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Old 22-12-2005, 01:12 PM   #826
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Dec 22, 2005
Remake HDB retail districts? Change owners' mindset first

Developing quality and identity tough when leases just go to top bidders

By Tan Hui Yee
BUBBLE tea shops sprang up all over heartland shopping districts four years ago, but disappeared just as fast. This, say retail consultants, underscores one of the biggest challenges that merchants there face.

Unlike shopping malls, where mall owners get to decide what kind of products or services are offered, heartland shop space tends to go to the highest bidder.

This 'free-for-all' environment makes it hard to improve the shopping experience.

Some merchant associations are working with consultants to resolve the issue, but consultants say it will not be easy.

'It's evolution, not revolution,' said Mr Wong Kai Hong, chief executive of TR21 Business Network, which is advising the Marine Parade Merchants' Association.

'It's a slow, painful process.'

This is because it would entail getting shop owners and shopkeepers to accept tenants not based on how much rent they are willing to pay, but on what kind of business they will be running - and whether it will be good for the neighbourhood.

Five merchant associations - in Marine Parade, Tampines Street 11, Bras Basah Complex, Hong Kah and Sunset Way - have received government funding to help them hire professionals to manage their shopping districts since the Government announced the scheme in March.

The idea is to have professionals organise regular promotions, retail training and upgrading projects for the Housing Board shops, just like the shopping centre managers do.

Both Mr Wong and Ms Tan Puay Hoon, whose firm Bole Business Services advises merchants in Hong Kah Point, Sunset Way and Tampines, have done surveys to find out what people really want in their neighbourhood centres.

Generally, though, HDB shops are not attracting the younger set, who prefer the cool confines of suburban malls located next to MRT stations.

Beyond improving their product range, display and service, the HDB shops could develop niches according to their locations to stay relevant, said Mr Wong.

Shops in Clementi, close to the National University of Singapore and Singapore Polytechnic, could focus on educational products, suggested Mr Wong, while Marine Parade precincts could be fashioned into 'beach towns'.

Or they could simply focus on doing what they do best - giving residents nearby the best value money can buy, said Ms Pauline Tan, an associate director for retail at property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle.

'The shops cannot be too glamorous, otherwise you might as well go to Orchard Road,' she said.

Consultants expect the quality of HDB shops to improve over time because rising rents in popular suburban malls are likely to force more businesses to move to neighbourhood centres.

This will apply especially to businesses like tuition centres and music schools, which tend to have lower profit margins, said Ms Tan.

But whether the neighbourhood centres can successfully remake themselves will depend on how open existing shop owners are to change.

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Old 23-12-2005, 09:45 AM   #827
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CPF charge: No change in order

Friday • December 23, 2005

Letter from TAN HENG HUAY Deputy Director, Public Affairs Corporate Development Dept Housing & Development Board
Deputy Director (Housing Schemes)
Central Provident Fund Board

WE refer to the letter "CPF lost through HDB loan" by Mr Leong Sze Hian (Dec 10).

With regards to the CPF charge for HDB flats, we wish to clarify that there has been no change in the order of charge. Prior to January 2003, HDB granted loans to buyers of HDB flats with HDB having the first charge, followed by CPF Board.

From Jan 1, 2003, banks were allowed to provide loans to HDB flat buyers. Hence, the bank will take first charge followed by the CPF Board.

The banks merely step into the shoes of the HDB and take first charge on the mortgage when they grant loans to HDB flat buyers.

When members sell their HDB flats bought with CPF funds, they are required to refund the CPF withdrawn, including accrued interest.

However, in the event that the selling price after settling the outstanding loan and resale levy (if any) is insufficient to cover the full CPF withdrawn and interest accrued, the CPF Board will only require the refund of the net sale proceeds, if the sale is conducted at fair market value.

As owning a home is a long-term commitment, we would like to reiterate that home buyers should exercise financial prudence. This would minimise their risk of running into financial difficulties when servicing their mortgage loans.
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Old 24-12-2005, 07:57 PM   #828
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Dec 24, 2005
Convicted agent's manager fined

By Elena Chong
THE former manager of a woman property agent, who was the first to be convicted in a 'cashback' deal, was fined $8,000 yesterday.

Tony Ho Nam Tung, 35
, admitted trying to cheat a bank into believing that a five-room flat in Redhill Lane was selling for $490,000 when the actual price was $390,000.

