What’s on the mind of property investors: 5 things everyone wants to know

On October 1, seven property investors and four industry experts joined the Property Investor Roundtable Luncheon jointly organized by Knight Frank and Property Club Singapore.

As property investors, we are interested to pick the brains of industry experts, compare notes with our peers, and find out what’s on the mind of fellow investors.

How we qualify the savvy property investors

Property investors at the roundtable are my acquaintances and members of Property Club Singapore. They were invited based on their long-time experience with investing in the property market.

Another prerequisite is that they must hold (or used to own) a portfolio of five to dozens of private properties in Singapore. Their property portfolio must show good capital appreciation and positive cashflow. Above all, they can’t be property speculators or co-owners with many investors.

Given the group’s breath of experience, valuable knowledge, insider insights and inspiring thoughts were brought to the roundtable that lasted almost three hours.

Below are six popular topics I would like to share with our blog readers here.

(Disclaimer: The views of the property market in this blog post are personal opinions of the roundtable participants. They do not represent the position of the blogger or Property Club Singapore.)

1. What we are seeing in the current rental market

According to URA, the vacancy rate of private residential properties is between 10 to 12 percent.

“My friends are having 20 percent decrease in rent,” said Investor A.

“Mine are 30 to 50 percent. One of my properties the rent drops from $18,000 to $10,000,” echoed Investor H.

“Many MNCs are moving their staff out of Singapore because of cost. No market can rely only on investors without real demand. Investors need rental income.”

“Rentals between $8,000 and $10,000 are most competitive. High-end projects in prime districts suffer the most these few years because of a lot of supply, cutback of expatriate housing budget, tightening of immigration, etc.,” explained Tay Kah Poh, Executive Director & Head of Residential Services at Knight Frank.

Investor D shared a personal experience, “In this market, you need to have a strategy. For example, I decided to take back one unit to do some renovation. Some tenants are willing to pay a bit more for that. I even managed to increase the rent.”

“When I see more young expatriates and more foreigners coming to Singapore without their families. I do room rental instead of leasing the whole unit. That property has 20 to 30 percent increase in yield,” added Investor D.

“Location is also very important. My properties are in town area and near MRT stations. So the rental is quite stable.”

2. What we perceive will happen in the Singapore housing market

Tay noticed that, unlike the older generations, the young people are unwilling to be bound by a 30-year mortgage. Many millennials (with about one million in Singapore) prefer renting to buying.”

Alice Tan, Director & Head of Consultancy and Research at Knight Frank, agreed with the statement.

“Not only foreigners are renting. Some locals are renting too. They are waiting for prices to bottom out. The URA data has been showing a healthy leasing volume.”

Debbie Lam, Consultancy & Research Manager at Knight Frank, told the property investors that there are currently over 21,000 unsold units. Given buyers can clear about 7,000 homes a year, it will take at least three years for the market to absorb all the unsold units.

“The questions we need to ask are: What is the rate the market is buying these unsold units? Who is going to rent or buy them? At what price?”

“Every year Singapore takes in 20,000 to 30,000 non-residents. There are 30,000 vacant units next year. The average household size in Singapore is 3.4. We need 100,000 people to occupy these units. Let’s assume the locals are staying in HDBs flats. We need another three years for 100,000 PMETs and their families to come here.”

3. Why we reckon that cooling measures are here to stay

Property Soul admitted that there are members of Property Club Singapore asking her to urge the government to relax the cooling measures. They have been waiting for too long.

“The government wants to see market correction because many Singaporeans are unhappy about the rise of property prices over the last couple of years.” Investor D shared her views about the Singapore property market.

Property Soul said, “Compared with the people who can afford private properties, there are far more who don’t have the money to buy. And it is easy to put the blame on the government. And our government will react whenever people complain.”

“But on the other hand, the government do not want to see the property market crash because that shows the government manages housing badly in this country,” commented Investor D.

Investor D said, “As an investor, I am still holding a sizable investment in properties. Frankly, I prefer the government to come up with some cooling measures than not because you don’t want it to form a bubble.”

Investor A agreed with the thought. “Ravi Menon, Managing Director of Monetary Authority of Singapore, recently pointed out that high property prices is unhealthy for our economy. That signals to us that even if property prices were to appreciate, it would have to be at a sustainable place.”

“It just sucks up too much capital. When all the disposable incomes go into properties, our retail suffers. The younger generation also can’t venture into entrepreneurship.”

4. What we know the rich are doing with their money

Property Soul wanted to find out from the participants their current strategy of property investment and asset allocation.

“Where is the smart money? The UHNWI (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals) buy companies and businesses. They invest offshore.” Tay shared what the Singapore super rich are doing in Singapore.

“For the vast majority, they are holding cash and are not jumping in yet. But some are still buying. They will bargain hunt for something they like and give an offer on the low side.”

Investor H said, “I see some landed properties moving. Singaporeans somehow feel that they have waited long enough.”

Banker D echoed with Tay, “A lot of investors are keeping the powder dry. There’s a lot liquidity just waiting for what they think could be the right moment. They are still hunting. You see people going to the showflats but they are not signing the cheque yet.”

“Many are buying overseas. Foreign properties can give you much better yield. Most properties in Singapore today is 2 to 2.5 percent,” said investor K. “But you must have high appetite for risk when buying overseas. Anything can happen.”

“In a high risk market, people are hunting for safe assets. Investors are still buying high-end condos and offices. They know that prices are high now. They can tolerate low yields in the short to mid-term and bet for capital appreciation in the long term,” explained Lam.

5. Where we think the next hotspots or hot potatoes will be in properties

Lam continued, “But there are always outperformers in any market. Properties close to MRT stations are more resilient. I personally like the mid-tier market near Redhill, Commonwealth and Paya Lebar MRT. They are just a few stops away from Raffles Place. Two-bedroom units are quantum-friendly and very rentable.”

Investor E warned that some of these areas have rental problems and high vacancy rate. Empty strata title shops in Alexandra Central is a good example.

Tan shared the findings from her research, “Prices in Jurong Lake District are likely to rally beyond 2020 after the High Speed Rail is ready in 2025. But during the construction period, prices are likely to fall because of the nose and dust.”

“The relocation of the Paya Lebar Air Base will create a lot of space for development and enhancement of land value, translating to price increase. If you buy into Paya Lebar early, you can enjoy medium to long term upside.”

Lam added, “Woodlands is the weakest in market potential. Unlike Jurong and Paya Lebar which will be new commercial centres, it is still not clear what trades will be in the new Woodlands. And whether there will be high income jobs to attract foreigners to stay there.”

Investor K shared with the group his property investment in Geylang. For easy management, he only signed corporate lease with companies that use his unit as staff quarters.

“For Geylang, if you can overcome the stigma, the rental yields are high in those small-size properties.”

However, the commercial property sectors will remain tough for some time.

