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Old 01-10-2009, 01:56 AM
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Default I got a city-area flat because locals are fussy...

I consider myself very lucky, being perhaps among the 'last batch' to purchase a first-hand flat from the HDB for under $200,000 before their prices skyrocketed.

I own a 4-rm apartment on the 20-something floor at Farrer Park Rd that cost me just $186,000. Farrer Park has an MRT at its doorstep, Mustafa Centre, The Verge, City Square Shopping Mall, United Square, Novena Square/Velovity within walking distance. Schools like SJI Junior and ACS are within 1km, and for girls, there's St Margaret's Primary also within 1km. If you want a neighbourhood school, there is Farrer Park Primary. And on National Day, I can see fireworks from my bedroom window.

Recently, I thought of upgrading to a 5-room flat, and so I did a valuation on my unit which is valued at $445K now. I definitely cannot afford moving to a 5-room flat in my current area; I have been priced out of the market. And I cannot imagine living elsewhere. So I decided not to move in the end, even though the COV range for my neighbourhood is between $20K-$50K.

But so what if I can pocket a high COV for my flat? I'm very very shocked that in the space of 6 years, the housing situation has become this bad. It makes no sense for me to overall fork out more money for my next apartment in a less convenient heartland that is far away from the city. I can foresee my monthly loan being more than $1,000, even for somewhere as 'ulu' as Bkt Panjang or CCK. Right now my loan is less than $600 a month; split 50/50 between me and my husband, both of us pay not more than $300 from our OA every month for this flat. I will never, ever have it this good again.

How did I manage to move here in the first place? In 2003, a balloting exercise for Kallang/Whampoa was conducted, for the locations of Jellicoe Rd, Jln Tentaram and Farrer Park Road. Most of the successful applicants were eyeing the new blocks at Jellicoe Rd (along Victoria Rd, off Lavender St) and they gave up their queue number after those were sold out. Very few of them wanted a unit in Jln Tentaram (in Whampoa, off Balestier Rd) because the area does not have MRT and is not served well by busses. Even fewer considered buying the new apartments at Farrer Park Rd because of its proximity to Little India.

To me, that's not a good enough reason for me to give up the chance of living so close to the city! In fact, foreign workers are not a problem at all -- and I'm raising 2 young kids in the neighbourhood. From Mon-Sat, Little India is really very quiet with no foreign worker crowds. They only come on their rest day, on Sunday. To me, that's acceptable -- I choose to stay home too, on that day. After so long, I've become used to it too. I think S'poreans are overreacting as foreign workers do not necessarily make your neighbourhood a dangerous place. In fact, it is safer as there are more police patrols.

It's the nature of Singaporeans to be fussy and maybe, a little snobbish and paranoid regarding foreign labourers. Ironically, I have to thank them. If not for my fellow citizens being picky and having misconceptions, I don't think there would have been so many good units at Farrer Park.

Honestly, S'poreans should learn to compromise, lest they let other opportunities slip by. Not every expectation can be met, nor can everything be perfect... what is important is to learn to adapt, like how I have learned to live with foreign workers in my neighbourhood.

I guess my other piece of advice is -- try to pay off your monthly loans with money from your OA, with no cash top-up. Or else your OA is going to remain at $0 for decades! Newlyweds should try to avoid resale apartments at all cost, unless they can really afford it with money only from their OA. I waited 5 years before I finally bought my Farrer Park apartment, and it was a huge risk. I already had a queue number for a BTO project in Sengkang, but I had to give it up even BEFORE I found out the results of the balloting. Imagine, if I had failed in the ballot, I would be back to square one. But don't be disheartened. Even if it takes you 5 years like me (and I had a young baby then too), don't give up on applying directly to the HDB as a first-time buyer. Your finances will really be ALOT more stable.
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