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Old 13-04-2009, 11:20 PM   #1546
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$658,000 for Tiong Bahru flat

Smoking hot HDB resale market presents opportune moment to upgrade or make a tidy profit. -myp


Mon, Apr 13, 2009
my paper

BY DARYLL NANAYAKARA

A FIVE-ROOM flat at Block 131B, Kim Tian Road, fetched a princely $658,000 on the resale market recently - more than what it may cost to get a private apartment in Loyang.


Over at Queenstown and Ghim Moh, the HDB resale market is similarly smoking hot: A five-room flat in Queenstown commanded $600,000 while another in Ghim Moh cost $650,000.

These flats are not short on amenities either: they are near food haunts, schools, MRT stations, swimming and sports complexes and a short ride from town.

As the price differentials between HDB flats and condominium apartments narrow, property companies told my paper that this is the best time for flat dwellers dreaming of an upgrade, or flat sellers hoping to make a tidy profit, to get in on the act.

While prices for private homes have plunged by 13.8 per cent in the first quarter this year, the price tags of resale HDB units have remained largely unaffected.

PropNex's corporate communications manager, Mr Adam Tan, said this was due to strong demand for resale flats.

He explained: 'The overall continued strong demand for resale flats stems from the fact that there are no more surplus flats with HDB and resale flats present a viable option for people who are unable to wait for projects under construction.'

So does this slump in the economy present an opportune moment to switch to private properties? The answer is a resounding yes.

'For people with the means, now is an excellent time...given that the gap between the price indices of the two is at its narrowest,' Mr Tan explained.
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Old 15-04-2009, 02:40 PM   #1547
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April 8, 2009
Months waiting and still no repair works in sight
THREE years ago, the residents in the Housing Board flat below ours reported a water leak in the ceiling of their toilet. The HDB officer checked our kitchen toilet and recommended a new layer of plaster to solve the problem.
In a matter of weeks, repairs were completed, but another problem cropped up - drainage. A second round of repairs improved the water flow.

In November last year, a few of the toilet tiles emitted a cracking sound and when the HDB officer checked, we were told that the tiles had been dislodged. A new contractor checked the problem the following week, after which we were told to wait for repairs.

A few months on, we are still waiting. After my husband's repeated calls to the HDB without success, I decided to phone the HDB officer on March 23.

I was told that the office had asked for a new contractor to be assigned. I called again a week later and this time, the HDB asked for an extension as it had sent a warning letter to the contractor.

It has been a week since, but we are still waiting. Do we also have to keep on calling the HDB?

Chai Mooi Kean (Mdm)
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Old 15-04-2009, 03:27 PM   #1548
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April 9, 2009
Rental-scam cheat conned 127 people
He is jailed for collecting deposits from them and then disappearing




By Esther Tan
PAYBACK time has come in the form of a jail term for a serial rental con artist.
The ruse of Eric Heng Jit Siang was to pose as the owner of a property seeking to rent it out, milking the tenant of a deposit on the rent, and then pulling a disappearing act.

Using both landed properties and flats he had rented, the 33-year-old conned 127 people, mainly foreigners and permanent residents, out of more than $242,500 in rental deposits between last April and January.

For doing this, he was yesterday put behind bars for six years and three months.

He pleaded guilty to 40 counts of deception and three of other crimes.

The court heard that he rented 10 properties across the island, got the keys to them and then placed advertisements in newspapers and train stations seeking tenants.

When people responded to his advertisements, he posed as the owner of these properties and arranged to show them the units.

When the tenancy agreement was signed - and each unit was 'rented' out to more than one house-hunter - he collected money from each of them as a deposit on the rental or the utility bill.

The victims found out that they had been taken for a ride only when they realised on moving day that they were not the only ones who had 'rented' the place.

This was Heng's cue to make himself scarce.

Mr Amit Gurung, a 26-year-old graduate student at a private school, told The Straits Times yesterday that he paid Heng $2,800 to rent a flat in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 last August.

Everything seemed plausible then. The Nepalese said: 'He introduced me to his wife and daughter. He said he wanted to rent out the flat because they were going to stay with his mother as she was ill.'

Three weeks later, as he was cleaning the unit before moving in, he had visits by no fewer than six people, all claiming to have rented the flat from Heng. They had the keys too.

Unable to reach Heng on his cellphone, Mr Gurung went to the police.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Moses Tan pushed for a deterrent sentence, saying the offences were 'deliberate' and not committed in 'a moment of folly'.

In sentencing, District Judge Eddy Tham reprimanded Heng: 'What you have done is despicable. It has caused a lot of anxieties to these people.'

Heng, jobless at the time of his offences, was also fined $600 for driving without a valid driving licence.

He was arrested in February after having been on the run since last year.

None of the victims has got his money back. Mr Gurung said he is not banking on it.

No official data on rental scams exists, but the Consumers Association of Singapore said it has handled a steadily rising number of cases involving rental disputes, including misleading claims or misrepresentation.