According to Knight Frank, there is oversupply in the industrial market, with 5 million square feet of current supply in industrial space. Next year, there will be another 15 million square feet added to the market.

Tan noticed that industrial properties sold in the heydays of 2012 and 2013 which agents promised an attractive rent of $3 psf, they now can’t even rent out at $2 psf. In general, the rents are falling.

“There is decline in office demand too because of new supply of 7 million square feet of office space coming up in the next four years. Now the situation is like musical chairs. Tenants are moving from older offices to newer ones. And everyone is taking a very cautious stand in expanding their office footprint.”

Tay reminded investors to be very careful when investing in commercial properties. The market can be very competitive and is more volatile compared with the residential sector.

Share with us whether you agree with what our property investors and industry experts said. And drop me a message if you are interested to join our next investor roundtable.

Western Australia properties at a bargain?

During our recent vacation in Perth, we dropped by to visit our relative’s family who had been staying there for longer than a decade.

They lived in a nice southern suburb 20 minutes’ drive from the Perth CBD. It was a quiet and friendly neighborhood with residents from middle or upper middle class. The houses were all single-storey detached with big front yards and back gardens.

Drove around the area and you could find parks, playgrounds and a small shopping centre with a supermarket and McDonalds. Above all, it’s near a prestigious secondary school.

The built-in area of my relative’s house was approximately 3,000 sq ft. It’s spacious, bright and cozy. They bought it at over $300,000 and market value has since increased to $650,000.

“Our house is old and nothing to see. Let me show you the brand new ones. It’s just five minutes’ drive away.”

A home heaven in a new suburb

In this new residential area, there were six to eight streets full of display homes (Australian show houses). Each house was built by a different developer with totally different look-and-feel.

Although we saw parked cars on both sides of the streets, there were not many buyers on a Sunday afternoon. Most of them were young couples or families with small children.

Compared with my relative’s suburb, these new single or double-storey detached houses were built much closer to each other. There were so many houses that it could take a few days to view all of them. We were at a loss where to start and had to rely on our relative to help us pick a few.

“Go inside and take a look. You can change the design, layout, materials and landscaping. Everything, including the asking price, is negotiable.”

The developer’s consultant stationed inside the house greeted us warmly. After that, we were free to explore the place on our own. What followed was an eye-opener for me:

– An enclosed garage with auto-door to park at least two family cars;

– A big open kitchen with working station in the middle and a side room to store cookware;

– A suite used as a guest room and a theatre room in the front part of the house;

– Three children bedrooms with each two times the size of a master bedroom in our new Singapore condos; and

– A spacious living and dining area overlooking a 400 sq ft alfresco for gardening and BBQ parties.

The above was de facto for all houses regardless of entry-level or luxurious type.

Single-storey basic houses were selling from $148,000 while high-end double-storey houses were asking for slightly above $400,000. Prices already include the cost of land.

Since I conducted training classes in my How To Buy Good Quality Properties 1-Day workshop, I couldn’t help but commenting each house based on fengshui of external environment and internal layout, pointing out which houses are wealth accumulating or draining and with Sheng Qi or Sha Qi.

“Pick the type of design you like. Just add a bit more if you want them to do the renovation. You can choose to build it in one of the streets here, or ask them to build in another location.”

“In the past, it takes longer than a year to build a house. Now with prefabrication, the developer can deliver in 12 weeks. If you prefer WYSIWYG, you can also buy the display home … Go see that one. I think you’ll like it.”

“This design has a wine room opposite the dining room to store your wine collection.”

“The three bedrooms shared their own activity area. So kids won’t go to the living area and leave some private moments for the parents.”

I found my way to the huge master bedroom on the second level. On the left was a functional walk-in wardrobe big enough for a fashionista’s collection. The right side led to a spacious attached bathroom designed to enjoy a greenery view while taking a bath. The toilet was on the other end of the bedroom.

“Last year my sister bought a similar one at $600,000. That’s crazy! Now prices have come down to $400,000. SGD and AUD conversion is now almost 1:1 right? Why don’t you also buy one and you two can be neighbors?”

Facts behind owning a piece of Australia

The product looks good. What about the return?

1. Property taxes for non-residents

The Australian government taxes non-residents both rental income and capital gain, both at 29 to 45 percent. Owners are subjected to a 50 percent reduction of the taxable gain if the asset is held for at least 12 months.

Depending on the property type and location, there may be an annual land tax.

2. Foreign ownership of properties

Foreigners cannot buy established residential dwellings, except uncompleted properties and vacant land. All foreign ownership of properties must apply approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

The government is very strict in imposing penalties to foreigners breaching this law. Have you read the recent article in The Business Times about Australia forces sale of 16 foreign-owned properties?

Seven of the force sale properties were bought by the Chinese, with the rest owned by nationals of Britain, Canada, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. The owners were also fined.

What’s going on in Western Australia

1. Recession since 2015

With the declining commodity prices, there is a recession going on in Perth since 2015.

In the CBD and inner-city district of Perth, ‘for lease’ signs on the windows of empty offices and shops are everywhere.

Unemployment rate now stands at 5.7 percent. It can go up to 25 percent in suburbs with mining as a major industry. More than 20 percent of Uber drivers used to work in mining.

2. A gloomy housing market

Perth’s vacancy rate for rental properties reached a 20-year high last year. It is now 5 percent and at its highest since December 1995. Rental rates have dropped 13 percent. Rent in Western Australia’s most expensive suburb Peppermint Grove has declined 24 percent from $2,000 to $1,525 a week. The median weekly rent in Perth is $420 for houses and $395 for units.

It is a tenant’s market. Tenants keep breaking leases to move to better places. Landlords lament that it is difficult to get tenants for viewing.

Sounds familiar for Singapore landlords?

In Perth, there are more home sellers than buyers. Many are moving away from Western Australia to other parts of the country or back to where they come from.

Last quarter, 17.9 percent of houses and 30.2 percent of units are selling at a loss – the highest level since September 1996 for houses and since 1994 for units. It’s because the Australian economy didn’t really hit by the 2007 financial crisis.

Western Australia properties selling at a bargain, anyone?

What about other parts of Australia

Foreign buyers continue to pile into Australian properties in the city areas of New South Wales and Victoria. Property prices are still going up, though at a much slower rate.

Last month Smart Property Investment highlighted “the two markets most in trouble” and likely to suffer a hard landing once this property cycle goes from boom to bust.

They are apartments in inner-Melbourne and Brisbane, especially suburbs like Newstead, Bowen, South Port, Fortitude Valley, Towong, West End and Hamilton.

In particular, off-the-plan property investors are warned that “they could be in for a nasty surprise”. It may not be a total collapse of housing prices, but a likely price decline of 10 or 15 percent.

If you are going after properties in Australia, better do your sums and make sure that you have the holding power even under the worst scenario.

Do you have the guts?

How to tell savvy investors from average ones?

untitledEating out in Orchard on a Saturday evening, we just placed our order when my husband noticed something special about the restaurant.

