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 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.


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…


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.

Singapore, not as green as you think

Singapore is an island city state located at the tip of the Peninsular Malaysia with a population of at least 5.6 million. Ever since gaining its true independence from Malaysia in 1965, the nation has grown rapidly in the early 1970s and 1980s, becoming one of the Asian Tigers in the process. It did so within a single generation under the leadership of the founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

But all that development is not without cost to the environment.

Since its founding by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, the island has lost 95% of its natural forest. Although the government saw the dangers of being highly urbanised back in 1967 and implemented plans to make the country a garden city, it didn’t stop the island from losing over twenty species of freshwater fishes, 100 species of birds. A number of mammals have also gone extinct locally. And that was based on the journal, The Ecological Transformation of Singapore, 1819-1990, published in 1992 by Wiley. There are also 1358 species of native vascular plants but 759 of those are critically endangered based on a report1 published in the Singapore Red Book Data, page 2.

A 2003 analysis, reported by John Pickrell for National Geographic News in an article titled “Singapore Extinctions Spell Doom For Asia?” 2, put our wildlife losses as follow: 4,866 plants, 627 butterflies, 234 fish, 111 reptiles, and 91 mammals. Since 1923, 61 of the 91 known forest species of birds have died out. And that meant that as much as 73 percent of the island’s original biota has been eradicated.

Whatever that is left of island native wildlife, half of those can only be found in the various nature reserves located around the island that take up less than 0.25% of the land area.

It’s not to say the government didn’t do anything. To combat further flora and fauna losses, the government announced the Singapore Green Plan 1992 and Singapore Green Plan 2012. The plans promoted the conservation of the nation’s natural resources, the use of green technology to conserve the environment, both local and globally, and to raise awareness and instill a sense of personal duty among the locals to protect the environment.

Through these plans, Sungei Buloh Nature Park and Labrador Nature Park were promoted and gazetted to be nature reserve in 2001. NParks, the government organisation responsible for Singapore parks and nature reserve, also began reforestation of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. By 2006, 71.6 hectares of land have been reforested.

Even then, environment destruction continues for the sake of development.

To increase the amount of space available for development, Singapore has been reclaiming land since its founding and has added 141 square kilometre of land thus far. Through this, the nation is able to reduce the pressure of having small amount of space to work with, thus allowing it to preserve historical and culturally significant buildings as it further urbanised and fuel its economical growth.

However, these land reclamation works, which have increased in intensity since independence in 1965, have caused the destruction of over 60 percent of our coral reefs and the loss of 95% of its native mangroves.

For past reclamation work, Singapore drew from its own hill but that source ran out decades ago. And land reclamation can’t use desert sand since they are of smaller grains and have smooth surfaces as a result of weathering that made them infeasible for construction use. As a result, the country has to import large quantity of beach and river sand from neighbouring countries. In 2010 alone, the country imported 14.6 million tons of sand3. In 2016, the country imported 38.6 million tons of sand with half of it supplied by Malaysia4.

Although the government did its best to get sands through contractors who must adhere to the legal requirements in which they operate, it didn’t stop the destruction of the source environment since sand are either mined or through dredging the beaches or river. The flora and fauna losses as a result of those activities is not yet quantifiable but it definitely leave marks that raise concerns in various local communities.

As a result, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam halted export of sand to Singapore if not outright banning it.

But it didn’t stop black market sand mining activities. With Singapore buying huge amount of it, it has become a lucrative resource. Blackmarket miners and smugglers targeted many of the islands around Singapore that has only a few or zero inhabitants as well as off limits areas such as nature reserves within countries like Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia to mine sand.

One such illegal source for sand came from Nipah Island. It’s an island situated on the borders of Singapore and Indonesia. In 2003, the island disappeared under the sea wave based on a report by the local NGO Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia 5.

Another questionable source was from the Tatai River in Cambodia. Sand mining from that river have caused veritable traffic jam on the water. Not only that, 270 families who lived along the river reported an estimated 85 percent drop in catch of fish, crab and lobsters and were being forced to eke out a living from small garden plots 6.

Even then, it didn’t stop Singapore from attempting to import sand from other countries outside of Southeast Asia. At the same time, the nation will begin to use new methods of land reclamation. One such method is to recycle excavated material from construction to use in some projects. Another was to pilot a new method that will use less sand in late 2016 78.

It’s a step in the right direction but doesn’t change the fact the damage was already done.

Furthermore, shoppers in Singapore are contributing to making the country less green by their heavy use of plastic-based products.

In a study conducted by the Singapore Environment Council, shoppers take 820 million plastic bags from supermarket each year. That’s an average of 146 plastic bag per person. The petroleum used in their production could have easily powered 1.9 million car rides across the length of the island and back 9.

In comparison, Australia uses 0.53 plastic bag per person while Malaysia uses 0.8 plastic bag 10.

A big part of the problem stems from the people who see using plastic bags as a right instead of privilege. Therefore, they will ask for more plastic bag than they need when they shop.

Not only plastic bags are heavily used in Singapore. Considering that there’s access to clean water in the country, locals continued to buy bottled water instead of bringing their own water drawn from the taps 11 and contribute to the 467 million polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles used per year. In addition, 473 million polypropylene plastic disposables are used each year 12. The cheapness and convenience of these disposables is undeniable. Food establishments in Singapore buy them in bulk and doesn’t recycle them. Used plastic plates, fork, spoon and cup are thrown into the bin.

So, it’s not surprising that 94% of these plastic wastes are not recycled 13 and most of them just end up in the incinerators and landfills.

