Buying What To Look Out For At A Resale Condo Viewing: A Step-By-Step Walkthrough (With Pictures)
- May 12, 2022
- 22 min read
For any first-time homebuyer, looking to buy your first home is always going to be a daunting experience.
Especially if you are looking at the resale market, you absolutely have to make a trip down (or several) to see the area for yourself.
The problem is once you are there, what should you be looking out for?
Most people would look at the usual suspects, like how long it takes to walk to the MRT station or what buses are plying the route.
But did you know that there are smaller details to look out for – like how many lifts serve each floor, or even checking to see how detailed the security guards are at their job?
While we’ve recently done a guide on what to look out at a resale HDB viewing (and there are many similar overlapping traits) resale condos are another entire segment altogether, with the entire estate to consider as well.
As such in this piece, I’ll be documenting a step-by-step guide on how to research the viability of a development before you go down for the viewing, and what to look out for as you tour and view the space.
Today, we’d be viewing a unit at Skywoods, a 99-year leasehold condo in the Upper Bukit Timah area.
Table Of Contents
- Step 1: Check URA Master Plan for future development in the vicinity/area
- Step 2: Compare $PSF growth trend in the area/district
- Step 3: Check recent transactions and current trends of the development
- Step 4: School proximity check
- Step 5: Investigate the surrounding neighbourhood Amenities check
- Step 6: Viewing of Development
Step 1: Check URA Master Plan for future development in the vicinity/area
It’s always important to check what’s coming up in the area as it could play a part in future prospects whether it may be growth in prices or something negative that could hamper future growth.
I’ve heard of people who get a shock a few years down the road when a new development comes up and blocks their view, but the truth is all of this can be revealed if you have done your prior research. Of course, you still won’t be able to predict what may happen in a longer time frame, but at least you will have enough indication of what is coming up in the near future.
So first thing, check for residential plots nearby. These could pose as future competitors but it is more likely to help prop up resale prices in the area which is great for resale growth. If the are plots next door check for the plot ratios as well as that gives you an indication of the height of the building.
In the case of The Skywoods, there are quite a number of undeveloped residential plots nearby. The entire plot has a plot ratio of 2.1 so the good news here is that you aren’t going to get anything higher towering over you.
One of the current charms of the area is how it isn’t as densely populated as most other areas. But given the number of residential plots here, you should know that this will get more intensely crowded in the coming years (as with most of Singapore anyway). Still, the current infrastructure of the area is probably not enough to cope if all these plots are taken up, so I have my money on the big reserve plot just opposite Dairy Farm Road to probably be some sort of shopping centre type facility.
You should also look out for other commercial plots as this will bring further amenities to the area.
*Do also check the GLS pipeline or any recent GLS awarded in the area too.
I would also look out for other plots like worship or education as this could have some bearing on the area too. Schools may get the road choked up during the morning rush hour as parents drop their kids off, and places of worship like mosques may see an increased amount of traffic during Friday prayers.
Besides this, I’d also check on the official URA website for any current GLS sites.
In this case, Dairy Farm Residences, a mixed development with a commercial space land plot was awarded back in Sept 2018 at $830.40 ppr psf
Dairy Farm Residences was launched in Nov 2019, at around $1,5xxpsf. Sales weren’t fantastic during launch. Today it has reached more than 90% mark with an average price of $1670psf.
More recently in Oct 2021, URA released the plot diagonally opposite Skywood and was recently awarded to Sim Lian Group at a higher price of $980 psf ppr. Analysts have predicted that the new development may likely be launched at a record price of $1,8xx psf – $1,9xx psf due to the higher cost of construction and manpower crunch. If it is true, the gap between the resale option around Dairy Farm and the upcoming launch will widen further.
As I mentioned earlier, do be mindful of construction noise and inconvenience as well, especially stacks that face these sites directly as your views may potentially be blocked. While the construction will definitely be over in a few years, sometimes people forget to consider the stress of construction noise over a sustained period of time. If you are planning to have kids, having a newborn that hasn’t been sleeping well at night and is struggling to sleep during the day due to the noise next door can cause undue stress on the parents.
Step 2: Compare $PSF growth trend in the area/district.
There are multiple sites that you can use for free, one of which is Squarefoot to do a quick check on PSF$ pricing of the resale development in the area.
