Mr Freddy Sim's take on property these days is that it must be a sanctuary for his family - though he is keen on investment properties too.
The chairman of financial advisory firm Eternal Financial Advisory, who lives in a three-storey landed property with a floor area of 5,300 sq ft, muses: "We didn't just buy a house but a home. A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.
"This home is for my family members to live together happily and for comfort, and we believe happiness is built in a home and not in a house."
Mr Sim, who is in his early 50s, is married to Ms Viviena Chin, 46, who is Eternal Financial Advisory's CEO. Theirs is a blended family, with four sons ranging in age from 21 months to 21 years.
Q What's your property like?
A Our home in the east has two roof terraces where we can view fireworks displays during festive seasons, or play with lanterns during the Mooncake Festival. We bought it in 2007 for $2.2 million.
We wanted a property with its "feet on the ground" and enough space, especially for our four sons and their books and trophies. We wanted a home where we could move items such as groceries easily from the car porch.
Last but not least, the house comes with a land title, not a strata title.
Our home is near the sea, airport and good food. It takes just 10 to 15 minutes to get to town. Most important was the fact that it is near the Chinese Swimming Club, for our sons' swimming lessons geared towards competitions, which they attended when they were younger.
Q Tell us about your property portfolio.
A One of the properties I used to have was a condo - the size was about 1,200 sq ft - which I bought in 1997 for $1 million at the peak of the property market before the 1998 Asian financial crisis. I didn't "see sunlight" until I sold it off in August 2012. I was holding on until I broke even.
In 1996, a capital gains tax for properties sold within three years of purchase, to curb speculation, was introduced as the market was "boiling hot".
The capital gains tax was 100 per cent if you sold it in the first year, and dropped each year after that. This meant you'd have to hold onto the property for more than three years as an investor, instead of being a speculator. Back then, the mortgage interest rate also went up to 8 per cent, and the devaluation of the Thai baht and Indonesian rupiah followed.
That condo became the worst property investment I had made.
Many people think that property will surely make money but they forget it's very illiquid and, with one slight turn, you can get burnt.
Viviena and I have a freehold Melbourne property of about 1,000 sq ft that was bought in 2015 for less than S$600,000. I'm familiar with the city and I think it has the most potential in Australia besides Sydney, where prices have become quite high.
Q Describe your property investing strategy and market view.
A I look out for "three things" - location , location , location! I don't like houses facing the main road and the afternoon sun.
I am not superstitious when I select a house as I make decisions using a business mindset. For instance, if the house number is four (in Cantonese, it sounds like the word "death"), I'm okay but I know the property will be more difficult to market later on.
Q What's your financing strategy?
A For our home, we started off with an 80 per cent loan and paid it off after a few years.
Q What kind of property insurance do you have?
A I am a strong believer in insurance. I've building insurance in case of a fire and I need to rebuild the house.
I've also specific clauses for my interior building materials. The contents of our home, such as furniture, television sets and the fridge, are also covered. The annual premium is $1,379.
Q What's your overall investing strategy?
A I am a high-risk taker because I'll not be able to take a single cent to heaven and there is no point in holding onto money too tightly.
I have stocks and corporate bonds in my portfolio. I used to dabble in foreign exchange but lost money on that.
Q My dream home is...
A A landed property in Kaikoura, New Zealand, a city up in the mountains where you can do whale watching , visit the seal colony and have fresh lobster for meals. It also has rows of beautiful shops and the weather is cool.
This article was first published on Jan 15, 2017.
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