The figures were 123 in 2006, 177 in 2007 and 231 last year. There have been 57 cases so far this year.

Last December, a Malaysian couple and a Japanese expatriate apparently lost $10,300 in all to a bogus property manager-cum-landlord of a terrace house in Serangoon.

Two agents from property agency ERA were apparently also duped by the man. It is not known whether he is still in hiding.
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Old 15-04-2009, 03:30 PM   #1549
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April 9, 2009
Condo-style HDB flats: Peak price of $722k
By Joyce Teo
WILL house hunters spend more than $700,000 on a premium HDB flat with some condo-style features in Toa Payoh?
A Hoi Hup-led consortium is about to find out after offering premium five-room flats at its new The Peak project for up to $722,000.

Analysts question whether HDB flat buyers will bite, given that they are constrained by an $8,000-a-month income ceiling and are dealing with a recession.

Next Wednesday, The Peak @ Toa Payoh, boasting 1,203 units in two 42-storey blocks and three 40-storey blocks, will be launched.

The project, at Lorong 1A Toa Payoh, comes under the design, build and sell scheme (DBSS), and offers premium fittings. But unlike private condominiums, these projects do not have facilities such as pools and gyms.

The smallest units - 95 of them - are the 753 sq ft three-room flats. They are priced from $355,000 to $398,000.

The 306 four-room flats of 980 sq ft will go for $468,000 to $582,000.

The next rung up the price ladder are the five-room flats, which mostly go for $539,000 to $698,000, and range from 1,184 sq ft to 1,259 sq ft.

The priciest of the lot are the 24 five-room high-ceiling flats costing between $700,000 and $722,000.

The developer - a group comprising Hoi Hup Realty, Sunway Development and Hoi Hup J.V. Development - said the flats are about $500 per sq ft (psf) to $510 psf on average. A quick calculation shows the price can go up to $594 psf.

A spokesman said The Peak is near Toa Payoh MRT station. And like the earlier City View DBSS project by the same group, The Peak offers an exclusive touch with a card-access security system at all ground-floor lift lobbies.

Buyers will also get large bay windows, Daikin air-conditioning units, built-in kitchen cabinets and wardrobes.

Still, industry watchers note that for the same price, buyers are spoilt for choice in the current market. Experts have said DBSS projects have to be priced lower than private flats as they are essentially HDB flats. They face restrictions such as an income cap, an ethnic quota and a minimum occupation period.

'Toa Payoh is a mature estate but in the current economy, there will be resistance at above $500,000,' PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said yesterday.

Resale five-room flats in the area now cost about $450,000 on average while three-roomers go for $260,000 to $270,000 on average, though the latter are more than 30 years of age, he added.

Knight Frank research and consultancy director Nicholas Mak said The Peak's prices are comparable to those of resale executive condos (EC), which have condo facilities but also face public housing sale restrictions.

For just over $700,000, buyers can buy a private but older 99-year resale condo unit nearby, added Mr Mak.

For the same price as a five-room flat, they can buy a resale EC unit at a more distant location. In the first quarter, 94 EC deals were done at $579,000 on average.

The Peak is the fifth DBSS project. The sixth, in Simei, is expected to be released for sale soon.

Last year, three such projects were launched. City View in Boon Keng, Park Central @ AMK, and Natura Loft in Bishan have since sold the bulk of their units. The latest of the lot, Natura Loft, was launched late last year and has about 30 per cent left to sell, said developer QingJian Realty. Its five-roomers are already half sold, it said.

DBSS projects are now sandwiched in a narrowing gap between HDB resale flat prices and private condo prices.

'DBSS flats will be relevant again when the gap widens. In the meantime, these developers will just have to do the best they can,' said Mr Mak.
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Old 22-04-2009, 09:05 AM   #1550
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April 10, 2009
Relook eligibility criteria for renting out HDB flats
PRICES of HDB resale flats have been high for some time and there are no clear signs of them falling, despite the poor economy.
One reason for these high prices is that HDB flats are rented out. Many people, especially young couples, apply for flats with the sole intention of renting them out.

The idea is simple. Convert illiquid Central Provident Fund savings to liquid cash. Most of the time, the rental income is not only undeclared, but is also used to finance a lifestyle people could not otherwise afford. This includes cars, maids, overseas holidays and frivolous purchases of branded goods.

The underlying philosophy of HDB is to make basic housing available to all Singaporeans at a subsidised price. When people abuse this privilege, many genuine buyers, whose sole intention is to put a roof over their heads, are priced out.

People who want to rent out their properties should look at private properties, where prices reflect supply and demand. Otherwise, this is akin to misuse of public funds.

Other than allowing retirees to rent out their flats and rooms, I see no reason to allow rental of HDB flats.

HDB should relook its rules on eligibility to rent out its flats, and come down hard on those who make illegal and undeclared income from doing so without approval.

