December 5, 2022
December 5, 2022

“I Regret Buying From Taobao” 5 Homeowners Share Their Worst Renovation Regrets

Design Stories

“I Regret Buying From Taobao” 5 Homeowners Share Their Worst Renovation Regrets


taobao regrets
7 min read

1. Lack of ventilation in the bathrooms

A common issue with older properties is that the ventilation begins – and ends – with one little window in a corner. We’ve even seen some old condos that have zero ventilation, and you just need to open the door after your business is done. 

“I didn’t think so much about the ventilation of the bathrooms, which the mechanical ventilation wasn’t very effective. Who would think of testing that anyway before they buy a house!?”

Don’t forget to address this situation, when you’re getting your renovations done. There are ways to cope, even if you can’t put in a new window. One example is simply leaving a larger gap between the bottom of the bathroom door and the floor, which helps to let the fumes out (some doors also have ventilation slats in the lower half). You could also use glass doors instead of shower curtains, which tend to hold dampness and humidity in the room. 

lentor modern 4 bedroom master bathroom 1

But probably the bigger issue for G was the layout of the home – which to be fair there are not much renovation works can do to solve it.

“Because there wasn’t a proper balcony, and just a planter box, you could only open up the home with the small doors by the side of the glass panel. I’m not sure how to explain it properly, but the airflow of the home was just bad. Even during the windier part of the end of the year, the place was just still.”

(Ps. If you’re a tenant, and you have roommates, check how well-ventilated the main bathroom is. It gets unpleasant if four or five people are sharing the same bathroom, and there’s no proper ventilation). 

2. Getting everything at the lowest price from Taobao

For A and her husband, Taobao was always going to be the way to go when it came to their new BTO. They were avid shoppers on the platform already for clothes and the prices that they could get on Taobao were just too irresistible. 

“What we liked about Taobao was that we were able to even customise certain pieces of furniture in terms of the size to fit our place. So we ordered our sofa and table from Taobao which we were able to save quite a sum than if we were to purchase from brands in Singapore.”

There’s no question that the cost of some designer furniture can be stratospheric, and we can count on one hand the number of people who have bought a genuine Eames chair. Even so, it’s best to keep this warning in mind: Buy cheap, buy twice. 

taobao sofa

It’s advice that the couple wishes they heeded early on, as it was a complicated journey. 

“The first issue came about when we received the furniture. The colour looked slightly off from the photos that we saw online, but that I could still deal with. The biggest problem was that the dimensions for the table was not what we requested for. 

The table length was shorter, the width was shorter, and the height was lower as well. When we communicated this to the seller, they said that they checked but now that’s in Singapore they can’t do anything about it. We escalated the issue to Taobao, and thankfully they said they would get us the refund. Even so, disposal of such a big piece of furniture is not cheap and we had to wait for so long to just get a new piece from another vendor.”

A and her husband shared that the stress of back-and-forth communication, and just the logistics of it all was more trouble than it was worth. And it got worse, as the sofa started to peel at spots where it had the most use. 

So for those looking to get products online, here’s what you need to know. If something is just an ornament, like an umbrella stand, it will probably last long enough. But cheap items subject to constant wear – such as sofas, rugs, or frequently opened cabinets – tend to need replacing after a short while. Probably the most common culprit here is cheap shelving; leave your books or items on it for any length of time, and you’ll see the shelves start to sag or bend into a U-shape (this is from using cheap laminates, or wood that isn’t properly treated/dried). 

3. Buying fittings from Taobao

R shared that she wanted to incorporate sleeker bathroom fittings, but the ones from reputable brands like Kohler seemed overpriced when she compared them to the prices on Taobao. 

“I was a newbie that didn’t know anything about these brands other than they were expensive. I was more interested in achieving the look, rather than to ensure that the products could also last long.”

Given the lower prices, she was naturally suspicious as to the quality of the products, and asked the seller whether the products would rust after time.

“He seemed very confident, and kept saying that it would confirm not rust. It did look nice when it was new, but it wasn’t long before parts started to rust. I learned after digging more that when Taobao sellers say it won’t rust, this is based on the climate in China, not Singapore, which is just less humid.”

But the worst thing for R is that the insides of her kitchen taps started to rust as well later on. No one wants to drink rusty water, and while it apparently doesn’t cause immediate harm, it is definitely a cause for concern when there are bacteria ingested over a long time. 

rusty tap

“That was the last straw for me, and beyond the ugliness of the taps after a few months, and even drinking water, there was additional cost when I had to remove and install the new taps. I should have just paid for the more expensive taps in the first place!”

All that said, while the price of the product is usually an indication of the quality, that isn’t to say that Taobao is all bad – you just need to look in the right places. There are sellers there that are the OEM of other brands, and you are just buying these products without the proper warranties or any service recovery, hence the lower prices. 

4. Insisting on starting renovations before you’ve checked for defects

Some homeowners are in a rush to move in, and that means pushing the contractor to start right away – before they’ve even properly checked for defects. In most cases, contractors will know to warn against this; but they’ll do what you insist anyway. 

But if a defect is spotted during or right after renovations, the developer can deflect the blame. They might, for instance, may claim that marks on the wall were caused by your developer moving a light socket, or that damage to flooring was due to your contractors’ use of certain tools. It’s quite tough to prove who’s right, and it can lead to a long dispute. 

hdb budget renovation 7 1

For A, this was what happened when he rushed to get his unit completed as he was WFH like everybody else during the pandemic and wanted to move in right away. 

“I was too anxious to move in, and what could go so wrong right? Turns out, when I found out there were scuffs on the wardrobe after moving in, the contractor said it was already there previously. But I had no evidence as well that it was the developer as I was in a rush and didn’t properly check the unit thoroughly for defects. 

It wasn’t a huge cost to bear thankfully, and I guess I still would have rather been able to move in early than be homeless. But it could have been much worse if I found other issues.”

As such, it’s best to carefully inspect your unit before you begin renovation works; you can even get your contractor to help you. Ensure all the defects have been photographed, reported, and acknowledged by the developer. 

5. Built too much in-built carpentry

As new parents and first-time homeowners, R and her husband were naturally very excited about their home. They originally wanted to keep the kid’s room simple, but things got out of hand once they started browsing Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. 

modern kids room

“In some of the Scandinavian countries, the kid’s room just looked so pretty and cosy and we really wanted to create that same environment for our girl. The more we looked, the more fixated we got with wanting to achieve that.”

While there are affordable options like IKEA, the problem for R was that the kid’s room was quite an awkward shape, and none of the ready-made options fit it well enough for their liking. 

“The options that we could find online had gaps between the structure and the walls that were neither big nor small enough for us to really put anything to cover them and it really bothered me. So instead, we decided to spend to custom build the bed frame and cabinetry.”

Now years later in hindsight, they regret doing so. Not only does it not fit their kid’s preferences now, it’s also hard to get rid of as the custom measurements mean it doesn’t fit well in other people’s rooms. 

“It’s like buying a custom airpods with your name engraved on it. It looks nice when it’s new, but the resale value drops unless you find someone with the same name as you. As new homeowners, we didn’t think too much about the future and just about how things looked back then. We would have been much better off saving a bit to purchase something off the rack and changing it later on when she’s able to be much more vocal with what she wants.”

For more on what to watch out for when renovating, follow us on Stacked. We bring you home buyer stories and experiences, so you can make better-informed choices in the Singapore property market.