit from the driveway. However, the downside of this is that there is also minimal view out as the view is blocked by the trees/plants.

The owner and agents have cleverly closed all windows and switched on the air-con. Thus preventing the nearby road noise from coming in.

A new commercial development is under construction nearby and Cold Storage and eateries will be close by.
In terms of facilities, I remember seeing a gym and a small pool.

In general, an ok unit except for the lack of view, noise from nearby road, and it being at the 3rd storey (rather low).

2nd Property unit:
High rise development
Condo / Freehold
Completed in 1997.
Big development (697 units in total).
City fringe
Unit located at the 4th storey. Development is 5 mins walk from MRT station.

This development is near the 1st property unit mentioned above. As it is a bigger development, there are more facilities. There are more pools (and bigger too).

The unit is a 3BR unit. Area is 1100++ sqft.
However the layout is not totally rectangular. For instance, the living room is triangular / trapezoidal in layout. The living room will get a bit of the western sun.
The agent highlighted that there have been 2 owners for this unit before. And unit has always been rented out. However it appears to be in good condition. Empty with no furniture.

The unit is not fronting any busy roads, etc… so there is no issue with noise.
The price for this unit is approximately SGD150k higher than the 1st property (although it is smaller in area).
Owner is not in a hurry to sell (it has been vacant for months). I heard that there is another unit in this development that was vacant for two years and the owner wasn’t in a rush to sell either.

In terms of amenities (such as being near Cold Storage or eateries), it is not as good as the first property.

In general, an ok unit except for the non-rectangular layout. As built area is also smaller.

3rd Property unit:
High rise development
Condo / Freehold
Completed in 1997.
Big development (775 units in total).
City fringe
Unit located at the 6th storey. Development is 15 mins walk from MRT station. Behind a shopping centre.

The unit is currently occupied by tenants (and they were there when we visited the unit).
Security is rather lax. We can easily enter the development.

As it is a big development, it comes with full facilities, like tennis courts, swimming pools (for kids and adults), gym, clubhouse, etc.
The location of the development is also great, as it is behind a shopping centre (which has a Cold Storage), with hawker centre nearby, a hotel (with a shopping podium below) across the road….
Public transport to the city is also great.

The unit is a 3BR unit. Area is 1500++ sqft. Good efficient rectangular layout. A small balcony. North-south facing. Dining area and a bedroom will get western sun. However, the sun is partially blocked by nearby development.

The unit is not very well maintained. The floor marble finishing has lost its shine and there are signs of chipping. Same for the bedroom parquet flooring.
The kitchen cabinet is dated and worn out.

In terms of view, the living room view is towards the roof of the shopping centre. So you can see the ventilation shafts opening and water tanks. I suspect we might smell fast-food (due to the vents). This I felt is one of the greatest downside to this unit.

The cost of this unit, is about the same as the 2nd property.
The property agent told us that as the owners knew the tenants well, the rent was significantly lower than the market rate.

In general, the unit is not well maintained. I suspect it would be hard renting this unit out. The view is also not great.

4th Property unit:
High rise development
Condo / Freehold
Completed in 1997.
Big development (775 units in total).
City fringe
Unit located at the 9th storey. Development is 8 mins walk from MRT station. Behind a shopping centre.

This unit is in the same development as the 3rd property unit mentioned above. However it is located at the rear corner of development site which is nearer to the MRT station. So in a way, it has the best of both world – eg. nearer to MRT station (only 8 mins walk) and infront of the development there are ample amenities (shopping centre / eateries etc) and facilities (pools / gym / tennis courts etc).

The unit is empty with no furniture. The previous tenants have left – understand the unit was rented to a Barclay Banker and his family previously.

Like the 3rd property unit, this unit is a 3BR unit. Area is 1500++ sqft. Good efficient rectangular layout. 2 small balconies. North-south facing. The living room will get a bit of western sun.

The view is ok. There is a small one storey temple infront (just outside the development) and can be seen from the living room windows. Understand from agent – there won’t be much noise generated (seldom have noisy religious activities). Within this unit, typically the views out are HDB blocks located at a distance away (outside the development and across the road). While you can’t really see far, the HDB blocks are also not located close by. There are some open spaces and greenery when you view out.

The unit is well maintained – much better than the 3rd unit mentioned above. The marble flooring still has the shine. The kitchen cabinet was not the original (renovated previously) – however it does show its age.
Parquet flooring in the bedrooms are still glossy with minimal wear and tear.

However, after the visit, we realized, that there is a land sale site next to the temple outside the development. Although the future development will not likely block the unit view, there might be noise and dust in the short term due to construction works. Potential tenants might not like that.

Nevertheless, I reckon this is the best unit we have saw so far (better than the 5th property unit mentioned below). And it is big for a 3BR unit. The layout is ok with a big rectangular living room and dining area.
However it is also the most expensive. We had to factor in the 10% (stamp fee duty 3% and ABSD 7%).

We did propose an offer price, but it was too low and not accepted by the owner.

5th Property unit:
High rise development
Condo / Freehold
Completed in 2014.
Medium development (293 units in total).
City fringe
Unit located at the 9th storey. Development is 6 mins walk from MRT station.

This is one of the newer development we saw and a rare freehold.
The development is fronting a road, while its rear is towards landed properties. A long linear development next to a road junction.

The unit is a 3BR unit. Area is 1000++ sqft. A maisonette. The tenants were there when we visited.
There is a small open kitchenette right at the entrance (I don’t see how we can cook using that small kitchen).
The living room, kitchenette, 2 bedrooms and a toilet is located at the lower floor. 1 bedroom and a toilet is located at the upper floor.
As there is an internal staircase in the unit, the actual usable area is rather small. The tenants actually have 2 large luggage on the landings of the staircases. The place was also messy. Although the unit is new and there are minimal wear and tear, the whole place appears smaller (due to the furniture/layout/messiness).

The living room is west facing, and there are full height glazing/windows. So it was hot. When we were there, the tenants have switched on the lower floor air-con.

Like I said earlier, the units in the newer developments are smaller, and in this case, with the internal staircase and small kitchenette, it is not good. The PSF is also higher as it is a relatively new development.
We did not bother to check out the facilities in the development.
We felt the contrast even more since we have visited the 4th Property Unit and this unit (later) on the same day.

Other than these units, we also saw one unit at Glentrees, which I talked about in my previous post.

I have a feeling that we probably won’t be doing much viewing for now. Probably wait and see how things pan out in the property market in the next few months.

About apenquotes

Born in 1976. Married with 2 kids (a boy and a girl). A typical Singaporean living in a 4 room HDB flat. Check out my Facebook Page:
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