“The owner of this place did hire pretty waitresses around.”

“Pretty? Where?”

“See the one over there near the counter.”

I looked in his direction and saw a voluptuous figure at the far end of the restaurant.

“That one really looks sexy. But she is, strictly speaking, not a woman.”

“Not a woman? What do you mean?”

At that moment, the ‘waitress’ walked over to our table to serve the drinks. Now at a close distance it was obvious that, behind the heavy makeup, she’s a transsexual.

“How can you tell it when she’s so far away from us just now?”

“Of course I can. Because all women can tell their own kind.”

It’s like the mother can surely tell the differences of her two identical twins. A plastic surgeon can always tell whether a celebrity has a nose job done. A gemologist can infallibly tell whether the stone is a real diamond.

The only ones who have no clue are the outsiders or the amateurs.

Telling real property investors from fake ones

The same applies to property investment.

Some may brag that they have made lots of money from flipping properties, buying high-profile projects or acquiring properties in overseas countries.

Some may claim that they are ‘successful’ property investors going from broke to owning a multi-million property portfolio, buying properties with no money down or using other people’s money.

Some may promise that everyone can get rich quick by going after their exclusive and super high return rare opportunities in any market.

The stories really sound sexy. But they are, strictly speaking, not investors at all. Because they make more money from the commissions and markups of selling these ‘high return’ deals than from the actual income or return of these projects.

Savvy investors are the ones who can spot the hidden gems from the rough. They can naturally smell a good deal. They are a breed apart from the fake version in many palpable ways.

Go to any sales gallery or flat viewing and they know what to look for and how to ask the right questions.

Show them the sitemap and layout plans and they know how to pick the best block and best unit in the whole project (exactly what we teach at How to Buy Good Quality Properties workshop).

Show them the numbers they ask for and they know how to calculate the net return of the property.

Give them the facts of a shortlisted property and they know how to negotiate for a good deal.

Sign on the dotted line on the Offer to Purchase and they know which bank and lawyer to work with to ensure a smooth transaction.

Telling savvy property investors from average ones

Are people who bought high-end properties savvy investors?

Recently, Bloomberg’s article “Saving Singapore’s Wealthy” disclosed how banks in Singapore identify wealthy clients simply by the value of their home rather than their net worth or investable fund.

This selected group of privileged customers are signed up as ‘accredited investors’ and are qualified to invest in high-risk high-return products, despite the fact that they have borrowed heavily to fund their home.

With hunger for investment alternatives amid low interest rates, they bought lots of energy bonds (think the doomed Swiber Holdings). We already know what happen next – children’s college fees, retirement savings and emergency funds are gambled away just like that.

We can’t tell whether a buyer is well-to-do or an experienced investor from his home address. Some people I know have built an impressive property portfolio for rental income but still prefer to stay in an HDB flat. Similarly, people who have purchased several private properties do not necessarily mean that they are very good in the trade.

Below is a table showing the primary differences between a savvy property investor and an average property buyer.


I am still in my journey to learn and train myself to be a savvy property investor. But I can easily tell whether someone is a value investor in properties by asking him three simple questions:

1. What have you bought?

2. When did you buy them?

3. How much did you buy them for?

If he is not keeping the properties for the long-term, a fourth question will be ‘How much did you sell them for?”.

This weekend I am organizing a Property Investor Roundtable Luncheon for Property Club Singapore. I have invited a group of experienced property investors to share their views and knowledge on ‘Opportunities in New Development Areas’. I know all of them personally and I can say that they are all authentic property investors who meet the above criteria.

I look forward to learning from all of them!

How to tell real property bargains from fake ones?

imag1641Flying back from Jakarta in the evening, I managed to get a few hours of sleep before boarding the early morning flight to Perth for a week-long family trip.

The first part of the vacation was a farm stay in the countryside. After we checked in and made our way to our rented cottage, I could finally rest my body and soul.

I looked outside the windows and found myself being surrounded by cows, sheep, emus and chickens. While I was watching the farm animals, they were also staring at an exhausted ‘animal’ lying on the couch.

The next morning this exhausted animal was almost fully recharged and followed the family to feed the ‘far more energetic’ farm animals.

During the sheep feeding session, a confused sheep suddenly tried to ‘kiss’ the chest of my younger daughter. Apparently, it had mistaken the logo on her jacket as the dried leaves because they were the same color.

I suddenly recalled a similar incident during a school outing to a goat farm in Singapore. We were feeding the goats when one of them wanted to ‘eat’ my child’s windbreaker too. The kindergarten teacher immediately pulled the cloth out of the goat’s mouth.

That left me wonder: Can the sheep really tell if a wolf in sheep’s clothing is in the herd?

Four questions to judge good or bad investments

Similarly, can property buyers tell a good buy from a lousy investment when approached by the marketers?

If they can, why are there so many regrets buying the wrong properties and so many complaints investing in the doomed crowdfunding projects? (If you miss it, read my recent posts “4 things buyers wish they knew before buying a property” and “Can’t answer these 5 questions? Stay clear of crowdfunding”.)

How many of them are like the innocent sheep that can’t tell the differences between the grass and a piece of cloth and choke after eating the wrong thing?

How many of them see all projects or units marketed by developers or agents as good property investment regardless of the quality, location, pricing and return?

The SMART Expo will be back in Singapore again over the weekend. After speaking in three consecutive expos, I am not invited this time.

I am not surprised.

I did manage to draw a crowd every time. But it was awkward for a speaker like me who talked about risks of buying overseas properties and reasons of avoiding unprofitable investments when the sponsors had paid thousands to market overseas projects and alternative investments there.

Just in case any blog reader asks me the ‘is it a good investment’ question after visiting the expo, here are the four questions to ask yourself. And pardon me to repeat myself again.

1. Who are the other buyers?

Are they sophisticated buyers or just laymen of the market? Are they savvy investors or just an average joe like you?

2. Can you trust them?

How much do you know about the developer/marketer? Can you trust that it will complete the project on time and with acceptable quality? Will it run away when the market tanks?

3. Why are the locals not buying?

Why is the attractive investment not being snapped up by the locals? Why the developer/marketer has to spend so much time, money and efforts to go overseas, repackage and market to you?

4. Where is the secondary market?

Is there a resale market and a ready pool of buyers for these type of investment projects? Can you easily find anyone to buy from you or sell it back to the marketer next time?

Two ways tell a good bargain from a bad deal

It is not uncommon to see some buyers boasting that they just bought a good property or a gem with high potential – while it is very obvious that they are getting the short end of the stick.

There are two simple ways to immediately tell the good deal from a bad one:

1. Above or below valuation

You can always check valuation online (URA or SRX) from the last few transactions of similar properties.

That’s why you can never enjoy good value-for-money if you buy brand new units in uncompleted projects directly from developers when you are asked to pay ‘future prices’ much higher than similar properties nearby.