Ng Kwong Yee
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Old 22-04-2009, 09:40 AM   #1551
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April 15, 2009
Timing's everything for upgraders
HDB residents buying a condo unit have to do their sums carefully

By Jessica Cheam
IN THE midst of Singapore's worst recession, people are still buying property.
Private condominium sales reached a recent high of 1,323 units in February - the highest since the 1,731 units sold in August 2007, which was the peak of the recent property bull run.

And though official figures are not yet available, the buying frenzy seems to have continued into March.

According to a recent report by DTZ Research, seven out of 10 buyers in the first quarter of this year are HDB upgraders.

This is a jump from the 48 per cent registered in the fourth quarter last year, and the highest number since the 86 per cent achieved in the second quarter of 2002.

HDB upgraders are home buyers with HDB addresses looking to move up the property ladder. They typically buy into mass-market condos, usually in the suburbs.

Experts say the recent brisk sales indicate a 'pent-up demand' in the market, especially from buyers who held back during the recent property boom, when prices skyrocketed in 2006 to 2007.

They also point to a unique phenomenon that occurs in a property boom-and -bust cycle where the gap between the price of HDB resale flats and mass market condos has narrowed to an all-time low.

Private property prices fell a quarterly record of 13.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the marginal 0.6 per cent drop for HDB resale flats.

This means that HDB flat owners own an asset that has appreciated to more or less record value, at a time when the prices of mid-tier condos have dropped to affordable levels.

Now, the jump from public to private home ownership has always been a tantalising proposition.

But is this really the right time for an HDB upgrader to buy?

The answer, say property experts, depends on two things - when the condo unit the upgrader is buying will be completed, and what view he takes of the Singapore property market over the next couple of years.

Let me explain.

Unlike an investor who is buying for rental yield, the HDB upgrader typically moves out of his HDB flat and into his new condo unit. This means that he sells his flat only when the new condo unit is completed and ready for occupation.

Therefore, it makes the most sense for an upgrader today to buy a completed unit - because he can sell his flat now for a relatively high price and buy the new private condo unit on the cheap.

The problem is that there aren't many completed suburban developments on the market. Most new condos approaching completion today are in the prime districts, which were the focus of the property boom two years ago.

And the handful of suburban developments that are close to completion aren't that attractively priced, so the HDB upgrader isn't getting that good a deal on them.

The fact is: The cheapest suburban condo units today are those being sold 'off plan', meaning that they will be completed only two or three years later.

For HDB upgraders who buy these types of condo units, the fact that they can currently can get a good price for their HDB flats is moot, because they will sell their flats only two or three years down the road.

That brings me to the second point that HDB upgraders must consider before signing on the dotted line.

What will the global economy and the Singapore property market look like in two or three years' time, when these projects are due for completion?

Home buyers today can no longer rely on the now-defunct deferred payment scheme introduced in 1997. This allowed buyers to pay a 10 or 20 per cent downpayment, and defer taking a bank loan until the project was completed.

Developers have replaced this with the 'interest absorption scheme'. Here, the buyer also pays an initial 20 per cent downpayment and defers the rest until the property is completed.

But the big difference now is that the minute buyers commit to a property, they have to take a loan with a bank which the developer has selected. The developer then foots the bill for the buyer in interest payments to the bank during the construction period.

This arrangement carries new risks for the home buyer.

Firstly, if a developer goes under, it will no longer be able to pay the regular interest payments and the bank will go to the buyer for these payments.

This seems quite an unlikely scenario in Singapore as developers who offer this scheme generally have the financial muscle to ride out the tough times. Still, the risk of this happening is higher with smaller developers.

Secondly, the bank reserves the right to revalue a property at any point during the construction, or when the project is completed.

So if the property market heads further south, a bank may revalue properties downwards. This means that it will likely reduce the sum it had earlier agreed to lend to the buyer, who will then have to stump up a hefty sum of cash to make up the difference.

On the one hand, experts say banks are unlikely to revalue properties as long as buyers are able to make the monthly payments. Unlike high-end properties where prices could crash in as little as three months, prices of suburban units are less volatile, say analysts.

But on the other hand, if the market really crashes, HDB upgraders could be hit by a double whammy. They will have to fork out more cash to top up their loans at a time when the values of their resale flats would most likely have crashed along with the general market. And if they back out of buying the new flat, they will lose a 20 per cent deposit.

In the worst-case scenario, they could be saddled with two mortgages for properties, both in negative equity.

Such an optimistic gamble on the future is not for the faint-hearted nor the financially prudent, especially when unemployment is hitting a record high.

But if an HDB upgrader truly has the financial strength to hold on to his properties indefinitely for the long term, it could be a gamble that will pay off when the market finally recovers.

These are sums that one must do carefully, no matter how beautiful and attractive floor plans and showflats now look.
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Old 22-04-2009, 10:27 AM   #1552
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April 16, 2009
Home sales remain strong
More than 1,000 private homes sold for the second month in a row in March


By Joyce Teo
THE bumper private property sales recorded in February were no fluke.
For a second straight month, home hunters defied the weakening economy to buy more than 1,000 units last month.