Alternatively, you can also use Edgeprop if you prefer something more visually attractive to check on price trends. We can see that Skywood prices have risen over the years, and the current price stands at $1,421 psf.
Comparing based on PSF$, you will see that Skywood does cost slightly higher as compared to the trio of resale condos along Petir Road. Although you can probably attribute the higher price to the proximity to Hillview MRT here as Skywood is located closer to the MRT station.
Along with Eco Sanctuary, it is also the newest of the resale condos in the vicinity, having been built in 2016.
Step 3: Check recent transactions and current trends of the development.
Unless you are willing to pay for an account on Squarefoot, you aren’t going to be able to see the recent transactions at Skywoods.
One option is to use the URA for sales caveats. This is updated every Tuesday around 12 pm for resale transactions up till the previous Tuesday’s sales transactions. For the Friday updates, this is around 3 pm for the new launch and resale transactions up till the previous Sunday transactions.
Step 4: School proximity check
A big part of why people choose the location is because of the primary schools for their children.
Thankfully for you, that’s an easy task as you can use OneMap to check on the school’s proximity.
This is doubly important because with the new School proximity distance measure, certain blocks may be considered under 1 km, and there are cases where only a few blocks in the development are within the 1 km range. You really don’t want to have bought a place thinking that you are within the range, only to realise your block isn’t included!
In this case, all blocks in Skywood are within the coveted 1 km range from Bukit Panjang Primary School and CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace. (It’s worth remembering here that being within the 1 km range doesn’t guarantee you a spot especially if it is a popular school).
Do note that even if you aren’t intending on having children in the future, being close to schools is still a worthwhile factor to consider as you’d have an easier time when trying to sell in the future to buyers.
Step 5: Investigate the surrounding neighbourhood Amenities check
While you can do this with Google Street View, it’s best to go in person (it’s best to rely on Street View only if you’re already very familiar with the area, and just need a few reference images).
Take note of the available transportation options, such as the LRT, MRT, and nearby bus routes. Sometimes, the walking time shown online may not be accurate, as the “proper” route may not take into account certain shortcuts. I like to use busrouter.sg because it shows you the possible routes for the buses at any particular stop.
In fact, Google Maps often ignores routes that can be taken by parks or through other passageways that are not recognised as walking trails. For this, you could rely on a OneMap too as it comes with a navigation function. Here’s a look at what the walking trail is like from Skywoods to Bukit Panjang MRT on OneMap:
Now here’s what Google Maps shows you:
In this instance, Google maps and OneMap had the same walking time as the route is a pretty straightforward one. However, it may not always be the case for the condo of your liking as some shortcuts could be around that aren’t so clear at a glance. In fact, we highlighted certain condos with such traits here.
Besides this, check whether the amenities and facilities nearby are appropriate for you. While everyone tends to look for coffee shops and supermarkets, don’t overlook other needs like childcare or eldercare (even if you don’t need them now, you may need them in future).
To check this, you can utilise OneMap as well. It comes with the Essential Amenities (within 2KM) function and will showcase supermarkets, ATM machines, hawker centres, retail pharmacies and so on – basically essential amenities that make a place a lot more liveable.
If you are serious about buying a home, it’s well worth your time to walk around the area. There’s a lot more detail you can take in as compared to driving around, and you can also judge for yourself just how fast/slow it takes you to get to nearby amenities.
In the case of Skywoods, 1 took about 12-minutes to walk (1 km) to The Railway Mall.
The best part is that most of the walk is sheltered, which really helps if you are walking in the afternoon to get lunch or groceries.
Alternatively, you could take the bus to Hillview MRT station, which will then be just a 3-minute walk away.
Beyond that, Hillv2 is another option nearby. It took me slightly longer, about a 15-minute walk away. Like walking to the Railway Mall, the walk is mostly sheltered, save for the traffic junction.
If you are feeling a little lazy, you have the option of bus 973 to the bus stop after Hillview station, followed by a 2-minute walk.
Hillv2 isn’t exactly a shopper’s paradise, but you do have numerous restaurants, fast food, and a Market Place supermarket.
Most people would overlook the neighbourhood community centre, but the Hillview Community Club does have eateries and a snack shop to offer.
As a bonus, there will be more amenities that will be added to the area according to the URA master plan. There is a commercial development along Hillview Road that is currently under construction and will be ready by the end of 2022.