For a more thorough research, I would recommend checking past transactions all the way back from the last property down cycle.

2. Positive or negative return

There are different methods to calculate the return of a property. A simple way is to calculate the cash-on-cash return for the first year.

Cash-on-cash return = 1st year cash flow – Total cash investment

1st year cash flow = (monthly rent – loan repayment – management fee – property tax – insurance) x 12

Total cash investment = downpayment + stamp duties + legal fee + renovation + miscellaneous expenses

Remember what I said in my book No B.S. Guide to Property Investment?

If there is a probability formula of finding a good deal, it may come one-third from the buyer’s insight, another one-third from the buyer’s discipline (hard work, patience, persistence, etc.), and the last one-third depending on market conditions and opportunities.

And of course, buying the right property at the right time makes all the difference here.

Let me share with you how to tell savvy investors from average ones in my next blog post. Until then, tell me how you know you’ve found a real property bargain or a fake one.

3 investment lessons from the movie Me Before You

me-before-youI was watching the movie Me Before You on a flight.

There was a heartbreaking scene when Will Traynor insisted on ending his life despite all the efforts of Louisa Clark to show him that there were still reasons to continue living.

“But…I need it to end here. No more chair. No more pneumonia. No more burning limbs. No more pain and tiredness and waking up every morning already wishing it was over. When we get back, I am still going to go to Switzerland. And if you do love me, Clark, as you say you do, the thing that would make me happier than anything is if you would come with me. So I’m asking you – if you feel the things you say you feel – then do it. Be with me. Give me the end I’m hoping for.”

I couldn’t stop tears rolling down my cheek.

At this untimely moment, a flight attendant stood in front of me and asked me the irrelevant question “coffee or tea, please?” while waiting for an embarrassed passenger’s answer.

Didn’t she see that I need a tissue rather than a coffee?

The touching story of Me Before You resonates with the complicated world of investment in at least three facts:

1. When something unfortunate happens, the whole game changes and the world is never the same again.

Traynor had been living a good life – being young and attractive, handling big deals in his work, playing extreme sports, and enjoying nice vacations. He had everything men wish for until a tragic accident happened and changed everything. From that moment onwards, “getting through each day requires almost superhuman strength”.

In the past two decades, we have our fair share of unfortunate events that affected everyone in one way or another. Things can’t be intact any more after that fatal day.

  • Widespread bankruptcy and a high unemployment rate of 4.4 percent caused by the Asian Financial Crisis from July 1997.
  • ‘Terrorist attack’ became a generic term in newspaper headlines since September 11, 2001.
  • Retail sales fell 10 to 50 percent and many retail and restaurant chains closed down after the outbreak of SARS in February 2003.
  • Many doomed investments never really recovered from their losses after the sub-prime crisis that started in December 2007.

  • 2. Nothing can save the situation when rules of the game have changed.

    To some property buyers or investors, the day the whole property game changes is the introduction of TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio).

    However, fine-tuning the TDSR rules from September 1 doesn’t guarantee that home owners and investors can obtain the bank’s approval and successfully refinance their housing debts.

    It’s because rules of the game have changed. Banks have been much more cautious in borrowing since 2013. They are not going to benefit their home mortgage department and risk dealing with potential increase in bad debts.

    And this doesn’t apply to new loan applications which are still under the governance of the TDSR framework. Potential buyers are still stuck if their debt obligations are above 60 percent.

    Frankly, the announcement of MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) serves to kick the ball to the court of the banks in case interest rates climb up later this year.

    Even relaxing other cooling measures is not going to revive the property market. Not even the tweaking of Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty and Seller’s Stamp Duty.

    Because times have changed. The economy has slowed down. The supply and demand gap has widened. The buying craze has died down.

    It’s just like Clark’s ambitious plan to take Traynor to horse racing, a concert and a vacation in Mauritius – all in vain to convince Traynor that his life was worth living.

    Clark’s biggest mistake was that she forgot Traynor was no longer the same person before the accident. He was no longer that invulnerable ‘me’ before but a sensitive and bitter patient now.

    Just as what Traynor’s ex-girlfriend explained to Clark,

    “You know, you can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.”

    3. It is much more painful to lose something you once own, then you never own it before.

    Traynor didn’t have to die. Despite the fact that his was immobile, he still lived in a beautiful castle, with the company of his loving parents, a personal doctor and a lovely caregiver who’s in love with him.

    But what made it unbearable was the painful memories of his glamorous past.

    It is similar to someone being a winner all his life. But suddenly one day he is under the curse to be a loser for the rest of his life. It is tough to be put in hell when one used to be living in heaven.

    In investment, it is more painful to end up with losses and debts after the taste of profits. In reality, the buying regret is more unbearable than the missed opportunity.

    Many property owners who bought at the peak of the property market in 1996 got burnt and lost their investment. Some took almost 15 years to just breakeven and finally saw the prices of their properties recovered.

    Investors who went after the high-end property market in 2007 were still stuck with properties that they paid for $4,000 psf. Average loss is $1 million for units purchased in 2007 and sold recently.

    “Some mistakes … just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you,” Traynor told Clark.

    We all make mistakes. But how many of us can learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them again?

    What is so ‘grande’ about Lake Grande?

    IMAG1145During the first weekend launch, MCL Land managed to sell 436 units or 60 percent of 710 units at Lake Grande. Buyers paid an average price of $1,368 psf for the units. Singaporeans accounted for 17 out of every 20 buyers.

    Two weeks later on National Day, the developer has moved a total of 470 units. Sales has slowed down significantly since then. According to the URA records, 483 units or 68 percent were sold as of today.

    The sales performance is a far cry from MCL Land’s launch of the 738-unit J Gateway on 28 June 2013, when buyers jumped on the Jurong Lake District bandwagon and submitted 1,400 blank cheques for balloting. The project was sold out on the first day of launch with the ‘lucky ones’ forked out $1,400 to $1,800 psf for their units – only to have the government’s Total Debt Servicing Ratio thrown in their face on the same evening.

    (Lesson learned: Next time remember to call an acquaintance who works in the relevant government department before taking the plunge.)

    However, the results are still better than another Jurong Lake project next to Lake Grande, also by MCL Land. On the first day of launch in April 2014, the developer only managed to move 180 out of 696 units in Lakeville at an average price of $1,300 psf.

    What is the hype about Jurong Lake District?

    During the National Day Rally, our Prime Minister mentioned Jurong Lake Gardens and the new Science Centre in the new Jurong Lake District.

    If you can still recall, it was also in his 2014 National Day Rally that PM Lee first showcased ‘Jurong Lake at sunset’.

    Two years on, what have we completed for the Jurong Lake District plan?

    Let’s go back to the time when the project was first announced with the draft Master Plan 2008. So we can at least say that the Jurong Gateway part, one out of the three precincts, , is more or less done, leaving only the Lakeside and the Lakeside Gateway targeted to complete beyond 2020.