Property consultants say buyers are attracted to what they regard as good buys in the moderately priced mass market.

Still, they warn that these strong buying levels are probably not sustainable.

Last month, property developers sold 1,220 new private homes, just shy of the 1,332 units sold in February.

It was the first time in over a year that the market has seen two consecutive months with more than 1,000 units sold. Sales for both months were a stunning contrast to the dismal 108 in January.

Another striking figure: First-quarter new private home sales hit 2,660 units, representing 62 per cent of all new homes sold during the whole of last year.

February sales - boosted mainly by two new launches Alexis and Caspian - were the highest since August 2007.

Figures compiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority also showed 832 new housing units were launched last month, compared with 1,072 units in February and just 204 units in January.

Most units sold last month were in the mass market, along with a few city-fringe small-format apartments at condominiums such as Domus and The Mercury.

HDB upgraders were the hottest group of buyers. CBRE Research said that last month alone, they bought 550 to 600 units at mass market projects such as Caspian, Double Bay Residences, Kovan Residences, Livia, Mi Casa and The Quartz at median prices of $610 per sq ft (psf) to $740 psf.

A survey of first-quarter caveats lodged for this market segment indicated an average price of $695,000, said CBRE Research executive director Li Hiaw Ho. 'This is probably a good time for HDB home owners to upgrade to private property as the price gap between private properties and HDB resale flats has narrowed.'

Said Colliers International director for research and advisory Tay Huey Ying: 'Developers have lowered their price expectations for new launches and generally cut prices of unsold units. Buyers are biting as there is pent-up demand.'

The top three sellers in March were Double Bay Residences, Mi Casa and The Arte. About 85 per cent of units sold last month were priced below $1,000 psf, said PropNex chief executive Mohd Ismail.

The high-end showed some life with 70 units launched and some sales, including one Orchard Scotts unit at $2,220 psf.

But overall, only 100 prime units were launched in the first quarter, or just 4.7 per cent of all units launched, well down from the 39.4 per cent of all units launched in the fourth quarter last year.

Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said this was partly due to the retreat of foreigners from the luxury market.

Preliminary data suggests foreign deals stood at 16.8 per cent in the first quarter - a level last seen when Sars badly hit the market in 2003, he said.

Market analysts say it is a good start to the year, but they do not expect the strong buying to continue long-term.

'In the short term, this rate of buying can continue provided developers lower or maintain their prices,' Chesterton Suntec International's research and consultancy head Colin Tan said of March sales.

But in the long term, it is not sustainable, he said. 'The last time the market sold so many new units (14,811 units) was in 2007. That was when the deferred payment scheme was available. And it has since caused indigestion in the top end of the market.'

Unless the Singapore economy and employment market improve significantly this year, only 6,000 to 7,000 new private homes are expected to be sold, said Mr Mak.

He said healthy demand for mass market homes is likely to continue only as long as average HDB resale prices do not fall by more than 7 per cent year on year.

'Many in the mass market segment are buying now and banking on their future earnings to service their loans as they are afraid of missing the boat,' said Mr Mak.


April 16, 2009
HDB prices on their way down
One-third of sales in the first quarter at or below valuation




By Jessica Cheam
GOOD news for home buyers eyeing the resale flat market: About one-third of HDB sales in the first quarter were struck at or below the flat's valuation price.
The level in some areas was far higher. In Sengkang, for instance, up to three in four five-room flats sold by ERA Asia Pacific were done at or below valuation.

This means those buyers did not need upfront cash to buy their dream home.

Analysts say the trend indicates HDB flat prices are now coming down at a quicker rate after holding up better than many private residential properties.

In the recent market boom, many sellers sought prices well above valuation - a figure set by an independent valuer.

Buyers can use Central Provident Fund savings to pay for a flat only up to its valuation amount. They must stump up cash for any premium they pay above valuation.

The property agencies surveyed by The Straits Times, HSR Property Group, PropNex, ERA Asia Pacific and C&H Realty - which together account for almost the entire HDB market - said a significant 30 per cent to 40 per cent of first-quarter sales were done at or below valuation.

The agencies' data showed prices crumbling for bigger flats such as five-roomers and executive flats. In Clementi, for instance, a five-room flat was sold for $70,000 below valuation at $500,000, while an executive flat in Tampines sold for $65,000 below its valuation at $515,000.

Industry observers say the HDB market, whose price trends typically lag behind those of the private sector, is finally reflecting the weakened economy.

Recent flash estimates showed HDB prices dipped 0.6 per cent in the first three months, compared with the fourth quarter of last year. It is the first fall since 2006.

Demand for resale flats has eased as the recession bites, while the HDB has been ramping up the supply of new flats, said Chesterton Suntec International head of research and consultancy Colin Tan. Home buyers also have more options now as prices of mass market condominiums are more affordable, he added.

