Sunday, October 28, 2007

Progressive Vs Deferred Payments

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 28, 2007

Some Residents Unhappy With 'Private' Lift

Source : The Sunday Times, Oct 28, 2007

SOME residents in Pasir Ris will have a 'private' lift, which they will share with just one neighbour, but they are not thrilled with the idea.

A lift upgrade programme which will see the lift stop at every floor will pose some inconveniences and risks, said two residents who wrote to The Straits Times.

The design is such that the new lift landing will not lead to their flat's main door, but to their balcony. There are no escape routes or staircases and they fear being trapped in the lift landing in the event of a fire or robbery, said auditor Khoo Teck Chung, 30, who wrote in to The Straits Times.

Others think the additional door at the balcony may also increase the risk of break-ins.

Eleven blocks in Pasir Ris Drive 4 and Drive 6 were selected for the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP). Nine of the 11 in the precinct voted for the upgrade - achieving the 75 per cent mandate required for the LUP to go through.

Under the LUP scheme, residents will pay about $2,000 to $3,000 to get these new lifts that stop at every floor. Currently, the lifts stop only on three floors.

The HDB said the new lifts will come with clear glass panels and be equipped with a lift surveillance system.

Singapore HDB Resale Prices Rise 6.6% In Q3

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 October 2007

The booming property market shows no sign of letting up. Third-quarter prices indicate an upward climb across the private residential market and HDB resale segment.

In particular, HDB resale prices rose 6.6 percent over the previous quarter - the highest increase in 10 years.

Buying a home in the resale market will not come cheap.

The latest data showed a 6.6 percent rise in prices across most flat types and towns.

However, housing agents said prices in some areas are rising at an alarming rate.

Mohamed Ismail, CEO, PropNex, said, "Though the overall price index says it's 6.6 per cent, but some of the locations, particularly if you look at say five-room flats in places like Ang Mo Kio or Jurong East, Bedok and as well as in Queenstown, all have recorded a median price increase of more than 10 percent, with Queenstown recording a 20 percent increase for a five-room flat."

Overall, the resale transaction volume fell 11 percent in the third quarter.

Industry watchers said this could be due to the surge in prices in the second quarter, which may have caused younger buyers to shy away.

Another thing working against younger home buyers is the climbing cash over valuation (COV) amount.

Latest figures showed the median COV for all resale transactions in third quarter was S$17,000.

However, agents said the COV for central areas has risen to an unrealistic level - at some S$100,000 above valuation for a five-room and executive flat in Queenstown.

Still, they do not expect the upward trend to last.

Eugene Lim, Associate Director, ERA, said, "Many sellers are asking for higher and higher cash over valuation and if you look at what is happening in the market, we are actually beginning to see some resistance, because a typical HDB buyer does not have so much cash or is not willing to part with so much cash, and this will put a cap basically on how prices increase over time."

The resale sector is expected to finish strongly in the next quarter, with agents forecasting a 5 to 6 percent rise in prices.

They also project total resale prices to increase between 13 and 17 percent for the year.

Industry players said the government's plan to build more new flats over the next six months will ease pressure on resale prices in the long run, and they do not expect resale prices to have a big impact on the prices HDB will charge for its new flats.

However, property agents said the prices will be competitive in popular locations.

They said the high demand for HDB resale flats came partly from buyers who have been priced out of private residential properties.

In addition, the rosy economic outlook also caused many home owners to upgrade to a larger flat.

As for the HDB rental market, industry players said the 8 percent rise in the third quarter is backed by strong demand and a spillover effect from the private property sector.

Another increase of 5 to 10 percent is expected next quarter.

For private residential properties, prices rose 8.3 percent - the same rate of increase as the second quarter.

Rentals also scaled up 11.4 percent, compared to 10.4 percent previously. - By Wong Siew Ying,CNA/ms

Stockpiling Of Granite Is Of Strategic Importance To Singapore: Govt

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 October 2007

The Ministry of National Development (MND) said the stockpiling of granite at Lim Chu Kang is of strategic importance to Singapore.

It said the recent Indonesian sand ban and granite supply disruption had shown that supply cut-offs could be sudden and potentially damaging.

Maintaining adequate stockpile of essential construction materials is therefore a key strategy to enhance supply resilience of these materials to continually meet Singapore's economic and social needs.

The ministry was responding to the Kranji Countryside Association which had sent a letter dated 10 Oct 2007 to the Prime Minister, asking why granite was being stockpiled at the Lim Chu Kang site.

The ministry said the site was selected after careful consideration, taking into account various land use needs.

It is also zoned as a "reserve" site - which means the specific use has not been determined for the next 15-20 years.

It said that as much as the authorities would like to locate such facilities away from densely built-up areas or any other developments, this is not always possible in land-scarce Singapore. Thus, it is important for co-existence of different land uses on adjacent land plots.

The ministry added that appropriate measures have been taken to mitigate the impact of stockpiling activities on the nearby farms.

