Updated: Nov 15, 2020
Congratulations on starting your search for a new home or investment property!
Regardless of whether you're a soon-to-be parent, first-time property buyer or seasoned investor, we’ve come up with a comprehensive guide to help you with the process.
A home, or an investment?
Properties are mostly for investment purposes (rental cash flow, capital growth play, or both).
An investment home that's in the Central Business District might not be the best choice as a home for long-term stay - neither is a condominium in Sembawang the best investment, objectively speaking.
Before you begin your search, talk to your family to discuss the purposes of this purchase!
Start with a financial affordability analysis with an experienced property wealth planning agent and an in-principle approval for a loan. This helps you prevent time and resource wastage - and disappointment - when you realise that your dream home is out of your reach.
Speaking to an experienced agent can help you get greater clarity into how much you should budget for your renovations, stamp duties, ad hoc costs, and tax optimisation methods to structure your purchase.
If you're buying a private home, you should do a TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio) assessment. If you're buying a HDB Flat or Executive Condominium, do a MSR (Mortgage Servicing Ratio) assessment. Both can be done on the DBS Mortgage Affordability page.
There are multiple housing types with increasing prices in this order:
BTO Flats -> Resale Flats -> Executive Condominiums -> Apartments/Condominiums -> Landed Properties -> Good Class Bungalows
(Not sure if a resale or condominium suits your needs more? We have some advice for you!)
Is it the best choice to go for the most expensive one or to invest in another property that has high returns? What options do you have within each category?
You can do your own research on the top two property portals in Singapore with the most listings: 99.co and PropertyGuru.
Only you can decide on which location you really like. Some guiding questions are: what is the kind of lifestyle you want, if you want amenities nearby or to live near your loved ones? And what is your budget?
Locations that are walking distance to MRT and malls are usually preferred compared to quiet but secluded areas. According to a poll, most people think that a 10-minute walk from their house is the maximum distance they can accept.
Here’s a tip: Investing in a property that's near to transportation hubs and amenities definitely means it's easier to find a buyer when selling your house.
Brand new or resale?
Brand new properties come with perks like warranty for parts, no history of past owners, new fittings, design and facilities, similar entry prices for all owners and a longer tenure for leasehold properties.
Of course, the downsides are that room sizes are way smaller than older properties, waiting for completion date, questions about brightness, ventilation, actual noise level, water pressure...
Max property age for resale?
You may have to fork out a significant amount to renovate an old property. There may be hidden costs that only materialise over time - buying a secondhand car comes with similar risks!
The interiors, cabinetry and bathrooms may not have contemporary material or designs. Resale homes also do not come with warranties, so what you see is what you get.
Wear and tear issues like wiring, aircons, fibre connections, pipings, waterproofing, popping floor files could start surfacing the moment you take over, which may mean additional expenses or renovation costs.
Indicative valuation (resale)
If you’re selling your resale property, make sure that your agent has done some indicative valuations to determine if you’re paying a fair price. Valuation affects the amount of cash, CPF, and loans you can utilise, which makes it an important step.
Paying more than the valuation isn’t necessarily bad. If the unit comes with extensive suitable renovations that could save you time, money, and hassle, why not?
We’d advise you to check against at least three valuation sources to get a sense of what the average market price is. Some banks, like DBS, may provide more conservative valuations, whereas others like UOB provide aggressive valuations. Here’s a good tool to use for a free online valuation!
Tip: You can request for the valuer to match the selling price, so you can lower your cash/CPF requirements to obtain higher loans.
Indicative valuation (new launch)
Banks do support the selling prices of brand new projects, so matching valuations won’t be a huge issue. However, you should ensure that the project is selling at fair market prices within its neighbourhood, after factoring age and quantum prices in.
Remember: new properties always have a premium. PSF prices alone do not paint a complete picture of the value of a property.
Changes in government regulations, such as TDSR, removal of bonus GFA (Gross Floor Area), incentives for building bay windows and planter boxes, have resulted in smaller unit sizes across the island at a lower quantum and higher psf.
Vacant possession or tenanted?
Are you buying a unit that hands you vacant possession at completion, or comes with a tenancy for a stipulated period of time? You have to get the details in writing.
