When buying property in Singapore, having a good property agent definitely helps. They’re there to find you the best and newest listings for sale, answer your property and investment questions, and arrange and facilitate your viewings.
We all know how challenging finding your dream home can be. And if you identify as LGBTQ+ in Singapore, there’s an added layer of difficulty if you want to purchase a home with your partner due to the limited housing options. Plus, having to reveal to your agent you’re buying with your partner might be uncomfortable for some.
Lim Ming Han (or Ming) knows this first-hand.
The Property Ming: Buying His First Home at 27 with His Partner
In March 2020, Ming and his partner bought their first home. At 27, they purchased a 484 sq ft one-bedroom unit at The Florence Residences for $734,000. The District 19 condo is within walking distance to Hougang MRT, which services the North East line and will be an interchange station for the upcoming Cross Island Line (CRL).
Most of the hassle was left to their property agent, who took away the stress brought on by the homebuying process. The positive experience inspired Ming to become a part-time property agent.
Using his Diploma In Real Estate Business from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Ming goes by ‘The Property Ming’ and helps other LGBTQ+ couples find a house they can call home.
To provide a resource for LGBTQ+ Singaporeans planning to purchase their first property, we spoke to Ming to better understand the most common challenges faced by LGBTQ+ property seekers, and what you can do about them.
4 Main Challenges LGBTQ+ Singaporeans Face When Buying a Home
1. Not Being Able to Afford the Size of Property You Want
Among Gen Z and young Singaporeans, affordability is one of the top concerns when buying a house. Ming confirms that money is the biggest factor hindering most LGBTQ+ couples from buying property.
If you’re buying a home before you’re 35, you can only purchase private property. In land-scarce Singapore, it’s no secret that this will cost a bomb; even the cheapest condos start at $500,000. And if you can afford private property, it is typically only for a tiny shoebox apartment or studio apartment.
For those who need help making financial calculations, use PropertyGuru’s Affordability Calculator to get better estimates or speak to one of our home finance advisors.
Estimate what you can comfortably spend on your new home
2. Living in a Small Space Which Isn’t Aligned to Long-term Goals
Ming shares that space is something most value. However, from his experience, young LGBTQ+ Singaporeans cannot afford anything bigger than a studio or a one-bedder, which goes against what you want.
So say you do go ahead and purchase a studio apartment for sale before you’re 35. Maybe it’s because you do like the studio apartment’s location, or perhaps you were spurred on by the lack of privacy in your parental home due to the COVID-19 ‘lockdown’. Whatever the case, your cooking, living and sleeping areas are now combined into a single room.
Not exactly ‘the dream home’ you had in mind, huh?
Thus, it’s important to think about these things before committing to a property. If you don’t mind squeezing into a smaller home temporarily and hope to upgrade in a few years, then that’s fine. However, if you intend to stay in the property for a longer time and really value space, then you may want to think twice.
“When presented with the option to purchase a small shoebox to kickstart their property journey as an investment, [individuals in their early thirties] have to consider carefully as this might affect their timeline of getting [a potentially larger] resale HDB at 35.”
3. Purchasing Property as an Individual is Financially Tough
It’s no secret that public housing in Singapore favours ‘conventional family units’. LGBTQ+ couples do not have their marriages recognised under Singapore law and are viewed as singles. Even when they can apply for BTO flats, they have to wait until they’re 35 and can only buy 2-room Flexi units in non-mature estates.
According to most LGBTQ+ couples Ming has spoken to, they are keen on purchasing an HDB flat. If they’re both Singaporean but with only one individual being 35, buying a house now means that, on paper, the house is an individual purchase.
If they have a PR or Foreign partner, they will have to foot a hefty Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) tax. As such, many of them look to purchase using only the Singaporean Citizen’s name.
The individual whose name is on the title deed will require a decent income to take up a bank loan. They might also put off their purchase to save up more, as the loan amount may be insufficient to cover costs, and they need more cash to foot the initial downpayment for their condo or HDB flat.
4. Hiding Their Concerns When Speaking to Agents
While attitudes are gradually shifting – the Government announced during the National Day Rally (NDR 2022) that they will repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code – the topic of LGBTQ+ rights in Singapore remains taboo. There is still a significant portion of people who do not accept the LBGTQ+ community.
