Nigel and Charlene first met in 2016 during his training days in Officer Cadet School. Like many love stories that blossom during one’s youth, it was sparked by their friendship.
"We started hanging out with a group of friends. After a while, we realised that we ‘click’. We finished each other’s sentences and got each other’s jokes. Our friends were the ones who noticed it first," Nigel shared.
"When we first met, I had just broken up with my then-boyfriend, so I didn’t think about getting into another relationship immediately," Charlene reminisced.
“After being single for a few months, I told Nigel that I was ready to date again. He never pressured me to get into the relationship quickly; he patiently waited, so I have to give him points for that.”
Fast forward to 2017, they made it official and began dating. By 2021, they were engaged and started searching for their forever home together. Several flat viewings later, they found their home: a 5-room HDB flat in Pasir Ris.
Getting Engaged at a Young Age
After Nigel finished serving National Service, they decided to attend university together. The pair lived in a school hostel and only went home on the weekends. A few months after graduation, they got engaged.
“Some people may wonder why we got engaged so quickly. After all, it is the norm for young people to explore other options, but I know deep down that we have a good thing going on. He accepts me as I am and vice versa,” Charlene explained.
“When you spend four years so closely with someone, it gives you the training ground for living together and possibly marriage afterwards.”
“We spent a lot of time with each other, getting to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. We can be ourselves in front of each other without judgement. She even can pick her nose or fart in front of me,” Nigel grinned.
Spending four years living in a hostel made them realise how important it is to have their own space. That’s what pushed the pair to begin their homeownership journey together. Their first step? Estimating how much money they would need for their purchase.
Finding the Right Home in Pasir Ris
When searching for their ideal home, they only had one criterion: being close to their parents.
“I grew up in Pasir Ris and my parents live nearby, so we are eligible for the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG), which helps us with our finances,” Nigel remarked.
Aside from being close to their parents, living in Pasir Ris affords them the amenities they want, like easy access to public transportation networks and various F&B options. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the quiet neighbourhood also offers a sense of serenity and calm.
Most of their free time was spent on the PropertyGuru website, reading relevant property guides or browsing properties for sale, so they were familiar with the approximate amount of money they need. They set up alerts for listings in the neighbourhood and checked the PropertyGuru website daily.
“We tried other platforms, but we always came back at the end of the day [as it was easiest to use].”
Eventually, the pair viewed multiple flats with a 3-, 4-, and 5-room setup.
“We made a pact that if we purchased a 3- or 4-room flat, we would sell once it reaches the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). But, if we bought a 5-room flat, we would stay for longer and raise our family,” Charlene noted.
Eventually, they fell in love with a 5-room HDB flat and put in an offer for the unit on the same day.
“We actually viewed another unit across from where we’re living now. But the other unit was more expensive due to the renovations done by the owner. While the unit we chose was more plain, it’s okay because we can make the place our own. The walls have been hacked and it has an open-concept kitchen, another plus,” Charlene said.
Staying Indefinitely In Their 5-room HDB Flat
After collecting their keys, Charlene and Nigel spent a long five months renovating the place. The whole process was challenging and time-consuming, as they spent a considerable amount of effort they put into making the place their own.
"We almost redid the whole house, from choosing tiles to painting the walls and bringing in furniture, so I’d like to think we’ll stay here for the foreseeable future. We even chose furniture pieces that aren’t fixed, so we can move them around and assemble them as needed, especially when kids come into the picture,” Charlene said.
"When the renovation was finally done, there was a little bit of relief and a sense that we’ve finally reached the ‘adulting’ stage of life," Nigel added.
For now, Nigel and Charlene are happy to have their own place. In the near future, they’re planning to add more furnishings and decorations.
"This is our first home, so I’m sure we’ll be adding personal touches down the line; it’s a continuous process, but overall, I’m happy with where we are now," Nigel smiled.
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