10 Things I learned – Getting our own place

It was intially planned to share in detail the process that D and I went through from getting our keys to finally settling down. But ain’t no time for details! For me! Trust me whenever I drafted halfway and then I had to attend to something else, and when I get back to my laptop, I decided to switch it off.

So I decided to sum it all up in this post, hehehe, with hope that it can benefit those who are planning to get your own place, or just got your keys. However, since all these points I am about to share are based on my experience getting a Built-to-Order 3-room flat, hence my opinions may be subjective. But hey, feel free to correct me or share more pointers! Without further ado, lets start!!!

1. We are now living in the world where we cannot function without internet. Our government has kindly provided us a one-stop portal for us to check our taxes la, our CPF la, and yes our HDB application and flat status. My very first point I am about to share is pretty important – if HDB states that “the probable date completion for your flat is Mar/Apr 2015“, it does not mean you will get your keys in Mar/Apr 2015 okay guys. Key words/phrase guys: “probable” and “completion of your flat“. This may bring up some or a whole lot of disappointment in some of you, especially if you cannot wait or need to move out of your current place. But there are levels of inspection required, which will very likely stretch months after that completion period that HDB states.

2. Understand what you can/cannot afford. You know how much you earn, you know what type of flat you can afford. Since day one, my mum has pushed me to get our own flat after we got engaged because she strongly believes that one should acquire an asset, a home as foundation. But our parents had never pushed us to get a big flat, instead they remind us to get one we can afford – a 3 room flat. Ain’t nothing wrong with a 3-room flat, right? Pretty cosy, pretty personal, might be a little squeezy when you have a large group of guests, but we’ll see.

The point is, if your bank and/or CPF savings allows you to purchase a flat, you also need to think long term. Think of other things that also require money/cash. Think of accessibility. Think of the house in 5 years time. Don’t buy for the sake of buying, don’t buy because it is big.

If you consider taking up a bank loan, review your monthly expenditure, compare interest rates between banks, and keep a look out for interest-free loans.

3. When you get the invitation letter to get your keys and whatever time your appointment is, it is more reasonable to arrive about half an hour earlier. Jangan macam kita, arrived two hours earlier thinking we would get the keys earlier. Pfffft. Wherever we got that idea from. Pfffft. The process is all in that letter, and can easily be found in HDB’s website, some blogs, etc… Just remember to bring your ATM card.

4. Time to check defects!
Time gini mata kita kena bukak besar2, and the more people with you, the better! For my case, we initially detected 4 defects by ourselves and my mum… which later grew to be 19 defects when our interior designer came. AMIK KAU SEMBILAN BELAS TERUS. Defects are to be reported within 7 days from key collection (although there are some people who report them months after) andd will take about 1 to 2 weeks for rectification.

In my personal opinion, if you feel that a defect is too small and you are not the perfectionist-type, you might not to add it in the defects list. There are lots of useful tips from local websites on checking defects, so feel free to google!

5. Inspirational sources
Do you have a theme? Do you not have a theme? Don’t know what theme you want? My main sources of inspiration for our home came largely from Pinterest, followed by IKEA catalogues, local renovation websites and other people’s blogs who feature their homes. We don’t have any theme in mind, but we knew we wanted something clean and tidy. So we started looking at neutral colour paint ideas, furniture ideas, and soft-coloured rooms that fit our tastes. Pinterest really didn’t disappoint me, even made me change my mind twice while choosing paints with D. Muahaha. (Thanks Pinterest.)

5. Choosing your Interior Designer (ID) / Renovation Contractor (RC)
If you working with a tight budget or are looking for cost-saving home decoration tips, welcome to the right place (although there are better ones out there, heh)! There is no specific window period on when you should engage your ID/RC, and there is no specific number of ID/RC to be going to, to compare prices/quotations. We engaged our ID 6 months before our key collection, and we only asked for quotations from two IDs (it might have probably been wise to go to more ID companies, maybe next time, lol).

