Dinner in new house

Moving into a new apartment involves more than just moving your belongings.

Before you move into your new unit, there are several steps that need to be taken, such as how and when to pick up your keys, utilities application, and home inspections, among others.

By Joanne Poh

Before you can collect the keys to your new TOP unit, you must ensure that all the necessary formalities concerning the purchase have been completed. This includes signing the sale and purchase agreement, applying for the use of CPF funds and / or a bank loan, and disbursement of the monies needed for the purchase.

Eugene Lim, Key Executive Officer at ERA Realty, cautions, “You need to factor in the processing time of the bank and especially CPF, which could take more than a month.

According to Ong Teck Hui, National Director of Research and Consultancy at JLL, you should expect all the necessary administrative work, including application for use and release of CPF funds, loan arrangements and searches on the part of your lawyer, to be completed in about three months.

Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the timeline so you are better able to estimate when you can pick up the keys to your new property.

Once the purchase of the TOP unit has been set in motion and all necessary payments have been made to the developers, you can collect your keys and move in if you wish. Here are the steps typically taken by TOP purchasers before they move into their new units.

Arrange for financing as soon as possible

When you buy resale property, you pick up your keys on the date of completion of the sale, which is also when your lawyer will hand payment over to the seller, often several months after you have committed to the purchase.

With TOP projects, things work a little differently. As the development has not yet received its CSC, the sale will not officially be completed until then. However, you are able to pick up the keys long before completing the sale, so long as you have paid all the outstanding sums to the developer.

This means that the sooner you manage to secure financing for your TOP purchase, the sooner you can move in. Take note that it could be weeks before your application to use your CPF funds or for a home loan are approved, so if moving in as soon as possible is a priority, you need to arrange for these as soon as possible.

It is only after the disbursements from your CPF account and / or bank loan have been released that you will be able to pick up the keys to your new unit, as vacant possession will only be granted to you following payment of all outstanding sums.

Once payment has been made, it is possible to move in to your unit within a month if you do not intend to renovate the property.

Make an appointment and pick up your keys

Many developers in Singapore now maintain an online system for booking appointments for collection of keys, while others will have a hotline to call. Appointments are usually made on a first-come, first-served basis.

In the days after the Notice of Vacant Possession is issued, expect a surge of purchasers snapping up available appointment slots. If you need to move in urgently, it is advisable that you make an appointment as soon as you can.

You are required to pick up your keys in person after presenting a valid ID and any other documents required by the developer. If you cannot be present, you may authorise somebody else to collect them on your behalf by signing the Letter of Authorisation sent to your lawyer by the developer.

At the appointment, you will usually be presented not just with your keys, but also with a package of other items, which might include manuals and warranties for the appliances in your new home, controllers for air conditioning units, residents’ handbook and so on.

Obtain approval for renovations

While many purchasers move into TOP projects without undertaking renovations, should you wish to make alterations to your unit, you will have to first obtain approval from the management.

Failure to have any alterations approved could invalidate the year-long defects liability period to which you are entitled. Approach your management office to enquire about the proper procedures for obtaining approval.

You will usually be required to pay a renovation deposit, which may be withheld if you breach any rules or fail to clear up rubbish resulting from the works.

In certain cases, you might be required to obtain approval from the authorities and submit this to the management office before you can be granted permission to carry out the desired works. This can be quite a lengthy process.

If you wish to have window grilles installed, you may or may not have to apply for approval, depending on the rules governing your development. In any case, it is always advisable to first check with the management office of the development before commencing installation. Many developments impose regulations for grilles in order to ensure the facade of the building is not too drastically altered.

Inspect the unit thoroughly

For one year from the date the TOP is granted, the developers will rectify, at their own cost, genuine defects found on the property.

When you pick up the keys to your property, the defects liability period is likely to still be in force. It is thus imperative that you thoroughly inspect the property for defects as soon as possible. Also, test all appliances such as air-conditioning units and stoves to ensure they are in good working order.

Do note that while the defects liability period is officially one year long, you will in practice have less than a year to identify and notify the developer of any defects.

This is because the defects liability period begins when the TOP for the property is released, which is also the date indicated on the Notice of Vacant Possession the developer will have sent to your lawyer to be forwarded to you. Many people erroneously assume that the defects liability period begins on the date you take possession of the property.

Even if your purchase has been timed to coincide perfectly with the release of the TOP, there will be several days or even weeks from the date the TOP is released and the day you collect your keys.

It is thus important that you identify any defects and instruct your lawyer to serve notice in writing to the developer before the defects liability period has expired. Once developers have received the notice of defects, they are obliged to rectify them within one month.

If you intend to rent out the property, avoid having the tenants move in before you have fully inspected the property for defects. It is also important to instruct tenants to immediately notify you if they become aware of any defects while they are occupying the unit.

Apply for utilities

Since you will be the first occupants of your TOP unit, you will need to apply for utilities at Singapore Power. This can be done in person or online, and you should expect to wait about three working days before utilities for your unit are activated.

Apply for car parking if necessary

If you have one or more cars, you will need to check the regulations imposed by your development pertaining to allocation of parking lots.

Some developments will require you to make an application for a car decal and / or to reserve personal lots, while others maintain carparks that operate on a first-come, first-served basis, without the need to reserve lots.


Luxury bedroom

If you’re in a rush to move, consider buying a fully-furnished unit from the developer.

Consider what furnishings you need to purchase and install

If you have an urgent need to move into your unit as soon as possible, you may want to consider units which are sold fully furnished by the developer, advises Wong Xian Yang, Head of Research and Consultancy at OrangeTee.

Otherwise, you will need to factor in the time taken to purchase and install all the necessary furnishings before you are able to move into your new unit.

Read the full TOP Special here.


The PropertyGuru News & Views This article was first published in the print version PropertyGuru News & Views. Download PDFs of full print issues or read more stories now!