He dishonestly tried, together with property agent Teo Pei Pei, 27, and four others, to induce DBS Bank into granting a $290,000 loan to the buyers - Mr Francis Hong Swee Kim, 50, and his wife, Madam Elizabeth Bong Yung Hua, 52 - based on the inflated selling price, on Oct 15, 2003.

Teo, who was handling the sale of the flat, was fined $8,000 earlier this year for a similar offence.

The scam came to light only when the sale fell through and the aggrieved owner, Mr Koh Sia Kang, 52, who had already signed the sale and purchase agreement after agreeing to inflate the price, made a police report.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wee Soon explained that a 'cashback' scheme involved getting a property seller to declare a higher selling price to the Housing Board than what had been agreed between the seller and the buyer.

The buyer would then get a bank loan based on the inflated selling price. The money would be paid to the seller, who would then return the difference to the buyer or split it with him.

In this case, Ho submitted the application online to the HDB stating that the flat's resale price was $490,000. Teo then told the sellers - Mr Koh and his wife, Madam Kang Siew Guek - to do the necessary paper work to pay the difference of $100,000 to the buyers through her.

But Teo suspected that the sellers had a change of heart and might not pay the $100,000. So she told the buyers on Jan 5 last year not to turn up for a second appointment at the HDB. Thus, the sale was not completed.

Ho's lawyer, Mr Singa Retnam, said in mitigation that his client's role was minimal compared to that of Teo, who was among 300 agents under him at the time.

Ho, he said, lost his post as team manager with PropNex. He had in fact been 'cheated' of $55,000 after the sellers issued a writ of summons to demand damages of $110,000, after insisting that the purchase price was $490,000.
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Old 28-12-2005, 09:11 AM   #829
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The HDB can't stop them, neither can the police ...

Wednesday • December 28, 2005

Letter from Haj Mohamed

I am raising an issue which is a perennial problem at Block 12 on North Bridge Road.

The void deck is occupied by Thai workers during weekends who sit in big groups and litter the whole place.

The residents are also troubled that these workers obstruct the way in and out of the block.

If residents were to use the void deck, they have to get permission from the Housing Development Board (HDB), but it is not so for these foreigners.

The Town Council officer in charge told me that all he can do is clean up the place after these workers have left.

I complained to the Police who said that the Town Council had arranged for extra workers to clean up the place at night.

I then asked the policeman why Singaporeans are fined if caught for littering but foreigners are exempt and are allowed to litter in public places indiscriminately.

He could not provide an answer.

The HDB cannot stop them. The Jalan Besar Town Council cannot stop them. The Police cannot stop them.

It seems nobody can stop these trespassers from occupying and soiling our void deck.
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Old 28-12-2005, 09:42 AM   #830
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Dec 28, 2005
No home to live in and no CPF too?

According to the HDB and the CPF Board, 'When members sell their HDB flats bought with CPF funds, they are required to refund the CPF withdrawn, including accrued interest.

'However, in the event that the selling price after settling the outstanding loan and resale levy (if any) is insufficient to cover the full CPF withdrawn and interest accrued, the CPF Board will only require the refund of the net sale proceeds, if the sale is conducted at fair market value.

'From January 1, 2003, banks were allowed to provide loans to HDB flat buyers. Hence, the bank will take first charge followed by the CPF Board. The banks merely step into the shoes of the HDB and take first charge on the mortgage when they grant loans to HDB flat buyers.'

Prior to September 2002, before the first charge on private property bank loans was changed from the CPF to banks, in the event of foreclosure, the CPF funds used plus accrued interest had first to be returned to the borrowers' CPF accounts.

Notwithstanding the legal position of changing the first charge from the HDB to banks from January 1, 2003, how is it possible that the CPF was protected for private property bank loans prior to September 2002, whereas HDB flats on HDB subsidised loans were not protected prior to January 2003?

Does this mean that private property bank loans had always been better than HDB subsidised loans in the past, with regard to our CPF safety net?

Thousands of Singaporeans with mortgage repayments in arrears may lose their CPF if they cannot service their HDB subsidised loans in the future.

Losing one's CPF may mean that there could be nothing left for retirement. No home to live in and no CPF too?

