In home-buying Tembusu Grand, a transnational couple shares cultural differences.
J and C were nearing the end of their two-year rental agreement. They had to decide whether they wanted to renew or look for permanent housing. After their marriage, the couple were renting a condo.
“We wanted to learn how to live independently, without our parents, while exploring housing options. Renting a furnished condo unit, or a part of one, was similar to renting an HDB flat in Singapore.
A condo rental was another reason they rented a condo. This was because they could use the condo facilities and convenience since they were newly married. J and C actually enjoyed living in the condo as it was only a five minute walk to the mall and train station.
J and C were faced with a difficult decision as their two-year lease was coming to an end. They decided to purchase Tembusu Grand.
You might consider buying Tembusu Grand or a HDB flat for resale.
Due to the long wait time, J and C didn’t consider buying BTO flat a viable option. They don’t get subsidies as much as their counterparts, as only one is a Singaporean (the rest are Danish).
“Initially, prior to the approval of the PR application, we had considered purchasing an HDB flat under Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme. We ended up renting until the PR application was approved.
Note: Foreign spouses are not allowed to buy an HDB flat. If they want to purchase a HDB flat, such as via the BTO exercise or other means, they cannot buy a Flexi 2-room apartment in a non-mature property. They can’t buy until they are 35, just like singles.
However, buyers who buy on the resale marketplace have fewer restrictions. You can buy flats of any type, other than 3Gen or PLH without waiting until you turn 35. However, they can only buy through the scheme and are eligible to receive grants that are normally for singles. )
The couple calculated their finances after the PR application was approved. They had just started work for a few years so they only had two options. A two-bed condo or a resale HDB apartment of a larger size.
Although the couple considered purchasing Tembusu Grand, this would require a longer wait than a BTO flat. A condo’s price per square foot was also higher. Tembusu Grand also has a barbecue area and a private dining room, perfect for hosting outdoor gatherings and events.
We also considered buying a condo resale, but it didn’t matter if it was a HDB flat or condo resale, we needed to renovate both.
“We spoke with a relative who is a real estate agent to learn more about each option. We then started our HDB house hunting from there.”
Purchased a 5-room HDB flat in resale for S$600k with no COV
J and C wanted to make sure they had the following essentials during their house-hunting adventure:
- The house must be less then ten minutes from the train station or central neighbourhood amenities (“We’re very spoilt Singaporeans!”).
- It should be in the North-East. It is important to feel at home in familiar surroundings.
The house must also meet these fringe criteria:
- High-floor location
- Flat layout with bedrooms at one end and a corridor-like passageway outside. This is reminiscent of typical European flats.
Before and after renovation, the passageway between the bedrooms in the HDB flat. Image credit: J. and C
J and C settled on a 5-room HDB flat with an improved floor area of 121sqm (1,302 sqft) in North-East. The lease date was from 1985. The asking price for the flat was S$600k in late 2019. The cash over-valuation (COV) was not paid for the flat.
Before renovation, the kitchen in the house. Image credit: J. and C
It was their fourth or fifth home that the agent had brought them to see, according to the couple.
“Initially, we wanted to see around three to four Northeast estates. We fell in love with this space instantly, even though it was our second estate. We were attracted to the house’s rectangular layout and large living and dining rooms, as well as the spacious balcony.
The house had not been extensively renovated since the 1980s. However, the couple saw the potential to make it a simple, warm, and light-filled home.
“The house was presented to us and we knew that we didn’t need to do too much hacking to modify the layout.
Before renovation, the living room and balcony in the flat. Image credit: J. and C
One had to “educate” the other half about the reno scene of Singapore
J and C are not first-time homebuyers and have no previous experience in renovation.
The couple was among the first to purchase a house in their circle of friends, since most of their peers weren’t married or were waiting for their BTO. The couple also documented their homemaking journey via Instagram. However, they shared that there wasn’t a lot of local renovation and home-ownership community at the time.
J and C had a hilarious story to tell about it. “In the Nordics where salaries are high and people have more time off work , renovation would not be something you would hire a interior design company for. There is often a lot of work involved, including DIY. Before we could even start anything, one of us had first to ‘educate” the other about Singapore’s renovation market and scene.
After settling their differences, they did their best to research more about the renovation process. They also admitted that the majority of their knowledge came from the ongoing renovations.
“Fortunately, we work well together and didn’t actually argue during the renovation. We both tapped into each other’s strengths (one is more creative and imaginative while the other understands technology and gadgets better).
After renovation, the living room. Image credit: J. and C
Here is a summary of the renovation process.
- Pre-renovation The more imaginative and creative half chose two themes and presented the mood board to the other (Nordic/Japandi or Mid-century + Wes Anderson Vintage Chic). J and C used online guides and Instagram accounts to determine their budget.
- Selection of an interior design firm: A couple selected their ID through Qanvast. They found it to be very helpful. They met with three designers in person and one online, and chose a firm that understood their vision and could work within their budget. They did not sign the contract via Qanvast. The couple recommends that any new homeowners sign through Qanvast, as Qanvast offers some type of insurance.
- The first stages of renovation: This was the most exciting stage for J and C as they could see their thoughts transform into mood boards and then renders. They were able to offer suggestions and get the ID worked on quite well.
- Renovation: Unfortunately a few things went wrong during renovation and they were not rectified. The master bathroom’s exposed condenser tube was the most obvious mistake. “We had to endure water dripping onto the floor for almost a year as we brainstormed !”).solutions.
J and C agreed that the more senior ID was not guiding them during the initial ideation phase. They soon realized that the junior ID was brilliant at design but difficult to manage projects on the ground. The defects could not be fixed because the more senior ID had abruptly left the company shortly after the handover.
The couple realized that the one mistake that they made was not asking for a particular designer.
“We recommend that homeowners verify the IDs of their past experiences with renovating the property they are interested in and to be very thorough when checking the websites.
Scandinavians, unlike homeowners in Singapore, don’t tend to do major renovations before they move in.
Due to the differences in their cultural backgrounds, there will be cultural differences in how they live and home-buy.
J and C noticed a striking difference in the way buyers in Singapore want to start with a blank slate. However, Scandinavians tend to move in their new homes without having to do major renovations.
“House-buyers often reuse the plumbing, built-in furniture and white goods of the previous owner. People might then decide to ‘get new kitchen’ or lay a new floor as they age.
“We came up with an interesting compromise for ourselves.”
The couple completed a full renovation but kept the doors and old air-con.
“The latter was a mistake as we would have been in a position to route the condensate pipes to a drain and make new trunking much more easily.
Do not expect them to move out as quickly.
It seems that this HDB flat resale flat will become their permanent home for the moment, as J. and C, who have worked together for six years, are happy with it. They can also live there “with our imaginary pet cat” as it has lots of space.
We hesitated to make such a quick move after spending a lot of time, money and effort in order to move in. We might rent it out, if we have to relocate overseas for family reasons.
Here are some tips for purchasing a HDB flat in resale
J and C were grateful to have a buyer’s agent who offered advice and helped them filter the viewings.
“We visited the estates we selected at different times of the day to get a sense of the neighborhood.”
The couple strongly suggests that the buyers carefully consider what to keep and what hack, and have a thorough understanding of the current state of the house.
“We regret not having changed the air-con. We were also surprised to discover that the previous owners had done overlay tiles on top the original floor. So we could have had slightly higher ceilings if we had hacked it.”