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Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The House-Hunting Series [iv] - New Home Sweet Home & House-Warming

Having walked you through the buying of home, selling of existing home, and setting up of home processes,  we have reached the exciting moment - The Big Move.




  1. THE BIG MOVE
    With all our cartons ready at the HDB Flat, we awaited the guys from Prestige Movers (link here) to come. We have used them before, and liked their efficient service as well as reasonable rates, therefore it was a no-brainer that we engaged their services again. They would expertly wrap up delicate items such as large paintings, TV sets, and seal cabinets etc before loading them. They also provided cardboard boxes and Scotch tape for our packing needs before the moving day.




  2. SCATTERING OF RICE, BEAN, SALT AND TEA LEAVES
    To backtrack a little, this was not mentioned prior to our renovations. The moment we got the keys and opened up the door, this vital ritual was performed. We mixed some rice grains, sea salt, green beans and tea leaves together, and scattered them at all corners of the vacant home, while chanting briefly something like "be gone, ye spirits, for I am the rightful owner here."

    We also left Chinese fortune cake ("fa fao") and fruits at the stove - this is supposed to signify fortune and prosperity. Then in the middle of the entire house, we left 5 types of seeded fruits. The latter is supposed to bring about fertility and growth.

    We left these items in the house for 3 days before removing them.





  3. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
    We opened up the door and rolled the Pineapple in. The common saying is, where the pineapple stops, it is the "fortune spot".  A colleague of mine rolled 8 oranges instead of pineapple because she claims pineapples has sharp edges -  therefore I suppose you can use oranges as alternatives too.

    There's also a sequence of who gets to enter the home first. If there are elderly, they should enter first, followed by the man of the house and then the woman of the house.

    Then we turned on the taps to let the water run for a short while. And turned on the stove to boil some water and some rice.  I cannot remember what these acts symbolise, but practicality prompted me to test the functionality of my gas stove and taps.

    Finally, enjoying a simple meal in the premises of the new home with family. My Mom and the Mother-in-law had followed us over to our new abode to witness the moving, so 4 of us enjoyed a simple lunch here.

    The rest of the day was spent waiting for furniture delivery, as well as delivery of our TV and Washer-Dryer, unpacking stuff, arranging and re-arranging stuff. This busy routine went on for days, a super tiring affair.




  4. SETTLING IN
    Among the hectic-ness, we had to adjust to a fair bit of stuff in the new place as well. Such as the shift from the West to the East, familiarising ourselves with good places to buy dinner, where to get our groceries from, who our neighbours are, as well as sleeping and waking up in a new environment. New places and new furniture also come with their own smells, which we tried to get used to, as well.

    Without bamboo sticks to hang out our clothes to dry, we now had to make do with the washer's drying function very frequently. Also, the kitchen is a lot smaller, and it's an open concept linked to the living room, so we eliminated frying anything at all (pending our air-fryer to come in).

    The good thing is that I cultivated a routine where I would swim or visit the gym at least 3 times a week - something I never found time nor motivation to do in the past.





  5. HOUSE-WARMING
    Finally, time for friends to visit our new home! We set the house-warming on a Sunday, a week after we moved in. I believe the house-warming is a very important event as you invite people to "warm" up the home, with their energies and well wishes. It is believed to ward off all negative energies, and to "brighten" the home, something like that.

    Planning the house-warming meant booking of the function room, and sending of invites to our friends and colleagues. Then monitoring the RSVPs to see how many persons were actually turning up.  We were quite fortunate that most of the guests could make it, despite the fact that it was 2 weeks away from Chinese New Year.

    As for caterers, we had a few in mind (Stamford, Four Seasons, and Kitchen Language) - we settled on Stamford Catering (website here), selecting their Healthy Menu comprising sushi rolls, fried brown rice, fish, prawns, vegetables, etc, etc - a total of 11 courses including drinks and desserts.  The food and service were good - and I liked the CNY decor setup. We had about 55 guests and we catered for 45 pax but apparently there were way too much leftovers (think 6-7 boxes of food).

    The function room was a few blocks away from our block, so the Hubby and I took turns to bring different groups of friends up to visit our home. Thankfully our family members were around to help entertain the guests who arrived while we were upstairs conducting house tours.

    As for blessings - we were thankful to our friends and colleagues who showered us with gifts of wine, red packets, gift vouchers, etc. The market rate for Housewarming these days average at SGD$50.00, but of course there were those who gave more, and those who gave less. Like weddings, there is no fixed rules, and it all boils down to "from the heart"-  thankful for all of them taking the time to come by and share this joyous moment with us.

That pretty much sums up the House-Hunting series; we hope you find the tips useful.  I also wish to highlight that although I made recommendations to certain service providers in this series of blog posts, none of them were sponsored - all of them are honest reviews rendered for paid services by me and my Hubby. For more information, do feel free to drop me an email at cloverwish.leaf@gmail.com.

