While it is true that living with one’s in-laws is a common (and often, the most cost-effective) option for married couples in Singapore, the eagerness of owning a home and finally embracing the stage of “adulting” may come sooner rather than later.
This is how Abigail and Sebastian felt. After almost two years of living with her in-laws, she decided it was time for her family to finally have a place of their own.
"We got married at the end of 2019 and stayed with my in-laws in Woodlands. We knew this was not a long-term solution," Abigail said. She already had a checklist of criteria for her new home; it has to be near both her in-laws’ house in Woodlands, and her parents’ house in Yew Tee.
Aside from the location, the home must also be near the MRT station, on a high floor, and be a south-facing unit.
"I feel that high-floor units tend to be more ’airy’, meaning you can feel the breeze of the wind more once you open the window. You may be able to save more on electric bills since you won’t need an aircon to keep you cool," Sebastian explained. A south-facing unit would also mean she would be protected from the glaring sun.
Taking The DIY Route
With the help of government sites like HDB and the PropertyGuru portal, Abigail and her husband were able to easily search and shortlist properties on their own. Although it took some time for them to research the market and trawl through property ads, they decided that this was the best way to go and have no regrets.
“Nowadays, everything can be done online, including purchasing a home. The HDB portal has a clear set of instructions for purchasing a resale unit. PropertyGuru helped me to understand what is required, ranging from the Home Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter to Option to Purchase (OTP),” shared Abigail.
She added that the need for going online also applied to the house viewings, as she first began her search during Singapore’s COVID-19 Circuit Breaker. Back then, physical viewings were not allowed, and buyers could only go on virtual tours of the properties.
“It was an adjustment we all had to make to rely on Zoom for viewings. Without seeing the place in person, it was not easy to picture ourselves living there. Luckily, as restrictions began to ease up, we had the opportunity of looking at a few units in person in the Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang area,” Sebastian remembered.
Losing $1,000 Due to $40,000 COV
One incident Abigail still remembers was when she forfeited the $1,000 OTP deposit for a unit in Choa Chu Kang once she found it required her to pay approximately $40,000 Cash over Valuation (COV).
“We knew prices had been steadily rising, but when we knew we had to pay $40,000, we were so shocked that we immediately backed out,” she recalls.
As HDB resale flat prices rise, this is an increasingly common scenario. There is no surefire way to know the COV (which must be paid in cash) before you put down money for the OTP. Buyers can only estimate the expected COV by looking at past transaction prices of similar units.
Finding The Perfect Home Along the Downtown Line (DTL)
Eventually, she purchased a 4-room unit in Bukit Panjang, which is only a 3-minute walk to the Downtown MRT Line. This was the strongest pull factor for Abigail and her husband. “Once we saw this unit, we knew that it would be our forever home since it ticked the boxes of everything we wanted. Not to mention, the COV was $10,000, an affordable figure for us.”
Abigail did a complete overhaul to the unit, from hacking down the kitchen walls to making it an open space concept with the dining and living room area. “We also hacked down the walls of one bedroom to make a larger master bedroom,” Abigail said.
She also repainted the walls and redid the tiles to have a brighter and more cheerful atmosphere. The renovation process and her living adventure are documented on Instagram.
“The previous owner opted for much darker tones, but we prefer the idea of bright and pastel colours to invite a sense of warmth,” Abigail said with a smile.
The Benefits of Living in Bukit Panjang
Living in Bukit Panjang meant that Abigail and her family would be reasonably near both her parents and in-laws. "To reach each of our parents takes approximately 20 minutes, so it is fair, right?” says Abigail with a grin. Being near the Downtown Line also means having a more direct route into the city and reduced travel time.
Additionally, being so near her parents’ house meant that they qualified for the proximity grant. "With the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) and the Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG), and the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, we ended up saving approximately $80,000," Sebastian said proudly.
As this would be her forever home, she might consider making a few changes here and there, especially if a child comes into the picture, making the living space bigger by knocking down the guest bedroom’s walls. "That is still a few years down the line though, not right now," Abigail shared.
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