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Checklist: Things to look out for when buying a place

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So we have checklists for buying a new car, and why not one for a new home?


I've consolidated what I have previously written here, so everyone can benefit and also contribute and some of the info comes from other bros.


Before we even go into the list, there are some basic things to do:


- make sure everyone in the family agrees to this purchase, and whether it's for investment or as a home

- check your financials well and get a large enough budget to buy and for renovations or other costs

- do your homework! Check the online property forums, buy and sell places and see what your money can buy and which regions suit your needs best


So, now onto the buying process



Is it going to be landed, a flat or a condo?


Some of the general principles which apply to all three types:






Is the home paid for or is the seller still in debt and not bankrupt 

How many owners are there, and any divorce in process. Who is the legal owner or executer of the property if the owner is deceased?

Is it tenanted and when does the lease run out

Can you break the lease


How old is the place. As a general rule, most places under 10 years can do without major renovations and you can use the piping, aircons and wiring. Most places above 20 years old will need more extension renovations



- freehold, 999 years or Leasehold (how many years left)

- location

- is it within 1km to a primary school and how many places are there

- sun direction - North South is the ideal

- developer matters too - some are cheap and use poor quality materials

- neighbours - good ones to whom you can entrust your keys, psycho ones, and nosy ones

- visit the location at different times - if you go over a weekend it's usually quiet and the traffic is light, so see at at peak hours and see if there's any choke points and if the streets around it become very noisy or is there a school or some place that attracts a lot of noise

- amenities eg market, food places, 24 grocery, petrol station, postbox

- near work

- near a clinic or GP

- MRT, bus or good roads etc to work, school etc

- wind : how well ventilated it the place

- how high is the place

- the interior of the place, can you salvage the parquet floor for example

- TV reception

- is there a fibre / home line (will cost $288 to run a new fibre line for example)

- where is the mains and the PUB meter located

- do you have the plans for the electricals



Items specific to an apartment:


- the shape of the unit, any odd unusable corners, how square is it

- how many units are there? Is it going to be too crowded over the weekends to swim?

- what are the amenities? Sometimes too many water features, landscaping or pools will mean higher costs to maintain

- pools: regular shape? Good for swimming laps or merely for wading? Any lifeguards?

- maintenance fees

- sinking funds - more units will mean more people to share costs. Small developments will need larger contributions to fix items like lifts, repainting costs etc

- number of lifts, is it private

- ratio of parking lots to units and the number of visitor lots

- number of entry and exits, side gates

- how much power is there? As a rule, you need a minimum of 45A and up

- any provision shops?

- who runs the place? which security company do they employ? 

- get a copy of the house rules - eg no moving in hours and are there a lot of AirBnB listings?


Items specific to houses:

- plot ratio and GFA

- zoning and potential developments of the area

- who was the designer or builder and are they still around

- cul de sac 

- land size, is it square or narrow, can you expand the built up area? (remember to account for set back if you do more than A&A)

- soil analysis - is it reclaimed land

- fengshui : water, wind and mountains etc

- at a junction

- noise level in the neighbourhood

- any new developments - renovations or reconstruction can continue for years around the place

- is there going to be enbloc or a new road running through the area

- if the homes near you are going to be replaced by flats, the roads can be much busier

- parking

- flooding / ponding

- any religious building around you or a popular eatery that attracts a lot of visitors eg illegal parking during peak periods and noise levels 

- any piped in gas... so you don't need to use gas tanks

- any retaining wall, and is it near a 24 hour gas station - noise and fumes

- is the place close to electrical plant or substation

- how much power is there? Single Phase or Triple Phase

(most modern terrace houses will have a triple phase 63A main DB, which can support the needs of most homes, even those with a swimming pool)

Don’t forget to check for termites and mossies. 

How windy and well ventilated the place is. 

How wide is your lane and even the type of roof and tiles used. 

Bring a builder along to give you an idea of renovation costs.. 


But before you even look around, do the financials first. Make sure you have a loan approved in principle and also enough cash for the renovations with a 20 percent buffer. 

Then bring the check book for every viewing. 

A basic renovation for a landed place can go from 2-300k, and for a A&A you might be looking at twice that. Adding a new roof 50k, and a new floor around 150k. 

A tear down? It can be 600k and up and these costs don't include furniture or fittings.

Time is the other factor you have to budget in. Add 20% to any schedule, especially if you are doing it around Chinese New Year or Christmas.

Be detailed in your planning, for example:

If you are doing a rebuild, make sure you work with your builder and neighbours. A small road - like the Countryside one, yes that 'wide' road, may not be able to take a full truck or a cement mixer coming in. And with such a long road, you need to coordinate with the entire road of owners, so they clear the road such that the truck can come in. Trust me, it's not a given nor an easy task. If a car gets scratched... be prepared for an ugly scene.


So also check that your contractor is registered and has insurance. One of your neighbours might own a limited Maclaren that your builder just happens to nick whilst transporting your tiles into your plot... 


Are there any other persons building in the same area, maybe you two can work together and save cost on building materials or if the other person started first, they can share some of their experiences

Is there space for your builders to park?