Leong Sze Hian

Last edited by jq75; 28-12-2005 at 09:49 AM..
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Old 29-12-2005, 09:35 AM   #831
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Cracking their heads over shoddy flooring

Why not let HDB flat-buyers supervise installation work and choose own fittings?

Thursday • December 29, 2005

Letter from Quek Hwa Hwee

I WATCHED the MediaCorp TV Channel 8 news segment at 10pm, in which it was reported that the owner of a 4-room premium flat discovered that his two-year-old home's floor tiles had cracked. He said it was not the first time. And while the HDB repaired the damaged tiles for free, the repair job was found to be damaged after a while.

I have bought a 4-room premium unit in Aspella (Build-to-order) and I do not want to suffer the same fate. I hope the HDB can answer a few questions:

• How does the HDB ensure that the subcontractors use skilled workers and good workmanship when the ceramic tiles, pipes and timber strip floor are installed?

• When tiles crack, it is often because the foundation of the floor and walls was not properly laid. Doesn't the HDB check before it hands the keys over to the owners?

• How does HDB define "quality" ceramic tiles, timber strip flooring and other fittings?

• Why are there so many reports of defects in flats less than two years old? And is poor workmanship the reason the HDB enforces the extended warranty?

• Do such problems arise out of awarding contracts to the cheapest, most value-add contractor?

I am beginning to question whether the new unit is worth the money my wife and I are going to pay for it. Wouldn't it be better if the house was not laid with any tiles or flooring, leaving it up to owners to get their own "quality" materials? Might this be money better spent?

In fact we might even end up paying less for the new unit, and at the same time get to choose our preferred design and colour. Most importantly, I can personally supervise the renovation work.
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Old 02-01-2006, 12:13 PM   #832
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Dec 17, 2005
Valuation Limit applies to this 1st-time flat buyer

I REFER to the article, 'CPF property rules: 4 things you may not know' (The Sunday Times, Sept 18), among others. It is frequently mentioned that HDB home-owners with concessionary loans are not subject to the Valuation Limit (VL). There is actually another condition - the flat must be bought directly from HDB.

Never mind that my family is a first-time buyer with an HDB concessionary loan. Our fault was choosing to buy a resale flat from the open market with the HDB housing grant back in 1997.

How is it fair for the policy to exempt people who bought their second flat directly from the HDB but penalise first-time purchasers like us?

When we questioned the CPF Board, the answer was that the VL was introduced to prevent members from over-extending themselves at the expense of their retirement needs. So are those who choose to buy their first flat from the open market more prone to over-extending themselves? After making principal repayments over the years, thinking that the VL does not apply to us, we find ourselves having to make cash payments soon.

Evelyn Chow Chwee Lian (Ms)
Jan 2, 2006
Valuation Limit doesn't apply to subsidised flats
WE REFER to the letter, 'Valuation Limit applies to this 1st-time flat buyer' (ST, Dec 19), by Ms Evelyn Chow Chwee Lian.

Ms Chow asked why the Valuation Limit (VL) is imposed on HDB resale flats but not on flats bought directly from the HDB with a concessionary loan. The VL sets the limit for the use of members' CPF funds for housing to ensure that members put aside CPF funds for retirement and medical needs. These needs will grow as the population ages.

HDB resale flats are bought at market prices and the VL imposed is currently determined as the lower of the purchase price or valuation of the property. As flats bought directly from the HDB with a concessionary loan are sold at subsidised prices and below market value, the CPF Board does not impose the VL.

Chang Long Kiat
Director (Housing & Health Care)
Central Provident Fund Board
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Old 02-01-2006, 12:14 PM   #833
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Jan 2, 2006
Laws inadequate to deal with problems and disputes arising from inter-floor seepage

I REFER to the article 'When a leak results in a flood of complaints' (ST, Dec 27).

Current legislation as it stands is inadequate to deal with the problems and disputes arising from inter-floor seepage.

As highlighted in the article, much time and valuable resources are wasted resolving problems because there is no legislation to compel an upper floor unit owner to carry out necessary repairs within a reasonable time.

In the article, Strata Titles Board chief Tan Lian Ker is quoted as saying it is 'a simple case blown out of proportion'. I think it is the lack of regulatory framework that prolongs a lot of these cases, with lower floor unit owners the innocent victims who have to bear the inconvenience and misery.

The Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, which was enacted last year, presumes an inter-floor leak originated from the upper floor unit unless the owner can prove otherwise. However, there is no provision in the Act on who is to bear the cost.

