Monday, January 05, 2009

Reflecting on December 2008

It is back to work again!
Before I embark on a new year, let me sum up the events of 2008.
In my earlier post, I listed the events and posts made from January to November 2008.

In December,

Attending & Photography of Weddings
my calender was rather packed with weddings to attend and also to shoot. I had a great experience being Des & Siew Khim's official wedding photographer.

New Toys
In the last few days of November 2008, I scored the "Legendary" Panasonic LUMIX-LX3 compact camera which has since been with me all the time which only inspired more people to get the best system compact camera of 2008. I posted a mini-LX3 review in the first week of December. I took it to the National Museum, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum and Marina Barrage. Sometime, in the middle of the month, I got myself a new speedlight to play with. Creative Lighting with Nikon Speedlights has never been more fun! I just had to beef up my photography accessories to cater for more fun and quality photo shoots! It sure was a wise choice to hold on body upgrades and bank in on accessory upgrades.

Viewing Resale HDB Flats
Towards the end of November, my wife and me had been actively visiting resale HDB units, thanks to Cindy, our very efficient and committed housing agent. She kept us busy on almost every weekend by bringing us to view resale HDB units. We never had the intention to buy a HDB flat yet, but just wanted to check out and learn about buying of resale units, since we have had no luck in balloting exercises. We also wanted to check out the type of flats and locations we can afford with our budget. With a budget to work with, we started off looking at a familiar neighbourhood, Ang Mo Kio. We viewed close to 12 four-room HDB flats. Among these units, there were those that required complete make-overs and those that are move-in condition. Most of them were in the original condition and state requiring a complete renovation. On average, these units were valued at an average of S$320K and asking for S$10K to S$15K above the valuation. We had our eyes on one unit which underwent major renovation such that it did not resemble a HDB flat at all. However, the cash that the owner was asking came to around $20K plus. Nevertheless, its location at the fringe of Ang Mo Kio was not ideal. From these viewings, we learnt that regardless of the condition of a flat, every owner was expecting to get some cash above the valuation. The amount was usually around S$10K, no less. We also learnt that as a first-time buyer getting a loan from HDB, stands at an advantage above those who take bank-loans and can potentially give a higher offer. However, we the recent economy downturn, banks are more prudent with housing loans which in turn resulted in many people unable to get a bank loans. Hence, we got plenty of re-offers at a lower price.
Since we never found a place in Ang Mo Kio which we fulfilled all our criteria of (1) high-level, (2) proximity to town, (3) proximity to parents, (4) convenience of public transport and (5) within budget. We requested our agent to look at other areas. We started looking at areas near Balestier Road. It sounds crazy since Balestier Road is surrounded by private properties, hence valuations for the neighbouring HDB estates such as Toa Payoh, Boon Keng, Farrer Park can easily be around S$400K! However, admist all these estates, there is one residential estate where it is still possible to find flats that are of the same valuation as flats in Ang Mo Kio! How is that possible when Ang Mo Kio is much further away from town? The reason is that this estate is very old. This estate is Whampoa. Many people will need to run a search on the internet to find out the location of Whampoa. It is actually beside Balestier Road and surrounded by Toa Payoh, Boon Keng and Novena. The flats in Whampoa have been valued lower than its neighbours but previous transactions had hit S$400K suggesting that sellers tend to ask for $60-80K cash above valuation. Nevertheless, Cindy found a some really good deals in Whampoa.
We visited a few four-room units in Whampoa. We had our eyes set on one. This unit is a four-room unit upgraded recently with a balcony that largely extended the living room. It sits on the mid-level of a 24-storey tall point block. It sure is rare to find point blocks with four-room units. The valuation of this was around $330K but the owner was looking at asking for around S$30K above valuation. In fact, we were asked to re-visit the flat for a second viewing and negotiation after a few days. Before visiting that unit again, we seeked a divination lot. Sounds crazy, but the lot actually mentioned that "the fish has yet become the whale", which interpreted that we ought to wait. Hence, on our second viewing, we refused to commit and make any higher offer. They had once missed an opportunity to sell at total of S$370K and hence they were reluctant to sell any much lower. We were more than ready to make higher offers, since we really liked that place. However, the divination lot reminded us to be patient and wait. We had to reluctantly give up on this unit.