Is there good road outs of your estate or are you reliant on a single exit which can get very clogged up during peak hours?


Here's a BCA owner's checklist guide



Finally, I would like to start that I'm not an agent. I'm just trying to share since others have helped me before and I'm giving a little back so everyone can benefit.

But YOU and you alone need to get that info you need. No one will spoon feed you and there's no charity. You find those good deals, with the aid of a good agent.


Look at as many areas as you can, and take your time. But timing is everything and sometimes, that dream home just pops up and you have to be ready.


You snooze and you lose... 

Good luck!

BCA Homeowners Guide.pdf

Edited by therock
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When you visit potential homes, ask permission and take lots of photos.


Be systematic, so you don't miss areas, and use a checklist, so you don't miss places. Eg, take photos of the DB, the toilet areas and ceiling (look for water spots). 


Bring a sound meter, light meter, compass and a tape measure.  Bring a writing pad and have your own checklist so you don't forget to ask. 


Ask why the unit is for sale, and how long has it been on sale. Then check for the history of prices for that unit and also for the entire area.


Get your own valuation too. 

Talk to the neighbours - see if they are nice or will tell you something about the unit.

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Where can you view listings?

Property guru is often the first pit stop, but SRX, ST and many other sites exist. So delve deeper and check. Google maps is your friend. Explore the area online, then go down. NOTHING beats an on-site review.

Drive with the radio off and the windows down. Repeat it on weekdays and try the trains and buses. Smell the air in the neighborhood. Maybe there are bad sewers, poor cooking or even fumes from factories or restaurants going into your potential home.

Park and walk around the whole estate. Are there other units or houses on sale or for rent?

Who are your neighbors?

How many cars do they own?

Can you find parking easily?

Can you reverse or do a three point?

How’s the street lighting and does it shine into your home?

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Steady brudder, thanks for sharing. Can’t praise yet as I have done so recently.

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Some info on aircons in general

- invertors are de-rigueur now, but check the energy ratings

- however, if you have a big hall, you do need a larger BTU. If you use too small a compressor or blower, you end up shortening it's life from stressing it too much

- consider where will you run the pipes, and if you need two blowers in the living, dining area or any other space that is larger

- do you really need a smart aircon? If you do, make sure the brand caters for it

- I like PM 2.5 filters so that limits my choices

- easy cleaning is important to me

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There are some similarities when one buys a car and a home.

Yes, often times we are reminded that one may depreciate and the other appreciates. But the common vein is the passion and emotion involved in the buying process.

As much as we like to pretend we are cool, and decide with our minds, there is a big element of heart involved.

Even when we buy the most basic car, we still choose color, accessories, brand and add our personal touch to it. Witness all those members posting questions on how to add stuff, mod their rides, no matter how basic it is and how limit they may declare their budget is.


So it is with the house buying too. Even if we are only buying for investment, we should like the place. Like it enough to stay, and feel good about the place.


Some of us buy right off the bat. See it, call the bank if we haven't already done so, and write that check, there and then. I have done that before. Bought two places at the first viewing, and never regretted it.


Sometimes it's the view, other times it's the location. Or simply the name of the street, even the house number. Something just makes sense, or in some situations, all of it, and we must have it... 


That's the emotion, and the joy of buying. Men and women alike, succumb to this.. and we should not feel ashamed, but embrace it. C'est la vie!

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These evoke a lot of interest and emotions for the buyer, especially the men...


Man cave, bar, hifi den, billiards room and more... even a wine cellar. If you want to build one and the ground is not naturally meant for it, be prepared to spend and dig deeper to get the foundations right. And spend on piping for sanitation, and oh, did I mention that it won't be cheap? 


But hey, what's cheap and good in life ? Maybe it's now better to buy that car for 70k than the house eh... 


But the den and the rest of the home will provide immeasurable fun if you do it right.


Oh, how about a pool? 

You do need space, and length to be specific.. 

10m is a minimum and even then it might be small. The cost of adding a few more meters is not as much as you think, so long as you have the space.

But do make room for the pool pump and related items. 

There are vinyl, fibre glass and concrete pools with rebar. The last is the more solid and will last you a long long time. But $$$. 

And factor in the cost of maintaining it, plus the consumables like chorine, cleaning and such.

But a pool can be a lot of fun. Just don't get it to show off because it can become a white elephant soon if that's your only reason.


Be prepared to to spend upwards of 50k for the pool.


One option for those who can't afford a longer pool or even a lap pool is the counter current pool system:

It will add a few thousand in cost but it is like a water treadmill. 