The article highlighted the landmark ruling on Aug 6 last year, when the Strata Titles Board declared that the upper unit owner must fix any damage caused by leaks that are the result of normal wear and tear. But based on current practice, the costs of repairing leaks due to normal wear and tear are shared. Disputes often arise as to what costs are to be shared.

As a decision has been made by the Strata Titles Board, the current practice should be changed to be in line with the decision made by the Strata Titles Board. Further, the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act applies only to properties with strata titles and does not apply to other types of properties, for example, HDB and properties regulated under the HUDC Act.

As high rise living is a way of life in Singapore and inter-floor leaks are and will be major problems to be faced as building age, the Ministry of National Development and Building and Construction Authority should take the lead in simplifying the process in dealing with these problems and problems of similar nature.

One suggestion is for a single authority to deal with problems of this nature for all types of property. This authority would require the upper floor unit owner to carry out necessary repairs within a reasonable time, with costs to be borne by him. Failure to carry out the repairs within the time specified (or such extended time) will result in his water supply being disconnected.

On first impression, this suggestion may seem harsh on upper unit owners. But it is a matter of time before all owners face similar problems.

Ong See Fong
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Old 03-01-2006, 10:06 AM   #834
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Poo and filth at Woodlands block

Tuesday • January 3, 2006

Letter from Irene Tan

I read with interest that millions will be spent to upgrade Sembawang GRC. I wonder if the money will be used on big-scale, facade makeovers or on the necessities, which is what the heartlanders really want.

I live in Block 318 at Woodlands New Town. The block is really squalid. Cleaners sweep the corridors only twice a week (if we're lucky) and are nowhere to be found for a whole week after the holidays. Rubbish piled up at staircase landings is only cleared after a complaint to the town council.

The lifts are like public toilets. For years, I have complained to the town council but nothing has been done. Empty promises of "we will put in a report to install a camera" are a constant refrain.

The trees in the car park behind are a bird "sanctuary". Birds drop their poo on our windowpanes, ledges and aircon compressors. Complaints have fallen on deaf ears, too. If no service, can we get a discount on service and conservancy charges?
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Old 04-01-2006, 06:29 PM   #835
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Jan 4, 2006
Still waiting for leaking ceiling to be repaired

MY FAMILY recently bought an upgraded resale seventh-floor flat in Commonwealth Drive. Before the purchase was completed, ceiling leakage was discovered.

The leakage occurred at the joint of an upgraded room a year after the warranty had expired.

As the HDB was already investigating the leakage, we figured it would not take too long for the problem to be resolved. We thus agreed to complete the purchase on Sept 16 last year, and the HDB promised that it would expedite the ceiling repairs.

But more than three months have passed and the ceiling still has not been repaired.

To make matters worse, the leakage caused a power trip in our flat. We had to use candles and torches at night for nearly a week, not to mention the additional expenses incurred to repair the electrical circuit.

As long as the ceiling leakage is not fixed, we risk more power trips.

The HDB has made it clear that it would not bear the costs of repairing the electrical circuit, as it said the power trip was because of an internal fault.

The HDB told us that the owners of the unit above ours shared the responsibility in repairing our leaking ceiling, as the leakage was caused by wear and tear.

However, in the event that both home owners cannot come to an agreement, the HDB obviously has to step in.

What we do not understand is why it takes the HDB so long to investigate the matter. How much longer do we have to put up with the leaking ceiling?

Tan Yok Yeng (Mdm)
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Old 05-01-2006, 09:40 AM   #836
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Service please, Town Council

Courtesy lacking Council slow to act

Thursday • January 5, 2006

Letter from Adrian Toh Yong Cheang
Letter from
Seah Cheng Hwee

I refer to Lim Wei Yi's letter, "Quit the spamming, town council" (Jan 4), which mentioned that nothing was heard from the Town Council on the outcome of feedback given. This situation is not uncommon and not limited to the writer's Town Council.

On a number of occasions, I emailed my Town Council in Tanjong Pagar, highlighting things I felt it should look into (for example, potholes and ground-water seepage).

Each time, all I got was an automated email reply saying that they would look into the matter. And that was it.

Although when I checked later, I found that each matter was dealt with adequately, I am flabbergasted by the lack of common courtesy on the part of the Town Council to inform me that the matter had been looked into.