If you are looking to purchase your matrimonial home now, I wish you a fruitful and joyous hunt! For complimentary advice and consultation, you can also contact my trusted agent here at simonleow.swift@gmail.com. All the best! 👄




BACKTRACKS:

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

The House-Hunting Series [iii] - Doing Up The New Home



After searching and buying the dream home, and selling off the existing flat, we got busy as bees working on the new place so that we could move in before Christmas. As the Condo unit was a brand new unit, there was nothing done at all. We had to engage so many different parties to make the house a home, to make it liveable.

Of course, the alternative would be to engage an interior designer,  but we did not feel that it was necessary for a small space as ours. Furthermore, we had a certain look in mind already, so all we needed was to get the furnishings to complete the look.






1.   DECKING FOR THE PLANTER BOXES


Our planter boxes (mini versions of a proper balcony) needed to be decked up so that we could put outdoor furniture onto them. After speaking to several contractors, we engaged a private contractor to take care of these for us. Her name is Cindy and her number is 9299 8246 - very responsive and good attitude. 

We chose the wood paneling colours and a matching set for the vinyl top for our bay window. She managed to finish the decking for us within our stipulated timeframe, and did not chase for payment (the latter was vital because we jetted off shortly for a long vacation and she totally did not rush us).





2.    CURTAINS AND BLINDS
For curtains and blinds, we also chatted with a few providers before settling on Kah Huat Textile Co, located at Joo Chiat area. The ladyboss Ms Joyce Png was very friendly and helpful in assisting us to select our ideal curtains and blinds, including the dreamy white day curtains. Overall, her service was rather good except that she did not manage to do within the timeframe we had originally discussed, and one of the room's metal railings fell off within a week. She rectified immediately, and it has been fine since then - so that is good enough for us.



3.  TURNING ON WATER & GAS SUPPLY
Had to go and open an account with Singapore Power to turn on the water and gas supply. There are many other energy providers in the market right now that seem to provide better cost-savings alternatives so by now, we may switch.


4.  APPLYING FOR INTERNET
We were using SingNet for the longest time, so this time we decided to go MobileOne (M1) Broadband a try. Since both of us are existing M1 users for our mobile phones, there was a bundle discount or promo that we got to enjoy. So far, the internet connection is working well.





5.   PROFESSIONAL CLEANING
We hired a professional post-renovation cleaning team headed by Jeremy Yee to clean up our house before moving in. Not only did they clean up all the debris left behind, they also wiped down all doors, cabinets and the floors, of course. Service was quite impeccable, and our house was spick and span clean. The fees was about SGD$250, and totally worth it.




6.  SHOPPING FOR FANS & LIGHTINGS
We decided on getting ceiling fans with lights, and considered a few brands. In the end we settled for a black Fanco model with lights kit and remote control. We also selected lights for all the rooms in the house - a combination of ceiling and wall lights. I love the ancient "gas lamp" in the front balcony the best, to be honest. Balestier Road is a great place to shop for lightings because there are 2 rows of lights shops - aplenty to choose from, and compare.  Most of these lights shop charge a fans installation fee of SGD$45 onwards,  and around SGD$10.00 for each light around the house (does not apply to chandeliers).





7.   SHOPPING FOR HOME FURNISHINGS
Furniture shopping was more a little more tricky. There was much to be compared; and some furniture pieces were harder to find. Hubby took the measuring tape everywhere we went, to ensure that the TV console and sofas we chose would not be longer than the walls.

As space is a constraint for us, we decided to do without the floor rug beneath the coffee table. Some of the immediate purchase included TV console with matching glass-topped coffee table, reclining sofa, dining table set and outdoor furniture set.

We also had to do without a slim glass cabinet that we initially wanted to place beside the TV console to display our wine collection and travel souvenirs - now with baby planning on the way, we had to choose furniture that is not made mainly of glass, or come with sharp edges.

Good places to do furniture shopping included Novena Furniture at Big Box (now defunct), IMM Jurong, Sungei Kadut area where all the furniture wholesalers are located (including brands like Picket & Rail, Star Living, Widhardja and Scanteak, etc.

We also purchased a good LG washer-dryer with anti-bacterial steam function, as well as my dream curved TV (not that we watch much TV ironically).   Courts Tampines, GainCity Megacity, and Audio House Bendemeer are good spots to shop for electrical appliances.



8.   SHOPPING FOR OTHER ESSENTIALS
Finally, the nitty-gritty little essentials that make up the house. We made a list and it came up to 100 over items.

Utensils and dining sets - I got mine from Corelle @ Takashimaya - Corelle features a reasonably-priced range of plates, bowls etc that are resistant to breakage.

Floor mats - I got mine from Charles Millen @ Takashimaya - they are thick, absorbent and colors are gorgeous.

Pots and pans - WMF at Takashimaya - not that I cook often.

Other things included small storage racks, dish drainers, wash cloths, lots and lots of plastic containers from Toyogo to store things under the planter box decking, steam iron, small electric kettle, handheld vacuum cleaner, spray mop, mini potted plants from Far East Floral, towel holders, hooks, soap holders, sponge, detergents, etc, wow you name it! Good places to shop for these would be Takashimaya, Japan Home outlets, Ikea and even Lazada. Some of my friends like Taobao but my experience with them so far has been less than stellar.







