All the important household decisions are made by mothers, research shows.
Increasingly, mothers and wives are becoming the key decision makers when it comes to buying property. While some have the financial means and support from family to do this, others, particularly unwed mums, are crumbling under the pressure.
By Romesh Navaratnarajah
Recent research shows that when it comes to making the right decision when buying a house, mums know best.
Surveys carried out in 2014 and 2015 by Singapore parenting magazine theAsianparent, found that Asian mothers see themselves as the ‘Chief Household Officers’, making close to 90 percent of all household purchasing decisions.
One reason mums and wives play a bigger role today is because more women are working now than in the past, and are able to contribute to purchasing the property.
“With joint CPF payments, they feel they are contributing as well, and the decision and responsibility is no longer entirely their husbands’,” said Pavin Kaur, Associate Content Director, theAsianparent.
Running a home
Aside from contributing to the purchase price of the property, mothers also play the role of homemaker, generally spending the most time at home, noted Stuart Chng, Senior Group Division Director at Savills.
He recalled helping a mother who wanted to relocate her family from the East to Bukit Timah. “As the husband was very busy, she was in charge of settling the sale of their condominium and finding another unit that suited their preferences and budget.”
Location, location, location
According to Chng, most mothers tend not to rush into the property market, and have a list of requirements when it comes to buying a home.
In many cases, location is a top consideration, as the property needs to be near their preferred schools to improve their children’s chances of gaining entry, but also close to their spouse’s workplace, and extended family members who can offer support, he said.
Another important criteria is safety. “One common concern for mums with young kids is the balcony railing height and whether the windows can be locked or are child-safe,” said Chng.
Kaur, who’s a mum, feels the layout and size of a home also plays a part. “When you have a maid or grandparents living together, you certainly want to have the space to accommodate all of them comfortably. If you have children, they may want to have their own rooms when they’re older for privacy.”
For property agents, balancing all these requirements can be a tough job, but Chng tries to understand his clients better and empathises with their needs.
He takes into consideration their budget, if the location will suit the kids when they grow older, whether extended family is staying nearby, and distance to public transport and other essential amenities.
Dr Hoe Wan Sin, a single mother, was the key decision maker when it came to buying a house, with her kids only viewing the three-bedroom private apartment after she completed the purchase.
The 42-year-old medical doctor considered the tenure of the lease among her top priorities. She was not prepared to look at 99-year leasehold developments as the price gap with freehold properties was insignificant.
“I also wanted just enough space for each child without sacrificing privacy. It would be silly to over-commit to a large house as maintenance would be an issue, not to mention a strain financially.”
Help within reach
She was able to rely on a close friend who advised her to get an in-principle loan approval from the bank before starting to look for a home. “That helped me stay within budget and narrow my search. Knowing my budget and the size requirements, it was just a matter of narrowing down the choices, using the search function on the PropertyGuru mobile app.”
In addition to regularly checking the app for new listings, she also enlisted the help of a property agent who would consolidate all viewings of potential properties into one afternoon, which suited her busy schedule.
“My agent was not out to make a quick sale and genuinely considered my needs before advising me. WhatsApp was also useful, as we could discuss the properties and share photos.
“I viewed about 10 properties before making a decision. I am rather happy with my choice as I have wonderful neighbours.”
Meanwhile, Kaur noted that many mothers in Singapore face the problem of being pressed for time, as they have to juggle work and family. As such, they find engaging an agent or going to property portals like PropertyGuru easier, more reliable and provides the desired result.
Interestingly, theAsianParent has just launched a new app called ParentTown for parents and parents-to-be. “It’s like a community where everyone discusses basically everything under the sun revolving around parenting, and property search is a much talked-about topic,” said Kaur.
There are also Facebook groups for single and working mums that facilitate discussion, she added. “There are definitely ways to get the information and the help they need.”
However, for some single mums who are strapped for cash, finding a home in Singapore can be a struggle due to the lack of government support for single parents here, especially unwed mums.
Support group AWARE Singapore is running a campaign at the end of this month to raise awareness on some of the critical issues facing single parents here. In fact, one of their posters reads: “Why should she and her children be left without a home just because her marriage ended?”
Speaking to PropertyGuru, 29-year-old Xin Hui is a single mother of one who was unable to rent a flat from the HDB, as her monthly income of $1,700 was above the HDB’s rental income cap of $1,500.
The Operations Executive contacted the HDB on numerous occasions and also contacted her MP about the issue of finding a suitable home.
“I started looking for a home when I was four to five months pregnant and living with my aunt. I first rented a unit on the open market for $2,100 per month. I was able to pay for it at first, but eventually it became too expensive and I wanted to move. I looked for a Build-to-Order (BTO) unit, but it takes three years to build and I needed a house sooner, so I went for a resale flat.”
Sorry, but you don’t qualify
She was also not eligible to buy an HDB flat as she isn’t 35 yet. “I had to buy (a flat) with my mother to form a family nucleus.” As this wasn’t her mother’s first home, she did not qualify for the grants available to first-time home buyers.
Furthermore, she wasn’t able to get a sufficient loan amount to buy a flat large enough for her family.
“I went to the HDB five times, mostly to get them to increase the loan amount because they only gave me about $220,000 to buy a flat, but I could only afford a 3-room unit with that amount.
“I asked them if they could increase the loan as HDB flat prices were sky-rocketing at the time, but they said there’s nothing they can do. I was under a lot of pressure because it’s different from being free to move and live somewhere nicer; I had no choice but to move.”
In the end, she purchased a 4NG flat without an additional loan. “I topped up the initial loan from the HDB with my CPF and savings, and borrowed money from family.
“I have been living here since December 2013 and have to stay for five years because of HDB’s rules. When I turn 35, my mother and I want to sell the house and start living separately. After that, I want to buy a BTO flat. But the environment of this flat is good and I have nice neighbours.”
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