ERA associate director Eugene Lim said home hunters were reluctant to pay more than $500,000 for HDB flats.

'The longer these highly priced flats stay on the market, the more over-exposed they become. Consequently, some had to be sold at big discounts due to buyer resistance,' he added.

The balance of power has now clearly shifted from sellers to buyers, with analysts saying this could be the time for buyers to do some bargain-hunting.

ERA's first-quarter data showed that in locations such as Sengkang, a whopping 74 per cent of transactions for five-roomers were done at or below valuation. In Tampines, they accounted for 55 per cent while, at Jurong West, it was 42 per cent.

Even for smaller flat types like three-roomers in Ang Mo Kio and four-roomers at Woodlands, 42 per cent to 44 per cent of sales were at or below valuation.

Experts point out that while more flats are now selling below valuation, this does not mean people are selling at a loss as HDB prices rose a hefty 31.2 per cent in the property boom of the past two years. But first-time buyers, priced out of the resale market during the boom, will now find the flats more affordable.

The current discounts to valuation will eventually diminish when valuations catch up, which usually takes three months, said Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak.

But there is a possibility of valuations and price falls chasing each other, further eroding prices, he said.
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Old 22-04-2009, 10:54 AM   #1553
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April 16, 2009
The Peak piques interest of 4,500 potential buyers
POTENTIAL buyers yesterday thronged the showroom for The Peak @ Toa Payoh, a new project built under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS).
Four thousand five hundred viewers turned up at the showroom at yesterday's launch, said Ms Kellie Liew, executive director of projects at HSR Property Group, the marketing agent for The Peak.

Most were keen on four- to five-room flats, citing location and HDB grants as factors influencing their decision.

Ms Cerise Chiew, 24, a teacher, hopes to buy a five-room unit. 'I can get a first-timer HDB grant. Toa Payoh is quite a good location and, if you want to sell in the future, you can get a higher price.'

Service crew member Sharon Ye, 26, was looking at four- and five-room units for her cousin. She said DBSS projects trumped private properties, as owning a private property meant losing out on many benefits, like Public Utilities Board bill rebates and town council subsidies.

Salesman Sam Tan, 38, was considering applying for a four-room flat to be near his mother. He is also eligible for a first-timer grant. He said he would pick a DBSS unit over one in a condominium since he would not use condo facilities, such as a swimming pool or a gym, but would still have to pay maintenance fees.

A few property hunters drew a comparison with Natura Loft, a DBSS project in Bishan, saying prices at The Peak were lower and the location more accessible. But some were not as convinced, including businessman Richard Lim, 37. 'I'm not going to buy because the room size is very small. I can get a 99-year condo unit for about the same price but bigger.'

Interested buyers have until April 28 to apply for the 1,203 available units.
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Old 22-04-2009, 11:44 AM   #1554
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April 17, 2009
Simei condo-style flats: No balloting
360 four- and five-room DBSS units can be booked on the spot


An artist's impression of the Parc Lumiere development under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme. The project will offer condo-style fittings but not facilities

By Joyce Teo
A NEW condo-style estate being launched by the Housing Board will allow buyers to secure a flat on the spot and not have to join a ballot like for other Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) projects.
Parc Lumiere at Simei Road will have 120 four-room flats and 240 five-room units. The four-roomers, of 1,012 sq ft each, are priced at between $378,000 and $425,000. The five-roomers range from 1,152 sq ft to 1,195 sq ft and are priced at between $462,000 and $575,000. The average price is $425 per sq ft (psf).

The walk-in selection sale starts with a viewing period from tomorrow for buyers to check out the showflats and enquire about eligibility. Booking on a first-come, first-served basis starts next Tuesday. The executive director of developer Sim Lian Group, Ms Diana Kuik, said the booking date may be brought forward if there is strong interest.

Parc Lumiere will have eight 12-storey blocks and an elevated landscape deck. Like other DBSS projects, it offers condo-style fittings such as bay windows and balconies, built-in wardrobes and kitchen cabinets. But unlike condominiums, DBSS projects do not have facilities such as pools and barbecue pits.

The Peak @ Toa Payoh, a DBSS project with 1,203 units, was launched on Wednesday for sale via the balloting system. Buyers have until April 28 to apply.

DBSS projects are public housing and so are subject to rules for new HDB flats. For instance, only those who earn $8,000 or less a month can buy them.

Because DBSS homes are sandwiched in a narrowing price gap between private condominiums and HDB flats, experts have cited a $500,000 price point as the resistance level for such homes.

Real estate company PropNex's chief executive Mohamed Ismail Gafoor said there may be some buyer resistance for the Parc Lumiere five-roomers.

Other DBSS projects like Natura Loft in Bishan and Park Central in Ang Mo Kio still have units available for sale.

