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9 things to consider before buying a HDB flat

'Can I afford public house' is usually the question on most minds. The balloting process and loans alone provide enough to think about. However, there are far more things to consider than just the affordability. 

1. Loan me tender: Loans are relatively easy to get, provided your credit rating is good. What you need to consider is how comfortably you can live and support your family day to day while you settle your loan over many years.

2. The size is right: Imagine your parents moving in with you or you adding another child to your family. Plan in advance so when something unexpected happens, you don't have to stress over moving and acquiring another house. Plan proportionately to your finances.

3. Love thy neighbour: It is important to find out from the current owner about the neighbours. If a neighbour (or owner) is constantly hounded by loan sharks or have many parties that go on late at night, you deserve to know before you make your decision. If you can, talk to the neighbours and gauge for yourself if this is indeed a place you want to live in for the foreseeable future.

Image source: Eugene Ang via sxc

4. Sweet escape: Buying flats in less popular/matured areas tend to be cheaper. However, this could also mean you will spend more on transportation. Hence, it is best to find out what the amenities nearby are and how long it will take for you to get to work via public transport first.

5. Level up: If you're buying a resale flat, it is better if the flat has already been upgraded. Otherwise, you will need to prepare for upgrade costs. Owners consider and include upgrade costs in the Cost-Over-Valuation (COV) they demand. It is best that you negotiate this beforehand.

6. Inspector Gadget: Whether it's a new or resale flat, get someone to inspect it. HDB provides this service for a fee and they are quite thorough so do take advantage of it. This is not only to ascertain the true value of the home but to ensure that everything is in working order. This helps you to save money and get fixes resolved by the existing owner before the lease is transferred.

7. Show me the money: Do you have enough cash for renovations? Do you have enough to service your monthly loans? Do you have enough to support yourself? How about your family? It is difficult but make sure you do not fall into the trap of taking more loans than you can handle. If you can ideally afford a 3 room flat, don't push for a 5 room flat. If you think you need a much bigger flat, take some time to save before you dive in.

8. The rising sun: Ideally you do not want a flat that gets full glare from the sun. No doubt curtains and blinds can help but you run the risk of making your home stuffy while driving the air-conditioning fees up. The sun facing your kitchen is fine as it makes drying clothes convenient.

9. The not so sweet spot: Find out just how much crime exists in your potential neighbourhood. If the block you may be living in is in a secluded area or there are many bushes and trees around that make walking at night seem dangerous, you may have to re-consider even if the price is agreeable. If there is a police post nearby or if the area is well lit and surrounded by hawker centres and shops like 7-11, then it would be a much safer environment.  While crime is generally low in Singapore, local police would say, ‘low crime does not mean no crime,' so speak to the neighbours and do your own research.

Consider all of these things carefully. It is not necessary for the flat to hit perfect scores in every area but if it fulfils your liveable criteria, it is worth contemplating.

Written by: Christopher Chitty

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