9.  PHOTO FRAME / CANVASS
Nah, not talking about the small decorative photo frames lying around the home - so we had a wedding photograph taken in Vancouver, that we liked very much. We wanted to enlarge it, maybe frame it, and hang it over the house. We wrote in to so many different photo studios who either could not assist, or charged sky high prices to do what we wanted. Until we discovered Sebastian Teh, founder of LoveInStills (check them out here) - who not only charged a good price for quality, but provided excellent service as well. He personally delivered the floating canvass to our place, and what can we say, we love it!





10.   CLEANSING OF HOME
Finally, before officially moving in, we engaged a professional to cleanse the home. People usually cleanse the home if they buy a 2nd hand unit, but I believe that every home has energies, even if they have been left empty for months. We considered Fengshui masters, but I decided to use Shamala Tan (website here)  because she is also my life coach and personal friend, and I have seen her work miracles so I believe in her works. 

She did a round of energy cleansing at my home with incense and gave us some advice on re-arranging the bedroom furniture (we had a cabinet that was kind of blocking the Hubby's smooth entry to his side of the bed) and to get some plants and crystals etc to optimise our goals. 

All the above took months to complete, especially all the shopping which took up a fair bit of time. Other than that, we were all set and ready to step foot into the new home and claim it as rightful owners!  In the next entry of this series, I shall talk about the Moving Day and House-warming.



BACKTRACKS:

Thursday, 6 June 2019

The House-Hunting Series [ii] - Selling Off The Existing Property



In House-Hunting Series Part 1 (read it here),  I shared information on how we narrowed down our choices when searching for the dream home, and finally securing the right home.  We also decided to sell off our existing HDB Flat, and hoping to do so within 6 months so as not to incur Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) - a hefty 12% of the property price!





1.  TAKING PHOTOS OF THE HOME
Our first step for selling the flat, was of course, to take (nice) photos of the existing flat for sale. With that, we re-arranged the furniture a little, tidied up the house, and removed any unsightly objects from the photos. This is to portray a good image of the house and give prospective owners a positive feel to even want to contact you for a viewing. No one likes a cluttered, dim home because it simply doesn't appeal.



2.  POSTING THE PHOTOS ON PROPERTY PLATFORMS
We sourced for free portals such as Carousell, Gumtree, Locanto, Craigslist and RedAd, as well as our own social media accounts to post about our properties. We copied some wordings from websites such as PropertyGuru, 99.co,  ST Property etc to make the descriptions sound better.

Do not use anyone else's photos though - always use your own original photos. If you need a certain nice view or if you forgot to take a photo of the block of flat's exterior facade, go and take these photographs yourselves.



         




3.  PROPERTY AGENTS - TO ENGAGE, OR NOT TO ENGAGE?
It depends on a lot of factors, really. Are we able to sell on our own? Some of us may have pretty strong word-of-mouth through neighbours, or maybe an existing neighbour's children want to buy the unit to stay right next to their parents, etc.  What are other issues to take into consideration?


  • timeline / urgency of sale - were we in a hurry to sell our flat?
  • budget - could we spare that extra few thousand dollars so that someone can help us professionally to take photos, offer advice, source for clients, advertise and paperwork?
  • home staging - a couple of agents we spoke to suggested spending money on this. Home-staging beautifies the home and replaces our furniture with nicer ones; the fees include storage of existing (uglier) furniture from our house for 2-3 months.
  • engage on exclusive basis or non-exclusive basis?
  • what were the opportunity costs if we didn't sell the flat in time?


I used a very efficient and down-to-earth agent from ERA Realty Network - Simon Leow. He responded to us very quickly, and was always polite and frank.







4.   OPENING THE HOUSE FOR VIEWINGS
Calls started coming in - either through our property agent or directly to us. The other parties negotiated for suitable dates and time to view our flat. If we were not represented by a property agent and the other party is, their property agent may negotiate with us for a fee because their clients ("buyers") are not obligated to pay agent's fees.

Before each viewing (which usually took 10 - 15 minutes maximum), we made sure to tidy up the place and put away newspapers, clothes, used plates etc so that the house looked presentable. When we had more time to prepare, we would also add little touches like lighting up a scented candle, soft classical music in the background, etc.

We would answer the prospective viewers' questions and bring them around the house. I served drinks as I would for any other visitors to our place. I even described each neighbour on the floor to them, so they knew who they would be potentially living next to. This was helpful, especially for families with children.

Sometimes we got weird viewings as well - those that appeared fishy, like managers training their new agents. So the "prospective buyer" would be a young single male or female, accompanied by an agent who claimed to be "a friend".   They would ask a lot of questions, the "agent friend" guiding the "prospective buyer" along, and then you never hear from them again.




