Buying property can be daunting, and more so if you’re single. And even more so if you’re an introvert.
In my mid-30s, I felt it was time to take a deep breath and dive into the property market. The government even signals to single people my age that it’s time to get off our unmarriageable, property-less butts and buy an HDB flat. (Well, except for Prime Location Housing . Sorry, bud.)
More so though, I’d always dreamed of having my own home, a place I could design to my liking and live my best life. In property-speak, I was a buyer looking for “own-stay” over investment opportunities.
It took me a full year to get my four-room resale flat. And even with the Covid-19 virus lurking about, I was honestly more afraid of the property market. I feared it would chew me up and spit me out into a whole lot of regret and debt, and there’s no vaccine to prevent that.
Now though, writing from my study in my flat, I’m glad to say the experience was rewarding.
This four-part series is my story of buying my first property as a single, introverted person. (Stacked has already featured my personal home-buying journey , so head there if you want the TLDR.) I’m not a real estate expert, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I think there’s some value in my experience to some of you.
In Part 1, I’ll be telling you about my experience entering the property market all on my own.
Can you even buy property without a property agent? The short answer is – yes. (For a lengthier explanation, Stacked has a great article on DIY property-buying .)
The Internet is an enabler for introverts like me – you can do everything online without having to deal with pushy salespeople. In Nov 2019, when I decided to venture into the property market, I scoured listings on PropertyGuru and 99.co and set up viewing appointments on my own. Easy-peasy.
Well, not quite. For all my solo bravado, I really had no clue what I was doing at first. I was all over the shop, viewing a wide range of properties, from one- and two-bedroom condo and EC units, to three- and four-room DBSS and HDB flats.
I knew I wanted to stay somewhere in the West or North to be close to family, but I viewed a few properties in the East and South as well. (I stopped short of the Core Central Region because money no enough.)
By the end of 2019, I had viewed over 20 properties without coming close to putting in an offer. But you do learn a thing or two after stepping into so many strangers’ homes.
Firstly, you’ll learn that pictures only show so much. This shouldn’t be groundbreaking news, but viewing property is an expectation-vs-reality meme come to life. Wide-angle lenses and carefully-cropped images can make properties look much nicer than they are. Sometimes it’s the reverse situation where the property looks a lot better in person.
Nothing beats viewing resale property IRL. With experience, I learned to spot deal-breakers much more quickly, and got a reality-check on unrealistic expectations, like that large open-concept kitchen with an island I’d always dreamed of. (Probably not in a one-bedder.)
I also learned to take in the areas just outside the property as well, which don’t always make it into listings. From entering the lift lobby, to how cluttered a walkway is up to the unit, these are areas you’ll have to take into account too since you’ll be traversing them often.
Secondly, you’ll learn to ask the right questions. At some of my early viewings, I was just too shy to open my mouth at all. But I soon realised that I was lacking so much information to properly evaluate a property. I had to bring myself to ask the selling agent important questions, such as:
- How long has the property been on the market?
- How many times has this property changed hands?
- How long has the seller lived here?
- Why is the seller moving?
- Does the seller need an extension of stay?
- When was the unit renovated?
- Is anything going to be demolished or built nearby?
- What are the neighbours like?
Thirdly, you’ll learn how to tune out high-pressure sales tactics. Dealing with aggressive selling agents was something I dreaded the most, although they were more the exception rather than the norm. A few agents turned the hard-sell on me as soon as I stepped through the front door and wouldn’t let up until I left.
The most common hard-sell lines I encountered were:
- There is a lot of interest in the unit.
- The unit is a fire sale.
- The unit is under-valued. (Sure can earn!)
- Got offers already, faster put in yours.
It really doesn’t matter whether these lines are true or not. I don’t like to be pressured or rushed into making a decision, especially when it’s something as big as buying property. And like dating, an attractive and popular prospect isn’t necessarily the right one for you. Nothing should distract you from evaluating property on your own terms.
Viewing property is a skill, and the only way to get better at it is to practice. If you’re thinking of buying property, it doesn’t hurt to check out some, even before you’re ready to purchase. It won’t cost you a cent, and you’ll get the hang of how to assess a property, and even clarify your ideals in a future home.
So that’s what I’ve learned so far attempting to buy property all on my own. Some experiences relied on my inclinations as an introvert, others felt like I was going against my very nature. And even after all that, still no home yet in sight!
Come back for Part 2, when I conclude I’m in over my head and need the help of a property agent.
This article was first published in Stackedhomes.