A surveillance programme is also in place to monitor the soil and water conditions around the stockpile site.

The ministry said it will also ensure that relevant agencies work with farm operators to minimise the impact of the stockpiling activity there. - CNA /ls

Woman ’Sells’ 1 Condo To Two Buyers

Source : The Sunday Times, Oct 28, 2007

Property agent sister of condo owner pockets $30,000 in deposits from two buyers; now one of them is suing her to get back $25,000

HER sister had given her permission to sell her private apartment in Sengkang.

But the woman, herself a property agent, managed to ’sell’ the condo unit to not just one, but two buyers, pocketing $30,000 in deposits from them.

Now, one of the buyers is filing a lawsuit against her to retrieve the $25,000 he paid to the woman.

A police report has also been filed against her by one of the property agents who brokered the deal.

But the woman says she did nothing wrong and pins the blame on the other two agents involved instead.

In May, she approached two property agents separately to help her market her older sister’s apartment at Rivervale Crest. Her sister is said to be working in Australia.

The woman is said to be in her 30s and is married, with one daughter from a previous marriage. She is also a discharged bankrupt.

She wanted $570,000 for the apartment.

This is where the two sides’ stories begin to differ.

The agents claimed she collected cheques for payments of 1 to 5 per cent of the condo’s sale price but would delay returning the option-to-purchase (OTP) documents to the buyer until the date had expired.

The date usually expires after two weeks.

Then, she would claim the buyer did not act promptly and must forfeit the payments they had made to her.

By then, she had already banked in the cheques.

One of the PropNex agents involved in the deal, Mr Mohd Rasheed Othman, said he had known the woman for a year, having co-brokered a property with her before.

‘She knew the tricks of the trade and used her knowledge to cheat others,’ alleged the 32-year-old.

Mr Mohd Rasheed visited the Sengkang apartment after his buyer complained. There, he met her aged parents, who were shocked that their daughter was selling the apartment.

He said: ‘Her parents had no idea she was selling the apartment. They were living there as per normal.’

Her reply: My parents have nothing to do with the apartment.

The other agent, Ms S.N. Lee, 30, said the woman would come up with excuses to delay returning documents and would avoid phone calls.

She said: ‘She’d insist on meeting at ridiculous times, in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes, she’d even tell me to collect important documents from her shoe rack.’

Most of the time, the two agents would communicate with her by SMS.

When contacted by The Sunday Times, the woman claimed that the accusations against her were not true.

She said she did not want to go ahead with the first transaction with Mr Mohd Rasheed because he had cheated her by selling her apartment for $510,000, instead of $570,000 as promised.

‘I’m the victim here,’ she said.

She also claimed he gave her a blank OTP document to sign.

This document usually states how much the property is sold for. Sellers would have to agree to the price stated before signing.

As for Ms Lee, she failed to act promptly, said the woman, and allowed the OTP date to expire. By the woman’s reasoning, the $5,350 deposit paid by the buyer is now rightfully hers.

PropNex has returned this $5,350 deposit to the buyer on a goodwill basis.

The police confirmed that a report has been made against the woman and they are investigating.

This is not the first time someone has sold a property to multiple buyers.

In 1996, a bankrupt cheated eight people of $20,000 in all by pretending to sell his Ang Mo Kio HDB flat to each of them.

The victims, who paid between $1,000 and $5,000 as deposits, found out they had been conned only when they handed their resale agreements to the HDB. The conman was given eight months’ jail.

No Delaying Payments, So Home Hunters Turn Cautious

Source : The Sunday Times, Oct 28, 2007

Move may have initial dampening effect but experts say it will chase away only speculators

MARKETING manager Simon Loh has put an abrupt halt to his house hunting.

The 38-year-old had been looking for a new place for the last six months, but now that he cannot defer payments until the new apartment is ready, he has had to shelve his plans.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority announced on Friday that buyers of uncompleted private homes and offices will no longer have the option of using a deferred payment scheme.

This allowed home buyers to pay as little as 10 per cent of the purchase price upfront, footing the rest only when the property is ready.

All buyers now will have to use the progressive payment scheme where they pay between 5 per cent and 25 per cent of the purchase price every few months.

Mr Loh, who currently has to pay the bank a monthly mortgage of $1,300 on his condominium unit in Yio Chu Kang, cannot afford to take up another loan to buy a new home in town.

‘I’ll have to drop the idea, but I could have done it with the deferred payment scheme,’ he said.

Other house hunters are also thinking twice.

Sales manager Lawrence Chen, 35, who has been looking for a terrace house since last year, said he has to be ‘more conservative’ now.

Some buyers, though, are not affected by the change, saying they will just have to take up bank loans earlier.

IT manager Daniel Lim, 36, who was at a showflat in Paya Lebar, said: ‘You still have to pay for the property eventually.’

Typically, a buyer who chooses to take the deferred payment route is charged between 3 per cent and 5 per cent more than one under the progressive scheme. Still, property agents say up to 90 per cent of their buyers take up the deferred scheme.