5.   THE SUCCESSFUL SALE
Offers began coming in from prospective buyers who liked what they saw. We sat down and discussed the offers, rejecting the ridiculous ones and finally accepting one of the offer.  The flurry of activities began now - visits to conveyancing law firms, paperwork, HDB Inspection (to check for unauthorised alterations to flat), handing over, etc.

Before moving in officially, the buyers may request for a second viewing, or to come by to take measurements for their renovators' quotes. Sometimes they would just drop in to "visit", which we welcomed. After all, they might want to be familiar with their surroundings, or verify the neighbourhood, before exercising their options finally.

We were also very upfront with them on the areas that needed extra repairs such as a fallen kitchen sink, a broken glass panel on the folding kitchen door, etc.







6.   THE MOVING OUT

Moving out was a super hectic process. We had so much packing up to do:-

  • discarded many, many old things we did not want to bring over to new place
  • donated many things to The Salvation Army at Bukit Timah
  • blessed furniture and electrical appliances away on various Facebook groups
  • packing up the rest into nearly 40 cartons!

Then it was liaising with the movers, and selecting a perfect date to move out. Some people believe in "auspicious dates" and would work with a Fensghui master on that - we didn't. It depends on individual's preferences ultimately.
As much as I yearned to move out of the flat, I did miss it when the date was drawing near. It was, after all, a lovely home with good neighbours and unblocked canal views, and it served us well. I was delighted to have found it wonderful new owners who genuinely seemed to adore it from the very first viewing. I hope they are happy living here.



Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Afternoon Tea at Greyhound Cafe @ Orchard



290 Orchard Road #01-25 / 25A Paragon Mall, Singapore 238859
Tel: 6235 4078



What's long and lush and inviting? That's none other than Greyhound Cafe, of course. Housed in a long structure with 100-seater capacity and adorned with greenery as part of its decor, this popular trendy Thai cafe has been in Singapore for a few months already.




I wasted no time getting to know their desserts, drinks and service. The crew was rather friendly, but the manager provided the most personable service of all. Menu comprised of a good variety of Thai dishes with an Italian twist. Oh, by the way, do you know that this cafe evolved from a fashion brand in Bangkok?





In a dilemma over the Classic Chocolate Cake and Mille-crepe Mango Cake, I asked for recommendations from one of the staff. He suggested the former, so I tried the Classic Chocolate Cake (SGD$9.80), drizzled with rich chocolate sauce plating by the side.  The cake was nicely moist, with lovely chocolate taste but not too sweet.




It went perfectly with my Hot Cocoa (SGD$5.00), which fortunately (or unfortunately) was a lot milkier in taste than I had bargained for.




I also tried the Longan Juice - this was sweeter in comparison with the Hot Cocoa above, but I liked the dried longan fruit at the bottom of the drink.

Overall, an interesting place for my business discussion, and a stunning one at that. I shall be delighted to return to Greyhound Cafe to try the other dessert that I had been eyeing, as well as some of those delectable-looking Thai dishes on the menu.




Wednesday, 22 May 2019

6 Tips for Real Estate Salesperson (RES) Exams Preparations


You are all geared up for the upcoming RES (Real Estate Salesperson) Exams, which takes place every 4 months now (February, June, October), and under the regulations of the Council For Estate Agencies (CEA). Presuming you don't know how or where to start studying for it, allow me to let some of these facts and tips sink in, and hopefully help you along your journey to passing of the RES Exams.






Step 1:  read all the guidelines and information about the exams
Yes, I mean all that you need to know, and understand about the examination format, syllabus, topics covered, passing rates, requirements etc. These information are more important than you would expect. A good source to start would be the CEA Website


Step 2: believe that it is one of the most difficult exams you have ever taken
This is coming from someone who holds certifications from many different regulatory bodies, as well as academic institutions. Yes, I love studying and obtaining certifications; learning never grows old. I failed at my very first attempt because I refused to believe in its difficulty level (I studied while playing movie clips in the background), believing that a combination of textbook knowledge and common sense would get me through). It is only when you are down at the exam halls, you'd realise the questions are formulated not in a straightforward manner, but they ask a lot of questions on scenarios, to ensure that you really understand a concept and are applying it. 


Step 3: attend RES Course under a recognised provider
Attending RES Course under a recognised training provider is mandatory, and each course attended is valid for 2 years. Meaning to say, you have 6 attempts at the exams before needing to re-take another RES Course. I heard merits about a few training providers and trainers - so do your research before signing up. I took mine under Hastor - where the trainers provide nearly round-the-clock support and assistance via Whatsapp group chats.  You can claim training fees via SkillsFuture credits or if you are an NTUC member, via UTap.

Here is a list of recognised training providers (info correct as at March 2019):



Photo Source:
https://www.cea.gov.sg/professionals/salesperson-registration-matters/real-estate-salesperson-examination-syllabus



Step 4: additional reading materials
Attending an RES course gives you the basic fundamentals of understand the real estate markets, rules and regulations etc in Singapore. On top of that, there is a lot of reading up on other legislations because anything can come out (trust me).  It also depends on the notes and training materials given by your course provider. Some notes are less informative or inclusive than others.