Recent DBSS projects take into account peak HDB prices because the developers had bought their land when the market was still fairly strong, Mr Ismail said. Sim Lian bought the Simei site last June for $137 psf of potential gross floor area.

Mr Ismail said four- and five-room flats in Simei are now valued at around $350 psf. If buyers do not mind an older flat, they can get a five-room unit nearer the Simei MRT station for the price of a four-room DBSS flat, he said.

Ms Kuik said Sim Lian should be able to complete Parc Lumiere by the first half of 2011. The developer was behind Singapore's first DBSS project, the 616-unit Premiere @ Tampines, which drew nearly 6,000 applications in late 2006.
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Old 22-04-2009, 01:21 PM   #1555
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April 18, 2009
Early birds flock to Parc Lumiere
Developer says it may open bookings today if queue grows longer

By Joanna Seow
HUNDREDS of potential buyers queued overnight at the Parc Lumiere site in Simei hoping to secure one of the new condo-like apartments that are not due to go on sale until next Tuesday.
An estimated 200 people had joined the line by 5pm, hoping to land a unit in the latest project developed under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS).

Buyers do not have to chance a ballot like in usual DBSS developments but can book a unit on the spot. The average selling price at the Parc Lumiere is $425 per sq ft.

Two tents sheltering rows of chairs have been set up outside the project's show flat - one for those interested in 'booking' a flat and one for those who want a viewing.

The booking tent was teeming with interested buyers yesterday.

Developer Sim Lian Group, which brought in extra cooling units and gave those queuing free lunches, planned to start bookings on Tuesday but may end up opening bookings today if the queue lengthens.

'I'm overwhelmed,' said Sim Lian executive director Diana Kuik. 'We didn't expect them to come on Friday before seeing the show flat.'

The walk-in-selection process - a first for new flats in recent years - involves a basic pre-screening process while certain conditions must be met before buyers can book a unit.

They must then pay a deposit of 5 per cent of the purchase price. The final confirmation of a buyer's eligibility will be determined by the HDB.

Flats will be booked on a first-come first-served basis, which is why potential buyers like Ms Florence Lim turned up at 8am yesterday.

The assistant sales manager, who is in her 40s, took leave to queue and was intending to stay overnight, taking turns with her husband and son. She was first in line and hopes to get a five-room flat.

'I've aimed here for a long time, ever since I applied for The Premiere (at Tampines) but was unsuccessful,' she said.

Ms Queena Tan, 30, who works in advertising, said she preferred a new DBSS unit to a resale HDB flat, adding: 'I like this area as it's rather peaceful and accessible.'

Ms Tan and her fiance will take turns to queue and they plan to stay in line until the booking period begins, even if it is not brought forward to today from next Tuesday.

'With the upcoming university and the development of Changi Business Park, we expect increases in the prices of houses in this area. That's why we feel it is a good investment,' she added.

Some in the queue jumped at the chance to buy a flat that did not require too much extra work.

'We want the balcony and the fittings, and it's in move-in condition so we don't need to fork out extra to renovate,' said bank executive Cheong C. H., 30.

Ms Kuik of Sim Lian believes the small number of units available - 240 five-roomers and 120 four-room units - 'maybe makes some buyers anxious'.

'There could also be some pent-up demand as there have been no new HDB flats in Simei and Tampines for the past 12 years, with the exception of The Premiere @ Tampines,' she said.

Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said the strong response 'is another indication that the buying interest in the mass market is still quite buoyant'.

He added that the purchasing power of some first-time buyers may limit the take-up rate of the four- and five-room flats.

'It's going to be interesting, seeing as there are no three-room flats. Four-room flats will probably sell quite well but five-room flats may need some demand from HDB upgraders.'

The four-roomers at 1,012 sq ft each are priced at between $378,000 and $425,000. Five-room flats range from 1,152 to 1,195 sq ft and are priced at between $462,000 and $575,000 each.

March sales of private homes revealed that HDB upgraders were the most active group of buyers. It may be that this group is also interested in DBSS projects, which offer condo-like fittings at what is perceived to be a slightly lower price.
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Old 22-04-2009, 01:58 PM   #1556
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April 19, 2009
Punggol Waterway built by teamwork
By Aaron Low
When Mr Samuel Ng heard in 2007 that the Government had plans to transform Punggol Town into a vibrant waterfront town, he could not wait for the makeover.
Yesterday, Mr Ng, 52, a Punggol resident for the last seven years, glimpsed the future at the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Punggol Waterway.

'The waterway will breathe new life and add vibrancy to this sleepy town,' he said. 'It will just be a stone's throw from where I live.'

But the waterway could have been a lost opportunity - if not for the spirit of innovation and teamwork between the Housing Board and Public Utilities Board, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Indeed, he said the growth of Punggol, like Singapore itself, shows how citizens working as one with 'vision, determination and innovation can overcome the odds to build new communities and radically transform our living environment'.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr Teo said the transformation of Punggol, an old fishing village, mirrors the experience of Singapore. The nation itself was a fishing village before it made the quantum leap to global city.

