To most buyers, purchasing a property for investment means getting a unit from a new project launch. The idea of getting a development under construction and selling it off, presumably before the completion, for a tidy profit is one that is commonly ingrained in many individuals’ minds. In many cases, this idea is not wrong. Buyers are attracted to newer developments especially those with modern design and updated facilities. Tenants too, all other factors equal, would naturally be attracted to newer developments. However, there are still individuals who fail to make money when buying a new project during a developer launch. A good example of this in Singapore would be this development by the name of Studio 8. The development had all the traits of a good property investment. It had a freehold tenure, located 1 minute away from Kallang MRT Station and had ample facilities around its vicinity. Yet every individual who bought a unit in the development made a loss. Of course, this is perhaps an example on the extreme end of things and Studio 8 was launched at the peak of the property market cycle and the market went south shortly after with the Singapore government coming in with property cooling measures to taper demand.
In my course of work, I also handle properties in Bangkok, Thailand. The same can be said of properties in Bangkok. Property investors are drawn to new project launches rather than the resale market. The prices are usually higher but then resale values and rents collected are correspondingly higher as well.
Here comes something very common. If we were to look across the board and observe profits of different buyers, we will be able to see that profits, or losses, vary greatly. Something that can not be tracked via statistics is the time and ease it took for a particular unit to be sold in the resale market or rented in the rental market. Yet if you were to speak to practising real estate agents, you will always hear the same tone that a buyer or tenant looks for units with characteristics like quiet facing, unblocked view and good layout among many others. What perplexes me is that buyers are so much more discerning in the resale market as they are in the primary market. The main reason for this is due to the fact that decision making usually more rushed in the primary market. Buyers seem to have more urgency in a new project launch than they would in the resale market. Don’t get me wrong, I personally feel that purchasing a unit in the primary market is one of the possible ways for a property investor to reap profits. Many have done it before and many will do it again. The point I am trying to drive through is that true property investors make their decisions away from the show flat. Their purchasing decision is not determined by the number of buyers at a project launch. Instead, they analyse the projects on offer and zoom in on a few potential new project launches. This is the macro decision which I will not be focusing on in this article. Next, they work on identifying the prime units in the development or units with unique selling points. This is what I refer to as making a micro decision when selecting a unit at a new project launch. Some seasoned property investors may refer to these as the prime units. Here are some points to take note when selecting a unit at a new project launch.
Identify units with prime facing
Not every unit is created equal. This is the reason why the developer prices every unit differently. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the level, the pricier the unit, all else being equal. However, it would always be good to start off by identifying units in the development which have good facing. Things like pool facing, unblocked views in the living rooms or bedrooms and units with city or sea view will put your unit in good stead in the future on the resale or rental market.
Look for the peaceful units
When you are at the sales gallery looking at the model of the development or when you are browsing through the brochure, you need to picture yourself looking out of the living room, the balcony and the bedroom windows. Certain units on the lower levels may be too close for comfort to the barbeque pit or the children’s playground. There may be some units which face an open greenery, overlook low rise housing like a landed property enclave. These units are the units which you should consider. My next point will highlight the flip side.
Avoid units that have road noise
In my time as a real estate agent, I have encountered countless occasions whereby the buyer of a new project launch only realises that the unit he purchased is a noisy unit after he has taken possession of the keys to the unit. All is serene and peaceful at the sales gallery and some buyers may focus on other macro points like proximity to the train station or the upcoming demand potential from the master plan but then overlook something as fundamental as whether the unit they are buying has road noise. The proximity to a busy road is something that must be evaluated. A noisy apartment is a huge put off for potential buyers and tenants. Having a unit right next to a busy road means that that particular unit will be noisy. You would have to purchase units on extremely high levels to mitigate the sound from a busy road. Buyers in the resale market notice a noisy apartment in an instant. Buyers in the primary market have to do the same.