You can start with some information here at Mdm. Celeste Ng's website.

On top of these, other reading materials may include:-

4. Basic knowledge obtained from the various authorities' websites such as HDB, CPF, MinLaw sites etc





Step 5: lots of practice 
As the anticipated questions are an enigma, lots and lots of practice is vital. Mock examination papers can be purchased online - whether you prefer to attempt online or use hardcopy mock exam questions. I learned a lot from practice papers because they also test on knowledge outside of my course notes, such as commercial subletting ratio, showroom guidelines, etc. 

On top of that, you can also join revision classes to strengthen and fortify your knowledge. There are paid revision classes by the course providers, as well as free revision courses conducted by property groups under PropNex, Huttons, ERA etc.  Attending revision courses is also a good way to meet and interact with students from other training courses - who may have questions or information to share with you that your course provider did not furnish.

Personally I wrote a lot of my own notes and drew mind-maps because writing them down myself, made me remember the information better (lots of memorisation is involved). 


Step 6: the  battle begins...
By now, you should be equipped with a lot of information on real estate in Singapore, the market and marketing strategies, rules and regulations, legislations etc. This includes remembering the various tax rates (buyer's stamp duties, additional buyer stamp duties, seller stamp duties, the various types of property tax, HDB housing financing schemes such as housing grant, additional grant & special housing grant, registration fees for RES and agencies, professional indemnity insurance required, etc).

Personally I did not buy or use a Financial Calculator at all during the examination because I found the formulae too complex for me. I skipped all the calculation questions but you shouldn't try to do that - in case a certain Paper 2 bases many questions on loan / mortgage calculations.

Have a good night's rest, remember your coffee shot or chicken essence in the morning for energy; bring along your NRIC and examination confirmation printout, 2B pencil, eraser, calculators and a sweater lest the exam hall is cold. 

All the best for your RES Exams!






















Thursday, 16 May 2019

Eyelash Extensions, Tummy Slimming Massage & Manicure @ Ease Beauty Spa


131 Jurong East St. 13, #01-251 Singapore 600131
Tel: 6255 5781


Ease Beauty Spa is a one-stop ladies' only beauty spa, conveniently located at Jurong East within the banking district. The founders are 2 young and beautiful Singaporean ladies with many years of experience in the beauty sector. Ease Beauty Spa provides many services including facials, massage, manicure, pedicure, eyelash extensions, eyebrow embroidery etc - basically most of the beauty treatments that we females enjoy so much.



I tried out several services at their parlour, since it is a one-stop service. The first was the Tummy Slimming Massage (SGD$68.00), an intensive massage targeted at the reducing tummy fats by way of methodical series of kneading, etc. Pure Ginger Oil is rubbed on the abdomen area before the massage commenced, evoking a lovely warmth that makes me confident that my fats were being burned up surely. I also would like to comment that I was surprised at the vast spaciousness of their Treatment Room.



my natural eye lashes before the eye lash extension

eye lash extension in order


Next service I tried was the Eye Lash Extensions (SGD$60.00 onwards). I have seen many friends doing eye lash extensions, and the elongated lashes looked so beautiful. But I have also witnessed some of them in pain during their extension treatment sometime ago (elsewhere), so I have never thought of trying it until now. Zeris is a good persuader. :)

The Eye Lash Extension session took around 1.5 hours, a meticulous lash-by-lash attachment that emitted zero discomfort at all. I must have fallen asleep during the session itself, because when I was woken up, I noticed long, fluttery lashes that did not feel heavy at all; in fact, they did not feel any different. Yet whenever I look into the mirrors I could not help smiling because these beautiful lashes made my eyes look larger, and I saved so much time now that I do not see the need to use eyeliners and eye-shadow.




Finally, I also did Gel Manicure and Gel Pedicure with them. They use really comfortable massage chairs here so we could enjoy a lovely back massage while getting our nails treated. For my toenails, I chose a simple silver color.

For my fingernails, I tried the currently trendy Cat's Eyes Gel Manicure, where the colors look dark like reflections from different angles. The special design (and claimed to be the only nail salon offering this design) is the floral design that looked really good and feminine.


Updates: went back for another round of Gel Manicure in these pretty princessy hues.

Overall, I enjoyed the beauty treatments here and the warm hospitality of Zeris and crew. I will be back to do an 6D Eyebrows aka "Misty" under Ease Beauty Spa again soon.







Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Outfit of the Day - black cold shoulder blouse with gold rose



"Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. 
All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with 
others, drink the whole bottle." - Paulo Coelho





Black cold-shoulder blouse with netted neckline and gold rose embroidery details, making a bold statement. Suitable for casual outings, events, hanging out with the ladies and travelling.