In the case of Punggol, the waterway was initially meant to be a 'drain' connecting Sungei Serangoon and Sungei Punggol at each end of Punggol Town.

But when the PUB engineers and the HDB planners discussed the town's development in the Punggol 21 masterplan, they spied an opportunity to build Punggol around this new waterway, he said.

The result? A 4.2km waterway which will flow beside 21,000 units of new public and private housing.

Cutting right through Punggol Town, the waterway is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Then residents in Punggol and around Singapore can dine alfresco while overlooking the waterway. They can jog on scenic routes, and enjoy watersports such as kayaking.

Praising the HDB and PUB, he said the Government's long-term planning and ability to act on these plans is a key reason for Singapore's success.

'Anyone can have big plans,' he said. 'But working our plan, getting it executed effectively and efficiently is not so easily accomplished.'

Also important is the readiness to modify a plan to suit changing circumstances and to seek synergy, he said, 'while remaining connected to the ground - listening to and attending to our people'.

Indeed, yesterday he invited the people of Punggol to name the waterway.

He was joined by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan. Also present were Mr Teo's fellow Pasir-Ris Punggol MPs - Mr Charles Chong, Ms Penny Low, Dr Ahmad Magad and Mr Michael Palmer - plus Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Lam Pin Min.

Mr Teo said the new-look Punggol is part of the larger transformation of Singapore's physical landscape that will take place over the next few years.

With the Double Helix Bridge at Marina Bay, the Gardens by the Bay and the integrated resorts being planned and built, the downtown will be rejuvenated.

Similarly, the heartlands will be spruced up, he said. Amenities will be added, such as bigger shopping malls, new hospitals and more luxurious public housing.

On Friday, Mr Mah invited Singaporeans to discover the changes all over the island, including Punggol. They can join a series of events named My New Singapore.

Said Mr Teo: 'We will press on with our efforts to remake our homeland, thus ensuring that Singapore will emerge stronger from the economic downturn when the global economy recovers.'
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Old 22-04-2009, 02:39 PM   #1557
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200 sign up for HDB's Lease Buyback Scheme
Proceeds used to pay for annuity from CPF Board


HOW THE HDB SCHEME WORKS
Who qualifies?

Singaporeans who own three-room or smaller HDB flats where the remaining mortgage is $5,000 or lower.
They must be aged 62 or older, have a household income of $3,000 or less and owned the flat for at least five years.
They must not own or have owned a larger property. Also, they must have received only one housing subsidy.
What they get

A monthly payout that can range from $470 to $800, depending on their age and the flat's market value.
A $10,000 subsidy: $5,000 in cash and $5,000 towards the Central Provident Fund annuity.
If the owner dies before his remaining lease runs out, his family gets a refund of the balance and the unused annuity.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By Zakir Hussain
DRAWN by the promise of an income for life, caretaker Adali Sadap, 74, was one of several Ang Mo Kio residents who signed up for the HDB's Lease Buyback Scheme yesterday.
About 200 elderly Singaporeans in all have taken up the offer since its launch last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a roadshow pitching the scheme to his constituents.

Those who qualify will sell to the Housing Board (HDB) the tail-end of their lease at market rate, and the proceeds will be used to buy an annuity from the Central Provident Fund Board.

This annuity could give Mr Adali and his wife, who is 69, a total of about $600 a month throughout their life.

'I consulted my family, and they all feel the scheme is beneficial to us,' said the father of 11 who bought his three-room flat in 1981 for $21,900.

It is now worth $248,000, he said, adding that he makes about $600 a month as a mosque caretaker.

The rise in value of HDB homes over time was also noted by Mr Lee in his speech at Nanyang Polytechnic to some 1,000 elderly constituents.

He said the Lease Buyback Scheme was possible because of Singapore's highly successful home ownership programme.

'Even now, in an economic downturn, everybody not only has a roof over their heads, but a property which has appreciated in value over the years,' he noted.

Indeed, some owners of larger HDB homes have asked to be included in the scheme, which is only for owners of three-room or smaller flats.

The Government could consider it later, said Mr Lee, adding that for now, it wants to focus on those who need the scheme most.

The HDB estimates that about 25,000 households qualify for the scheme now.

Around 2,800 are in Ang Mo Kio GRC, and another 800 are in neighbouring Yio Chu Kang, said the Prime Minister.

But he advised the families not to rush into the scheme, saying it was but one option of unlocking their flat's value while keeping a roof over their heads.

'We are not pushing this scheme on residents,' he said, explaining that it was part of the national effort to help the elderly enjoy life in their sunset years without a heavy burden on their shoulders.

Other options to consider include selling or renting their flat and living with their children or renting out a room.

A three-room flat could rent for $1,500 a month, even now, while a room could yield $500 to $600 a month: 'Not bad,' noted Mr Lee.

