The most important things you should know before getting your own apartment as a single in Singapore

The COVID pandemic got me thinking about having my own space with the idea of having one room for sleeping, one for home office with the living room serving as my gaming space.

When the time came for me to get a place of my own, I found that I could not buy a Build-To-Order (BTO) HDB flat because I exceeded the ceiling cap. Therefore, I had to change my plan.

For context, single and middle class Singaporeans are limited in terms of housing option in Singapore. You are only allowed to buy a HDB flat at the age of 35, regardless if it is a BTO or resale. Then, there is also an income ceiling cap of $7,000/month for those who want to buy a BTO. There is the option of buying a private property such as condominiums but they unsustainable in terms of mortgages and other payable fees for someone like me.

So, given the constraint, buying a resale HDB flat was the next best option for me.

We have to remember this one thing. Buying a house is a huge commitment, and it is especially so with the high interest rates and inflation. Therefore, if you choose to buy a resale HDB flat as a single, the first few year could deplete your cash savings if you are not careful.

This is why you need to get your finances in order

And here is the breakdown to help you understand why.

House purchase

The first step in your house buying journey will see you spend an upwards of $1000 on buying something known as Option to Purchase (OTP), a legal document signed by the seller to reserve the flat for you. This amount is payable by cash only to the seller of the flat. The good news is that this is also part of the overall flat’s selling price. This is done after you and the seller agree on a purchase price (offer price).

If you like the flat, you can “exercise” the OTP and then pay the remaining $4000. By doing this, you and seller officially enters an agreement and you cannot back out. Similarly, this amount is payable by cash only.

After that, you will have to pay up to $200 worth of fees to HDB. The breakdown goes like this: $80 for HDB application and $120 for HDB valuation request.

In my case, I had some other bills, left over from the previous year, to pay and I was struggling with a budget deficit for 2022. Therefore, paying all those money was a huge struggle for me. A major re-evaluation of my expenses was required.

Depending on the valuation issued by HDB and the offer price you made, you might find yourself in the situation where the offer is higher than valuation. This means that you have to pay the difference to the seller with your own cash and not payable via other means. This is known as Cash-over-Valuation (COV) since the banks will only consider the valuation price when they prepare the mortgage loan package for you.

If you happen to make an offer that is lower than the valuation, it is to your benefit. Sadly, that wasn’t my case as I had a COV of $20,000.

It threw my plans into complete disarray. I simply didn’t have the additional cash to pay for that. As I found a unit that my family and I loved, the next step was clear. I had to borrow that $20,000 to supplement my existing cash stash, the latter of which is to pay for the 5% portion of the valuation price. But, I also consider myself lucky as there are stories of people paying COV of up to $50,000.

As for the remaining amount, your mortgage from the bank and your CPF will be used, making up 95% of the offer price (75% from mortgage, 20% from CPF). This is where you also need to consider if your CPF has sufficient funds to also pay the Stamp Duty (a type of property tax) and legal fees.

With all that said, there is also commissions to be paid to the property agent who you might have engaged to help you to handle the paperwork.

Given my experience and the state of the property market in 2023, I would recommend that buyers set aside about $80,000 in liquid cash to buy a resale flat. And, it is important to remember emergency funds are not and should not be part of that $80,000. So, if you intend to have an emergency fund of $50,000, you will need to save up nearly $130,000 in cash.

In hindsight, this is also probably why setting the legal age to buy a HDB flat as a single at 35 years old is a good thing. This gives you time to build up the savings.

But, if you like to buy a BTO, then you will need to keep your monthly salary below $7,000 up to the day you actually get the flat.

Renovations

Renovations do not come cheap either. If you have read Singapore news on renovation cost, you will find that homeowners pay up to $100,000 or more to create their forever home.

In my case, I decided to do some light renovation work as the unit was very well maintained by the previous owner. And my requirements were simple.

Oh boy, am I completely shocked by the amount of money I need to spend as well.

The first step was to replace the doors in my house. Depending on the material, the design, the type of locks, and the number of doors, the final cost can come out to be around $6,000 to $7,000. In my case, it was under $5,000 as the reseller gave me a bundle deal. And the best part was, my brother-in-law and sister were with me. They were equally shocked by the price tag.

I also went to looking for contractors to do electrical work as the existing electrical wiring and sockets were old and falling apart. The rough figure the contractor quoted me for a full house rewiring, socket and switch replacement and other electrical work is approximately $4000. And that’s excluding the installation of data ports and related network cables. A rough napkin calculation told me I need to set aside $6,000 for these two works.

And if you need house painting services, those can cost approximately $1,800 (or lower depending on the contractor).

With these costs, it actually got me to rethink whether I want to continue with other renovation work for 2023.

Furnishing

If you intend to enjoy your home, furnishing is important as well. This is something I’ve done only a basic research by browsing Ikea’s catalog. A quick napkin calculation for a 48-inch OLED TV, some Ikea shelves, a standing desk, chairs, a sofa and a bed can easily cost me up to $15,000.

And I have not even consider other things to buy such as kitchen appliances and kitchenware…

Conclusion

I hope you can understand now why you need to keep your debts low and have a good cash liquidity if you plan to get your own place. If you have not start saving money and have no intention of getting married, it is a good time to start saving and building your wealth now.

Reasons and Outcome

For a given outcome, there can be a myriad of reasons.

A person needs money to survive and put food on the table.

A person enjoys what they are doing with a particular client or organisation.

Both type of reasons leads to the same outcome:

The person stayed on a job.

But, one should not be content with that. Options are always available that contributes to a change in outcome.

From an organisation perspective, if they really wants to retain their talents or get the good ones, they need to give people the right reason.

And they have to be keenly aware if the reason has changed for the people on the ground, even though the outcome is the same, for now.

Becauseā€¦ the outcome may not be the same tomorrow.

Quality

I care deeply about quality to a point where I don’t care about freebies. The thinking goes: if something can be given away for free, it means it cheaply produced without much thought to its impact on the world. So, why should I be part of the bandwagon?

But quality items don’t come cheap. Having money is important. But, money was never the primary motivator in my career.

And this is where quality comes into play again. Quality relationship at work. Quality time spent with supportive colleagues and friends. Shared quality mindset.

With that said, I will give back as much quality as I can humanly master because I feel good and happy being there. And don’t forget, it is a two way street. It is also dependent on the organisation (employer) to help me in achieving quality in life.

Consistent investment over a long time horizon is key to wealth growth

2022 is not a good year. Inflation is at all time high due to the surge in demand as economies reopen but there was not enough supplies due to the drop in productivity from the COVID-19 lockdown. Furthermore, the Russian invasion of Ukraine have sent shockwaves throughout the energy and food industries, adding more fuel to the fires of inflation.

The United States Federal Reserve raised interest rates several times over the past few months to deal with persistently high inflation. Europe’s central banks also raised their rates as well. The stock markets across the world fell in response to such actions, wiping out trillions of dollars.

For those of us who have just started on their investment journey, it can be a painful process as you watched the value of your holdings fall. But, that does not mean you stop investing. In fact, it is the best time to invest now because the prices for many of the stocks and indexes are lower than before. If you were investing using DCA technique, then with the same amount of money you can buy more of the same stocks.

Now, short of an extinction-level event that threatens to wipe out humanity, the financial market will always recover after a major event such as war, disease and natural disasters. This Russian invasion will end one way or another. Inflation will come down. Food prices will stabilise. When the market recovers, the valuations of those stocks will rise again. If you have been investing consistently, you will find your wealth and net worth grow in tandem. But if you have not, you will find that you lose out in the end and time is not on your side if you start late.