Black blouse: Kiyo (SGD$59.90)
Earrings: BeDazzled









Monday, 6 May 2019

The House-Hunting Series [i] - Seeking The Dream Home



I hope you enjoyed The Nuptial Series (read them here) when I was planning for,  and preparing for my wedding between 2015 to 2016. The series detailed our research and hunt for wedding photographers, the proposal, wedding venues, wedding gowns, leading right up to the Big Day, and even what to expect of married life.





The series was followed by The Honeymoon Series (read them here), detailing our honeymoon - how we planned it, who we engaged, what to prepare for the long trip, and the actual tour across Europe and Dubai, UAE.





1 year into the marriage, we began our house-hunt, that's when I began writing this House Hunting Series, sharing the process of selling, securing and moving into our new place. I hope you find this short series of real life experience useful in your own hunt for the dream home as well. Have fun reading!

Like most couples in Singapore, our first matrimonial home was a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat right after marriage - ours was a comfortable, mid-floor, spacious flat located in the West of Singapore. I wanted a brand new home for us, before we started our own little family, so the house hunting began.




1. WHAT TYPE OF HOME TO BUY?

There were so many choices to choose from - a brand new Built-To-Order (BTO) flat, resale flats (which gave us even more choices, including "endangered" housing such as maisonette, jumbo flats etc), Executive Condominium (EC) flats, or a private Condominium unit.  We tested waters a little here, assessing our options based on income, CPF savings, cash savings, and bank loan available.

I am not a fan of anything that's 2nd-owned or "pre-loved", so that eliminated our options of resale flats or resale condominiums. It helps to have some kind of filters, of course, so that we can be more focused on our search.




2. WHAT TYPE OF HOME OWNERSHIP?
As we currently have an older HDB flat, we weighed our options for the new home. Would we be able to retain this flat for rental purpose while we purchase a new private property? Or do we sell this flat for cash proceeds to fund the new dream home?


3. WHERE TO MOVE TO?
Because there were so many choices for us to choose from, so many newly-launched projects as well, we spent some time visiting show flats to understand each project better.  We also went to HDB website to check on the newly-released BTOs and Sale of Balance Flats. On top of that, we also visited newly-TOP condominium units where existing owners had no intention of moving in. These exercises helped us a lot so we knew the type of amenities, facilities and layout etc we could choose to have, both within and around the new dream home.

However, we did have a dilemma - to remain in the West or to move to the East? Most of our family members have moved to the Eastern part of Singapore, so it would make sense for us to move there to, to be closer to families. But most of the new EC flats (during the time we were hunting for our dream home) were located in the Western part of Singapore, or at least, the North-western areas.






4. TIME-FRAME
What was the time-frame we gave ourselves to move? That was also an important consideration for us. If we could afford to wait for 3-4 years, then a new BTO flat or new Condominium project would be ideal for us. I wanted us to start a family within these 2 years, and to be honest, I hated our current flat because it had been used by his family members for 15 years prior to me moving in, so it was, in a way, "second hand". 

With that, we further eliminated new BTO and Condominium launches, and focused on the pool of newly-TOP Condominium units where owners were not looking to move in. We also decided to focus on the East of Singapore, for that matter. This made our house hunt a lot easier, as I concentrated on fixing viewing merely for projects that obtained TOP between 2017 - 2018, but were listed as "brand new" and "not lived in" by their respective agents.






5.  SPOTTING THE DREAM HOME
We more or less determined on the exact project we wanted to move in, because of its resort-like theme, and there were about 5 swimming pools in the premises. We made offers on a couple of units, and got a top floor with lush greenery views! 

If you are buying a Condominium (be it EC or private), what are some factors to consider?
  • size and layout of the unit
  • location and views of the unit (i.e. far from main / side gate? Pool view but do many people pass by your ground floor unit? Are you facing BBQ pits? Etc)
  • developers' reputation and past records (i.e. are projects by them deemed "problematic"?)
  • pricing, of course
  • facilities within the condo premises (swimming pools? gym? tennis courts? KTV? squash courts? billiard? what do you need?)
  • amenities around the condo location (food centres? shopping malls? MRT station? nearby construction sites? good schools? etc)





6.  SECURING THE DREAM HOME
The next few weeks were a blur of visiting the conveyancing law firms, signing agreements and other paperwork, getting the bank assessment and loan secured, etc.

For bank loans, do check out different banks and their rates. Some offer fixed rates throughout, whereas others offer floating rate options. You can talk to a range of different loan bankers to share these information with you, or engage a Loan Broker who has access to all the banks and can help you take care of the comparison.

We also settled the mortgage insurance just in case something happens to one or both of us. This is VERY important - especially if you have young children (wouldn't want to leave them homeless, would you?). 

Of course, now we also had to start selling the existing HDB flat, and shop for furniture for the new home.   

Stay tuned for The House-Hunting Series Part 2 and Part 3 for these details. 













Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Tackling Thailand - playing in Phuket

Conquered another part of Thailand recently, besides the usual Bangkok, Koh Samui and Pattaya. This time, we headed to Phuket Island, which has its own airport, so it made travelling more convenient. The flight was around 1 hour, 30 minutes. What did we do in Phuket, where did we stay in, and what dishes did we feast on this time round?