On one occasion where the Town Council actually got someone to meet with me, this apparently senior person (in age and position) treated me like I was wasting his time and that I knew nothing about maintenance. It was very condescending.

I thought I had forgotten about this matter until I read Mr Lim's letter. If someone else was a victim, I thought I had better bring the issue up so that something can be done.

In December 2003, my neighbour wrote to the West Coast-Ayer Rajah Town Council to report a leaky linkway.

She has since followed up on at least five occasions via email. More than two years have passed and the situation is unchanged.

During the dengue fever outbreak, it was reported that 49 per cent of the breeding grounds found were in Town- Council-maintained areas.

The Town Councils should be more pro-active in maintaining the areas, instead of growing their sinking fund and only announcing multi-million dollar projects when elections are around the corner.
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Old 06-01-2006, 08:34 AM   #837
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Jan 6, 2006
HDB to get agents to market 400 unsold flats

Buyers may be offered renovation deals and warranties covering defects

By Daryl Loo
THE Housing Board will soon be appointing agents to market about 400 unsold flats on the resale market this year.

And buyers could be offered sweeteners like renovation packages and warranties covering internal defects, depending on the agents.

Real estate agents have come up with various ideas in a keen competition to market the units. An HDB spokesman said it received 15 bids in a tender it called to market the flats, which closed on Dec 28.

The tender is expected to be awarded in a few weeks, he added.

The board will then announce the exact number of units to be sold, the flat types and their locations.

The 400 units are part of the 9,000 surplus flats that the HDB had completed more than five years ago, but was unable to sell due to an oversupply.

However, such flats sold well when marketed through agents on the resale market last year where they could be bought by singles and permanent residents as well.

A hundred such units were put on the resale market last year, and were all snapped up in about six months.

The HDB had appointed its subsidiary EM Services to market them.

EM Services has also put in a bid this year.

This time, at least two agents will be appointed based, among other things, on the tender price - in this case the commission that they want to charge the HDB for each unit sold - track records, and financial status, the HDB said.

In its tender documents released on Dec 14, the HDB stated that five-room and executive flats will be offered in Jurong West, Sengkang, Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang.

They will be split into four sectors of about 100 units each, according to locations.

Agents interviewed said they are eager to get in on the action as it represents a whole new revenue stream and could be lucrative because of the large number of flats involved.

C&H managing director Albert Lu, who put in a bid, expects demand for the flats to be high because, unlike new HDB flats bought directly from the HDB, these are open to singles and permanent residents. There is also no resale levy imposed.

The HDB has yet to announce the price range for this year's batch of flats, but last year, the five-room flats went for $194,000 to $219,000, while the executive flats were offered at $275,000 to $346,000.

For the five-room flats, the prices were about 30 per cent cheaper than average.

Agents appointed by HDB will have to negotiate sales and do all the marketing and cover the cost.

However, the arrangement is not exclusive, as buyers can also engage their own agents, or deal directly with the HDB if they want to.

The real estate agencies are buzzing with new ideas to lure buyers.

ERA Realty, for instance, has proposed that the five-year-old flats be renovated by HDB - according to the tastes of buyers - before they are sold.

It argued that flat buyers will be able to save as they need not take a separate renovation loan - and be free of the hassle of finding their own renovation contractors.

C&H Realty is planning an extensive marketing campaign that includes putting out advertisements in the major newspapers, distribution of leaflets, and sending SMSes to other agents with potential buyers.

But PropNex Realty has the most elaborate plans so far.

A new sales team of 20 agents will be established specially to cater to customers of these flats, said its chief executive, Mr Mohamed Ismail.

It will also set up a service counter for walk-in customers at its headquarters in the Toa Payoh HDB Hub, while buyers will be covered under a one-year home warranty plan that covers minor internal defects for up to $200.

Mr Mohamed Ismail said: 'We feel we are in a good position to market these flats, and we are pulling out all the stops.'
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:21 AM   #838
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Make my neighbour can it

Friday • January 6, 2006

Letter from
Damien Tan Wei Keong

For the past year, my family has been tolerating noise from our neighbours living directly above us.

Almost every night, our sleep is disrupted by sounds of heavy objects dropping, heavy feet stomping and furniture being dragged across the floor.

The noise starts close to midnight and ends around 2am.

