By Heartland Boy (guest contributor)
You’re in the market for an HDB BTO unit, and now have your queue number and are waiting with bated breath as the units available for sale get whittled down each day. I’m going to use St George’s Tower, an HDB BTO project in Boon Keng, as a case study for this article because I have already invested considerable amounts of time and money researching it.
Walk the ground first
Figure 1: Site Plan of St George’s Tower (Credit: HDB BTO)
If there is only one thing that you remember from this article, it should be the importance of walking the ground before you choose your HDB BTO unit. We walked the ground twice, once on a weekday morning and once on a weekend afternoon. The rationale for the chosen timings is:
- Weekday Morning– This allows you to monitor how heavy the traffic is during peak hours when residents will be rushing to school and work. For instance, you would never know Bukit Timah Road was perennially clogged in the mornings (before Downtown Line was built) until you have walked the ground.
- Weekend Afternoon – This is when house viewings by potential buyers are usually conducted. It will also allow you to ascertain whether your choice unit will get direct afternoon sunlight. More on that later.
When I gave this advice to my peers, some of them dismissed this as troublesome or that Iwas simply paranoid. Well, I find it even more amusing that these very same peers would rather set aside an entire afternoon deliberating over which pair of jeans to purchase! If you are going to make the biggest investment of your life, the minimum you should do is this basic due diligence.
Figure 2: Walkabout by Heartland Couple around Boon Keng BTO
4 critical factors to consider
Having done your walkabout around the neighbourhood, you are now ready to consider this set of critical factors:
- Sunlight and ventilation
Singapore is a tropical country with high humidity all year round. As such, most home owners want to avoid direct sunlight shining into their units as direct sunlight can heat up their homes pretty quickly and turn them into saunas. As a rule of thumb, choosing HDB BTO units with a North-South orientation ensures that that your unit does not get direct sunlight. For St George’s Towers, all the units are stacked in the North-West orientation, so not much of a differentiation amongst the units here. It is not ideal, but at least they are not facing west directly.
Some home owners also value natural ventilation and natural light coming into their corridors. This ensures that you get fresh air and brightly lit corridors the entire day. As an example, units in Stacks 19 and 21 in Block 26A should have natural light and ventilation all day since its corridors are not blocked by any tall neighbouring structures.
- Height and View
Some units command a premium because of their fantastic views. During your walkabout, you may climb to the top floors of neigbouring blocks to ascertain the views. That is when a physical inspection trumps desktop research. High-floor units in Stack 29 and 27 in Block 26B of St George’s Towers will have unblocked city views overlooking the Marina Skyline. Those owners will get to enjoy live fireworks during Chinese New Year, National Day and New Year’s Eve!
The other advantage of staying on high floors is that you generally avoid the dust, and the creepy crawlies that usually emerge after the monthly fogging of the rubbish chutes.
- Noise and Privacy
Some home owners are very concerned about noise, so choosing an HDB BTO unit that is as serene as possible is important. In St George’s Towers, although the high floor units in Stack 27 and 29 will command unblocked views of the city skyline, the lower floor units will have to contend with heavy traffic associated with Serangoon Road, a four lane carriageway utilized extensively by vehicles.
Figure 3: Serangoon Road as shown on Google Map in September 2014
On the same note, Stack 47 will also bear the brunt of traffic entering St George’s Towers since it is closest to the only vehicular entrance.
Other than noise from traffic, home-owners may also have to consider noise generated from activities. For instance, low-floor units in Stacks 41, 43 and 45 of St George’s Towers will often hear noise from communal events such as RC gatherings, weddings and funerals held at the Precinct Pavilion (Block 24). Low-floor units in Stack 21 and 23 may also hear the laughter of kids playing at the roof garden and the movement of the cars at the multi-storey carpark.
Another point to note is that cars moving up the ramps of multi-storey carpark at night may shine their headlights into the windows of those units that face the multi-storey carpark. This brings me to another related point, privacy. Some home owners cherish privacy, so do consider the distance from the lifts to the units, as well as the distance between each stack and block.
Have you ever been to a condominium where certain stacks can directly exit via the side gate and into the nearest bus stop or MRT? The time taken to reach the bus stop or MRT between the nearest stack and the furthest stack can be a difference of 10 minutes. If you multiply this twice a day for 365 days, that’s a total difference of 120 hours in a year! For St George’s Towers, Block 25A is nearest to the MRT while Block 26A is nearest to the multi-storey carpark. So someone who drives and someone who takes public transport will obviously have different preferences!
Choose your HDB BTO unit with an end in mind
Some of factors listed above may not be important to you. But one dayyou may need to sell your HDB BTO unit. Therefore, choose your unit keeping in mind that someone else will purchase your property in the future. Hence, it is important to assess all of the factors above.
By Heartland Boy, a young working heartlander who blogs about his chase for financial independence.