7 Steps To Identify The Right Property Without Viewing
During the height of the property fevers in previous years, buying properties without viewing is not unheard of. These are not cases of blind buying. Buyers had done their homework before they gave the cheques.
I remember closing a few deals like this in the second half of 2007.
With the current unique Covid-19 circuit breaker in place, we are in a different situation. Show flats are all closed, and all kinds of viewings are not possible.
Does that mean your search for the right home has to come to a halt?
Not quite: there are ways to identify and shortlist the right properties, even if you can’t see them. And when the viewings are possible again, you’ll be able to start your home-hunting with clearer goals.
(Should you want to buy now because you don’t want to miss out on your choice unit, it is still possible. There could be a pent-up buying spree after the circuit breaker).
Here are the 7 steps:
Step 1: Prioritise The Appropriate Amenities and Facilities
What amenities or facilities should your dream home have?
Trick question: the answer is everything of course. But as that’s not possible, it’s best to work along with priorities.
For example, if you have children who are starting school, then an appropriate educational institute will be a priority.
If you need to get to work on time, then you want to either be near the workplace, or very close to a transport node (e.g. if your workplace is at Bugis, then you’ll want an MRT station on the East-West line, over any other lines).
Narrow down the list to two or three main amenities or facilities that you need. These will provide reference points to begin your search.
For example, say you need to be near a school. If we type “Condos near Nan Hua Primary school” into the Google search bar, and then click maps, we can see some viable developments nearby:
From here, we can determine that the closest condos are The Trilinq, Regent Park and Parc Clematis (under construction).
If you want to check which condos or HDB blocks is within 1 km or 2 km to Nan Hua Primary School, you can use OneMap.
OneMap shows that other condos like Hundred Trees, Newest, Carabelle, Botannia, The Infiniti, Freesia Woods and The Parc (some blocks) also fall within 1 km to Nan Hua.
Sometimes I do see advertisements with erroneous marketing information, claiming that a certain condo is within 1 km to a particular school. Don’t take their words for it. Check it out yourself. But ultimately, for borderline cases, it’s still safer to double-check with the school.
If you are not sure how to use OneMap, feel free to contact me. I will be more than happy to show you (without having to meet up, of course!).
With Google, you can also try search queries such as:
- Condos near (insert name) MRT station
- Flats near (insert name) school
- Closest condo, flat, etc. to (whatever amenity you are interested in)
Step 2: Use Google Street View and Google Earth to Scout the Area
Google Street View has been a huge boon to the real estate industry. It allows you to virtually scout any area using just your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Let’s say we’re interested in Parc Esta, which is near the Eunos MRT station. Via Street View, I can see a covered walkway leading to the Eunos MRT station:
And just by scanning to the right, I can see Parc Esta is being built across the road (this condo has the best access to Eunos MRT on the East-West line to date):
Here’s a bonus I found: there’s a block of flats nearby, with some shops and other amenities downstairs. If I’m living at Parc Esta, these will be part of my amenities too:
So do use Google Street View, and not just the usual map, when shortlisting and hunting for properties. You’ll catch many things that you might otherwise miss; and you can do this even if you can go there yourself.
(Need help? Message me).
Google Earth is also a very powerful tool. It gives you a 2-D or 3-D bird’s eye view of the surrounding.
I used this to write a review on Maplewoods to see how close it is to the nearby buildings. I can also assess which blocks and stacks have unblocked facing.
Step 3: Research Travel Times
I have good news: gone are the days when you need to step outside, and manually time your walk to the MRT. These days, you can instantly get an estimate just by typing the query into Google maps.
For example, say I want to know the distance between Leedon Green (the Leedon Heights area), and the Orchard shopping belt:
In my recent condo review on Hyll on Holland (not launched yet), I did all the estimated distances and travelling time from the project to various schools, malls and points of interest using just the Google map. Made me look like an expert. Haha!
If you have multiple properties on your list, you can use this function to check distances this way. Mark down the condos that you find to be especially close to the desired locations, and the travel times.
(Sometimes a travel time of three to five minutes more might be overlooked, for other reasons like better facilities).
Step 4: Check Facing, Floor Plans and Layouts
You can readily obtain project information of new launches. Just check with your agent.
If you are looking at resale condo, Orangetee has a vast database of condos they have accumulated over the years.
Let me go back to the example of Leedon Green.
First thing first, check out the site plan. I will look out for a few things:
- Orientation: to see which stacks will have afternoon sun
- Facing: quiet and noisy facing, pool facing, blocked/unblocked view etc
- Distance between the blocks
- Locations of substations, bin centre, BBQ pits, tennis court etc
This part…takes a bit of experience and expertise.
You need to consider whether the layout is functional for your family needs and any potential drawbacks.
The layout above is a 1356sf three-room (exclusive) unit at Leedon Green. Notice a few things from the floor plan:
- It comes with a private lift, a nice touch. In the private lift lobby you can have your floor-to-ceiling shoe cabinet.
- The living/dining area is in a landscape orientation which gives it a sense of space, as compared to a narrow long living room.
- There are two kitchens, dry and wet…and with two refrigerators. Very obviously the layout has a big family in mind.
- There isn’t a proper helper’s room though the utility yard can become one, with some ID work.
- The balcony is rather big, stretching to bedroom 3. Some may feel this is a ‘waste’ of space. Maybe good for party? Or have the dining table in the balcony? Or install Ziptrack blinds to transform the balcony into an extended living room?
- Master Bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe. The lady of the house has her day!
