Given the high cost of buying a home, many Singaporeans try to reduce costs wherever possible.

Often, this means excluding a property agent, and trusting yourself to inspect the property.

Buying a resale property without an agent might seem daunting at first. But if you follow this step-by-step guide in our latest GoBearTV episode, you’ll find that it’s easier than you imagined.


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Getting a resale property without an agent is undoubtedly a good way to save on the cost. But with or without an agent to help you through the process, you should also take extra care here’s what you should be careful to check:

Look up the transaction history for the area

To figure out whether you’re getting a fair deal, look up the price history of other homes in the vicinity. One way to do this is to check the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) transaction records.

In addition, visit property listing sites and look up prices for other units in the same development. This will give you a sense of how well the property appreciates, as well as whether you’re paying a reasonable price.

For a more thorough check, look up reviews by tenants (even if you are not planning to rent it out). The reviews will sometimes reveal complaints or faults about the property, such as irregular cleaning schedules, or constant overbooking of facilities.

Check whether there are ongoing, or recent, en-bloc attempts upon the property

Be wary of this when buying an old property, such as a development that has been around for 20 years or more.

If the property goes en-bloc within three years of you buying it, you’ll be liable to pay the Sellers Stamp Duty (SSD). This is 12% of the property value on the first year, 8% on the second year, and 4% on the third year.

Coupled with the cost of your renovations, an en-bloc within 3 years of your purchase could mean a raw deal for you. Furthermore, en-bloc negotiations can get heated, and you don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.

Check for any lawsuits against the developer

Google the name of the development, along with terms such as “sue” and “lawsuit”. Some developments, such as the The Sail and The Seaview, have attempted to take their developers to court over alleged or real defects.

You don’t want to end up buying a property with serious defects or inconveniences, which a developer refuses to rectify. Besides, the court costs will probably come out of the maintenance fund, so you’d be indirectly paying for it.

A seller may not be eager to disclose such details, so arm yourself with the relevant information. Look up the URA Master Plan

The URA Master Plan for the area tells you what sort of changes to expect over the next decade or so.

For example, the URA Master Plan shows that Paya Lebar is already being developed into a business hub, and that Punggol is slated to become a digital hub.

Of course, everything in the Master Plan will have a positive spin to it. But you must decide if the change is one that suits your specific lifestyle.

If you want to live in a quiet and laid-back neighbourhood, for instance, you may not want it to be turned into a business hub. Or you might abhor crowded malls popping up around the street corners even if it’s good for property values.

Drop by the property at different times of day

If you view the property during odd hours, such as at 2pm or 4pm, you can’t really get a sense of the noise levels and activity. Most people are out at work during this time.

Do drop by the property at hours such as 6.30pm or 9pm. You don’t have to go into the actual unit, just check the common area outside. This will reveal problems such as noisy neighbours, or traffic noises as the roads become more congested.

Another reason to visit at different times, if you go into the unit, is to note the heat levels. Some units receive a direct blast from the sun at times like noon, and can get unbearably warm.

Take note of the carpark situation if you drive

Some older resale flats have excellent locations, right next to the hawker centre or wet market.

Unfortunately, everyone gravitates toward these areas (even people from other neighbourhoods). This can sometimes result in non-residents crowding the carpark, or brazenly parking where they shouldn’t.

Sure, you can report them and they’ll get fined; but that’s of little relief to you when you’re back from work, tired, and can’t find a place to park.

This is more of a problem in the older estates, where they aren’t any multi-storey carparks. But do keep an eye open.

Check for wiring issues, pests, and plumbing problems

Starting with the kitchen and toilets (common problem areas), check that the electrical wiring is in order. Apart from testing the light switches, make sure that wall sockets all function, and that the water heaters work (run your hands under the water after the heater has been on for a few minutes).

Make sure the water pressure is right when you flush the toilet, and that the sinks don’t clog. Always open the cabinetry under the sinks, to check for leaks, rotting wood, or insects.

For ground floor units, be thorough in checking for cockroach droppings, dead bugs, or termite-eaten wood. Pests are more common in ground floor units.

Check the air-conditioners

Most sellers will turn on the air-conditioners before a viewing. If they don’t, this may be a sign that the system is broken. So always ask for the air-conditioning to be turned on in every room whenever you view a unit.

Check that the walls don’t feel clammy or damp when the air-con is on. If so, this usually means it’s too powerful for the room size, and you’ll waste money on the utility bill. Also, do check for leaks in the ceiling, or bulging paint – this usually means the pipe for the air-con is not properly insulated.

Check the condition of flooring and countertops

Some types of material, such as marble and wood, can be damaged beyond repair if it’s not cared for. Marble can be permanently stained or scuffed if it’s not properly polished, or exposed to corrosive chemicals over many years. The latter is very common on kitchen counter-tops due to years of dish washing.

Wood flooring can rot, especially in Singapore’s tropical weather. Sellers will be quick to pluck out any mushrooms, or cover rotted areas with carpets – so do check thoroughly. Pay especial attention to the wooden door frames and floors close to damp areas, such as the toilet.

Damage to these surfaces might mean you have to hack them up and replace them, which is an added cost to consider.

For condos, check the facilities

Make sure the pool is in a good state of repair, without popped tiles or deteriorating poolside furniture. The gym should have working machines, and the equipment should be accounted for (e.g. no free-weights stations that are missing a dumb bell or three).

Check if the BBQ pits are clean and useable. Also, do ask about the wait list – some older condos have too few pits for too many residents, and it’s ridiculously hard to get a reservation.

The state of the condo facilities is also a reflection on the Management Committee. Good properties are not only maintained, they are often enhanced; you may see new features the developer never put in, such as a communal theatre, or reflexology paths.

Good condo management means the property will remain liveable, and retain both rentability and value in its later years.

After all the checks…

Once you are thoroughly satisfied with what you’ve seen and checked, the next question is – which home loan should you take up?

In the case of HDB resale units, you’ll need to decide between a HDB versus bank loan. We can make the decision easier for you with this handy guide.

If you are getting a private property, the next step is to figure out which home loan you should go with. You don’t think we’ll leave you hanging there, right?

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Anonymous is a writer who contributes to GoBear articles related to personal finance and lifestyle.