Please know that you have the right to take your own time to consider their quotations, and that your ID/RC are willing to listen and offer design ideas (while some just tell you to follow their ideas). It is very important that you can communicate well with your ID/RC and that you don’t feel restricted or afraid to ask whatever you want to ask them. It is also vital that both parties are clear and transparent in matters concerning the renovations, takmo tetiba ade benda extra, ada benda terkurang, etc.

(In shaa Allah I will share more about my ID in a separate post.)

6. The hunt for furniture and electrical appliances begins!
The nice thing in Singapore (and some other countries may too) is that sale is always constant, no matter how small a discount may be. Look out for specials in newspaper advertisements, TV ads, referrals and if you have the time and energy, go window-shopping from one shop to another, to compare prices! Thankfully for D and I, during the time we got our keys, the Great Singapore Sale just started so we got to enjoy some discounts and rewards ($120 worth of Giant vouchers, makcik mane taknak???).

While appliances may be pretty standard in design (mana ade oven yang berbentuk bulat kan kan?), we get to play around with the furnitures. The colours, the size, the shape, and then the price. It is usually the price that makes our hearts sink, if we are on budgets, hah. Try to visualize the furniture piece in your home. If you can’t imagine and feel it, don’t buy it.

As quoted by Leigh Anne Tuohy from The Blind Side (character played by Sandra Bullock), ” Well, one thing I know about shopping is that if you don’t absolutely love it in the store, you won’t wear it. The store is, where you like it best. So before you choose something think of yourself wearing it and say to yourself: Is this me?

Paham tak? Boleh adapt into this context tak?

7. DIY
If you are trying to save costs, explore DIY. Again, Pinterest offers so many DIY ideas. One major thing that D and I DIY-ed was painting. We decided to paint ourselves instead of engaging a professional painter(s). Oh the torture, we did it during the fasting month, slept on cold hard floors with (clean) towel rags as our ‘pillows’, ate just bread for pre-dawn jus to finish painting over 4 days. I say it as if I painted the whole house, padahal aku cat satu tembok je, D did the rest! I was super impressed that not even once he thought of giving up. Me? I painted the first coat and slept for 4 hours thereafter. Tak guna betol.

Let me say that painting your own house is very very very tiring (if you have not painted before), but you get to save a lot. But I would not recommend doing that if you already have a family with small children, because it is very time consuming. Family time is very important you know!

Another item we sort of ‘DIY-ed’ were some of our furnitures purchased from IKEA. Okay la, more like assembled ourselves. The fact that majority of IKEA items are self-assembled are the reason for their low prices. However, be careful when buying furnitures from IKEA because some may not be able to withstand heavy usage or bulky items.

8. Hand me downs
Count yourself super lucky and loved that you are given a set of cutleries, dining set, pots and pans, cups/mugs, curtains, TV, table, chairs from people you know. God knows how much money you get to save getting these things for free, or buying these second-hand items for cheaper price (hint: Cash Converters)! If you are offered home items which are still functional, amik je! Even if you can’t visualize yourself using them yet. Amik je!

You can even recreate an old item by repainting, or reupholstering – let your creative juices flow guys!

9. Ask for discount
Except for items with fixed prices where it seems absurd to ask for discount (Courts, IKEA, Giant, you get what I mean), always find a chance to ask for some discount. But ask reasonably, don’t turn into makcik2 di pasar okay! Even if the cost before discounts meets your budget, you can always use some extra for nitty gritties like a pack of rubber bands! (True story.)

10. Rude workers
Imagine visiting your home just to see the progress and you get to see pee stains on the toilet seat. Rude. You can either A) Tell them in person if they are around, or B) Inform your ID/RC about the problem. Sadly this is something we don’t have much control of, unless you are brave enough to tag along with them when they go to the toilet. Itu dah giler jugak. Hahaha.

Thank you for reading this lengthy post, I hope you are able to benefit from it 🙂 What other useful tips do you have? Do share!


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