    By then, there should be three Jurong Lake Gardens and the New Science Centre. On the side of the Jurong Gateway, we can expect the Lakeside Village (for F&B, retail and hotel), a second Central Business District, and a High Speed Rail Terminus to Kuala Lumpur by the year 2026.
    jurong lake districtWill properties inside the Jurong Lake District command high prices in the future? The answers are in my old blog post “Is Jurong Lake District the next hotspot for property hunting?

    What’s wrong with the project location?

    The sales gallery of Lake Grande is located at Jurong East Street 31 and a short distance away from Chinese Garden MRT. But the actual site is in between Boon Lay Way and Jurong West Street 41. The entrance is on a side road known as Jurong Lake Link. It takes only 5 minutes’ walk to the Lakeside MRT station.
    Lake-Grande_mapThe 17-storey project overlooks the scenic Jurong Lake. However, the artist’s impression of ‘where stunning lake views surround you’ stated in the sales brochure has conveniently missed the MRT track and the busy two-way three-lane traffic along Boon Lay Way which are standing in the way of the stunning lake view.

    In other words, units facing the lake will have a tradeoff between a fantastic view from the lake and the air/noise pollution from the vehicles.

    The neighboring project The Lakeshore is built on top of a multi-storey carpark, with units on the lowest floor just above the MRT track.

    For Lake Grande, it will be an underground carpark. According to the property agent, the project will be built one to two metres above the ground. That means units on lower floors may have the potential to be below or on the same level of the MRT track, with owners seeing the traffic or trains rather than the lake view.

    What is not so ‘grande’ in Lake Grande?

    Buyers like me can’t help but wonder what the word ‘Grande’ means in the project name Lake Grande. We know it means large in Italian. Perhaps it implies the vast Jurong Lake or the 360-hectare Jurong Lake District. Or someone from MCL Land simply likes Ariana Grande.

    But it definitely has nothing to do with size and space of the project.
    1. Space not enough

    1-bedroom unit is 409 sq ft and 614 sq ft is already a 2-bedroom unit. 3 bedrooms have to fit inside 904 sq ft.

    Mind you, the sizes above include the big balconies and aircon ledges which leave even smaller actual usable area in the units.

    If owners are targeting the expatriates sending their kids to the Canadian International School nearby as tenants, the unit size must be over 1,000 sq ft to make it a decent living space for a family. That leaves only 51 units for the 4 and 5-bedroom units which can just fit the bill.

    Despite being a 9-year-old project, units of the neighboring project The Lakeshore are obviously more spacious than those in Lake Grande – with 2-bedrooms above 900 sq ft and 3-bedrooms above 1,100 sq ft.

    Above all, there is no balcony in this project. And units are selling at just above $1,000 psf. The Lakeshore sounds a better buy in terms of both price psf and ‘quality of the square foot’.

    Even Lakeville which will be TOP next year comes with more spacious units and are selling at an average price of $1,250 psf.

    2. Carpark lots not enough

    Lake Grande is a big project with 710 units. But the underground carpark only offers 568 lots. Only 80 percent of residents are entitled to one carpark lot.

    So do we expect the rest of the 142 owners and other family members of the 568 units to take trains, buses or boat across the Jurong Lake to get to school or work?

    3. Finishing not good enough

    Although the sales brochure mentions ‘quality finishing and top-of-the-line fittings’ for a ‘luxurious home’. The living rooms have marble look-alike homogeneous tiles instead of marble flooring. Bedroom floors are laid with laminated timber flooring rather than parquet flooring.
    IMAG1160IMAG1162Bathtub is absent in this project. There is also no utility area in all the 1 and 2-bedroom units. Expect to air wet laundry in the balcony.

    4. Distance not long enough

    The property agent claimed that the block-to-block distance between The Lakeshore and Lake Grande is 30 metres while the block-to-block distance between Lakeville and Lake Grande is 40 metres.

    He may be too optimistic.
    IMG-20160809-WA008An examination of the actual site shows that the construction site of Lake Grande is at most 15 metres away from the nearest block in Lakeville.

    Given that MCL Land has placed the top bid for the Jurong West site at S$338.12 million or S$630.13 psf, the developer has all the reasons to maximize the site to build as many units as possible.

    To preserve your privacy, avoid buying units on the far left and far right of the project.

    Which are the best units and layouts?

    There are 42 different units in four blocks (Block 2, 6, 8 and 10). Almost all the units in Lake Grande are northeast or southwest facing.
    1. Units with west sun

    – Avoid units 9 and 19 which have direct west sun in living room and all the bedrooms.
    – The balcony of units 29, 30, 40 and 41 face west sun.

    2. Units facing inside

    – Beware of the distance with the opposite block. There is a lack of privacy as units overlook each other at a close distance.
    – Units affected are 1, 2, 3, 12, 13, 27, 28, 29, 38, 39 and 40.

    3. Units facing outside

    – Avoid unit 8 and 18 which are too close to the street with heavy traffic from Boon Lay Way.
    – Avoid units facing the back in block 8 and 10 which face HDB blocks along Jurong West Street 41 and have no view.
    – Avoid unit 23 and 24 for the tennis court and ‘Main Distribution Frame’.
    – By all means avoid unit 34. Opposite is the rubbish collection centre which is next to the substation and genset.
    – Also there is a childcare centre on the ground floor of unit 34. Expect some noises during school open and dismissal time.

    4. Best unit of the project

    My choice is the 2-bedrooms on unit 14 (despite the inauspicious number) for the following reasons:
    – The living rooms and bedrooms are south facing and with unobstructed view.
    – Can choose units on higher floors overlooking the Jurong Lake yet are a considerable distance away from Boon Lay Way.

    5. Best layouts of the project

    The biggest problem of layouts in Lake Grande is the big balconies and aircon ledges that make the already tiny units even smaller.

    Buyers are advised to pick layouts with no balcony for the bedrooms in order to enjoy more usable space in their units, for instance, layout B3 and B4 of 2-bedrooms and layout C3 of 3-bedrooms.

    What is the final verdict?

    Let me bring back the PCS (Property Club Singapore) Rating System to have a fair evaluation of the Lakeside Grande according to the 7 important criteria.
    Lake-Grande-PCSA final piece of advice: There is no lack of condominium projects in Lakeside. Lake Grande won’t obtain TOP until year 2019 or 2020. The Jurong Lake District will complete beyond 2020. High Speed Rail won’t be ready until 2026. From now till then, take your time to take your pick.

    Visit the Facebook page of Property Club Singapore for more pictures of the Lake Grande construction site and show suites. Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook!

    How far will you go for your Olympic Gold?

    Singapore is in celebration mood when Joseph Schooling made history after winning Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal.

    The significance of Schooling’s success is much more than bagging the first gold for Singapore.

    It is the touching story of a young boy who met and inspired by his idol, the reward after his hard work to compete in the same contest as him, and the happy ending of the magic moment to beat him.

