Real Estate Buying Tips
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If you are looking to buy a private property or HDB flat in Singapore, make sure that you know all the pitfalls before you sign on the dotted line. Here are some of the major things you should look out for to avoid getting into a legal or financial tangle during the transaction.
You need to select an agent to service you. Find one who is familiar with the location and type of property you have in mind. Make sure the agent is from a Listed Housing Agency and also a member of the Institute of Estate Agents (IEA). Discuss your requirements with him and be specific. This will allow him to advise and service you in a professional manner.
Always ensure that the seller is the actual owner of the property. You may wish to request for proof when you are making the purchase.
Ensure that the seller of the property is eligible to sell the property. For a private property that is mortgaged to a bank, if the seller has lost money on the sale, and is unable to top up the shortfall on his bank loan, the bank may not allow the seller to go through with the transaction.
For an HDB flat (except one-room flats), there is a minimum occupation period whereby the seller must physically occupy the flat before he would be eligible to sell the flat. For a flat bought directly from the HDB or a resale flat bought with a CPF housing grant, the seller must physically occupy the flat for five years before he can sell it. For a resale flat, the seller has to physically occupy the flat for a period of 30 months. Note that if the seller has sub-let his entire flat with the Housing and Development Board's approval, the period of sub-letting will not be included in computing the physical occupation period.
On some occasions, the seller of the property may be a bankrupt. With the written consent of the Official Assignee, the seller will be eligible to sell the property, however, the Official Assignee may request for all monies, including the option money or deposit, to be paid to the Official Assignee.
Property purchase is a legally binding contract. It is vital that you make sure of your eligibility to purchase a property. The Residential Property Act together with HDB's strict eligibility rules can be confusing to any buyer. There are also restrictions for foreigners to buy Singapore properties. Always check with your agent thus avoiding any legal complications.
- Decide beforehand on a few likely locations that you'd like to live in. Take into account things like the distance to work places, schools, transportation and places that you visit frequently with your family's lifestyle in mind.
- Size - How large a home do you need? Have you thought about the next couple of years - are members of your family likely to move in or out? How many bedrooms do you need? Where do you and your family spend most time?
- Facilities - Would you like the advantage of a swimming pool, tennis courts and other condominium type facilities? Or, would you prefer to join a recreation club and enjoy a wider variety of leisure?
- Amenities - Are shops, banks, and markets within a short distance away?
Once you've decided on a location and size of home that you'd like, think about how much you'll be willing to spend. Bear in mind other monthly expenses that come with owning or renting a home. Several software exists to assist agents to accurately calculate the cost of buying a home. Providing your agent with accurate data regarding your financial status is vital and will help him to formulate a proper financial plan. If you're buying, talk to two or three banks and discuss a financial plan that you're comfortable with. Your banker will also be able to advise you on the loan quantum available to you. This will help you decide on your budget. Remember, Banks and HDB require documentary proof of income.
Once you have decided on the type of home to purchase, your agent will arrange for you to view all available homes matching your criteria. Bring a small notebook and take notes for later comparison. Put down the positive and negative points about the property. This will help you make an informed decision later. Be punctual for viewing appointments. Dress casually but smartly.
Before you enter any prospective home, always take note of the surrounding areas. Don't forget, you can always redecorate the interior of a home but there's no way you can change the surroundings! Also, don't be distracted by a home that looks just the way you would have liked, get carried away and forget to check for things like cracked tiles and fittings that don't work.
Avoid making any negative comments if the sellers are present to avoid offending them. Always try and make a friend. Remember, you may decide to purchase their home after all !
Ask the seller if the renovations or alterations in the property are legal and approved. Get the understanding from the seller that should the relevant authorities require the seller to rectify any of the illegal renovations or alterations, the seller will be responsible for the rectification, at his own expense.
Once you find a home that you like, discuss with your agent with regards to the asking and market price for the property. Compare that property with those that you have viewed. Refer to your notes about the property. Your agent should be able to help you to decide on an offer price. The rule is to start the offer at a price that seems fair to you and wait for a counter offer. If the seller is serious, you should receive a counter offer.
Remember, you're not the only one looking around for a home. By all means don't rush into making a hasty decision but, if you don't decide soon, some one else will !
Confirm that the option money or deposit will be of the standard amount. For private property, the option money is usually one per cent of the purchase price while for HDB resale flats, the deposit should not exceed $5,000. Lastly, when buying an HDB resale flat, it is also important to take note of the following.
As there are 14 different schemes of purchase when buying an HDB resale flat, it is important to check with the HDB or the real estate agent representing you which scheme you are categorised under. This is to determine your eligibility to buy a resale flat.
It is also important to check with the HDB or your agent if you are affected by the ethnic integration policy.
Should the number of families of your ethnic group staying in the estate or that particular block of flats that you wish to buy exceed the prescribed limit, you will not be permitted to buy a unit in that block unless the seller is also of a similar ethnic group as yours.
This ethnic integration policy was implemented to allow ethnic integration in all HDB estates.
It is the sellers obligation to hand over the property upon legal completion as agreed in the contract. In the case of a HDB flat, vacant possession is a requirement. Inspect the property before completion. Make known any objections or faults immediately. Check with your agent if you are in doubt.
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