Buying 7 Commonly Missed Factors By Homebuyers That Could Be A Real Pain In The Future
- Ryan J
- January 4, 2022
- 10 min read
I know of a friend who bought a condo a few years back. On paper, it matched all his criteria – the overall location, layout, facilities, and size was great. However, there was a small detail that he did not quite consider. Because the development was located on one side of the road, he had to make a long u-turn every time he drove home. Couple that with the traffic during the evening peak hours, and it slowly became an intolerable daily situation. Eventually, he sold it and moved to somewhere that had multiple ways to get home.
And so, with house-hunting season around the corner, you’ve probably listed all the main necessities of location, facilities, facing, and so forth. However, amid the larger details, it’s common to overlook smaller things that end up being a real pain later on. Especially if it’s your first home and without the experience, there are just some details that you just do not think about.
To make your new home the best one possible, do keep an eye out for the following:
1. If you’re not living on the ground floor, check the number of available lifts per block
In dense condo blocks, the lifts will see heavy use. You can expect to run into lifts occupied by contractors or home movers all year round. Lifts also see heavy use during festive seasons, such as Christmas, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, and so forth. This is especially so if you are living on the top floor. Sure, you get to enjoy the awesome view, but some people may not have the patience to wait for the lift each time they need to go out. It may get even more exasperating during morning peak traffic when you need to get to work on time.
Besides this, lifts are not infallible – they will break down from time to time, or regular maintenance may shut them down for a while. This means that, if there are only two lifts for a densely populated block, it can result in major jam-ups. People’s Park Complex, for instance, once had residents waiting up to an hour to take the lift up.
We have heard a number of horror stories, such as $50 worth of food orders going cold and soggy because both lifts broke down; or residents who have had to wait downstairs till two or three in the morning (because the lift broke down at midnight, and they went out for a late supper).
This is a good reason to favour a third elevator per block, especially for higher 30+ storey developments. On the upside, having fewer elevators probably means a lower maintenance fee!
2. White goods in the unit
For resale condos, you might be buying over the unit with white goods such as the washer, stove, fridge, and so forth. Do check that these are actually working – some sellers pull a nasty trick of leaving unused or broken junk for future buyers. Disposal costs can be quite expensive when you need someone to cart it away.
For new launch condos, white goods are almost always in working order. However, we’d caution you against design features that are custom-built to fit certain appliances. For example, custom carpentry that specifically houses the fridge or washer, which comes with the unit.
While it does look sleeker, the problem is the fixed dimensions. Sometimes if the condo is older, you may also find that the fridge cannot be repaired and you’d have to get a new one. You may even be in the iffy situation of having to replace your fridge, but the custom “nook” for it doesn’t fit most new ones exactly. And so you’d have to rip out the old cabinetry to replace the entire section. Remember, custom carpentry isn’t cheap so a broken fridge may lead to much more expenses than you may expect. Many developers will tell you that it’s built to accommodate “most” sizes of appliances; but our experience is that you should take that with a grain of salt.
3. Share value and maintenance fees
Condos come with monthly maintenance fees (although payments are usually quarterly). Each condo unit has an assigned share value, and the higher the share value the higher the monthly cost.
As of 2022, the typical share value ranges between $70 to $80 psf, although it can be much higher for luxury condos. So a unit with a share value of five, for example, may have fees of between $350 to $400 per month (meaning you’d expect to pay $1,050 to $1,200 per quarter).
The share value is typically based on size increments of 50 sqm:
- 50 sqm or smaller = share value 5
- 51 sqm to 100 sqm = share value 6
- 101 to 150 sqm = share value 7
And so on. Note that a unit can sometimes be slightly under the bracket (e.g., you could shave off a bit of the maintenance fee, if the unit is just one square metre smaller).
Remember that maintenance fees have to continue being paid, even after you’ve paid off the entire property. As an investor, you should factor the maintenance fees into calculations like cash-on-cash returns. If you’re a home buyer, you should consider if these are facilities that you use often. Sometimes it may seem like an ideal lifestyle to hanker after (infinity pool, karaoke room, or tennis courts), but if you don’t use these much those monthly fees can really add up. $400 a month in 10 years would equate to $48,000 – not a small chunk of change at all!