    He reminds all of us who are stuck in the mundane world that we can choose to do something different; that it is important to aim high in life; that we should never give up; that childhood dreams do come true.

    Winning gold despite all odds

    Exactly two decades ago in 1996, windsurfer Lee Lai Shan won the only Olympic gold medal for Hong Kong during the Atlantic Olympic Games.

    Growing up on the island of Cheung Chau where most inhabitants are fishermen, she took up windsurfing at the age of twelve. Her childhood dream was to be world’s number one in the sports.

    However, Lee’s journey to windsurfing gold was far from smooth sailing.

    There was almost no funding from the Hong Kong government. Nurturing local athletes was not the colony’s priority.

    She couldn’t find sponsorship from large corporations either. They would rather sponsor celebrities than athletes.

    Everything had to be self-funded.

    One winter, she flied to Europe for training with her coach and another national windsurfer Sam Wong (her boyfriend at that time). To save money, three of them had bread for lunch. Hot meals were only available at dinner.

    They couldn’t afford to stay in hotels. Under sub-zero temperatures, a tent was set up outdoors. Every night they used rock, paper, scissors to decide who slept inside the car or on the cold floor outside.

    In 1990, she represented Hong Kong to participate in Europe’s Windsurfing World Championship, the most important event of the sports. The organizer wanted to invite more non-European countries to compete. That antagonized the European contestants. One of the coaches said,

    “Those athletes from Hong Kong are rubbish. They shouldn’t even enter the event.”

    From that moment, she vowed to prove herself whenever she was given the chance.

    But life was tough. Despite winning at many international competitions, the government’s athlete subsidy was a humble sum of HKD2,000 (SGD400) a month. Training and preparations for events required lots of money.

    Lee Lai Shan and Sam Wong knew that they could only afford to have either one of them to continue pursuing the windsurfing dream.

    To support Lee’s dream to be world’s top windsurfer, Wong gave up his own.

    For years he did all sorts of odd jobs to raise money for his girlfriend. Day and night he would help Cheung Chau fishermen to mend their fishing nets for some extra cash.

    windsurfing_goldLee finally won her gold medal at the Women’s Sailboard category at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

    There was no million-dollar prize money waiting for her. But politicians and tycoons placed ostentatious congratulatory ads in local papers. Organizations showered her with sponsored gifts.

    At the press conference, she told the media emotionally,

    “I prove that Hong Kong athletes are not rubbish!”

    Secrets of having no regrets

    John B. Izzo’s The Five Things You Must Discover Before You Die is one of the best books I have ever read.

    To learn the secrets of living a purposeful and fulfilling life, the author interviewed 235 wise elders aged 59 to 105 who claim that they have lived a meaningful life and have no regrets.

    Izzo finds that there are only two things that humans want most: to find happiness and to find meaning.

    You will find happiness if you put love as priority in your life and give more than you take in this world. You will find meaning if you can be true to yourself, follow your passion and leave no regrets.

    These two things have nothing to do with money and material things.

    You may have worked hard in your life to buy a BMW. But your BMW won’t come and visit you when you are in hospital or in an old folk’s home.

    Pursuing your childhood dream

    In early 2016, a skincare brand conducted a survey on 5,400 women in 14 countries. Results showed that one in two respondents have given up on their dreams and are unsatisfied with their current lives.

    Women from Japan, Korea, and Singapore are the top three countries with women giving up their dreams. Lack of financial support, fear of leaving comfort zone, and dreams not fitting into traditional definitions of success are the main reasons for not pursuing their childhood dreams.

    Compared to their western counterparts, only 30 percent of women in the US and UK have to give up their childhood dreams.

    To encourage women to pursue their dreams again, the brand launched the ‘Dream again change destiny campaign’ with a heartwarming 4-minute commercial (watch it on youtube).

    As a child, I don’t just have one dream. I have many.

    I’ve dreamed of traveling around the world. I end up traveling most of the time for business.

    I’ve dreamed of staying at my own place one day. I end up buying five properties in five years.

    I’ve dreamed of being a novelist. I end up writing a book on property investment.

    Do you remember your childhood dream? How far have you gone for it?

    Have you forgotten how to dream?

    Should we give properties to our children?

    Aug11'16Time flies. My younger girl just turned five today.

    Still remember my old blog post “A letter to my new born baby“? I thought I just wrote that yesterday?

    Five years on, when her little hand reaches for mine; when she holds me tight and plants a big kiss on my lips; when she looks me in the eyes and says ‘Mommy I love you’, I realize I must have done something really right in my last life.

    Wherever I travel, I buy her stickers printed with her favorite cartoon characters. We often review our proud collection together, recalling when, where and how much we got them.

    With fellow property investors, we review a different collection – our portfolio of properties acquired over the years – recalling when, where and how much we got them.

    Sometimes we talk about buying properties for our children. One would have bought a bachelor pad for the son. Another plans to set aside two houses for each of the two kids. Some are waiting for the lifting of Additional Buyer Stamp Duty to buy something suitable. A few are saving for the deposit.

    When I ask people why we have to help our kids to buy properties, the three most common reasons are:

    1. Property prices have climbed faster than inflation. Their children might not be able to afford one in the future.

    2. We love our kids and give them only the best, including food, clothes, housing and education. Why not properties?

    3. When we pass on one day, it’s good to leave something behind so that they will remember us.

    If we can afford, why not?

    For me, I am hesitant to give any property to my children for three simple reasons:

    1. Hopefully they inherit that property investment gene from me. If not, so be it.

    2. We can lead a happy life even without having the very best. Things we treasure most almost always have nothing to do with money.

    3. It is far more important to impart values and wisdom to the generation. What I want to leave behind is a legacy – not a physical property, but my vision and beliefs.

    I hope they remember me for who I am. Who cares about an old property? The one that has an outstanding loan and desperately need a major renovation?

    You might worry about not buying any property for your children even though you can afford it. If you die without leaving anything for them, they might blame you one day.

    But wait, by that time you have already died. So that’s not a problem anymore, isn’t it?

    In my book No B.S. Guide to Property Investment, I have touched on the legal implications for you and your children if you are buying properties for the next generation.

    One of my favorite Taiwanese writers Liu Yong (刘墉) has just published his latest book to share his advice for the elderly.

    He has been staying in the US for some time now. He says if you tell a lawyer that you want to put your property under your child’s name, the lawyer will ask you to add one special clause – you no longer own the property but you always have the right to stay there.

    One day your child will get married. You have no guarantee that you can get along with your son or daughter-in-law. With that special clause, at least you won’t end up in an old folk’s home.

    Another advice: if you want to share your wealth with your children, do it early and timely. Our life expectancy is getting longer. By the time we pass on, our next generation are most likely in their 60s. They no longer need that wealth in their retirement years. But they wish they had that when they were struggling to pay bills while supporting a young family.

