What I Regret Most After Buying My First Home: We Share 7 Most Common Regrets From Readers
- Ryan J
- September 17, 2022
- 9 min read
The first time buying a home is an unforgettable experience. It’s a mix of anxiety and excitement, and almost always a tiny bit of cognitive dissonance. No matter how much you actually research, nothing can quite prepare you when you actually live and experience the space for yourself.
We all know of a friend who bought the dining table set first because it was a good deal, only to find out that it’s a little too large for the dining area. Or paying for a higher floor because of the view, only to realise that their views would be blocked in the near future. Because of this, we asked some first-time home buyers about their regrets; and we invite you to share some of yours as well. If you’ve yet to buy your home, keep an eye out for the following:
1. Buying before securing the loan
J and her husband had a close shave when they bought their first property at Kovan Regency, back in 2012. J says they were under the mistaken impression they had In-Principle Approval for their home loan, when in fact they didn’t.
“We even told the agent we had the loan approval already, so she accepted the cheque.
But what actually happened was that we had a conversation with the banker, who told my hubby it should be ‘alright’ for the loan amount. And being totally new and blur, we thought his verbal statement was approval already.
We never even got any documents or anything, we didn’t follow up with the bank; we stupidly thought it was that simple.”
This led to a moment of absolute panic, when they realised they had secured the Option To Purchase (OTP), but did not in fact have any loan approval. This left them with 21 days to scramble for loan approval, or else forfeit their deposit.
They were lucky and the mortgage banker did manage to push through their loan application – but it came after a week of sleepless nights.
2. Waited to buy at a lower price, then bought in the same project at a higher price
This was shared by Michael, whose first-home buying experience was in 2012, but it’s just as applicable today:
“I needed to stay in a very specific area because I was the only child, looking after my mum. So I went to look at a condo nearby, the seller asked for $1.34 million. I thought it was too expensive. The property agent said no choice, prices were going up like crazy.
I stayed with my mum for another year, I checked again. The lowest price I could find was $1.4 million. Next year I checked again. $1.48 million.
I said ahhh, forget it, enough is enough, I bought at $1.48 million.
In the end it was the same condo that I viewed for $1.36 million, only different block. How bloody stupid I felt I tell you.”
There’s an old quip in the property market that, if you want to see a pricier home, view the same home tomorrow. While it’s an oversimplification (prices don’t always go up), it’s worth remembering this when you feel like trying to time the market.
You really should do your research about prices in the area or on the current trends, before making any rash decision on whether it is worth the price or not. Prices can always move up (or down) faster than you think, and if you are buying because you have a real need, sometimes being decisive can make a huge difference.
3. Bought at Centrale 8
It’s never good when your DBSS flat makes it onto the front page of the newspaper, and it involves the government forming a task force. We spoke to B, who pointed out that this report from 2015 more or less explains the problem.
Like many buyers, B didn’t realise the entrance to the DBSS project was so badly crowded (in the report, it says the entrance coincides with where the carpark meets a cross junction). She also says that:
“The price was not cheap. I thought we were being prudent, and finding a sensible compromise, so we don’t have to spend as much for a private property. But with so many problems, we may as well have just bought a proper condo. It bugged me for a long time.”
On the plus side, Centrale 8 appears to show signs of appreciation, so perhaps some of the issues have been fixed (or just the whole market doing well, in general). A 5-room flat here transacted for $900,000 in February 2022; not bad given that the buying price would have been around $778,000, according to the news report.
4. Buying a condo and then never using the facilities
When R bought his unit in Changi Court, back in 2008, the appeal was the resort-like feel and the pool. Having previously lived with his parents in an HDB estate, he spent a lot of time imagining the high life.
“I thought every day would be a morning swim, a gym session, and sipping drinks by the pool like a hotel. So I had no issues with the maintenance fees versus cheaper HDB conservancy bills. I also gave up owning a car, to be able to afford a condo as my first home.”
Now, several decades later, R points out that he has used the gym twice and the swimming pool exactly zero times.
“I guess my relatives are happy, they get to use it. For myself, I realised after buying that I just had no inclination to use those facilities – I’m a homebody and just want to read and use my laptop in my room.
In hindsight I should probably have bought the car. Or bought something cheaper and saved the difference to upgrade sooner.”
As we’ve pointed out on Stacked, sometimes it’s not about the number of facilities, or how lavish they are. A smaller, cheaper place – like a walk-up apartment with no facilities but bigger units – may turn out to be the better deal.
You should really think about the lifestyle that you actually lead, and not one that you dream of having. While having many facilities at your disposal if and when you want to use it is surely not a bad thing, do remember that you will have to pay for it through the monthly maintenance fee.