Lastly, Dairy Farm Residences will also offer 40,000 square feet worth of commercial shops. The retail component here will be managed by United Engineers, who have prior experience managing Rochester Mall and UE Square, so this shouldn’t be a mish-mash of shops that you might see in strata-owned malls
More information at the URA’s Master Plan.
Upcoming commercial shops at Dairy Farm residences
Public transport links
Next, you should check out the public transport links available. Of course, you don’t have to explore every single transport option, only those that you are reliant on the most.
In this case, I took the 8-10 minute walk from the Hillview MRT station Exit A to the condo side gate. Again, save for the traffic junctions, most of the walk was sheltered. If you walk daily (and during the hot seasons in Singapore), this really is a luxury that we absolutely should not take for granted.
Here’s the other thing that only by walking yourself you would realise that Google Maps won’t tell you – how difficult the walk can be. In this case, it was an upslope walk from the MRT station. It’s not a hard walk, just something to note if you have more elderly parents.
Besides the MRT station, buses are the next popular form of transportation.
From here, you can take the feeder bus service 973 from bus stop #42991, right across the Hillview Station Exit B.
It’s about 2 bus stops at #43961, after Dairy Farm Heights at the German European School Singapore (GESS).
From here, you’d see that it is sheltered to the Skywoods development side gate (again, except for the road junction). Although, it wouldn’t be sheltered from the main entrance.
If you are unsure about the bus routes in the area, use websites such as BusRouter to help.
Private transport links
For those who drive, you obviously would want to drive the route to see how long it takes you to get to places that you frequent. I’d always advise going at different times, as obviously driving home on a Sunday morning would be entirely different from driving at 6 pm on a Friday.
As for Skywoods, it is good because you have very quick access to the BKE entrance.
Doing a little more research, I found that the road connectivity will improve with the Dairy Farm Road enhancement, which is slated to complete in 2024. So you should expect that the stacks facing Dairy Farm Road will face construction noise for the next few years.
Step 6: Viewing of Development
Before you head for the viewing of the actual development, you’d want to know how many units the development actually has, plus the actual land size.
This will have an impact on how dense and crowded the development actually is.
The Skywoods has 420 units, which is mid-sized, and sits on a land plot of 188,863 square feet.
Now, this is where I’d usually do a simple calculation of land divided by the number of units to compare between different developments.
188,863/420 = 450 sqft per unit
If we were to compare to the surrounding developments like the Tree House condo, for example, it has 429 units over 244,091 square feet of land.
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Now that doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that The Skywoods would be denser.
Next, I usually like to check the unit mix of a development.
Having a big bulk of the units dedicated to 1 and 2 bedrooms usually indicate a very different profile of residents. These usually are more tenant-focused, which depending on location could be more expat heavy, as compared to locals staying there. Again, this can have a very different impact on the living environment.
For developments that have more 3 to 4 bedroom units, this usually would mean more family own stay profiles. This will sometimes have an impact on resale performance, as, by the rule of thumb, more investor type units typically mean they are able to let go of the units more easily, while own stay units are more incentivised to hold out for a better price.
For Skywoods, most of the unit mix is dedicated to 3 and 4 bedroom units. So you can expect more families to be staying, and along with that, possibly more kids running about and using the facilities.
You should also take the opportunity to find out what are the maintenance fees per month/quarter. This is something that new first-time homebuyers tend to miss out on, only to find out later that it is a hefty sum that they have to pay each month for facilities they may/may not be using.
For Skywoods, this is $931 per quarter for a 3 bedroom unit.
It’s also good to check if the maintenance fee includes parking. For condos further out with more car park space, it would typically include. For newer condos in central areas today, you may find some of these with fewer car park lots than there are units – so these may have maintenance fees that come with a separate fee for the car park.
It’s good for those who don’t drive, as the maintenance will naturally be cheaper.
As for the facilities, it’s useful to take a walk around to explore what is available, and how crowded these are. Again, if you visit on a weekday morning as compared to a Sunday afternoon, the situation can be very different.
Especially for condos that are more family-focused, a weekday morning may not be the most accurate representation of how crowded the place may be – as compared to visiting at 5/6 pm after school or on the weekends.
You’d also want to see if the facilities are adequate for the number of units.