    Another dilemma: You tell your children to study hard, get a good job and they will be able to enjoy what they have later in life. Don’t be surprised that they will ask you why. If you have already bought them a nice place to ensure that they will have a good life, why do they need to study hard and get a job?

    Lastly, you might want to take some hints from the book The Millionaire Next Door to understand how the millionaires manage to raise successful adult children.

    1. Never tell children that their parents are wealthy.

    2. No matter how wealthy you are, teach your children discipline and frugality.

    3. Assure that your children won’t realize you’re affluent until after they have established a mature, disciplined, and adult lifestyle and profession.

    4. Minimize discussions of the items that each child and grandchild will inherit or receive as gifts.

    5. Never give cash or other significant gifts to your adult children as part of a negotiation strategy.

    6. Stay out of your adult children’s family matters.

    7. Don’t try to compete with your children.

    8. Always remember that your children are individuals.

    9. Emphasize your children’s achievements, no matter how small, not their or your symbols of success.

    10. Tell your children that there are a lot of things more valuable than money.

    Really, you don’t have to leave your children a legacy. They are your legacy!

    4 things buyers wish they knew before buying a property

    regretThe radio is playing Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” when an email from a blog reader popped up on my screen,

    “Property Soul You’ve Got Mail.”

    It’s another message about a home buyer’s remorse.

    Every week there are so many messages on disappointment and regret after buying properties. They all go like this:

    “I wish I had … before I bought …”

    “Why didn’t anyone tell me …”

    “If only we knew …, we wouldn’t have …”

    “We should have … but we had no idea …”

    So many look-backs. So many regrets. What’s the use of crying over spilled milk?

    The killing part is that these messages all end with an inevitable request for advice like “What do you think I should do now?”, or “Do you think I should … or … “.

    How do I know? I am not you.

    I have been advocating for prudent investment in private properties in my blog since 2010. I am doing my job as a nutritionist, not a surgeon. I take preventive measures, not remedial actions.

    Why don’t buyers do some research on the market? Why can’t they check with the bank first before placing a deposit? Why do people let their impulse and greed take over?

    If only they knew the 4 facts of property investment before taking the plunge, there would be less home buyer remorse, and I would have received far less regret purchase messages.

    1. Showflat is for display. Bare unit is for your stay.

    You said the showflat in the sales gallery was so nice. You couldn’t help but imagining yourself staying there too.

    There is nothing wrong visiting new launch over the weekends. There is also nothing wrong dreaming about the high life staying in a posh condominium. But please wake up and get back to life after you step out of the showflat.

    “The truth is like an alarm clock. You might not want to hear it … but it will wake you up from your dreams and bring you back to reality.”

    – Anonymous

    Look beyond the bells and whistles. Things that are glamorous on show are often humble in reality.

    After you collect the key to your bare unit, you suddenly realize that all the nice views and for display only ID designs at the showflat are all beautiful misunderstandings. The space constraint, developer defects, poor workmanship, etc. are the reality you have to deal with.

    Like lovers when they first met, they show their best to impress. But after they sign on the dotted line, they begin to show their true colors with eyes wide open.

    You get the picture?

    2. Properties are not safe investment. Fixed deposits are.

    You said you want to develop a habit of regular compulsive savings by putting your money into a property and paying the monthly mortgage.

    All adults should have no problem training themselves to put aside money for a rainy day. If you lack that discipline, consider giving a considerable monthly allowance to your parents or better half.

    Forget the BS saying that money left in saving accounts will be eroded by inflation. Stop saying how property prices have jumped multiple times in the last decades. Singapore has long passed the exponential growth stage evolving from an emerging to a developed country.

    Do your maths: Property prices have fallen 9 percent since September 2013. Singapore inflation rate is 2.4 percent in 2013. After 2013, it is hovering around 1 percent. Which side of your money is eroding faster: your property investment or your bank savings?

    Just take a look at the performance of currencies in our neighboring countries, who won’t wish that they are holding the strong Singapore dollar?

    Remember property prices dropped 44.8 percent from its peak in 1995? Would you rather hold cash in a low interest rate environment or jump on the bandwagon to buy overpriced properties?

    An article in the Edge Property pointed out that in the last quarter 1 in 3 sellers of high-end properties incurred losses, with the majority bought in 2007 and 2010. Average loss is $1 million for units purchased in 2007.

    In the city fringe, 1 out of 8 resale deals are in the red. In the mass market, 9 percent of secondary market transactions is unprofitable. A majority of the units were purchased in 2011.

    It sounds ironic but how many investors can survive a property downturn or a housing bubble burst with profits higher than interest earned by an average Joe from his fixed deposit?

    3. Income and appreciation are not guaranteed. But fees and taxes are certain.

    You said you joined the huge crowd of buyers because it was rare for retail units in centrally-located malls for sale.

    You bought a unit at Alexandra Central, a 99-year hotel and retail development next to IKEA@Alexandra, during the launch on January 21, 2013. It was just after the government introduced the 7th round of cooling measures on January 11 when Additional Buyer Stamp Duties were raised to 7 percent across the board.

    Didn’t you read the signs?

    Even though asking prices were a whopping $4,300 to $7,000 psf, all except 2 of the 116 shop units were snapped up on the launch day. One upper floor unit below 200 sq ft even attracted 150 cheques from eager buyers.

    How much rent can you fetch from a 200 to 400 sq ft shop in a 3-storey shopping mall? How many bowls of noodles do you need to sell in a day to cover the rent? Are you aware that the mall is not even accessible to any MRT station?

    I went there for dinner last month on a weekday evening. A year after the mall was opened in 2015, far more than half of shops at Alexandra Central are still vacant. There are more shopkeepers than visitors. It is that kind of mall that, after you see how quiet the ground floor is, you don’t bother to go up the second and third floor.

    Supposedly you bought a 400 sq ft shop at $1.8 million and pay a monthly loan of $3,200, if you are lucky to find a tenant to pay a rent of $3,200, your return is close to zero.

    But wait, you haven’t taken into account the high monthly maintenance fee and property tax, on top of the stamp duties and legal fee you already paid.

    In this market, it is also not easy to find a buyer to take over a vacant unit in a quiet mall. Above all, commercial properties are subjected to a 5 to 15 percent Seller Stamp Duty in 3 years.

    Honestly I don’t think any buyer benefited except Chip Eng Seng Corporation. Because of their best-selling project Alexandra Central, the property developer’s quarterly net profit jumped $167.6 million, a 383.9 percent increase from the preceding year.

    Think about generating income and capital appreciation from property investment? Think again.

    In properties, nothing is certain except fees and taxes.

    4. No Freehold is not a problem. No holding power is.

    You said you pay more to buy a freehold property because the value of freehold properties can hold.

    Have you over-estimated the investment value of freehold properties? Just because developers bought the freehold land at higher prices doesn’t mean that it is justified for you to pay a premium too.