Consequently, many in the LGBTQ+ community have had experiences where they had to hide their relationships and concerns from agents when buying property. They may downplay their relationship and say they’re purchasing the house with a friend instead.
“Personally, my partner and I also played up our ‘friendship’ in front of the first agent we spoke to,” Ming laughs.
How LGBTQ+ Singaporeans Can Overcome Common Property-buying Challenges
To mitigate these challenges, Ming has a few handy tips.
1. Start Exploring for Property Early
It’s okay to take your time to search for a property you want to buy. But the earlier you begin your search, the more time you have to study the market, learn what you like versus need, and how much you’re willing to pay.
Ming says he wished he had brushed up on his property knowledge and started seriously searching for a home sooner. He believes that Singapore property “typically goes up with time because of how the state has limited land”.
“If I had known this earlier, I would have started my search at least a year earlier because there were a lot of new properties that were launched then and I would have likely gotten a unit at a cheaper price.”
“The truth is the property market moves faster than we can save. Since my purchase, the property market has boomed, and demand is at an all-time high while supply is dwindling. If I were to buy into the same property now, I’d be paying more than $100,000 more and actually will have been priced out of this purchase.”
However, Ming adds there is no ‘right time’ to buy a property.
“Everyone has unique requirements so know that there’s a perfect property for everyone out there. So as long as you have holding power to ride out the uncertainties and have exercised prudence with your finances, go ahead with your purchase.”
But being able to commit earlier almost always pays off. So, don’t feel like you are wasting the agent’s time and put off your property search!
2. Think Long Term (If You Can)
When buying a house, it’s good to communicate to your agent whatever long-term plans you have for your property. Whether it’s making money or finding a forever home, your property agent needs to know your goals so they can better aid you on your homeownership journey.
The opinion they’ll offer and the exit strategy they’ll formulate will vary according to your needs. Having tailored advice will also reassure you that you’re making the right decisions on your property journey.
For Ming and his partner, they know their one-bedroom isn’t a forever living situation. So it was vital for them to find a unit that would gain short-term capital appreciation. This way, they can sell their unit for profit when they’re ready to make a bigger purchase.
Read more here.
3. Speak to Many Agents until You Find Someone You Are Comfortable With
Think of your agent as your property BFF. Buying a house is not an everyday affair. You’ll want to find someone who listens to and understands you.
“Being able to speak about your concerns truthfully and openly takes the stress off and allows you to focus on the important stuff, aka buying a house.”
That’s why it’s essential to speak to the right agent who has walked the same path or at least has had experience managing similar clients. They’ll be better equipped to help you navigate your unique situation.
Pro-tip: Often, we come across property agent horror stories of agents being unethical or pushy. But not all agents are the same.
“As an agent, I can understand why sometimes we can come across as a little bit pushy. But trust me when I say we have our clients best interest at heart. Being in the heart of the action, we know how a newly-released unit can be sold out in a matter of minutes.”
“That’s why most of the time, we try to encourage clients to make their move quickly because we know that when you miss it, that’s it.”
4. Lean into the Uncertainty and Fear of Buying a Home
However, Ming admits there will always be a certain amount of fear when you buy a house.
“When you speak to an agent, you’ll likely be bombarded with a lot of new knowledge. Trust me. I know that it will be confusing and make you want to procrastinate on it.”
Embrace the learning opportunity and throw yourself into the process. The sooner you choose to be open to digesting property jargon and absorbing knowledge, the smoother the process will be. You’ll feel more empowered and less stressed when it’s time to sign off on the big purchase.
Having a Property Agent Help You Buy a Home
Buying a property is a huge financial commitment and it can undoubtedly be an emotional process. Still, don’t let handling all the nitty-gritty suck the joy out of buying a home. Ming knows this tendency first-hand, as he agonised about finding the ‘perfect’ home.
“Purchasing a property is a compromise and you need to prioritise what’s your most important need. You can’t have everything! There’s no such thing as wanting views, good space, convenience and capital appreciation, all with a tiny budget.”
“Once you figure out all your goals and finances, finding a home is a fun undertaking. Enjoy the process and trust your gut. Picture yourself staying in it and if you cannot, move on. You’ll find the right one eventually.”
A good place to start searching for an agent is our PropertyGuru Agent Directory. With thousands of accredited and verified property agents, you’ll be sure to find a suitable one to guide you on your unique journey.
For more property news, content and resources, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section.
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