If you're buying a tenanted unit, always make sure to look through the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement, and meet the tenant in person. Should you want to break the lease and move in right away, is there a clause that allows you to do that? You can also engage an agent or lawyer to explain the contract terms to you and point any blind-spots out.
Larger developments are preferred as there are more facilities, security, more residents to share the burden of maintenance fees, and a larger awareness that this property exists. The downside is that you have many neighbours, so crowding and overbooking of facilities may occur.
Some people prefer smaller projects as they cost less per square foot. However, maintenance fees are not always cheaper for smaller projects!
Ask your family
Does that dream home deep within Seletar Hills suit you at this moment? Will your kids, spouse, or in-laws be able to commute easily to town or schools?
Will the new place be easy for your parents to keep in touch with their friends? We strongly think that maintaining harmony and sociability is more important than investment value!
Amenities and convenience
Some prefer to stay near a MRT station, shopping mall and amenities, while others favour the seclusion of a quiet location with only one feeder bus nearby.
Is convenience more important than a dream property to you? For example, if you're the only driver in the family but always busy, you might not want to move to a secluded landed property or condominium that's deep within an estate.
With kids, you may find it harder to hire part-time help, tuition teachers, or have your in-laws come over regularly.
As if we didn't have enough on our plates to juggle, parents still have to check if there are schools within 1km of the property you’re interested in. It’s possible that some blocks in a condominium are within 1km of the school, but some blocks aren't - so check properly!
You can check out the home-school distance category from Singapore Land Authority's (SLA) OneMap SchoolQuery Service.
Years left on leasehold property
We won’t recommend going for properties older than 15 years.
Although there may be en bloc opportunities in the future, it could be a pipe-dream, or take many decades to materialise and result in a low ROI.
Older properties begin to stagnate in price and rentals due to unit condition, design, and facilities aging. The next buyer will probably not pay you a premium for an even shorter lease, but if you’re lucky enough for your property to get an en bloc, that’s a different story.
You can refer to this useful Enbloc Odds Probability tool by EdgeProp.
Visiting a property at different hours and days of the week can help you understand when its peak hours for traffic and noise are. For example, it’s pretty common for the condominiums beside United Square to face huge jams on weekend afternoons as kids get sent to enrichment classes.
Are there alternative ingress/egress routes, then? Check it out so you don’t get a shock or complain about it after buying your home.
The noise levels are drastically different for units facing the pool and greenery units, compared to facing an expressway or major road.
Also, for certain areas like Punggol, deafening fighter planes can really be a pain if you work night shifts and have to rest during the day.
Distance (to work)
Would it make sense to stay in the East if you have to commute one and a half hours daily on public transport to your workplace in the West? Time saved is worth much more in terms of sanity and energy.
Low floor units may be cheaper but more prone to noise, insects, and dust. Units on higher floors are pricier but enjoy more privacy and less insects, noise and dust.
Ground floors have their own charm but there might be snails and insects crawling in, and less privacy and security.
Views that command a premium are those that face greenery, pool, sea views, or unblocked ones overlooking an estate or the city.
If pool views are what you like, go with lower floor units so that your eyes (and your neighbours) are naturally focused on what’s below.
High floor units that have unblocked views can provide you with maximum privacy and enjoyment. Avoid buying high floor units that face other units as it becomes pointless in paying a premium for them.
The higher you go, the more blue skies you see, and that's also a luxury itself, given that we’re always surrounded by high rises.
Are you one of the rare folks who don’t mind a West-facing unit that gets the direct afternoon sun? Otherwise, rule them out to save time. Visit one between 3 to 4pm to see if the afternoon sun really bothers you.
You may be paying a premium for a unit with a great sea view, but do check tthat the land in front of you isn't zoned for another high rise - especially because the URA master plan changes frequently and land zonings are not guaranteed forever.
Basic checks can help you avoid buying into this risk. A subsequent buyer isn’t going to pay you the same premium once your sea views are gone!
Take a look at land use planning and zoning in the URA Masterplan 2019.
Do you prefer a dumbbell layout or a traditional wing shaped layout for your condominium or apartment? Large patios, roof terraces, and balconies are loved by some and detested by others. How about having the flexibility to rent out or house your in-laws under one roof while maintaining privacy?
We’ve compiled the questions that you should ask when deciding on the unit layout:
Are there significant void spaces or high ceiling mezzanine spaces that you are paying for? This could mean paying a higher per-square-foot price.
