Sunday, March 07, 2010

Slow and steady

Minister Mah is correct. Young people/couples (and perhaps the not so young) in Singapore are too much in a hurry to get that first high-rise apartment which has, among other idyllic features:

1. A high-floor with a view (think Pinnacle@Duxton);
2. Water-body facing apartment (think Pasir Ris/Punggol, Bedok Reservoir, etc.);
3. Quiet and calm surroundings (think Holland V);
4. Near amenities such as Bus, Train stations, Markets, Malls (think Toa Payoh Central);
5. Strategic locations - near Schools and Playgrounds (especially 'brand-name' ones) - (think Bishan);
6. Have relatives (mainly parents) who live close by (so you can fob the kids out to); and
7. (Fill in your own dreams and fantasies).

It is no wonder that many public apartment buyers cannot find one that suits them and repeatedly reject those offered to them by the HDB. And some end up paying an arm and a leg for such an ideal apartment and shackle themselves to a 30-year loan, without much possibility of their apartments appreciating in value (because they paid an arm and a leg) over the next 10 to 15 years.

They should take a leaf out of Minister Mah's experience about living humbly (albeit not of his choice) and moving up and on years later. My first HDB apartment was far away from the train station (at least 20 minutes walk), about 10 minutes walk to the nearest neighbourhood centre (yeah, not even the town centre) - meaning a 20 minute 'walking commitment' if I wanted to, say, go for a hair cut, which itself would take no more than 10 minutes. It was also only served by one feeder bus, which came infrequently and erratically, and what's more, the apartment faced the expressway and had a corridor. It wasn't the stretch of flats I had been eyeing when I was invited to select an apartment then. I was devastated when they were all taken because my queue number was too far back. However, I chose to look at the positives. It was a quiet place, an expressway looked stunning towards the evening, and I could put in some walking exercise that is sorely missing in my life. It wasn't perfect, but it could do.

After living in it for close to 8 years, I sold it for S$200,000 more than the price I paid HDB for it, first-hand. Many would say that S$200K over 8 years is small potatoes, but it gave me enough to upgrade to a condo, which is now worth about S$200K more than what I paid for it. The other day, I was told that I had enough cash in the bank and CPF to redeem my entire loan, so I'd own, without any further financial encumbrance, this $200K shy of a million $ home (according to current market prices). And did I say that this condo is located next to the MRT station, the Bus station, has a large shopping mall beside it, has a 'branded' school 10 minutes walk away, has a wet market 5 minutes walk away, has a public library in the mall beside it, has a SingHealth Polyclinic across the road, has a Post Office, also across the road, and...*pant*pant*...and it you lived in a high enough floor facing the right direction, has a sea view and is surprisingly quiet though it is situated at a major crossroads of human traffic and activities (I did say that the MRT/Bus was easily within reach). And did I say that a public bus that travels on the expressway 4/5 of the journey takes me directly to my mother's place in less than half an hour?

And if I wanted to, I could just hop onto a train that will take me to the Harbourfront MRT station, from which I can then transfer onto the Sentosa train to visit the RWS, all with minimal need to wait and walk. Of course my weight has ballooned, a trade-off for extreme convenience.

Perhaps some people may say I am lucky. I don't believe in this vague thing called luck. I am not a savvy investor. All my bets in the Stock Market have bombed. All I can say is, I am willing to take whatever comes, and through shrewd moves, make the best of what HDB has gifted me. In other words, take your time, get a place which may not be great but which will certainly appreciate in value over time (especially virgin, ok ulu, places like Simpang/Tengah, for those very young now) - in Singapore, any property has a high chance of appreciating in value, if only because it is good politics by the sitting PAP government! The only caveat is if the property is acquired by the government (;-). Meanwhile, bide your time, hunt around and I am sure something better will come along. By then, you would have built up your finances, which will go a long way towards owning that new idyllic place you are eyeing.

Young man/women/couple/fiance/fiancees, learn from Minister Mah.

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