Look at the facilities that you’d be using the most, is the swimming pool an adequate size if you like to swim laps? Likewise for the gym, most condos will have a selection of free weights and machines. But for the smaller condos, there may just be one machine and a cross-trainer + treadmill – which may be a dealbreaker for some people.
For families, I would be looking at the number of kid facilities. Do they have sufficient playgrounds? Are they located in a place where you can easily keep an eye on your kids? Are they located away from possible dangers like the main road (you’d want to be kept away from the pollution from cars anyway)? There are also some condos that have a neighbourhood park next door that have a huge space and multiple playgrounds to frolic about – these could be an added facility by themselves. You may not have kids now, but these will be a godsend when your kids are able to walk/run by themselves.
Depending on the unit you are looking at, you will also want to see how close the facilities are to the residential blocks. If you are overlooking the playground on a low floor, you can definitely expect to have some noise from children playing.
If you entertain a lot, you will naturally want to check out the dining facilities. Do the dining pavilions have enough dining equipment and seating? Are they sheltered? It may sound like obvious questions, but you’d be surprised at how many have a dining pavilion with a structure but without any shelter.
For those who don’t drive and take private transport a lot, I’d definitely check out the drop-off points. If you are looking at newer developments, these will typically come with a sheltered drop-off at the main entrance. Some will have basement parking so you can get dropped off directly when it is raining as well.
Do bear in mind that older developments sometimes may not even have any sheltered drop-off point (like Spanish Village, for example). For some buyers who visit on a sunny day, this may not even be a point that they might actually realise.
For the lobby areas, you’d want to find out if it is via an access card entry for additional security.
At this point, I’d usually enquire to find out the number of lifts per floor. Especially if you are staying on a high floor, sometimes during peak hours you could face a long wait for the lifts if there are not an adequate number of lifts.
From here, I would also check for the rubbish chute. Is it in the unit or is the disposal area a central chute? Of course, a chute in the unit is more convenient but for lower floors, if not maintained properly it could result in a pest issue. If it is a central chute, do have a look to see how well maintained the place is. (For Skywoods the rubbish chute is in the unit).
Beyond this, check for the overall maintenance of the place. Usual suspects will include marks on the walls and discolouration of paint. Some areas can be quite dirty as well, which can point to poorer than usual maintenance. One main indicator of good or poor maintenance is the landscaping, check how often are the plants pruned.
Look at water features as well, how clean the water is kept. I’d also look at how the tiles in the swimming pool are maintained, as well as the decking of the pool. If there are certain tiles that have cracked, for example, a good sign of proactive maintenance would be warning signs to not step on them, as they would be repaired soon.
As you walk around, it’s also good to look out for the gardeners or maintenance crew of the estate. This is a sign that the maintenance of the estate should be kept up to par.
You should check the following:
- Does the condo do major repairs or refurbishment after every 10 years? Such as facade repainting
- The condition of a tennis court is also a good indicator as these are used frequently. Some courts have sagging nets or the flooring is cracked and not repaired.
- How quick is the MCST in replacing blown light bulbs in the common areas
- Condo perimeter fences – even some of the top luxury condos don’t maintain their perimeter fences. On the outside, you can see green mold growing at the bottom of the walls.
Another thing to check on how proactive the MCST is would be the state of security. In general, when you arrive as a visitor, see how stringent the checks are. In certain older condos, you may even find that the security almost waves you in without even checking anything at all. While this isn’t really a cause for concern in terms of safety in Singapore, it could point to a lack of overall upkeep within the condo itself.
Finally, the last thing to look out for is difficult neighbours. The sellers are not going to tell you directly that the neighbour is a nuisance, but their reaction to the question can sometimes be telling.
Look out for hoarders, as their units tend to be in poorer states of maintenance, and this can affect yours (e.g., mosquito breeding, pest problems).
Ultimately, you really have to do the due diligence yourself and not rely on Google.
You can watch all the videos and browse all the photos, but nothing beats going down to the place to check it out for yourself. Sometimes it is just hard to describe a place in words, and when you actually do go down, you’d realise it is nothing like what you’ve seen online (for better or worse).
This is just as important as the more fundamental aspects, such as how far the school or MRT station is.
To be sure, this isn’t the end though, in my next piece, I will touch on what to look out in the actual unit itself.
For more direct help, you can also contact us at Stacked, and follow us for news and updates on various HDB as well as private developments in the Singapore property market.