A friend of mine wrote in asking for some tips on finding a house post graduation from university and I thought I’d put together a few things I did and a few things I wish I’d done.
Things I Wish I’d Done
1. Be wary of Real Estate folk, understand the system and read contracts. Singapore is one of the safest places in the world. 4 years in university meant that my guard had completely dropped around contracts and double and triple checking things. Trust came naturally and the thought that someone would con us in Singapore was, I must admit, a thought that never occurred to me.
And that’s exactly what happened. I lead a bunch of friends (a scary number as there were 2 other groups who signed because we signed..) to trust this guy who conned us. He gave us a fake contract! Luckily for us, he was a funny kind of con man as he paid all the money back in about 6 months. It took an incredible amount of chasing up though – practically a call every single day to follow up. One of those life experiences.
Things I would have done differently –
– Not try to land in a house 2 months in advance. Houses move quick and trying this ‘let’s get it early tactic’ meant most good ones said no and we were left with the con men!
– Always be wary of real estate folk. I hear they’re the only corrupt industry in Singapore and I’ve had my run ins with them in London. That’s not to say there aren’t good ones. In fact, I’ve been fortunate to meet many wonderful agents. But, you’ve got to be careful.
– Go through referrals if possible. If friends have had success with agents, then you’re in good place. My con man was picked out from a real estate forum.
– Call someone who’s been through it and understand the system. In most cases, you see a house, submit a letter of intent with a bid, then do a contract signing with the house owner (and possibly their agent).
– Read through EVERY line of the contract.
2. Taken my Permanent Residence (Singapore specific). This part is Singapore specific (sorry!). I waited an extra year to apply for, and then get my Singapore Permanent Residence. I really don’t know why I did that. I must have had what felt like a smart reason…
One of the best benefits of being a PR in Singapore is forced saving. 15% of your salary is saved in your Central Provident Fund. That alone makes it worth it.
Things I’m thankful I did, unknowingly or knowingly
1. Took my GMAT. For most of us who’ve been through the school system, we realize pretty quickly that there are some who are annoyingly good at taking tests and some who are not. I am in the latter half and studying for my GMAT while working would have been incredibly difficult.
I’m glad I took it when I did. In hindsight, I would have done some things differently eg: given myself more time than 3 weeks for my first attempt. But, I’m glad I did it.
I’ve written about this here.
2. Spent 2 months at home. I don’t know if I will ever get this sort of an opportunity again. I had a wonderful time at home. Studying for my GMAT meant that I spent practically all my time at home versus the usual large chunk of holiday time that would have usually been spent with friends.
It was a wonderful time- lots of good food, lots of family time, lots of study and lots of football in the evening.
3. Committed to a financial plan. One of the first things I did after I signed my contract was do detailed financial planning and commit to how I would spend my money.
eg: Committed to saving 15% every month, only ever taking a maximum of 1 credit card, paying off all my immediate cash flow debts that arose from signing the contract for our house (agent fees, advance etc)first and most importantly, commitment to live like a frugal student as much as I can.
These commitments have stood me in good stead. Some of these, of course, have changed with time thanks to books I’ve read and people I’ve spoken to but the principles have remained.
4. Continued commitment to ‘initiatives’. Initiatives are all these little projects that I’ve been working on. I was determined to keep them going and they have each taken lives of their own. Weekends are busy, but meaningful and I can’t imagine life without them.
That’s the list that came to mind. Questions are welcome. Additions, of course, are very welcome.. :-