By Property Soul (guest contributor)
Do you like visiting showflats of new launch projects? Was that once your favorite weekend activity before you bought your present home? Me too. Except that I didn’t stop doing so even after I bought five properties.
Have you chosen a good unit?
In fact, I have visited well over a hundred showflats since year 2000. Now I can step into any sales gallery, flip the sales brochure for five minutes, and point out from the project model which blocks and units are the best ones. The marketing agents serving me are often surprised how I manage to do so in such a short time.
And let me share with you a little-known fact: Units that are priced higher, or blocks that are selling fast, are not necessarily the best blocks or units in a development.
Why? Because most buyers decide on their choice based on the recommendations of their property agents. Many are excited first-time buyers or upgraders who are inexperienced. Most are amateurs who can’t tell the difference between a good and a bad unit.
This post is for the other type of buyer who cares about buying a good condo or HDB unit for his or her own stay, or who is serious about investing in a good quality private property.
Why you can’t rely on your property agent
Property buyers often spend their hard-earned money to buy a property without knowing the problems of the unit they bought. Unfortunately, it is not in the interest of the developers, marketing agents or property agents to share tips with buyers on how to pick a good unit. Their job is to move as many unsold units in the project as they can.
That is the reason why property agents will tell you that west sun is good for drying clothes, and expatriate tenants from western countries enjoy watching the sunset. That having no laundry area to dry clothes is a new trend because modern families tend to use a washer-dryer or go for laundry service. That having a living room that is too cramped to place a dining table is fine because couples prefer to have dinner on two bar stools in front of a bar top table or on the sofa to eat and watch TV at the same time…
Here are four tips to help you pick the best unit in any project you are interested in.
Tip #1: Visit the actual site, not the sales gallery
In the past, showflats were open houses in a completed project and sales galleries were built on the actual site. Nowadays it is common to see the actual site and the sales gallery at different locations. Misunderstandings arise because:
- The location of the sales gallery is accessible, but the actual site may not be.
- The advertisement says it is just next to or a few minutes away from the MRT station. But it doesn’t specify whether it is a few minutes’ walk, run or drive.
- It highlights the proximity to two or three train stations. But the actual site may not be near any one of them.
- The sales gallery is surrounded by lush greenery, open space and a nice view. But blocks in the actual site may see HDB blocks, another development or a place of worship.
Tip #2: Ask what they don’t tell, not what they want you to know
If you have done your homework before stepping into a sales gallery, the things that the property agent tells you in the first ten to fifteen minutes you should already know.
A property investor once shared with me two principles to stick to in a sales gallery:
- Pay a deaf ear to whatever the salesperson is telling you, like the skill you mastered after years of living with a nagging spouse.
- Focus on things the salesperson doesn’t tell you. Show your utmost curiosity by asking questions like a three-year-old.
If you are an experienced property buyer, you should immediately tell what they forgot to show in the showflat, like a bad view from the window, or that obstructing pillar in the unit.
Tip #3: Study the sitemap, not the project model
The project model, just like the showflats, are often not built to scale. It is an artist’s impression for your reference only: buildings blocking the panoramic view are not found there. The open sea view can only be seen from super high floors. Two blocks too near to each other are removed to make the development look more spacious.
Learn how to read directions and where the sunlight and wind come from. Know the impact of all condo facilities that are built near to your block, including swimming pool, water features, the barbeque area, tennis court, carpark entrance and rubbish collection area.
Tip #4: Spend time on the floor plans, not the showflat units
Wonder why a bare unit or your new unit is always smaller than what you see in the showflat and from the floor plan?
Learn how developers calculate floor areas. Know the difference between strata area and GFA (Gross Floor Area), construction floor area versus sellable floor area, and built-in area versus open-air area.
Understand the pros and cons of different developments, including walk-up apartments, mansionette units, shoebox units, penthouses, cluster housing or townhouses.
Learn how to draw a rectangular block of a unit and locate the centre which is the heart of the property. Identify all the layout problems in the living room, dining area, kitchen, toilets and bedrooms.
Learning how to pick the best unit is more an art than science.