PLACES OF INTEREST
Phuket is a very scenic island with lots of lovely beaches such as Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Phatong Beach, etc. Besides beautiful views to take strolls or chill out against, water sports also form part of the itinerary. We went island-hopping during one of the days so we explored more than our fair share of gorgeous seasides.




AO PO GRAND MARINA
113/1 Moo 6 Tambon Paklok, Phuket, Thalang Phuket 83100, Thailand
Tel: +66 76 336 200
Website: http://aopograndmarina.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aopograndmarina

A beautiful and halcyon marina where one could enjoy the views, charter a yacht out to the seas, take photos or just chill at the Port of Call Restaurant or Deck Bar located right at the marina itself. I don't know about you, but I could stare at the yachts at the marina for hours. We booked an Andaman catamaran boat under the operator Blu Anda, which brought us island-hopping.



KOH HONG ISLAND (KRABI)
Nong Thale, Krabi Town, 81000 Thailand

Koh Hong Island is nestled on crystal clear waters and has two stunning twin bays at its side; high cliffs and white sands also add to its picturesque beauty. We tried snorkeling here, as well as some swimming.



PAK BIA ISLAND
Nong Thale, Krabi Town, 81000 Thailand

A small isle located behind Koh Hong Island, between Koh Yao Noi and Krabi Coast, this remote paradise is a popular spot for island wanderers. Its peculiar dome-like shape is covered with thick lush foliage and links to a thick strip of sand that seems to divide the waters. When the tide is high, the waters would cover the entire strip of sand, merging into one.







FISHERMAN'S VILLAGE
I couldn't find the address for this small little mysterious fisherman's village that we visited- had thought it was Koh Panyee but it did not have the crafts shopping section. It should be in the Krabi district, near Koh Hong and Pak Bia Island for sure, since it was our in-between stop.

It was here that we were exposed to the many types of sea creatures, got to hold some of them (such as the puffer fish and lobsters, had lunch surrounded by cooling breezes, and had fun kayaking in the waters. This was part of the island-hopping itinerary.



BIG BUDDHA TEMPLE
Yot Sane 1 Chaofa Road, Karon (Chalong), Mueang Phuket 83100, Thailand
Tel: +66 81 891 3827
Website: http://phuket-big-buddha.com
Opening Hours: 6.00am to 7.00pm
Admission is free of charge.

Located at the Chalong district on Nakkerd Hills, this 45 metres tall Buddha statue is created out of concrete and adorned with white Burmese jade marble. From this temple, one can glimpse the beauty of Southern Phuket island. At the side of this white Buddha statue, there is a beautiful golden Buddha statue as well.



PIMNARA SPA @ PIMNARA HOTEL
195 Rat U Thit Road, Jungceylon Mall, Patong 83150, Phuket, Thailand
Tel: +66 08 69 422 226
Website: http://www.pimnaraspa.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PimnaraSpaThailand

I believe that one shouldn't leave Thailand or a resort holiday without a good massage, therefore we headed to Pimnara Spa for a good 60 minutes classic massage at only 500 baht! Clean settings and polite uniformed staff endeavor to deliver a good bone-cracking massage that lets you feel rejuvenated and relaxed at the end of it.



30 MINUTES TO ESCAPE
187/1-4 Thanon Ratuthit Songroipi Rd, Tambon Patong, Amphoe Kathu, Chang Wat Phuket 83150, Thailand
Tel: +66 63 081 5992
Website: http://30mintoescape.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/30mintoescape
Opening Hours: 11.00am to 10.00pm daily
Fees: Adults 690 Baht / Children 370 Baht

Be an investigator for 30 minutes as you and team are locked in a room (Robbers or Temple) trying to break the code that enables you to escape from the room. Pretty exciting, and good game for teamwork for sure.



ATV (ALL TERRAIN VEHICLE)
59/26 Moo 5, Si Sunthon Thalang Phuket 83110, Thailand
Tel: +66 76 617 747
Website: http://www.atvphuket.com

An exciting and different way of touring the island, cutting through rough roads, farms, plantations and rainforests etc, on these steady 4-wheeled vehicles that are automatic, safe and easy to operate. Plus, they will have staff members riding alongside your entourage to assist and steer your ATV back on track whenever necessary.



SHOPPING
To me, no holiday is complete without shopping, and that makes Phuket no exception. We were exposed to a variety of shopping environment - larger malls, smaller malls, and night market for our buying needs.



CENTRAL FESTIVAL PHUKET
Wichit, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Tel: +66 76 291 111
Website: http://www.centralfestivalphuket.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CentralPhuketFanpage

If you are familiar with Central World Shopping Centre in Bangkok, this new multi-storey mall should be no stranger to you. Spacious and containing many retail shops as well as cafes, restaurants, etc - be prepared to hang out here for hours. Familiar names such as H&M, Aldo, Charles & Keith, Segafredo, Bebe etc are all here for your shopping and cafe-hopping pleasure.