Look for units with an efficient layout
Have you ever been in an apartment and wondered where you should put your dining table or where the television console should sit? Always try to imagine yourself living in the property. Layouts differ between different units and as a buyer, you should picture yourself living and navigating the property. There are instances whereby the kitchen and dining room are punctuated by the living room. This would mean that when serving food from the kitchen, you would have to navigate past the living room before reaching the dining room. Imagine having guests over on festive occasions. Where will they sit and is there an area to place extra tables, chairs and food? Also, do understand that when you walk into a showflat, there are usually no room doors. This gives a sense that the room is actually bigger than it is.
Look for units with unique selling points
Look for units with access to a garden or facilities level. For example, I once marketed a unit for sale on the eleventh floor of a condominium and it had access to a garden which was on the same level. There were other units on sale on the higher levels in the same stack. The unit which I was marketing was asking for a higher price than those on the higher levels. The difference was that those on the higher levels did not have any differentiating qualities about those units. When I showed the unit to prospective buyers, I highlighted the fact that the unit had easy access to a pleasant garden. Eventually, I managed to sell the unit at a higher price and in a shorter time than the other units that were on sale. Developments may be very large. In fact, they may consist of over a thousand units. It is important that buyers identify the units with unique selling points to give themselves a better chance of renting or selling in the future.
Look for units with easy access to facilities and access gates
This expands on the previous point and is especially true for developments that sit on an exceptionally large plot of land. The facilities like the gym, function room or barbeque pit may be located right at one end of the development and may be a significant walk for residents on the other end. Similarly, if the access gate is too far away, it may pose a daily inconvenience as well. These issues are not apparent when buyers are buying uncompleted developments but may pose an issue when the property is completed. Prospective tenants and buyers do want convenience and things that were not apparent from the models in the sales gallery do become so when the property is completed.
Avoid units with west sun
Especially in places like Singapore and Bangkok, the weather can get really hot thus having the late afternoon sun belting into your property can be rather undesirable. However, at times it may not be possible to avoid units with west facing especially when the building as a whole faces the west. I have personally met tenants and buyers wanting some afternoon sun coming into their property, especially the balconies or where they hang their laundry.
Avoid units that are close to a service lift or the garbage chute
When buyers view a property on the resale market, it becomes apparent that the unit faces a service lift or a garbage chute as they will physically see it. However, these negative traits are less apparent when the property is uncompleted. Buyers tend to focus on the beautifully done up show flat and on the unit layout. I have met homeowners who lamented to me that they made a mistake of selecting a unit next to a garbage chute or too close to the lift. Residents would walk past their units daily to throw their trash and at times the opening and closing of the rubbish chute door are disturbing.
Check what comes as standard material
When buyers walk into a nicely done up show flat they can be misled to think that the unit that they are purchasing is nicer than what will eventually be handed to them. For one, almost all show units are nicely renovated and buyers have to recognise this fact and be able to picture a bare unit to manage their expectations. Buyers should check what is given as standard material. Identifying how much wardrobe and cabinet space is important in determining how much additional carpentry work will be needed when the property is completed. Also, do check whether the wardrobes provided are from floor to ceiling or merely up to a certain height. This is one of the reasons why I have repeatedly mentioned to buyers that merely comparing per square foot pricing among two developments may not be indicative of the value which you may be getting in terms of the finishing and material provided. Yes, you may be purchasing the property with the lower per square foot pricing but if you factor in the additional monies you may need to fork out to install additional cabinets, outdoor decking over planters or additional carpentry works for a shoe cabinet or to conceal the electrical switchboard, you may not actually be purchasing the more affordably priced option after all. One thing that is commonly overlooked is whether the unit comes with false ceiling installed. This can make the difference if you want to install downlights and if you do need to install false ceiling to your property, this adds to the cost as well.
Buyers will also need to understand that there can be no perfect unit. I usually equip myself or my clients with a checklist when looking for a property and I do think that everyone should list down their requirements and things to take note when viewing a property. It can be difficult to detach yourself from emotions when visiting a show flat at a new project launch so I always advocate a methodical approach when shopping for a property.
My other articles relating to new project launches