We’ve calculated this before in previous articles, but this can really add up over the years. Let’s say you pay $300 a month in maintenance fees, over 10 years this totals up to $36,000, and 20 years, $72,000. That’s quite a nice chunk of change, especially if you don’t end up using the facilities much at all.
5. Bought a resale condo, and inherited the neighbouring unit’s problem
K purchased a 979+ sq. ft. resale condo from a landlord in 2020, at the price of $1.33 million. He prefers not to mention the development, but says it’s well known and within 10 minutes’ walk to Kovan MRT.
At the time, K wasn’t being very fussy: he needed the MRT access for work, and this condo was one of the most affordable he could find. Initial inspections revealed nothing wrong with the condo, and his realtor – a former contractor – even provided a second set of eyes.
But one month later, K began to notice bulges in the ceiling, and brown stains forming around the ceiling lights. When he called in a contractor, he discovered it was the unit above his that was leaking waste water into his living room.
“Getting it fixed was a nightmare, because the owner of the upstairs unit was never around. It was tenanted, and the landlord kept avoiding my calls. Whenever I asked if he got a contractor to fix his leak, he became very defensive, and he wouldn’t give me the contractor’s report.”
On top of that, the condo’s management insisted they couldn’t do anything to help, as it was the neighbour’s problem to fix.
It was only after getting his lawyer to send a letter, that the upstairs neighbour rectified the leak. By then, K had spent several months with buckets all over his dining room floor; and he notes that the simple letter cost around $600 to send.
Old resale units may come at a bargain price, but remember there may be more maintenance issues; and some of these may not be immediately apparent. K now thinks the previous owner’s over-eagerness to sell, and sell quickly, may have been due to the upstairs neighbour.
6. Used a friend as an agent, but didn’t get the right service
H and his then fiance were looking for their first home, and decided to engage their common friend who had been an agent for a few years.
At the time, they were still quite new to the scene, and were entirely reliant on their friend to advise them on what to look out for.
“I figured that getting a friend to assist would be the best thing, as because of our friendship, I’d expect him to put aside any bias and really be transparent about getting us the right home.”
While that can sometimes be true, many people tend to forget that when money comes into the equation, it can sometimes make relationships very messy. If you engaged an agent based on merit but they haven’t quite delivered to your expectations, it’s easy to have the conversation to drop them. But when it comes to a friend? That conversation can be a lot harder. And at times, even result in a deterioration of the relationship.
“During the viewing process, it just seemed that he was too busy to really entertain us. Perhaps you could say we were quite fussy too, but many a times he would leave us to view on our own. It seemed that he was taking for granted that because we were friends, he could spend more time on his other clients as we were a confirmed deal for him”
They finally settled on a new launch eventually, but they still didn’t sound out anything for fears of affecting the friendship. The last straw was only after the project was completed, and they moved in to find that there were certain aspects that they would have expected their agent to inform them beforehand.
“The common bedroom was too small, and could only fit a single bed. As first time buyers, we didn’t even consider that the bedroom would be that small, but he never told or warned us of anything despite knowing our situation. During the show flat viewing, he handed us off to the tagger, and there just wasn’t much input from him after either.”
Many people warn about doing working with friends, as it can really complicate friendships. In the event things go south (as so often happens in life), it just makes things more difficult to resolve.
7. Listened to family
Back in 2017 when J was looking for his first property, he had viewed several places already and was quite close to deciding on this particular property that his agent was recommending. It was a new 99-year property, and was in a decent location but not the closest to the MRT station. He wasn’t as concerned as he had a car, and his agent felt strongly that this would have been a good purchase for capital appreciation in the future.
However, his situation was complicated as his parents were helping with the deposit. And as some of you reading this might attest, when parents are involved, they often feel that they should also have a say in the decision (which isn’t totally wrong).
“My mum was against me buying a leasehold property. She was of the generation that freehold is the only way, and so she was searching classifieds everyday to find a better freehold property. She found one that was freehold, near an MRT station, and was in a supposedly premium location.”
“I was fairly convinced of what my agent had been explaining to me about the factors that would make for a more investable property, but it was hard for me to really explain to my parents. They just could not understand why anyone would pay for a leasehold property when a freehold costs only slightly more.”
Ultimately, J felt that he had no choice but to go on with his parents choice. After all, they were helping him pay for the property.
“On hindsight I definitely do regret not going with my initial decision. As of the last I checked, I would have made a tidy 6 digit sum, where as my current property has just been stagnating.”
As always, there’s a lot more to it when it comes to buying a property. It doesn’t always mean freehold properties will be good investments, neither does it also mean that leasehold new launches will be a guaranteed win either.
What are your regrets, if any, upon buying your first home?
Share any regrets or lessons with us, so that other first-time home buyers can benefit from our collective wisdom. Reach out to us at Stacked, and also check out our in-depth reviews of new and resale condos before you buy.