Singapore is widely considered to have managed the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic well. This is one of the reasons Ms. Chua, 28, decided to move back to Singapore after living in the U.S. for six years.
"My husband works in the climate sector, so his job is naturally rotational. When he got a job offer based in Singapore, we decided to move back home so we could be closer to family and feel much safer here during the pandemic. Additionally, we wanted our son to be closer to his grandparents," Ms. Chua said.
When they returned to Singapore in May 2021, they stayed in a rental apartment in Novena temporarily. After a few months of living there, she realised that the Novena area did not suit her family’s lifestyle.
"We missed the open and green spaces that we enjoyed in the U.S. It is hard to find in Novena as it is very central with lots of shops, hospitals, and class enrichment classes," she added.
With these new requirements, they began searching for their next home with the help of PropertyGuru.
Finding Open Space in Pasir Ris
Ms. Chua started her home search online, as most people do nowadays. "PropertyGuru was the first thing that popped up. They have a search and filter function, which helped me narrow down my choices based on size and budget," she said.
"We also liked that the site had detailed maps so that we could check the surroundings of each area. Doing so ensured that we got a place near parks and beaches; as well as open spaces that allow us to unwind and make my son less cranky when he is bored since he can roam around any way he likes in such a setting," Ms. Chua explained.
As she and her husband had worked overseas for years, they did not have CPF savings, meaning they had to pay their down payment in cash.
"Since we have no credit here, banks hesitated to loan us money. After much back and forth, we qualified for an HDB loan, but we had to pay our 20% down payment in cash instead of the normal 5% rate," she quipped.
For this reason, viewing houses in their price range was important. They ended up viewing three units in total.
They arranged everything on their own, as they were used to in the U.S. "In the U.S., there is no buyer’s agent. It is the seller’s agent’s job to address both parties’ interests because it is a win-win situation for all that is involved, so we assumed it was the same here, "Ms. Chua proclaimed.
They eventually settled into a 1,500 sq ft Executive Maisonette in Pasir Ris after getting outbid by another buyer for a flat in Bedok.
"It shows you how competitive the housing market was and still is. But, it all worked out for the best," Ms. Chua smiled.
Realising the Idea of a Green Home
"The previous owner asked for a three-month extension since his place was not ready yet. It allowed us more time to save for renovation purposes. We kept the place’s layout but changed all the interiors, ranging from the flooring tiles and toilets to windows and paint," Ms. Chua elaborated.
As an environmentally-conscious family, they tried to source green, eco-friendly, and non-toxic materials. She admitted that the options for doing so in Singapore are quite limited, which made her opt for imported hardwood flooring from the US and Switzerland, with a carbon offset shipping.
"Hardwood floors are very expensive in Singapore, and when I asked several companies how they were sourced and harvested, they could not answer the question in detail. It is safe to say that Singapore still lags (in this area)," she noted.
The installation process of the floors was a do-it-yourself project for the family.
"While we did employ carpenters and construction workers to beautify the house, we did the hardwood floors in the living room ourselves. It was a good bonding experience," Ms. Chua added.
Aside from the hardwood floors, the place was also painted with non-volatile organic compound paints, meaning no chemicals were used. Instead of using polyester furniture, they chose a friendlier alternative, such as cotton or linen.
As of now, Ms. Chua is happy with her living space and is not planning to move anytime soon, at least not until her husband is assigned to another country.
"We did a lot and forked out some money to make this place our own, so I think we will stay here for some time. We will stay here for as long as my husband is based here," said Ms. Chua.
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