June 25, 2007

En bloc blues: A child depressed because of constant moving

I AM touched by the article on the en bloc phenomenon, 'Can money ease loss of memories?' by Ms Linda Lim (ST, June 21).

I want to share my personal experience on property transactions here though I did not benefit from any en bloc sales in any property transactions.

So far, I have sold three properties and stayed in six places in my short married life of 15 years.

The other three properties were all rental units with one in Tasmania, Australia, which we stayed in for about a year.

I have heard of friends moving house every other year just to enjoy some profits from the property transaction. I fear that they do not consider how their children feel when they move houses.

We were very lucky in our first two transactions, making a total of close to half a million dollars - one transaction from a HDB executive unit netted us about $400,000 and the other from a private unit about $150,000.

We, nevertheless, lost more than $100,000 in our third private property transaction as we felt that the interest rate was too high for us to bear over a prolonged period of repayment but still could have enough to pay off a HDB maisonette that we bought recently.

Sad to say we were very poor stewards of the property profits and squandered them all away on overseas trips and extravagant purchases. We also made some wrong investment choices. As the saying goes, 'Easy come easy go'. For en bloc benefactors, let this be a gentle reminder to all to use your money wisely.

We lived in the third property for well over five years and had pleasant memories there. Our daughter also grew up there during her primary-school years.

We even built up a good rapport with our neighbours and enjoyed the ample space of the property. We were familiar with the area and I would say that a home is built over many pleasant memories of laughter and conversation in the house.

We missed our home and our friends immensely when we moved out last year. I was sleepless for a period before the move. I was also unprepared at how the move impacted my daughter.

During the last week of our stay in the house, our daughter could not pack her room and was depressed for a period.

She needed us to help her pack her stuff.

On the day that the movers came, she locked herself in the room and did not want to see the movers move our boxes to the new place. She came out only when the house had been emptied.

As parents, it was difficult for us to watch such an emotional spectacle. She felt that the security of the home had been destroyed and removed from her. To her, it was not just a house but a place where she could feel secure and anchored.

Until now, it pains us to pass by the property, recalling pleasant memories which are no longer ours to treasure and enjoy. It was an experience that I did not anticipate when we sold the property. Maybe there were too many pleasant memories that we had brought into the house over the years which we were reluctant to disengage from.

My advice to the en bloc benefactors is to ask yourself whether money can buy memories? Those memories are built over the years through efforts made to grow your house into a home which no collective sales money can buy.

Our children will dearly miss them as they treasure those memories that were stored in a place called home.

If you move too much, your children's anchor will be shaken. Their heart will also turn cold as they could not understand why money is more important than how they feel about the security and familiarity of a home.

Gilbert Goh Keow Wah