He urged residents such as retiree G. Yap, 69, who lives alone, to take their time. 'One day, if you need to do it, the scheme will still be there,' he said.

Madam Yap, whose two children live abroad, said: 'I may have to move to an old-age home later, so maybe I should have more cash in hand.

'I have to do my maths first, but it is an attractive scheme.'

Yesterday's session was an HDB effort to explain the scheme, and it has spread the word to about 80 per cent of eligible households. The first group of successful applicants can expect to get the first cash payout next month.
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Old 22-04-2009, 03:04 PM   #1558
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Harassed resident seeks more police aid
I REFER to last Friday's article, 'Loan shark harassment cases rise sharply'.
My experience with police action on loan sharks has been frustrating.

I bought my flat in November last year and in six months, I have been harassed by loan sharks six times. They wrote 'O$P$' messages on the walls of my block and in the lift, and splashed paint on both my door and my neighbour's door.

Apparently, several loan sharks are looking for the previous owner of my flat, who has disappeared. Not even the sales agent or the police can contact her.

After each incident, I filed a police report and was referred to the investigating officer (IO). I have followed police advice to post a note to the loan sharks and install closed-circuit television, but the harassment has continued.

I have even called the loan sharks who left their numbers to tell them they are going after the wrong person and that I have filed a police report, but this does not scare them.

I am frustrated at the helplessness of the police, especially on these points:

The IO has never spoken to me. I have tried to call him many times - to no avail. Last week, I called every day, only to find that he and his backup are on leave.
There is supposedly a dedicated unit to tackle loan-shark cases, but I have not heard from it.
It is also surprising that the police cannot track the previous flat owner.
Stephanie Joan Yiu Chua (Ms)
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Old 22-04-2009, 03:05 PM   #1559
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Harassed resident seeks more police aid
I REFER to last Friday's article, 'Loan shark harassment cases rise sharply'.
My experience with police action on loan sharks has been frustrating.

I bought my flat in November last year and in six months, I have been harassed by loan sharks six times. They wrote 'O$P$' messages on the walls of my block and in the lift, and splashed paint on both my door and my neighbour's door.

Apparently, several loan sharks are looking for the previous owner of my flat, who has disappeared. Not even the sales agent or the police can contact her.

After each incident, I filed a police report and was referred to the investigating officer (IO). I have followed police advice to post a note to the loan sharks and install closed-circuit television, but the harassment has continued.

I have even called the loan sharks who left their numbers to tell them they are going after the wrong person and that I have filed a police report, but this does not scare them.

I am frustrated at the helplessness of the police, especially on these points:

The IO has never spoken to me. I have tried to call him many times - to no avail. Last week, I called every day, only to find that he and his backup are on leave.
There is supposedly a dedicated unit to tackle loan-shark cases, but I have not heard from it.
It is also surprising that the police cannot track the previous flat owner.
Stephanie Joan Yiu Chua (Ms)


April 20, 2009
Catching loan sharks: Install CCTVs in HDB common corridors
I REFER to last Friday's article, 'Loan shark harassment cases rise sharply'.
Previous measures to curb loan shark harassment were not sufficient to protect the public, and I thank the authorities for stepping up these measures.

I have a suggestion that town councils may wish to consider.

Various heartland areas have closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed in lifts to curb theft. CCTVs should also be installed in common corridors at every level of an HDB block.

However, CCTVs should not invade residents' privacy. There is no need to have them in every estate, but they should be in loan-shark 'hot spots'.

Town councils use taxpayers' money to beautify the area, but what about residents' safety? Why repaint walls time and again when loan sharks vandalise them? Why cover up again and again without finding the real solution to the loan-shark problem?

Installing CCTVs in common corridors will enhance residents' safety.

Tan Shao Ken
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Old 22-04-2009, 03:11 PM   #1560
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April 21, 2009
DESIGN, BUILD AND SELL SCHEME
Ballot is fairer to all

I REFER to last Friday's article, 'Simei condo-style flats: No balloting'.
I believe this news came as a surprise to many people. Of all the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) projects launched in the past few months, I believe this is the only one available for booking without the need for a ballot. While those who manage to get in the queue to book a flat will be happy, those who cannot be present will be disappointed.

The HDB's DBSS website states: 'Under the DBSS, private developers will be responsible for the entire flow of the public housing development process - from bidding for the land, designing the project, overseeing construction and eventually, selling the flats directly to eligible flat buyers.'

Apparently, private developers are responsible to sell flats directly to buyers, but who determines the mode of selling? Who determines if there is a need for balloting? Who determines if sales should be on a first-come, first-served basis?

The HDB uses the ballot system as demand for flats in Singapore generally outstrips supply, and the ballot system is regarded as a 'fair' means in such situations. Flat buyers also do not need to queue overnight. Balloting also gives potential buyers enough time to consider before making a decision.

Ultimately, is there consistency in the selling of DBSS flats?

Zhou Zhiqiang
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