Are there wasted corridor spaces in the unit? Savvy buyers usually don’t like this.
Is the layout regular or odd-shaped? Regular-shaped layouts are preferred as they are easier to design and place your furniture. Humans think symmetry is beautiful, so odd shaped layouts are less desirable.
Is the rubbish chute in the unit or outside?
Is there a bomb-shelter or store?
Is there a yard for your laundry?
Tip: We look for "free-space" outside the main door, where you can place your barang barang or a shoe rack. Our clients and friends are all happy with this little life hack!
Do you really need one?
A dedicated space for work and study is always nice especially if you work from home at times. Keep in mind that the additional space doesn’t equate to a bedroom as it's much smaller.
North South-facing homes are more windy as the morning and afternoon sun don’t have such an impact on occupants' enjoyment. But this doesn’t mean that North South-facing homes don’t get the afternoon sun at all throughout the year!
East-facing homes get the morning sun and skies turn darker earlier. West-facing homes get the afternoon sun and heat but stay brighter and warmer for longer. From experience, Europeans and Westerners don’t seem to mind West-facing homes as much.
Natural brightness and ventilation
These are important factors that can't be changed. Ensure that the property you choose is well-ventilated and well-lit by naturally lighting. There are properties shielded by neighbouring blocks that cause stuffiness and heat to build up. Properties that are ill-ventilated or lit can cause mold and mildew outbreak, which could lead to health and respiratory issues.
A bright and breezy property is always more sought after. Personally visit a property to assess it yourself.
Buying from a reputable developer is crucial, as construction involves so many different parties that defects do surface when you take over the property.
A reputable developer will always respond and rectify issues with construction quality. There were cases of new developers that cut corners and delivered substandard quality, hence they faced legal suits from their buyers. Some even failed to complete their projects, leaving buyers in limbo for years.
That’s why a good reputation is always a bonus for your margin of safety.
Neighbours per floor?
Premium condos typically have no or few neighbours on each level. Some even come with a private lift lobby so you definitely don’t have to worry about placing your bicycles or golf clubs at the lift lobby.
Otherwise, a typical condominium has between four to seven neighbours per floor.
Maintenance fees and sinking funds
Maintenance fees can be surprisingly costly for some condos in Singapore. For example, a 2-bedroom unit at Scotts Square can cost almost $1000 per month.
For older properties whose maintenance costs start to increase, check whether the sinking funds held by the management is significant.
If sinking funds are low, it could mean that all owners have to top up a significant amount when lifts have to be replaced or a major renovation is required.
Water pressure (for resale)
Yes, water pressure! Rain showers may not work as well in every unit, especially homes on the top floors as there's insufficient pressure buildup.
Then again, it may just be a technical issue that can be solved by plumbers.
Pool types and sizes
Avid swimmers, take note: small projects have smaller pools (less than a full 50M lap pool)!
Gym facilities and sizes
Condo gyms are not as well-equipped as commercial gyms are. If you’d like more than a treadmill, it’s better to see if they have at least free weights and other machines.
One or two complimentary parking spaces are given depending on your unit type. For owners with more than one car, you may need to find out what the cost of extra parking spaces is per month.
Frequently host guests? Some projects also have visitor parking spaces tucked in one corner and aren't particularly easy to locate. Find out how many visitor carpark lots are there and if they’re convenient for your guests. We’ve all heard about the commotion at 8 Riversuites, where guests were charged for parking space after 11pm daily.
Additional entry and exit routes, and side gates can save you precious time and energy as you can cut through the compound.
What are the items that come with the property? Make sure this is noted down in writing and through photos to prevent disputes. Don’t assume that just because a property came with a developer-provided fridge, it will be left behind by the owner.
Lastly, learn more about where growth hotspots in Singapore will be unfolding over the next few years. Before committing to a big-ticket purchase - a property of your own - chat with an experienced property wealth planner so you get the biggest bang for your buck.
Need better clarity on what to do next? Here’s how we can help!
WhatsApp us for a 1-time free 30-min Property Wealth Planning consultation via online video call.
A PWP consultation includes:
An in-depth financial affordability assessment
Highly relevant investment insights
A customised and systematic investment road map to strategize your real estate investment journey ahead