JUNGCEYLON MALL (PHUKET SQUARE)
200 Tambon Patong, Amphoe Kathu, Chang Wat Phuket, 83150, Thailand
Tel: +66 76 600 111
Website: http://www.jungceylon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JungceylonFanpage

A huge mall with Robinsons, cinema and lots of shops within its building, and many retail shops, restaurants, cafe and beauty parlours making up the tenants, this mall is another pulse of the city, allowing visitors to be kept entertained within its walls for hours.



TESCO LOTUS SUPER-CENTER
104 Moo 5 Chalermprakiet Ror 9 Road, Rasada, Muang, Phuket 83000 Thailand
Website: https://www.phuket.net/directory/shopping/tesco-lotus-supercenter

A 3-storey shopping centre whose anchor tenant is Tesco, a huge supermarket where we bought all our groceries and foodstuff for the next few days of the villa stay. There are also smaller shops and push carts retailing clothes, shoes, manicure services etc, as well as familiar brands such as Watsons and Starbucks. There are also quite a few restaurants for one to fill their stomachs.



KARON TEMPLE MARKET
Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83100, Thailand
Tel: +66 98 885 6306
Website: http://www.phuket.com/shopping/karon-shopping.htm

A small night bazaar comprising many stalls retailing local goods - clothes, ornaments, crafts and some food stalls. We thought the variety was not impressive, but what really put us off was the attitude of some of the vendors. One lady was loudly singing in English to her stall neighbor that we were probably "Only shopping, no buying". Damn right lady, with such an attitude, you can be sure that you merchandise won't move.



ACCOMMODATION
There are plenty of choices to stay at Phuket, from seafront hotels and villas to smaller hostels for the backpackers. We put up at this super-new villa located at Kata Beach area, pretty secluded, and enjoyed the stay tremendously. The owner is a pretty lady who, together with her female crew, ensured that we had a good stay throughout.


Photo Source: http://baan-st-tropez.com/3-bedroom-villa

Photo Source: http://baan-st-tropez.com/4-bedroom-villa



BAAN ST. TROPEZ VILLA
12/19 Patak rd, Soipatak10, T.Karon , Kata Beach Phuket, Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83100, Thailand
Tel: +66 86 364 2269
Website: http://baan-st-tropez.com

Baan St. Tropez Villa has a variety of different housing - villas with 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms. All villas come with its own pool overlooking the lush foliage and further beyond - the sea. Facilities are complete, as are kitchen-ware. The villas are clean and rather tastefully-decorated; housekeeping takes place everyday.


RESTAURANTS
Here at Phuket, Thai food and seafood were our main cuisine - we got to experience Thai food and "local cuisine" referring to Southern Thai food, which makes up traditional here at Phuket.


Photo Source: https://www.facebook.com/baanchomviewkata



BAAN CHOM VIEW RESTAURANT
69/15 Kata Noi Road, Kata Noi Beach, Phuket 83100, Thailand
Tel: +66 95 352 5836
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/baanchomviewkata

Views were magnificent at this restaurant, overlooking Kata Beach and offering breezes throughout the evening. We had good Thai cuisine and seafood dishes here, such as Green Curry, Garlic Prawns, Basil Chicken, Clear Tom Yum Soup, to name a few.






KAN ENG @ PIER PHUKET SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Rawai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83100, Thailand
Tel: +66 76 381 212
Website: http://www.kaneang-pier.com

This restaurant was a surprise for us, having entered through the super vintage-looking main entrance, expecting the interior to be just as traditional. But what greeted us was a beautiful pier, sea view and natural alfresco dining settings. It was here we enjoyed some delectable Southern Thai cuisine, the best being the Yellow Crab Curry, Papaya Salad and Red Tom Yum Soup. The staff crew provided superb service too - attentive; they even took the trouble of retrieving a balloon dropped accidentally into the pier while we were dining!



MK RESTAURANT
104 Moo 5 | Tesco Lotus Extra Phuket, Phuket Town, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Website: https://www.mkrestaurant.com/en

Always a favorite restaurant of ours when we are in Thailand, we stumbled upon MK Restaurant at Lotus Tesco Super Center, and had lunch there. We shared the Wanton (meat dumpling) and Roast Duck Spinach Noodles, as well as the Roast Pork Noodles.


Photo Source: http://bluanda.com


BLUAQUA RESTAURANT
None supplied - seems the only information I got about this restaurant is from Blu-Anda website. A hut-like restaurant where we had our breakfast and buffet dinner during the island-hopping trip. While out at the floating fisherman's village, we were served set meals "pin-to" style (what we probably call "tingkat" in Singapore) - round metal tiered tins of food. One could choose seafood, poultry or vegetarian.


Overall, our Phuket trip was very gratifying and pleasurable; I was glad to be able to try out so many activities I wouldn't have gotten to try usually. The first day was a rainy one, as well as the morning of our 2nd day - but none of these days dampened our moods, because there were myriad of activities to keep one entertained even if we had to stay indoors.