July 7, 2008


Buying a house is like finding a partner

When it comes to finding domestic bliss, follow your head, not your heart

By Yen Feng

WITH the cooling property market, I thought it would be the perfect time to cash in on a modest, entry-level home.

After three months of searching, I have had an epiphany: Buying an apartment is a bit like shopping for a partner.

Cue: Sweet-faced real estate agents who, like pushy matchmakers, will spin such tales of domestic bliss as to leave you giddy.

'Aiyoh, this one so beautiful, high floor and north-facing,' one purred.

Yet another: 'Very hot right now, that one, better book first - yes, sure you will be satisfied for long, long time.'

I was not sure at all.

But even if I were, I could count on family and friends to help with my indecision.

I learnt to identify 'flaws' I did not know I even cared about.

Musing about one development in Balestier, my sister sagely intoned: 'Aren't you worried that it has a small pool?'

Whether it is a house or a spouse, committing to a long-term relationship can be a big undertaking.

There are bank accounts to balance, loans to compare, and goals to consider: Does owning an apartment with a 30-year mortgage factor into my life in the long run?

These are especially important for youth, who typically rely more on gut instinct than Excel spreadsheet-styled pragmatism, never mind their weak budgets.

Three months ago, I was the model young house-hunter - all youthful passion, no sense of perspective.

I wanted to buy the first apartment I saw, a dingy triangular studio along Jalan Besar, a few streets away from the lure of call girls and neon-lit karaoke lounges.

'It's a triangle!' my mother wailed. 'Bad fengshui!' (She did not seem to worry as much about the location.)

But, I reasoned to myself, it is cool and funky.

Yes, my criteria for signing away tens of thousands of dollars in savings were summed up in those six words.

Thankfully, I think differently now.

Before putting down the 10 or 20 per cent commitment dowry, there are a few questions I ask myself:

# Is it near an MRT station?

# What is its average transacted price per square foot in the last 12 months?

# How much do other units in the vicinity cost?

# Would anyone rent or buy it if I needed the money?

# Will the area be developed in the immediate future?

# And of course - is it regular-shaped?

The bottom line is this: You would not marry a person without first checking out his or her history (Any criminal record? Bout of the crazies in the last 10 years?); you would not pledge forever to someone if the person is unlikely to share your values and hope for the future.

A good fit needs time to discover, a sound plan to ensure a worthy rate of investment return.

Anyone can fall in love in a minute - building a home, however, requires a little more time and effort. I have not found my perfect apartment yet, but I know I will if I am patient.

When I finally put my name on the dotted line, one thing is for sure: Romance can take a backseat to a good rental yield.

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