    Afterall, the property game is all about affordability and holding power. And did I not mention enough buying the right property at the right time at the right price?

    Don’t complain that you can’t finance or refinance your properties because of the restrictive Total Debt Servicing Ratio. Before you place a deposit, read my 3-3-5 rule again please.

    Both freehold and leasehold properties appreciate in value during good times. The reverse is also true.

    Tenants rent a place for its location, quality and value. They don’t give a damn whether your property is freehold or leasehold.

    No freehold tenure is not a problem. No tenant is.

    How long can you continue paying mortgage, maintenance and taxes when you can’t find a tenant? If you have no holding power, you’ve got to cut loss at certain point of time and let it go.

    Regardless whether your property is leasehold or freehold, it is not ‘free to hold’.

    Don’t buy anything before you attend my Buying My First Private Property Workshop on July 31 or you’ll regret it (again?). Learn all the tips and traps of buying properties from presentations, exercises and group discussions. See you on Sunday!

    Is No Indian No PRC rental discrimination?

    Right after settling a social media boo-boo created by an Aussie employee, 99.co’s CEO Darius Cheung was quick to divert the media’s attention to another sensitive topic – the alleged discrimination of Singapore landlords on Indians and PRC tenants.

    Telling his story in a blog post, Darius shared how they had been rejected by 20 percent of the landlords just because his wife is an Indian. At the end, they had to pay 15 percent more to rent a place.

    After the unpleasant personal experience, Darius launched a ‘Say No to Racial Discrimination’ campaign. From now on, listings with ‘All Races Welcome’ rather than ‘No Indian No PRC’ will be prominently featured on the property portal.

    Can landlords choose their tenants?

    Frankly, I am surprised by the initiative of 99.co.

    No one can deny the importance of racial equality. But is the local rental market a right platform to fight for the cause? Or has 99.co just opened a can of worms?

    We are not discriminating against any race here. This is locals versus foreigners (or foreigners from certain countries). In Singapore, most landlords are locals and majority of tenants are foreigners. With our HDB home ownership scheme, we have far more owners and landlords than tenants.

    Article 12 (2) of Singapore’s Constitution states that ‘no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth’.

    Unfortunately, this only applies to ‘citizens of Singapore’, not non-citizens residing in Singapore.

    Racial harmony is a core value in multi-cultural Singapore. But political propaganda and personal preferences are two different things.

    In fact, nationality is only one out of many leasing criteria. Singapore landlords also have concerns over pets, smoking, profession, family size, sexual orientation, relationship of a couple staying together, etc.

    The question is: When I am investing my money in a rental property, and I am paying the housing loan, management fee and property tax, do I have the right to pick my tenant?

    If my exclusion list is discriminatory, what about those resorts that are not accepting tour groups from China, or only accepting those from China’s tier 1 cities? Aren’t these also discrimination?

    What about the taxi driver who refuses to drive me home, or that store owner who doesn’t want my business?

    What’s wrong with that curry smell?

    Do you know what they call Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, etc. in Hong Kong? They just give them one name: South Asians.

    Due to the legacy of British colonial rule, Hong Kong has 61,400 South Asians. Despite being the third generation and speaking fluent Cantonese, they still face a lot of discriminations in education, employment and housing.

    It is almost impossible to find any local Chinese landlord who is willing to rent to a South Asian. A recent documentary interviewed landlords who claim that the strong smell of curry South Asians prepare is a source of neighbor complaints. It is also impossible to get rid of that smell after they move out.

    Sounds familiar? Remember the curry war between two neighbors and the “Cook and Share a Pot of Curry” campaign in 2011? We even have a story on BBC News.

    I like to cook different types of Thai curry too, especially panang curry, massaman curry, green curry and red curry. Once I even bought the authentic small garlics, green and red chillies from a Bangkok wet market to prepare the real thing. And I like to open the kitchen doors to let the smell notify my two little ones who can’t wait to taste their favorite dish.

    Can you imagine the strong smell coming from my house? My neighbors can enjoy my curry smell for free and no one ever complain.

    Is strong smell a personal preference, or just an excuse out of discrimination?

    What are landlords and tenants looking for?

    Being a tenant for 7 years and a multiple-property landlord since 2002, I can empathize and understand the concerns of both parties.

    It is not the just the landlords who are picking the tenants. The tenants are also choosing the landlords.

    As a tenant, I am looking for a nice and reasonable landlord.

    Reasonable means my landlord does not come over to spot-check all the time and let me stay in peace. Reasonable means my landlord does not give me old furniture or appliances that he wants to dispose them. Reasonable means my landlord understands the kitchen is not for display only but can be used for cooking.

    As a landlord, I am looking for a good tenant.

    Good implies my tenant always pays his rent in time and in advance. Good implies my tenant doesn’t give me any trouble during his stay in my property. Good implies my tenant will return the unit in its original condition at the end of the contract.

    When I first started as a landlord, I didn’t mind any race and nationality. My preferences are gradually formed after years’ of experiences, both good and bad ones.

    Now I know exactly which nationalities and what profiles of tenants will give me peace of mind, and vice versa. And I can tell you that the background of the tenant is more important than the nationality.

    Leasing a property is based on mutual agreement. We can’t avoid the fact that landlords have stereotypes of different nationalities, their living habits and ways to upkeep their house. We can educate the public to understand and accept foreigners. But landlords also reserve the right to sign contracts with tenants that they are comfortable dealing with.

    Is it nationalities or personalities?

    You want to know the nationalities of my ex-tenants? I have had Americans, British, Danish, Japanese, Koreans, Canadian Chinese, Hong Kong, Indians, Singaporeans, you name it.

    Which is the worst tenant I ever had? Sadly, it is a local Singaporean.

    I had two properties that were very popular with Japanese and Koreans who, in my opinion, are good tenants and great housekeepers. I always marvel at how they master the art of tidying and organizing the house.

    But there are exceptions.

    Once I was working nearby and decided to DIY for a flat viewing. My tenant was a single Japanese guy on company lease. He was out of town and asked me to go any time. There was a single guy coming for viewing that evening.

    I opened the door and was choked by the cigarette smell. I immediately knew that I need chemical wash of all the air-conditioners and whole house cleaning to get rid of the smell as soon as the contract ended.

    There were household items lying all over the floor. We had to hop around the mess to avoid stepping on anything.

    When I finally reached the living room, I was shocked to see a full collection of porn videotapes, VCDs, DVDs and Blurays with international cast – all proudly and orderly displayed on the TV console and the sofa.

    I suddenly realized why my property agent told me that the tenant was very happy I could find him a VCR player “to watch cricket match videotapes”.

    Despite that incident, I don’t have rental discriminations against single Japanese tenants because I know that this is an exceptional case. But from then on, I let my property agent handle all the flat viewings and handovers for me.

    Crave for more tenant stories? Share yours with me and tell me what you think about rental discrimination in Singapore.