- Master bathroom comes with a dual water basin, so husband and wife don’t have to fight for the use (husband will lose anyway haha!).
- Both common bedrooms can fit in queen size bed, which is the norm these days.
As it can be tough for a new home buyer to analyse the orientation and floor plans, you may need the help of an experienced agent. He/she can help point out some blind spots.
Notice I don’t just tell you to look at show flat pictures? That’s because show flat pictures are framed from certain angles, and it’s hard to get an objective sense of the space from some angles.
On the other hand, if you do want to see the show flat, but it is not possible now, the next best thing is to take a ‘virtual tour’.
Here is a sample tour for the above unit at Leedon Green (click here)
To up the game, drone views of some new launches are also available. These amazing drone views help to capture an incredible perspective that you can’t even see on the actual site. Here is an example of Jadescape’s drone view.
Step 5: Check the Transaction Histories
The URA keeps an open record of property transactions. If you’re considering a resale unit, then simply check the transaction records of the development – this will give you a sense of a fair price; as well as how much resale gains you can expect.
For new developments, you can check the property transactions of nearby developments. Note that a new development will always be priced higher than existing units; but you can still get a general sense of value for the area.
Also, note that there should be a minimum of five transactions before you take the number into account. If there are fewer than five transactions, any number you get has a higher chance to be inaccurate. For example, if only two units were sold in a development last year, and one happened to be a $4 million penthouse, it can seriously skew the average price upward.
I will do more than just looking at the transacted prices on URA website because it is too superficial. There are many other available tools that I use to dig deeper.
Sometimes clients ask me why is there such a significant price disparity between two transactions? The first thing I would check is the specific unit numbers (which URA website doesn’t show). Most of the time, it has to do with the level and facing. Merely looking at the URA data doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Besides, I also like to look at the trend, that is, upward or downward trend? Generally, if the price trend of the project is southward bound where others are northward, that would raise a red flag.
Too busy to do the research, or little clue how to get started? Let me handle this part for you, so you can get a fair price without too much headache.
Step 6: Work Out Affordability Numbers
Okay, last bit of maths, I promise you!
To purchase the property with your bank loan, you need at a minimum of:
- 20 per cent of the property value in cash and/or your CPF Ordinary Account
- Five per cent of the property value in cash
Assuming you have good credit, reasonable loan tenure, no outstanding home loans, etc., the bank can potentially finance the remaining 75 per cent. If it’s your second home loan, it drops drastically to 45 per cent!
But you do need to know how much of a down payment you can afford, and narrow down your list of properties accordingly.
Also, do note that under the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) policy, you (and any co-borrowers) cannot take on more debt than 60 per cent of your combined monthly income. So if your total combined income is $10,000, then your home loan repayment – plus any outstanding loan repayments – can’t exceed $6,000 per month.
For most Singaporeans though, the hurdle will be the cash down payment. So stay realistic when shortlisting homes.
Other considerations will be the Buyer Stamp Duty (BSD) and Additional Buyer Stamp Duty (ABSD) if it’s your second or subsequent property. You can use your CPF OA to pay for BSD, but ABSD must be in cash (no CPF or loan).
Step 7: Reference the URA Master Plan
The URA Master Plan is the most powerful tool you can use to identify the right property that will give you the best returns. Always review the URA Master Plan for the given area. This lets you know how URA has zoned the area, and what will be moving into a neighbourhood.
For example, some condo buyers feel that properties in Holland Village area are already expensive, and you’d be buying at a peak. But those who bother to check the URA Master Plan will realise there’s a Holland Village Extension Plan.
Now, you may think the prices of One Holland Village Residences are outrageously high and not worthwhile to go in. But the story doesn’t end there!
This will lead to developments like more retail and dining via mixed-use projects, and even a new road linking Holland Avenue to Holland Drive (easing traffic situations). In fact, Far East Corporation intends to double the size of Holland Village; and that means there’s still room for appreciation.
If you were to study the Master Plan carefully, you would see that there are two more plots of residential lands which add up to be almost as much as One Holland Village. One of them has a plot ratio of 4.6, which means it will be a skyscraper!
What does that mean? It means these future developments will be even higher than the current One Holland Village Residences!
So do check the URA Master Plan, to determine what the land around the property will look like in future; there are hidden investment gems to be found.
There are so much more that I cannot cover in this article (we are barely scratching the surface!).
If you do want to know in more details these 7 steps of identifying the right property for you, do get in touch with me for a non-obligatory discussion. And if you find this article helpful, share it with someone you know who is looking for a property.
Need an opinion on your property investment plans? Want to know the value of your property? Or need help to sell or rent out your property?
Get a 1-time free 30 min Property Wealth Planning consultation. Schedule one right now by using the calendar below .
A PWP consultation includes:
- An in-depth financial affordability assessment
- Highly relevant investment insights
- A clear and customised investment road map for your real estate investment journey ahead.
Danny Han has been a licensed real estate agent since 2005. He also had five years of experience as a financial consultant. The insights and knowledge he shares in his blogs are the results of years of experience in helping many of his clients in their Property Wealth Planning.
Prior to becoming a real estate agent, Danny was a full-time church pastor (don’t be shocked!) for 23 years. Even now, he is still actively involved in church work and preaches regularly. He has also made six mission trips to Myanmar to-date.
Danny is a foodie, so during his spare time he would go with his kakis to try different “CNG” (cheap and good) food. (Be sure to check out his Holland food blog in this site).
Do feel free to drop him a Whatsapp message for a non-obligatory discussion if you are planning to grow your property wealth.