4. Future consequences of your view/facing
If you see any vacant land around the property, check the URA Master Plan to see what it’s zoned for. Take special note of the Gross Plot Ratio (GPR), as this determines the height of future properties built there.
Note that the most common GPRs of 2.1 and 2.8 allow for buildings of up to 24 and 36 storeys respectively. This is often enough to obstruct an otherwise clear view (unless you are at a certain height of course).
You should also take note of raised MRT tracks passing by (these block the view, and if they are too close can cause noise pollution), or the removal of greenery – even if tall buildings don’t get in the way, you may not want to be looking out over flatted factories or car parks.
A prime example would be something like Skyline Residence. The current unblocked views over Keppel Golf Club are pretty amazing, but this would all go away in due course (it’s zoned residential). So if you’ve recently bought because of the unblocked views and did not consult the URA Master Plan first – well, you definitely aren’t going to be a happy camper in the future.
5. Weekend and weekday or night/day noise levels, and traffic
With newer condos, approval has to be sought from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to handle road congestion. However, this was not a requirement among older condos (construction prior to around 2018).
So for resale condos, do check traffic around the area, and make sure it’s not too noisy or congested for you. In particular, check on weekends, as traffic conditions can worsen significantly between Friday to Sunday. This may vary depending on location, as condos in the CBD may be crowded at night on the weekday with the office crowd (pre-Covid-19), but much better on the weekends.
On a related note, do try to view resale properties more than once – and make at least one viewing on a weekend. Residents tend to have people over on weekends, and their relatives, friends, etc. may also be using facilities like the pool. You may find the facilities are more overcrowded than you expect. (We’ve experienced this at Rivergate).
For similar reasons, noise levels will rise on the weekends; this is worth taking into consideration if you’re living on the ground floor or close to amenities like the clubhouse and BBQ pits. An example would be a condo like Tribeca by the Waterfront when Zouk was still at Jiak Kim Street. If you’re an unassuming person who only visited the condo during the day, you might just get a shock of your life after moving in when seeing the crowds on a weekday Wednesday night (where they used to host their popular Mambo nights).
6. Carpark availability
LTA issued new Range Based Parking Provision Standards (RBPPS) in 2019. Without getting into the headache-inducing details, let’s simplify it by saying new condos tend to have less parking space.
Developers are required to set aside significantly fewer parking spaces for:
- Condos in Zone 1, which refers to the city centre and Marina Bay
- Condos in Zone 2, which are within 400 metres of an MRT station
With regard to these zones, there may be no provision for more than one parking space per unit. This is problematic if you get another car, or if your visitors need a place to park.
On the other hand, resale condos that predate 2005 tend to be free of these issues. This is why older condos may have as many as two to three lots available for each unit, as opposed to the “stingier” new launches.
Do check the details before you buy. Otherwise, you’re going to have a few black-faced relatives who had to park three blocks away to visit you for the new year.
7. Check that the neighbours are bearable
Again, visit at different times of the day. If you view a resale property at 3 pm, chances are everyone is out at work, or the children are still in school (in times outside of Covid-19, that is).
The best way to detect a noisy neighbour is to view the unit at around 7 to 8 pm when most people are likely back from work. You might also want to enquire if the neighbouring unit is owner-occupied, or given purely to tenants.
While tenants are not necessarily bad neighbours, it’s considered a slight disadvantage – this is because any complaints often have to be forwarded to a landlord, whom you hope will be responsive.
Some neighbours may engage in home businesses, such as cooking food to sell or tutoring from their homes. Some of these may involve more noise than others (e.g., music teachers, or tutors handling five noisy Primary school students).
The tricky part is that this may be temporarily shut down due to Covid-19, but could come roaring back once the pandemic is over. It’s best to just talk to the neighbours if you can, or find out from other neighbours. An unfavourable living environment can really make or break your experience so this isn’t something to overlook.
As a final tip, read the notice boards in the condo
These can tip you off to problems such as a broken facility, or persistent complaints of any sort. Sometimes, you’ll see something about en-bloc sale attempts; and that’s definitely something to be wary of, in older condos.