Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Journey to a New Home

Ever since the birth of Harrod, our first kid, my wife and I started to have the intention to move to a bigger unit. The reason was that we felt that we needed a bigger place to house our growing family, and we wanted kiddo (and ourselves) to have enjoy some condo facilities like the pool. Furthermore, when we bought the current flat, there was already then a plan to look for a place after five years.

While the intention was there, we didn't really go about hunting for a new place until a few months ago, when my wife suddenly reminded me of our intention. We then realised that kiddo has grown up quite a fair bit and it was really time to think about getting a new place, especially since it was also our intention is to have another kid soon so that the age gap between the two were not too great.

The Initial Stage

Our first property was bought over from my in-laws so it was quite a non-event and not much research needs to be done then -  I only remember getting someone to valuate the house, then go HDB listen to the property officer explain the terms and conditions, which till now I have no clue what he was saying, then sign the documents, pay the fire insurance and then next thing I know, we own the place leow. So this time round, you can say that we are sort of virgin buyers. Over the next few weeks, we started to engage a few agents to help us look for a place. Our initial criteria were as such

- 4 Bedrooms.
- High Floor
- Non facing west for Living and Master Bedroom
- Quiet Block (meaning away from main roads, mrt tracks etc)
- East
- New or upcoming development
- Free Hold
- Not too ulu

After viewing the first few units, Bedok Residences, Flamingo Valley, Vacenza and the Water Front series at Bedok Reservoir, of which all of them were show flats and under construction. We realized that the last 2 criteria are quite mutually exclusive - if you want a free hold, it will most likely be at a ulu location, and if you want a place there is not too ulu, it will likely not be freehold. We also realized that a new or upcoming development is not suitable for us as most of them will TOP in 2014-2015, which will be too late for us. Thus we took off the free hold and upcoming development out of our criteria. We also realized that to get the maximum bank loan, we have to pay off our existing HDB loan first (which was I how I discovered about the Valuation Limit thingy on my very first post). So we quickly went to settle that part and redid out maths again.

Becoming More Seasoned House Hunters

As we started to view more properties, we got a better clarity of what type of property we were looking for, and our quality of questions when viewing the houses improved. From initial questions like "where is this house facing", "what is the view like", etc.. we started to ask more cheem questions like "what angle will the sun come in and which parts will it hit", "is your flooring teak?". Even as we "level up", I will still always ask one question - "Is your unit Fibre (Opennet) Ready?" - One of the agents must have got so used to this question that subsequently, when we went to view any property with him, and when he spots that familiar rectangular Opennet box, he will point at it and tell me that the house is Fibre ready.

The Fate (or Lack of Fate) of Owning A Place

Of the properties we seen so far, three of it caught my eye. The first was a four room apartment at Baywater. The property was owned by a Malay family and they had made a great effort to renovate the place. The place had a European wooden theme, with a false ceiling where they place spotlights to brighten up the place. The kitchen was also nicely done up. What was most impressive about this development (for a techy like me) was that not only was the house Fibre ready, the place was fully wired up as part of the development - meaning there is a data patch panel located at the comms riser and each room has a data port. I don't think a lot of people see the value in this, but to me, it was a great feature as this means you don't need to run ugly looking LAN cables all over the shop. (Wireless speeds cannot be compared to LAN speeds). Alas, the DTL construction was just behind the development, and we didn't want Kiddo and ourselves to be woken up every morning by the sound of construction works. If the construction of the DTL were a little bit further away, or completed, we would like have gotten this place.

The second property was a 4 storey (Basement + 3 Storeys) cluster-house in Springfield, near Simpang Bedok. We had no plans initially to look at cluster houses as we felt that it would be way out of our league, and that multi-storey houses may not be suitable for young kids. Subsequently, we found out that the estimated price of these houses were within our budget and so we decided to take a look. An arrangement was made to view 4 units that day, from what we thought was the most ideal in terms of location to the least. After viewing the first three, we were almost about to give up as we felt that the houses are generally quite old and run down but decided to go for the 4th one instead, which is the least desired as it was directly facing the pool. But when we stepped into the unit, we were immediately wowed by it. The owner had spent quite a huge sum (I understand it to be around 80k) to do a major overhaul of the unit, making the entire place look modern and chic, including the kitchen and respective rooms. Furthermore, the renovation was done about a year ago, but the owner had to move out as they had old folks who had difficulties climbing the stairs. We were immediately impressed by the place. Our agent could sense our excitement and immediately asked the seller's agent the lowest price the seller was willing to sell the place. The seller's agent didn't give a definitely answer, but told us the price of the rejected offer. On the way back, me and my wife, after agreeing to the range we were willing to pay, decided to make an offer via our agent. The agent told us he will check all the paperwork and then contact the seller's agent. Unfortunately, by evening time, our agent told us the place was sold.

While we didn't manage to get the place, the experience opened up another option for us to look at multi-storey units. At the same time, my wife's colleague introduce her to this property called Villa Marina at Siglap. This property was something we came across before (I later learnt) but we never paid attention to it initially.  My wife went to look at it one day over lunch with her colleagues and was impressed by the overall design of the area. Who wouldn't when you are presented with this view.

View of the Large Pool

We made an arrangement to view 2 of the units on offer at the condo. We were quite unimpressed with the first one as it was bare bones and was facing the main road (Marine Parade Road), thus it was quite noisy. The 2nd one got us hooked - the place was renovated when the owners first move in (about 12 to 13 years ago) but the place was very well kept. It had a very European feel, the living room had a fireplace, with a unblocked view out the windows at the living room. Imaging spending a lazy Sat afternoon at the living room, sitting by the window and sipping tea. The bedrooms were nicely done up as well and my wife loved one of the bedrooms which was converted into a study room. This time round, we knew that we will have to strike fast, we did a quick calculation on the maximum we want to offer and told our agent that amount. Our agent called the seller's agent but was told that the owner can only make a decision tonight on the offer. That very night, we met up with the owner - the first round of discussion didn't went through well as both of us and the sellers could not agree on a price. The owner then invited us to look around the house one more time, where he described in greater detail the different parts of the house and the renovations he done. We were impressed by his attention to details with regards to the renovation, and felt that he was very proud of this house. More importantly, the tour made us confirm that this is the house we want. When we sat down for the 2nd time, both the seller and us came to a common price that both parties could agree on very quickly. Perhaps its because we were convince by him that the property is worth the price in his mind, and they were convinced by us that we will help them take care of this house they have painstakingly maintained these past years. 

So here we are, proud owners of a 2 Storey Top Floor Penthouse in Villa Marina. A bit pricier then what we had very initially budgeted for, but definitely someplace we will not regret buying. Through the whole experience, we had believe by faith that God will open doors for us if its the right property, and close it if its not the correct one. This is a true testament to that believe, we had two chances before which we felt was the right one, but God choose to close these doors, including one at the last minute. Subsequently we were brought to a condo that was not part of our shopping list, and God choose to open this door for us. By the same faith, even though we know that the price was a bit pricier, and we have to factor in some renovation costs inside (+ misc costs), we believe that Jesus has already paid in full the amount for us as he had shown us this unit for us and kiddo to spend a good part of our life in.

I shall leave you with a few shots of the property. 
Living Room

Living Room view from 2nd Floor

Study Room

Master Bed Room

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