A Private Upgrade

Homeowner Adelin tells us why she chose to upgrade from a HDB flat to a private property, sharing handy advice for prospective homeowners.

Can you tell us a little bit about your home journey?

My husband and I were quite fortunate because we first got a sale-of-balance flat near an MRT station 15 years ago. We had that house for about seven years, but we eventually started opening up to the possibility of moving to a private development, because of the facilities and our plans to have a kid. It took us many years to finally decide on this unit—we actually saw so many over the years.

When we first saw this unit, we couldn’t sell the flat yet, because the minimum five-year period wasn’t up yet. The asking price at that point was also rather high. But ironically, two years later, the prices kind of softened and the unit was still on the market. I made an offer but knew the place would need a full remodel. It was actually a three-room flat originally and we turned it into a four-room flat.

So why did you decide to upgrade?

First of all, the space, and then of course the investment. We wouldn’t only be getting more space but also secure our wealth preservation in the long run, since we would have the ability to pass on the property. We were also at a point where we were quite comfortable so it was an affordable upgrade for us.

You said you viewed a lot of different units. Why did you choose this one?

This unit is around 1,600 square feet, so it’s pretty spacious. I saw the potential in it, how I could remodel the entire space. We really like this environment as well, it’s really quiet and slightly more affordable than the surrounding area. It’s not too far for my kids to go to school either.

Do you find that there are any downsides to going private

Generally speaking: property tax! A downside to this unit specifically is that the location is not as convenient as it could be. We had the MRT station right at our doorstep when we lived in our HDB flat, so having things a little further away took some getting used to.

At least we have a shuttle bus here, which brings us to the MRT station, so it’s not too bad. We also have Thompson coming up as a development nearby so I think in a couple of years, this area will be a lot more convenient.

Do you envision yourself staying here long-term?   

This is a very comfortable space, but we’d like to eventually get an electric car, and this block doesn’t have a charging station. So that’s something we might consider if we decide to move. Maybe another extra bathroom as well.

What was the process of getting this unit like, compared to your HDB flat?

The waiting times for HDB flats are of course much longer, but they’re quick to renovate. On the flip side, it took us six months to renovate this place and it was quite pricey. I think that’s why the unit was on the market for some time—the buyers knew they would need a bit more cash to renovate it.

What are some important considerations when choosing between private and HDB?

Affordability and space. Especially right now, property prices are very high, even though the newer developments are smaller in size. I always tell my friends and colleagues not to upgrade just for the sake of it, and to think carefully before switching to

a smaller unit, because space is pretty important, especially when you’re starting a family.

Would you recommend getting an older unit versus a new one?

When we look at an older resale unit, what we need to be mindful of is the extent of the renovation work that will be required. There can be a lot of hidden costs. A lot of people don’t realise that, for example, the air-con piping and water pipes likely need to be changed in very old flats. If you don’t change them, you’ll eventually have leaks and things like that. These works can be really expensive.

What are some things you learned throughout the process that you didn’t expect?

We actually paid the deposit on a different unit before this one, only to find out that there was going to be a road built right in front of the unit. It was misrepresented by the agent in that sense and we had to get lawyers involved to get the deposit back. What we learned is that it’s important to trust yourself and do your due diligence, like checking construction plans—don’t just depend on what your agent tells you.

Any final tips for anyone looking to buy a home? Take your time. I think a lot of people fall in love with a property at first sight and then rush into a purchase, especially when the house is dressed up for viewing. There will be a lot of oversights—it’s really okay to ask for a second viewing or even a few if you’re seriously interested. It also helps to get your contractors to come in with you because they are able to show you the things that you may miss and point out the work that will need to be done.