Saturday, May 24, 2008

A nest of our own

The young'uns in Singapore, they are a spoilt lot, really. In the past, many have written to the press complaining about the sheer impossibility of securing a new public housing apartment (i.e. HDB built and subsidized apartment). And why are they complaining? Because they cannot see themselves getting married without first securing a personal love-nest of their own. Gone are the days when renting an apartment, or a room or living with mum and dad upon marriage is a consideration. In Singapore, marrying no longer means extending the family, but removing the family to some corner of your own, preferably a place that overlooks an idyllic lake or the sea, or at least overlooking some lush greenery, never mind if that that place will set you back by half a million dollars or more (public housing only, i.e.).

The fact of the matter, as the HDB has pointed out, is that people, the young'uns, are a choosy lot. They apply for a chance to purchase a public housing apartment but when one is offered, they reject it, and then write to the press complaining that it is impossible to get a public apartment in Singapore. What they mean, really, is that they don't want an apartment that is situated on the 2nd floor, or one that faces the West sun, or, worst, one that looks out into the multi-storey card park or is next to the centralised refuse collection dump. Well, I can understand the reluctance, but you have to start somewhere when you cannot afford to start with buying a re-sale apartment, or a private apartment, right? There is a Chinese saying, that these people are trying to reach heaven in a single bound (yi bu deng tian). Totally unrealistic, unless you have backers like rich parents who will think nothing of shelling out hundreds of thousand of dollars, millions even, to secure the dream home for you.

So what do the typical Singaporeans who cannot get what they want do? They write to the press admitting as much as what I have said here - that they cannot accept any public housing that is not close to heavenly proportions. And they reason that that is because, for the money they have to pay, they deserve something better than a 2nd story apartment. I can understand the thought process and the reluctance, but that is life in Singapore and the cost of living here. Is there no way forward other than getting the government to build that dream home for you (and by extension), everyone else? That is impossible. There are only so many directions where the sun does not rise and set. To get to the 12th heavenly floor, you need to start at the first. Given Singaporean's appetite and penchant for cars, a road must wind somewhere around some apartments. We have had to clear so much greenery to build the roads and apartments that HDB has compensated with building roof-top gardens on top of multi-storey car parks. What do these young PMEDs want for the money that they have (or more precisely, don't have)?

The solution is rather simple - be patient and build up your love nest gradually. I have a relative who rented a room after marrying, then bought a HDB apartment that looked out into a small patch of grassland, sold it at a decent profit, bought a private property and rebuilt it into a three storey semi-D. My first public apartment upon marriage was situated along a public corridor, and what's worst, faces an expressway directly. That was in the early 1990s. The only saving grace was that it was on the 7th floor., not the ground floor. Much as I disliked it (I was eyeing an apartment on offer that was situated along a river), I took it and made the best of it. I sold it 8 years later at a tidy profit (didn't know that it appealed to some people) which enabled me to buy an apartment that is the envy of many. So young man and young women, practice patience and search around while your apartment appreciates in value. Property prices rise and fall - you don't have to take my word for it. See what happened last year! You will reach your heavenly nest some day, but not immediately, not tomorrow. Just be patient. Investing in a house is for the long term.

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