Buying a Resale HDB Flat
Just when we though we would go back to re-visit units in Ang Mo Kio and make comprises to our criterias, Cindy found us another unit in Whampoa. The valuation and cash above valuation was around that of the previous unit. Why would we be interested? This time round, it is the neighbouring point block and located at very high floor. The unit has an excellent view of Balestier Road and beyond. The owner even bragged that CK Tang is in the view and claimed that the unit requires no renovation. Hence, we decided to visit it on a Saturday morning. This unit indeed had an impressive view at its height. CK Tang indeed appeared but as a roof above many other buildings. I had always liked urban instead of nature views. The view from this unit definitely scored the points. The couple were speculating properties and wanted to sell their flat after staying for only a year and half. Hence, the renovated condition is impressively brand new and definitely in move-in condition. The high cash above valuation now seemed reasonable as renovation costs is minimum for its excellent condition. We worked the math and realized that the cheapest four-room unit (S$320K + $10K cash) in Ang Mo Kio with a complete make-over renovation (estimated S$30K) would easily hit S$360K at the end of the day. This renovated unit in Whampoa is not anymore expensive than Ang Mo Kio. On top of that, this unit fulfilled all our criterias of (1) high-level, (2) proximity to town, (3) proximity to parents, (4) convenience of public transport and (5) within budget. We also got the benefit of the S$40K grant from HDB, which brought the total transaction price down even further! Hence, on the very same day, my parents and in-laws joined us for a second viewing in the evening. They too were delighted with the unit. A decision was made! We never expected it to be so immediate, but the opportunity presented itself and if we recall the divination lot, "the fish has became the whale"! We never thought we would get a house that soon, all these happened within the period of less than one month! Balestier Road being at my doorstep is Haven to good hawker fare. We will soon be 10 minutes walk to Mustafa Centre, no more than 40 minutes walk to Novena, Newton and then Orchard! I love the suburbans!

Getting a Mattress
So we got ourselves our nest and along comes with some very new furnitures. An essential furniture would be a bed. We were out window-shopping and decided to check out the bedding section at Robinsons. We had wanted to try out and learn more about mattress, so that in time to come when we get our keys, we can get our mattress. We tried out a few brands such as King Koil, Sealy, Four Stars and Omazz; we concluded that wanted a medium firm pillow top with pocketed springs that will have any disturbances to the partner. Among all the brands that we tried at Robinsons, King Koil and Four Stars had one which fitted our bill. Robinsons also allows us to buy now and enjoy free storage as well as 100% price protection (cash back for any price drop or change of brands). It seemed reasonable to enjoy the festive discounts and buy it now and collect later. But we thought we wanted to try out Serta, which was not available at Robinsons. The minute we stepped out of Robinsons, we saw a Serta boutique. We then tried out their mattresses and identified the Missouri, which is pocketed spring and medium firm. The Missouri was probably the best among all other mattresses, as there is miraculously no disturbances when one party toss-and-turn on the bed. The prices of the mattresses that we saw were all around the same. The bundle deal from Serta includes standard gifts: (1) Serta mattress protector, (2) 2 cotton pillows and (3) Serta sheep plush toy (haven't heard of Serta sheeps? see here). On top of the standard gifts, there is one premium gift to select from (1) bedside bench, (2) long pillow, (3) 2 latex pillows or (4) Serta bedlinen. Since my wife uses only support pillows, we gave up the standard gift cotton pillows and the iconic Serta sheep and exchanged for another premium gift, bedside bench. We thought it was a good deal, since the additional beside bench can serve as a piece of furniture for another room. Furthermore, Serta allows buyers to order their mattresses and hold for one year before delivery. We decided to give ourselves sometime and visit other bedding showrooms at CK Tangs and Takashimaya Shopping Centre. We visited Takashimaya S.C. just before its closing time. We learnt that Takashimaya S.C. sells Serta mattress that are of the high-end range and has their own Takashimaya-only models. We found a cheaper but better model to the Missouri, the Sacramento mattress. This model is specially made for Takashimaya S.C. and not found on the website. We got to make use of our Takashimaya discounts and existing promotions to bring the price down lower and got the similar bundle. At the end of the day, we bought our mattress on a day which we never expected. We got the Serta Sacramento mattress with 8% discount off the already offer price, Serta mattress protector, 2 premium gifts bedside benches, S$50 Takashimaya vouchers and a chance to win an LCD TV.

December 2008 was indeed a month where the most unexpected things taking place. My wife and I are definitely fast forwarding to building a family of our own. It sure was a busy month but a fulfilling way to end the year. We were definitely pleased at the way it has been and sure look forward to our new life in the new year!


Laurens said...

Wah,spontaneous mattress BBB!!!

Shaun said...

Congrats to you and Fiona, pro bro, definitely the coolest score of your year. :)

ber said...

so fast buy mattress liao... how about bedframe? the serta sheep can display on ur bed next time.. how much u all bought at? I got my simmons at 2500+.. can't recall the exact price.

now is to wait for Aussino or Robinsons sales to get the bedsheets.