Lastly, there’s the electricity production to consider. Right now, the nation generates 95% of its electricity using natural gas. In 2001, electricity production rely heavily on oil. So it’s definitely a step in the right direction but natural gas is still a non-renewable resource, and when burned, generates carbon dioxide that are released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

Pfft… I am not minimalistic enough!

Minimalism is a lifestyle and never a one time deal. Over time, your values will change and then you realise what you have now no longer bring you joy or give you any value. Then, probably, you will be like me and start to wonder whether you are minimalistic enough.

I have been into minimalism for about a year and a half and reached this point where despite my best effort, I’m find that I am not minimalistic enough. I still got a lot of stuff and get stressed by them. It is especially when I need to pack them up.


Clothes are one of the few things that most people will accumulate a lot over the years if they aren’t careful and especially so these days due to fast fashion. Therefore, it is highly logical for someone who want to adopt a minimalistic lifestyle to target clothes as the first step during the decluttering process.

I got rid of a lot of flannels, t-shirts, pants and polo shirts until I could easily move my hanging clothes left and right of the wardrobe.

And recently, I came to realise I didn’t declutter sufficiently. I had to pack up my clothes into giant bags because of an upcoming renovation and my current fixed wardrobe will be taken down to make way for new one. The packing process actually pissed me off more than it should because of the sheer amount of clothes I still have. More than 20% of my clothes haven’t been worn for months or even years and they had been sitting there collecting dust. It even make my skin itch when I pick them up.

So I pulled out a bunch of clothes that I know for sure I won’t wear them ever again and toss them into the bin. Even after doing that, I still got like maybe 80 clothes (pants, shorts, underwear, etc.) and I’m sure another quarter of those I probably won’t wear ever again.

Technology and Electronics

If you are someone who love technology and electronics, it is inevitable that you have old processors, motherboards, rams, phones, adapters and cables lying around that you no longer use because you have gotten new ones to play with.

During my minimalism journey, I had targeted these items to declutter and got rid a lot of them. Hell, I even got rid of my gaming desktop because I no longer find value in it and prefer to just stick to one computer for my daily needs.

Yet, recently when I was going through those boxes that I have to store these technology items, I found myself extremely frustrated when I tried to repack those items back. It turns out, there were a whole bunch of stuff that I really don’t use anymore but didn’t get rid of. I was cursing and swearing at those items as I put them back into the boxes. It took a while before I could close those lids.

And I don’t have the time to clear these items because I got other more important things to do.

Paper-based items

I don’t know about where you live, but in Singapore, chances are you will receive a ton of letters from the government for every little notifications or updates as well as statements for your taxes and CPF account. And if you are Singapore guy and need to serve the military, you will also get a ton of reservist call-up letters and whatever updates the military wants “disturb” you with.

Yeah, I never liked the military. Still hate it. But I digress.

And let’s not forget about receipts. Now, normally you don’t need to keep those if you aren’t running a business where you need to file taxes. However, if you are someone who buys a lot of technology products, you need to keep those receipts for warranty purpose. And I have a ton of those lying around.

You would think that I’m done. No. Because of my interest in writing since secondary school days, I actually have a ton of folders and notebooks containing a bunch of old writings.

And oh, printed lecture notes, tutorials and laboratory instructions from my diploma and degree days. Those are still lying around in my cabinets.

So during my cleaning up process over the past two days, I realised that I hadn’t really put a lot of effort into decluttering paper-based items in my room.

By my estimation, I actually have about 80 over letters and that’s not including the envelopes used to contain those letters, five folders containing my old writings, countless pieces of papers accumulated during my studies.

Now, I managed to reduce the letter collection down to about 30 physical letters by shredding a lot of them and digitalising the important letters.

As for the old writings, I decided they aren’t worth keeping and so I discarded all of them. The school stuff on the other hand, I simply don’t have the time to clear them yet since there are a ton of things to do too.


All the above definitely prove that I’m not minimalistic enough. And it’s a journey of trial and error.

So what’s next?

Going forward, I need to work harder. I still want to meet my goal of having all that I own in just two boxes the size of 1 x 1 x 1 meter. It would make my life easier when I need to move house or something.

Movie Review #1 – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Please note that there may be some spoilers.

I went to watch Kingsman: The Golden Circle with my friends on Sept 23, 2017 at Shaw Lido. It came out in Singapore on the Sept 21. This is my quick review of the show.

Some background first. I watched the first movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, when it came out in 2014. I loved the first show due to its over-the-top action sequence with the occasional comedic scenes. The funniest scenes were always when Samuel L. Jackson is on. In that movie, we saw Eggsy, portrayed by Taron Egerton, grew from an anti-social youth to become a respected young man capable of dishing out heavy punishment on the bad guys.

In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we saw Eggsy as a mature agent, able to fight off his enemies with relative ease. And when he’s not fighting or on the job, he was able to maintain a cover of a young adult who has a girlfriend, hanging out with his friends in his house.

About quarter way of the show, we get to see the Kingsman wiped out except for a few survivors — Eggsy and Merlin were the only those survivors.

From then on, the movie was about the remaining Kingsmen working with Statesman, the American counterpart to stop the villain, Poppy Adams, portrayed by Julianne Moore. She’s pretty good at portraying her character’s eccentricities.

Elton John stars in the movie too as a captive and generally serve to replace Samuel L. Jackson in the sense that his scenes were rather funny.

The action scenes were like the first, over-the-top yet maintaining some sense of believability. It’s generally a fun movie. During certain parts of the show, the CGI was pretty obvious. I’m not sure if it was intentional or what. Generally CGI in most Hollywood shows have a certain polish till the point where you almost couldn’t tell the difference between real and fake.

I give the movie 4/5 stars.