We have turned to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Singapore Police Force for help, only to be passed around.

Once and for all, I would like to know what action would be taken by the HDB should we lodge a noise complaint against our neighbours and what further action can be taken should the matter remain unresolved?

Also, as these noises occur in the middle of the night, I would like to enquire what kind of action would be taken by the Singapore Police Force should an official complaint be lodged?

This matter has greatly affected my family's lifestyle for the past year.

Enough is enough. I would greatly appreciate it if the HDB and the police address my concerns.
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Old 07-01-2006, 02:38 PM   #839
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Jurong upgrading in the works

Weekend • January 7, 2006

A FOOT reflexology area, ramps at void decks, lifts that stop at every floor and a fresh coat of paint are just part of a slew of improvements that await residents living at Jurong West Street 41.

This after their precinct, comprising blocks 456 to 461, was selected for the IUP Plus programme, which is a combination of both the Interim Upgrading Programme (IUP) and Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP).

The IUP gives a facelift to common areas in Housing Board estates built between 1981 and 1986, while the LUP aims to have better and faster lifts stop at every floor of high-rise flats built before 1990.

At the launch of the precinct's polling period yesterday evening, labour chief and Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC Lim Boon Heng called for residents' support for the scheme.

The improvements under the IUP component would be fully paid for by the Government, and once completed, the precinct would be "as good as the newer towns or estates".

Each of the six blocks can also look forward to upgraded and additional lifts, if at least three quarters of eligible flat-owners vote in favour of it. For LUPs, the Government subsidises between 75 and 90 per cent of the cost, with the balance shared by the respective Town Council and the flat-owner.

Residents have until Monday to cast their votes
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Old 07-01-2006, 02:43 PM   #840
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Jan 7, 2006
Agents scramble for right to sell surplus flats

Some are even offering to pay Housing Board for chance to sell them

By Daryl Loo
A HANDFUL of estate agencies are offering to work for zero commission in the rush to win the right to sell about 400 surplus HDB flats.

In some cases, agents are even offering to pay the HDB for selling its flats.

And the gimmick has angered some of their rivals.

The Straits Times yesterday reported on the hotly contested tender, which closed last Wednesday and drew 15 bids from agencies keen on entering the lucrative market.

The HDB is evaluating the bids, and will award the tender in a few weeks.

The unsold flats are part of the HDB's 9,000 surplus flats, completed more than five years ago. It wants to appoint at least two marketing agents to handle the sales for a year.

According to tender details released by the HDB, RH Housing and HDB's subsidiary EM Services indicated they are not seeking commissions from the HDB for flats sold.

ERA Realty and Singapore Multiple Listing Services also chose not to charge the HDB commission for some of the flats, and in addition, even put in 'negative bids' of -0.01 and -0.05 per cent respectively. This means, for instance, that if they sell a five-room flat for $200,000, they will have to each pay the HDB $20 and $100 instead.

The four firms were unwilling to comment, citing sensitivity as the tender has not yet been awarded.

The other 11 firms that lodged bids offered to charge the HDB between 0.2 and 1 per cent commission, lower than the typical 1 to 2 per cent charged by most realtors.

Mr Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of PropNex, one of the bidders, argued that waiving commissions from the HDB may mean the commonly accepted practice of 'co-broking' could not be used for these HDB flats.

Co-broking is where both flat buyers and sellers engage their own agents. When deals are concluded, buyers and sellers pay commissions to their respective agents.

Agents who do not charge the HDB commission may instead need to charge buyers to make money. This could mean they will not be willing to co-broke with other agents, he argued.

Mr Albert Lu, managing director of C&H, which put in a bid, agreed. 'If the buyers' agents see that they won't be getting any commission, they will not recommend the flats to their clients. And the flat buyer will miss out.'

A real estate agency director, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested that firms that are waiving their HDB commissions may be planning to split the commission with buyers' agents.

He also pointed to a clause in the tender that if the HDB refers a buyer to an appointed agent, the HDB will pay the agent $500 per flat to administer a sale.

'This means agents will still end up ahead even if they don't bring in any buyers,' he said.

Housing agents said they are keen to get in on the business due to strong demand, as the flats can be sold to singles and permanent residents, and may be more affordable compared to average prices of most resale flats in similar areas.

The HDB said it is mindful of the impact of putting its unsold flats on the resale market, and so it is keeping the numbers small.

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