Buying a resale flat? Here are 8 things to consider when choosing which unit to buy

When it comes to buying a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat, Singaporeans can either choose a new Build-To-Order (BTO) project or opt for a resale flat.

Besides being able to move in almost right away, resale flats are also often nestled within mature estates that come with amenities within easy reach.

But unlike buying BTO flats, buying a resale flat requires you to have an eye for minute details to ensure minimal problems when moving in.

Here are 8 tips every homebuyer can use when considering the purchase of a resale flat.

BEFORE VIEWING A FLAT

#1 EVALUATE THE AMENITIES YOU REQUIRE 

When choosing a resale flat, take note of your lifestyle and ask yourself what amenities you need that will complement it.

For instance, some would like to live near supermarkets for convenience or want excellent transport connectivity.

For couples with kids, they might be inclined to live in close proximity to their preferred primary school for their children.

Flats that are located near malls are pricier. Ask yourself if you are likely to frequent the mall for grocery shopping or buying a meal.

If your answer is "no," you might be better off getting another flat elsewhere at a lower price.

Once you have identified the amenities you need, you can use this information when shortlisting flats to consider and do more research on.

#2 CHECK THE REMAINING LEASE OF THE FLAT 

Every BTO flat comes with a fresh 99-year lease. For resale flats however, the older the flat, the shorter the lease.

Therefore, you should make it a point to check the remaining lease of the flat and consider if the flat is worth the price you are going to pay.

To check the remaining lease of the flat you intend to move in, you can make use of HDB Map Services. Under the "Housing" option, enter the postal code or address of the flat, and you'll be able to see the remaining lease.

#3 CHECK THE ETHNIC INTEGRATION POLICY (EIP) AND SINGAPORE PR (SPR) QUOTAS 

Before buying a resale flat, check that you are within the ethnic quota (and SPR quota for non-Malaysian PRs) of the block and neighbourhood.

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If you and your co-owner are of different ethnicities, you can choose to classify your household's ethnicity under the ethnic group of either owner, as per their NRIC.

This selected ethnicity will also be applied if you sell your flat in the resale market subsequently.

The EIP and SPR quotas are updated on the first day of every month.

As the quotas will affect any resale applications that month, you may want to check the quotas again if you intend to submit your application at a later date.

To check the eligibility of buying a resale flat of a particular block or neighbourhood, you can use the HDB e-Service.

DURING YOUR VIEWING 

#4 CHECK FOR LOANSHARK GRAFFITI AND OBSERVE NEIGHBOURING UNITS 

When viewing a flat, take note of the presence of any loanshark graffiti, or inexplicable fresh coats of paint that may have signs of graffiti under the paintwork.

Even if the seller attempted to clear any visible traces before the viewing, you may still notice graffiti at the corridors of surrounding levels and units, as well as the void deck and stairs.  

If the neighbouring flat is facing troubles with loansharks, the consequences may spill over and affect you as well.

Another thing you should look out for are private CCTV camera pointing towards the corridor.

While the owners may like to have added security, this may also be a sign of other safety concerns.

#5 ASK THE SELLER OR AGENT ABOUT THE FLAT'S HISTORY AND REASON FOR SALE 

"What is the reason for selling your house?" This question may seem innocuous, but it can potentially save you from any hassle in the future.

As a buyer, you would want to hear reasonable responses, such as upgrading to a bigger flat or private property or moving in with aging parents.

Otherwise, you might suspect issues with the flat, such as pest infestations, maintenance problems, or loanshark issues.

If in doubt, ask the property agent about the history of the flat, as they are obliged to share any relevant information they know.

#6 CHECK THE SIZE AND LAYOUT OF THE FLAT PHYSICALLY 

During your viewing, think about the space you would need in the future, and compare this with the physical layout of the flat.

Singles or young couples may not need a big space.

On the other hand, a spacious flat would be critical for those who are planning to have children in the future.

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Besides the number of bedrooms and the size of the flat, you should also take note of the layout and whether it makes efficient use of space.

Also, check the facing of the main windows.

It is well-known that West-facing windows tend to get warmer than usual, as the sun would shine directly into the flat for the majority of the day, and you may end up spending more on electricity bills for fans or air-conditioning.

#7 CHECK THE CONDITION OF THE FLAT

While viewing the flat, inspect and observe the condition. Look out for signs of leaks, cracks, mildew and spalling concrete on ceilings and walls, as it all adds to the cost of renovation.

Take note of the fittings as well. If they are aging, you are likely to spend more money to get it removed, and to install new fittings during the renovation.

Also, check the water pressure of taps and showers, and make sure the toilet is working. Otherwise, you will need to factor in additional costs for plumbing work.

AFTER YOUR INITIAL VIEWING 

#8 VISIT THE FLAT AT DIFFERENT TIMES TO GAUGE NOISE LEVEL, DIRECTION OF SUN AND TRAFFIC

Sellers will choose a suitable time for you to view the flat, but bear in mind that certain hours, such as late afternoons where people are away at work, are not a good indicator of the actual situation.

That is why you should make additional trips at various times of the day to get a better sense of the noise level.

Flats located near major roads tend to be noisier during rush hour or even late at night, while schools tend to get livelier during school term.

You may also want to make use of your visit at daytime to check on the direction of the sun. As mentioned earlier, flats that face West tend to get warmer.

TAKE YOUR TIME TO CHOOSE A FLAT THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU

Buying a flat is a major decision that will change your life. In fact, for most people, it is the biggest-ticket purchase they will ever make.

So take your time and make a thorough and careful evaluation, so you can minimise any unexpected surprises or regrets that may arise after moving in.

This article was first published in Dollars and Sense