Buying a property: 9 tips for picking a great resale unit

Buying a resale unit is like going to a new restaurant with friends. You stare at the menu, and try to guess what’s good. When it finally arrives, you see what everyone else has and wish you’d ordered that.  We’re going to try to take away the sting of regret, with a few quick tips:

Tip 1: Either go low or go high, but don’t go between

In doubt as to which floor to buy? Then either stick to the bottom three floors, or the topmost floors.

The bottom floors provide accessibility, whereas the top floors provide a better view. The middle floors sometimes provide the worst of both. You’re far enough from the ground floor that you need wait for the lift, but not high enough to see beyond the next block.

That said, if you’re looking at buying a condo and there’s a pool, the lower-floor of the pool-facing stacks might actually offer a better view instead, because too high and you won’t be able to see the pool from inside your home.

Airbnb rules in Japan vs Singapore
Sometimes this is all you see if you pick the middle floor.

Tip 2: Check the passenger waiting time for the lift

Like all employees, we bet you can’t wait to get to work in the morning, and win employee of the month when Human Resource reads your article.

That’s why it pays to check the passenger wait time, for the elevator. From your floor to the ground floor, how long does it take? As a rule of thumb, anything under 40 seconds is excellent, whilst 90 seconds is about average (for purely residential units).

Remember that on certain occasions — like Hari Raya, Christmas, Chinese New Year, and so on — everyone’s relatives will come visiting. Also, there may be times when one lift is unavailable, due to maintenance or someone moving into the estate. If there’s only two lifts for over a hundred residents, you can be in for some frustrating waits.

Tip 3: Beware choosing a resale unit that faces directly East or West

The sun will shine directly into your unit, if it faces East or West. Then you’d better have the mother of all air-conditioners installed, because you’re going to feel like a snowball in a microwave.

The unit with the morning sun, however, is still more preferable than the unit with afternoon sun. If units with a north-south orientation aren’t available or desirable, try to pick an “angled” unit; units facing north-east or south-east enable you to enjoy a bit of sunlight in the morning (for a little dose of Vitamin D) and avoid the perils of the afternoon sun altogether.

Tip 4: Check how close you are to the road, carpark, or MRT line

Do you savour the nuanced honk of bus 427 every evening? Does the rattling of you windows and bed, as the MRT passes nearby, comfort you like a soothing massage?

If not, you’d best consider the distance between the resale unit, and these noisy features. Note that there’s a bit of a trade-off involved here: the ground floor will spare you elevator wait times, but tends to be closer to these disruptions.

The top floors may be quieter in certain instances, but it means waiting longer for the elevator.

Tip 5: Use a measuring tape and record measurements onto the floor plan

If you have a certain layout in mind (e.g. dining table, feature wall, television room), then always – and we mean always – take measurements with a tape measure and record it on the floor plan. Never walk around the resale unit, and try to mentally approximate what will go where. But unless you’re an interior designer/contractor, mental approximation will always lead to an end result that ends up looking very different from the real thing.

renovation mcst plan
Make sure you know the exact dimensions of any home you’re interested in buying — don’t assume.

Tip 6: You may end up hating the balcony

Balconies: you either love them or hate them.

In our experience, people love the idea of a balcony more than the actual balcony itself. In theory, it’s a place to relax and watch the sun go down. It’s an exposed area that gets filthy every 15 seconds, despite your best efforts to clean it.

(Also, NEA loves to check balcony areas for mosquito breeding. Good luck keeping it dry in December.)

Oh, and if you have a west-facing resale unit (see tip 3), then we doubt you’ll sit out on the balcony very often. Anyone who ventures there before 6:30pm will get more hot and sweaty than the inside of an NS man’s armpit.

Of course, some people still swear by the wonders of balconies (usually those who have maids). Our recommendation, think hard about having a balcony, and perhaps have it lower on your priority list of your dream home. After all, you’re paying for the space.

Tip 7: Check the ventilation

If you can’t view the actual property yet, then check the location of the block. Is there anything obstructing the windows?

You also need to consider air flow within the unit itself. Where will the breeze come in from? And are there too many partitions or walls to allow good air circulation? The more enclosed the space, the more you’ll need to rely on fans, air-conditioning, or straight up renovations to improve ventilation.

If anyone in your family has respiratory issues (such as asthma), then it may be best to pick a higher unit, and one that’s not facing a main road. The higher up the unit, the better the ventilation tends to be.

Here’s a chart of Singapore’s prevailing wind directions throughout the year to help you pick a unit with the best ventilation.

Singapore prevailing winds chart
Singapore’s wind direction throughout the year. Arrow directions indicate where the wind is coming from. (i.e. arrow pointing South means winds come from the North) Credit:

Tip 8: Note the proximity to sporting facilities (for private resale units)

Just so you know, some architects like to build basketball courts or tennis courts on top of condos (or very close to certain stacks). This sometimes works out fine. Other times, you can hear the game in detail, which defeats the purposes of buying the top floor unit. Every developer will insist on their perfect soundproofing, but you’ll never know until it’s too late.

On a related note, check the distance from your unit to the nearby sporting facilities. There’s usually more foot traffic passing by, if you’re near the gym/pool/tennis court, etc. Also, the voices tend to travel far and wide, if there are large groups using the facilities.

If you’re sensitive to noise, pick a unit further away from the action.

Tip 9: Even if you don’t believe in feng shui and lucky numbers, other people do

Maybe you have no issue living in apartment #04-44, or having a view that overlooks the nearby cemetery. We congratulate you on being a sensible and grounded individual, but remember that other people still believe it.

Unauspicious numbers and seemingly bad juju does matter to some future buyers, and it may even affect your ability to rent out the unit. If you’re an owner-occupier and you don’t care, then go for it (you may even get a discount). But if you intend to re-sell or rent out, at least consider the consequences before going ahead.


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