Edited by therock
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Renovations can cost an arm and a leg, but like what Ikea likes to say:
"you don't need to be rich to be smart"
Some tips:
- ask yourself and more importantly your 'boss' if she needs an ID or an architect. They cost around 10% or more of the project, but can be pretty useful if you aren't the hands on type. Some will take you through the buying process and work through colors and such, but they can also be pretty stubborn and only stick to their designs especially if they have a big ego.
- talk to the tiles / marble stores. Business is a bit slow right now, so ask them for run out stuff and get the remnant stuff. 
- this also applies to toilet ware. Some stores specialise in selling excess stock from condo projects and you can get the excess stock a lot cheaper than the retail price
- time your purchases to sale time, it takes good timing or luck, but it can save you a lot of $$
- your builder will also have his / her own contacts for deals, so work with them instead of insisting on your own
- buy stuff online eg lights, fittings, furniture
- branded stuff: are they needed ?
Personally I think using good faucets are important, and I'm willing to pay. But for other items like sinks or toilet bowls, get a decent one, and one that's made in China is fine, really. Otherwise you may have to fork out up to ten times more for almost the same thing.  
- going to the source to get items. I think switches and other tactile items are important, so get good ones, but it doesn't mean paying a lot. The most basic color (white) is usually cheapest, and you get the same quality as those which are of different colors. 
- do you need marble everywhere? 
Now marble is a nice touch, but if you decide to go nuts and use it everywhere, your reno bill will go up. So areas like the toilets, dining area might do fine with marble like tiles or other materials. 
- use the same materials throughout
eg same tiles for toilets, same paint code
- use paint to touch up and give a new look instead of wallpaper

- do you need to custom built everything? Wardrobes and cabinets are charged by the foot, and if you can use existing stuff from furniture stores, it's a lot cheaper and they can be moved to the new home if you shift.

Remember, what looks good to your wife now, may not be to the new buyer's taste, and that style you are designing now may look really dated when the day comes for you to sell that home...
Areas I don't suggest you scrimp on:
- as mentioned, I think faucet handles should be the best you can get, switches too
- get enough power points, and believe me, you can't overdo it
- have multiple light sources, eg some task light, some ambient light etc
- preventive maintenance: 
If you are renovating for a long stay, don't save on these items:
- roof (if it leaks in future, it's a big hassle)
- flooring (same thing, waterproofing is a big deal)
- piping (if you intend to stay long term and the place is old - get new pipes)
- a new coat of paint is a lot cheaper than wallpaper
On the other hand, if the place is relatively new, you can save a lot by not tearing down everything. Hacking and tiling are one of the big ticket items you will can avoid paying for. 
However I do feel that you do need to have some nice items in your home. Be it a statement piece light, a nice sofa etc, even if it costs a bit more. The place must feel appealing. It should like nice and not look cheap or slapped together.  
Remember more flexibility, more savings

Not mine, but isn't it nice to have a den like this?

Plan for it - add cabling, and enough power sockets and supply. You don't want a trip each time you use your subwoofer.. 


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Can’t praise you but the man cave does look inviting. But $ no enough and can only dream on.

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Man cave?

Don’t get me started.. there’s so much about home theater and cool stuff you can put into a den. Big or small it’s your own corner of the castle...

Put a few cans there and it’s a small slice of heaven. You don’t even need more than a nice chair and a pair of headphones.

Do check out stressless chairs..

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What are the common estimated costs?


250-300$ for A&A renovations

50-150k for a lap pool to a half decent sized concrete pool with rebar

70-100k for a lift

150-200k to add a new floor 

10-20k to move a sewer

lighting - 10-50k depending on how extravagant you get

furniture, likewise

home theatre? woo... easily 15-50k, again depending on how extravagant you get

Edited by therock

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So, you have identified a potential home you like..

Which fits all the criteria you wanted, or at least met the ones you can afford when you realise that the budget you allocated didn't allow you to have all those items in the checklist..


It's time to do some cost assessments:


Bring the builder!
There are many planning and building issues to be worked in tandem, so it's best to get him in soonest. Then they can understand your needs.

Having a scrapbook of ideas helps, and you should begin taking a whole album of photos of ideas, furniture and places you like to assemble together so your ID and builder know what you like.

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Wah guru


How many houses you bought and lived in

How long you lived in the places you bought

How many A& A hv you done

How many reconstruction hv you done

How many new erection hv you done


Sibei guru leh you.



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I learnt a lot from you and others here

So I’m just sharing info and my own experiences.

You can share here too so more can benefit. Real buyers can share what’s important to look for.

I’m sure you have many gems to share too. And for that matter, I think many here will have much to share so please chip in.


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Whilst waiting for tile guru T2 to step in..


Everyone knows the pros and the luxury it implies.

But do take note of the potential issues.

Check source and pattern. Make sure you like it and the quality. There’s a lot of difference and the country of origin doesn’t mean that much. Check the individual slabs


Do a dry lay. I.e lay out the tiles so you like the veins and variances.


Do note the pros and cons. It’s permeable so it can stain and needs polishing and a protective layer from time to time.

Marble stains, chips and turns dark or dull.

It’s also rather slippery if you have old people.

But done well it adds value and style.

If you know a few companies, sometimes they do run out small sections and can give good prices.

As mentioned the tiler is vital.

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No guru here, but i have a super eye for details that matter to me and i am very hands on.


Unemployed and no income but got time......



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You have much experience bro

Do consider posting your tips here sir..

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