By Property Soul (guest contributor)

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Once when I was conducting a workshop, I showed some property launch newspaper ads to illustrate how deceiving they could be – for one, every unit doesn’t come with a beautiful wife and two lovely kids.

During the break one of the participants came forward and asked to take a close shot of one of the new launch print ads. He explained that his friend had bought a unit in the same project and was very unhappy with what he got. He wanted to show the friend the original drawing of the project based on the ‘artist’s impression.’

Buyers are paying for ‘artist’s impressions’

I have explained in my book No B.S. Guide to Property Investment what the purpose of the ‘artist’s impression’ is:To capture the buyer’s imagination, sales brochures distributed during launch all come with nice drawings of the building’s exterior and the surrounding landscape.

Below are some common characteristics of these ‘artist’s impressions’:

  1. A must-have includes infinite blue sky, lush greenery, a beautiful beach or breathtaking sea view. The development stands out prominently in the area, with adjacent buildings conveniently shortened or erased to highlight its stylish profile.
  2. The actual site may be in the middle of a cross junction. But the developer gives this an interesting twist to make the project appear in the midst of a jungle. In reality, blocks can’t even be built without cutting all the trees originally found at the site.
  3. Nuisances or objects with bad fengshui like cemeteries, slums, petrol stations, power plants, etc. adjacent to the site are suspiciously hidden. When asked, a safe answer is that the government has plans to relocate it. They will be gone when the project is ready for occupation.
  4. Some facilities are drawn for illustration only. For instance, a swimming pool is included to create a relaxing ambience. Never mind that the actual one might be too small for anyone to swim there.

The shock comes from the large disparity between the buyer’s memory of the drawings, the project model and the showflat, versus the reality of seeing the real surroundings, the actual site and the final bare unit.

The experience is like going for the first date with someone you meet online. The Facebook picture looks very much like Lee Min Ho or Park Shin Hye. But unfortunately, he or she is completely unrecognizable in person.

Honey, I shrunk the flat

It remains a mystery how developers calculate the actual floor area of the units (some developers don’t even care to show the size next to the floor plans anyway). In my workshop, I tell participants that there are different terminologies: strata area versus GFA (Gross Floor Area), construction floor area versus sellable floor area, and built-in area versus open-air area.

Buyers often lament that flats built these days come with much smaller halls and rooms. Bedrooms that used to have more than enough space for a king size bed can now only fit a single bed. Living and dining rooms in older condominium projects all look very spacious compared with modern designs that have a 2-in-1 living and dining hall but can’t even fit a round dining table for six.

These are the things that buyers often miss when they are appreciating the nice showflat at the sales gallery. The showflat unit looks spacious. But when buyers finally collect the key, they are shocked to find that the size of their unit shrinks.

The experience is like buying the biggest-sized oranges at $4.25 for 3 from your neighborhood supermarket. You choose the highest price option thinking that each orange should be big enough to share with the rest of your family. But after you peel off the thick skin, the actual size of the orange flesh is not much bigger than the type of you can get at $3.25 for 10.

You sure you are buying that?

I have gone for hundreds of flat viewings. I often wonder why some owners would buy a house or unit with such bad fengshui.

I am especially puzzled by buyers who pick a place with very strong Sha Qi (煞气) such as T-Junctions, Noise Sha (声煞), the Heaven’s Kill Sha (天斩煞), Scissors Sha (剪刀煞), Wall Blade Sha (壁刀煞), Flame Sha (火形煞), Reflection Sha (反光煞), Roof Ridge Sha (屋脊煞), etc.

The saddest part is that: These people pay so much to buy a home. They stay there and feel something’s wrong. But they don’t even know what the problem is.

The property agent’s job is to move the houses or units off the project as quickly as possible. It is not in their best interests to tell you the potential problems, or point out the (real) best units.

By guest contributor Property Soul, a successful property investor, blogger, and author of the No B.S. Guide to Property Investment.

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