When they decided to apply for a new flat through the HDB Fiance/Fiancee Scheme in 2012, entrepreneur couple Vinod Nair and Valli Pandit were looking for convenience.
Mr Nair, 34, the chief executive officer of personal finance portal MoneySmart.sg, wanted a decently priced property that would also be a good investment in the long run.
Ms Pandit, 32, who runs her own business, bespoke menswear store Reizo in Chinatown, wanted ease of commuting, especially now that she is pregnant with the couple's first child. For them, a spacious home was a priority, a place where their child could crawl about and run around in.
The couple found not just convenience, but also comfort and class, in a five-room flat in a new Build-To-Order estate in Clementi.
Mr Nair spoke to The Sunday Times about their home-buying experience.
Q Describe your property?
A We are extremely lucky to have landed this home. We were not expecting to get a unit on the 24th storey since our name was low down in the queue, but to our surprise, two units were available to us by the time it was our turn to choose.
We grabbed this one mainly because of the view. The windows in every room and the kitchen offer a fantastic view of the sea in the distance. On a clear day, we can see the mountain in a neighbouring country and on weekends, the view of the sunset is mesmerising. It is also well-lit and breezy. This place is also conveniently located and spacious. It really checked all the boxes for us.
Q In which year was it bought and how much did it cost?
A We booked it a year before we got married in 2013, and camped with my parents for a while until it was ready. We got the keys last June.
It cost us around $630,000 for an area of 1,200 sq ft. Renovations in the living room and kitchen, and adding some storage space, cost us another $50,000. Currently, we pay $1,900 in combined monthly payments through CPF.
The mortgage and home insurance come up to approximately another $800 annually, and we are planning to get home content insurance to protect our fixtures and appliances.
Q Why did you choose this location?
A We were looking to buy a flat near our place of work and with proximity to my parents' house in Bukit Timah. In this respect, this was the most convenient area for us.
The estate is close to Clementi MRT station, which best suited our needs since neither of us drives. The area also has many other facilities and amenities, such as coffee shops, restaurants and parks, as well as a mall for grocery and leisure shopping.
Q Why did you choose this type of property?
A Both of us value space. We were looking for a decent-sized home to live in, which would also fetch good returns in future.
After much research, we realised that condominium units were too tiny, while a resale five-room HDB flat in Clementi was beyond our budget. So we decided to wait a bit longer and apply under the BTO scheme.
We were ready to pay a premium because we wanted a place which we would be comfortable with in the long term. We also plan to retain ownership of this flat even if we decide to upgrade to a condo or landed property after the minimum occupation period was over.
As for getting returns on our investment, a rental apartment in Clementi would fetch us a good yield as the location is popular among students, expats and locals for its accessibility and convenience. Currently, rental prices for a five-room flat here are around $3,000 - annually, this works out to be approximately 5 per cent of the total price, which is pretty good.
Q Describe your property investment strategy?
A I am a consumer first and CEO of MoneySmart.sg second. When buying property, I face the same property and financing concerns, as anyone else would, such as the type of property to buy, the affordability, mortgage options and amount.
The web of mortgages and interest rates in the market has stumped many people, which led me to start MoneySmart.sg to help Singaporeans make decisions on how to manage their finances.
MoneySmart.sg is in the business of mortgage comparison, with over 700,000 hits a month. My work also enables me to study various market conditions and see at first hand how people tend to make mistakes. They get excited when they spot a good property, but get stuck because they don't plan their finances properly.
As a consumer, I would turn to MoneySmart.sg as a one-stop website on information such as home loan rates and mortgage payments when I want to buy property in the future.
Our basic consideration will also be potential capital gains based on the existing and upcoming amenities in the area.
Q What is your financing strategy?
A As someone whose job is to research and provide the best deals on various financials, I always advocate that anyone eligible for a HDB concessionary loan should take it first.
A bank loan will allow customers to save on interest payments, but an HDB loan will allow them to borrow up to 90 per cent of the loan amount, compared with a bank's 80 per cent limit. This 10 per cent additional cash in hand would help ease the financial strain for more immediate needs such as renovations and furniture shopping.
Q What do you think of the property market now?
A I think the market has softened a lot because of the various measures such as Total Debt Servicing Ratio regulations, which means it is possible to find good deals.
With some developers facing the prospect of hefty fines if units go unsold, buyers may be able to find good deals for condos with a temporary occupation permit.
Q Would you make another property purchase, and if so, what kind?
A We are looking to buy a condominium in five years' time, depending on how the market is at that point.
Q Your dream home is...
A My dream home would be a spacious four-bedroom penthouse which overlooks the sea and has a balcony with a jacuzzi. Location-wise, I prefer somewhere between HarbourFront and Clementi, near an MRT station and with easy accessibility to major expressways.
This article was first published on Feb 19, 2017.
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