Our blessed house hunt was a 4-month long journey (excluding paperwork and HDB appointments). In this post, I’m going to talk about God’s fingerprints during our journey.
[Liz] (So in case you haven’t figured out why its a cozy house hunt… Colin + Lizzy = cozy lor. *ba dum tss*)
Even before we got engaged, Liz had already started browsing for flats in her free time before bed. As for me, I was not that gan cheong (nervous). Someone once told us, guys just want to get married, while girls care more about where they’re actually going to stay. Haha. After we got engaged, we started searching in Hougang. We were very specific in our search as we wanted a medium-sized flat, which turned out to be a certain 4-room (4A) layout. We also had other things in our ‘wish list’, like high-floor, corner or door-to-door, near MRT. So when you put all of these together, it actually narrowed our options down to just a cluster of 10+ blocks near Hougang MRT.
We spent the next few weekends looking at a few units. A month into the search, we had a good feeling about one particular flat after comparing our options. We brought Liz’s mother to take a look at the unit the second time we went down and she was supportive too. That very same night, we actually put down an offer price, gave a $1000 deposit, and signed the OTP (Option to Purchase) paper for the first time, which was a bit of shock to me that everything happened so quickly. The next thing we needed to wait for was the valuation. We prayed that it would match the offer price so that we would not need to pay COV (Cash over valuation).
[Liz]: For the unaware, how buying a resale flat works is that you offer a price (say, $500k), then get a valuation report from HDB. If the valuation report that comes back is above your offered price (say, $520k), no worries, you just pay your original offer of $500k. BUT if your valuation report comes back and places your house at, say, $470k, you CANNOT buy the flat at $470k. If you want to complete the purchase, you must pay $500k (what you originally offered). However as the loan amount you can get for your home is capped AT your valuation price, you will have to top up the difference of $30k in cash. That’s COV, tl;dr.)
6 days later, HDB uploaded the valuation report online. To our horror, it was a price that was $20k higher than our offer price. That meant that we would have to fork out that extra in cold hard cash, which was impossible as we didn’t have that amount of money. (And $20k could have paid for at least half our renovation.) With regret, we had to forfeit the offer and hence lose our deposit. =(
[Liz]: Am super grateful to our friend Evan, who is a property agent. While we really could not afford to engage an agent, Evan was very gracious and helpful in giving us advice during this period when we were scouring Hougang for a suitable flat. Just a few years ago, before the government went all-out on housing cooling measures, it WAS very common practice to have to pay many thousands of dollars in COV for a resale flat. But the market has cooled significantly since, and Evan’s advice was that it was not worth paying the $20k.
The next few months were a roller coaster ride. We continued our search in Hougang but the rest of the options didn’t look very promising. [Liz]: We almost offered on another unit right next to Hougang Mall, but I had a scratchy feeling about it. So even though we had even arranged for a date to sign the paperwork and the home owners were willing to take a $100 (instead of $1000) deposit, we didn’t go ahead with that flat in the end. And boy were we glad we didn’t cause God was waiting to give us something even better! 🙂
We expanded our search to other estates but we encountered many problems such as the flats were too old, too far away from the MRT, too expensive etc. After a while, we got pretty jaded, and I told Liz to take a Christmas break until the new year began. (But she was anxious and continued browsing the listings in her free time.)
In January 2015, we decided to look at a 3-room flat in the East, closer to Liz’s place, which had an odd layout. [Liz]: As you can tell, the longer you take to find a house, the more your “criteria list” starts to blur. From 4-room, high floor, near MRT, we started looking at low floor and 3-room units. The only non-negotiable part was the MRT. We thought the listing was a mistake because the floor area was significantly bigger than most usual 3-room flats. The flat was over 100sqm compared to usual 60-75sqm that most 3-room flats were. Even though it was on a low floor, we decided to take a look anyway as we were curious about the layout.
On first impression, the neighbourhood was nice and had a charm to it. Even though the unit was on a low floor, it was windy, and the long layout was very interesting. It was actually as big as a new 4- or 5-room flat!
I was okay with the unit but it was not top on my list because it was not a corner unit and it did not fulfil some other things on our ‘wish list’. So we kept on looking in other areas. We even went as far as Tanjong Pagar and Tampines. [Liz] After a day of scouring units in Tampines, including the most horrifically dirty and dingy flat we ever walked into, introduced by the most unprofessional agent we’d ever met, we decided that Tampines was just TOO FAR AWAYYY~ Sorry, all my Tampines friends. During this time, we also made an offer on a nicely renovated 3-room unit in Tanjong Pagar, but someone else offered $20k higher after us. So we didn’t manage to get that house and were disappointed again. When February rolled around, we decided to take a look at this flat in the East again.
After weighing all our available options and disregarding some of the items on our ‘wish list’, we decided to make an offer for this unit just before Chinese New Year (CNY). The main reason was the size, excellent location and the closeness to the city. [Liz] and to my parent’s house :p This was when the miracles started to happen to us one by one.
While we did not have our own agent, the Lord gave us a lot of favour with the seller’s agent, who was actually very nice and helped us negotiate with the owner to accept our first offer price. While we were not in a hurry to sign the necessary paperwork before CNY, the agent pushed for us to sign the documents as soon as possible as she was concerned about the long office closure over the CNY period. And here comes the testimonies, one after the other. Daddy God does it in style =)
1. $0 COV
We signed the OTP (option to purchase) on the Monday before CNY. On Wednesday (eve of CNY), the valuer went to assess the home (so hardworking!). Again, we prayed and kept our fingers crossed that the valuation would match our offer price this time. Once bitten, twice shy. A week later, the report came out and praise the Lord, the valuation price matched our offer price on the dot!!!
2. Restoration of lost deposit
As if that was not good enough news, God decided to give us another present. On that same day, my dad give me a big ang pow for Chinese New Year, and it restored many times more than the deposit that we lost in the first offer we made in Hougang. It is indeed the year of His restoration =)
3. Great deal
A few days after the valuation report came out, we went to sign the rest of the OTP to exercise our option. After that, Liz went to check the HDB website to see if our transaction had been updated. Our listing was not up yet, but to our surprise, we saw that a listing in our neighbouring block (with 2 years more on the lease, same low floor unit but slightly smaller in size) sold for >$60,000 the price that we paid for our unit! Wow. This meant that the buyers of that unit had exercised their option just shy of 1 or 2 weeks before us. If we had taken just a few more weeks to make an offer, the seller definitely would not have sold to us at our offered price because this other transaction had brought the average market value of units in the estate up much higher. Indeed, it was qarah, God’s right place and right time that secured this house for us.
[Liz] How cray is this because flats in this part of the East were wayyyyyy beyond our budget and flats like ours don’t go onto the market very often. We were really blessed! It was like God was reserving this place just for us.
It felt like a long journey even though it has only been 4-5 months. It was often tiring because we did not have an agent and had to arrange for all the viewing appointments by ourselves. Many of our weekends and some weekday evenings were spent house hunting. We felt jaded and discouraged after 2 failed offers, but we knew that God has something for us in his grand plan and He certainly wasn’t going to let us go without a roof over our heads.
We just went for our first HDB appointment a few weeks ago and will officially be home owners by next month. I know that Daddy God has more things in store for us as we continue this house x wedding adventure!