They agree that removing the scheme will achieve the Government’s aim of driving away speculators. But the agents believe low-budget buyers could also be hit.

ERA Singapore assistant vice-president Eugene Lim said: ‘The mass market projects will be most affected because buyers there could need the three years’ construction time to build up their funds.’

But most agents believe the market will remain strong.

Property developers believe the move would have a slight initial dampening effect on sales, chasing away speculators but not buyers.

They are not taking measures, like lowering prices, to counter the new rule.

Singapore-based developer Chip Eng Seng, which will launch CityVista Residences in Peck Hay Road in about two weeks, said: ‘There are many genuine buyers and though they may be more cautious initially, the demand’s still strong.’

Life Design - Host And Roast

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

An island kitchen with an extended dining table makes it easy to entertain and cook at the same time

Size: 1,227 sq ft
Renovation budget:
Under $80,000

HIDE AND SLEEK: White floor-to-ceiling cabinets (above) hide a storeroom and the entrance to a toilet while the flush look ensures a clean and streamlined feel in the kitchen. The island counter, which extends to a dining table, allows avid cook Marc Ling (below, with wife Erika Foo)to whip up his specialities and entertain at the same time. -- ST PHOTOS: ALAN LIM

IT IS difficult to tell that this four-room HDB flat in Bishan is 13 years old.

Home owners Marc Ling and Erika Foo worked with Ms Kelly Choong from interior design firm ProjectFile to give their flat a new breath of life.

The couple bought the 1,227 sq ft flat for $360,000 and moved in last month.

Ms Foo, 27, a facilitator at Republic Polytechnic, describes their home as 'minimalist, modern and with a Scandinavian air'.

Mr Ling, 29, a consultant, says the flat was well-kept but old fashioned. 'It was uncluttered so we could see the potential. Plus it has a squarish layout which makes it easier to work with,' he says.

They spent about $74,000 on renovation which took about three months. This included removing a second main door so a recess area by the main door could be better utilised. It is now a shoe storage area.

A wall leading to the kitchen and a storeroom was also removed to create an open kitchen, which allows the couple to have an island kitchen with an extended dining table.

'I entertain and cook, and still want to be able to mingle with guests rather than be away, as I would be in a conventional kitchen,' says Mr Ling.

RELAX IN THIS CORNER: Ms Foo also designed and created her own vinyl sticker print-outs for this cosy corner (above) in the master bedroom.

The new home has just two bedrooms, down from the previous three. One is now the guest room, while a study and the old master bedroom have been merged into a bigger bedroom that comes with a walk-in wardrobe area.

WORK AND PLAY: By merging two bedrooms, the new master bedroom has an attached work area (above). Flanking it is a row of cabinets that is also the walk-in wardrobe and hides the entrance to the bathroom.

The couple also changed their marble flooring for homogenous tiles.

Some of the renovation money was also spent on built-in cupboards around the home, such as the walk-in wardrobe area, the TV console in the living room as well as the shoe-storage area. The built-in cupboards were done in light wood laminate, a shade that is popular in Scandinavian homes.

HOMEMADE ART: In the living room (above), the plasma TV is framed by acrylic paintings and animated photo montages of Mr Ling's overseas travels (below) made by Ms Foo.
'We prefer built-in pieces so we can keep everything tucked away,' says Ms Foo.

A row of white floor-to-ceiling cabinets behind the island kitchen hides a storeroom and the entrance to a toilet, while one cabinet opens up to a storage area.

Perpendicular to this row of cabinets is another row of built-in cabinets which hides the washing machine and a wine cooler.

Ms Foo says the arrangement gives the home an uncluttered and seamless feel.

For furnishings, the couple shopped at local stores Air Division for their sofa and at X-tra Living, where they bought designer chairs such as the Eames Moulded Plastic Rocker and Air Chair.

The avid shoppers also went online and bought two lamps from and a set of wall flats, or recycled fibreboards that were used to create a feature wall, from

Items ordered from online stores are flat-packed and shipped to Singapore.

'You can get more variety and, in some cases, it is cheaper too compared to buying it locally,' says Mr Ling.

Tips from the home owners

1 Plan in advance

The best way to stay within the budget is to plan ahead of time and apportion funds accordingly. 'Before we picked the interior design company, we had done our maths and decided that we would spend about $70,000 on renovation,' says Ms Foo.

2 Find your own suppliers

The couple found their own suppliers for bathroom fittings and the double-system roller blinds. 'This allowed us to compare quotes and quality of products before we bought them,' says Ms Foo.

3 Mix and match

The couple knew they were spending on designer pieces such as the Eames Molded Plastic Chairs. 'To complement the look without burning a hole in our pockets, we hunted for bargains that were similarly designed but cost only a fraction of the price,' says Ms Foo.

4 Get fittings that reinforce the look

A clear vision helped the couple pick items that complemented the look instead of those they desired. 'We also kept a list of the exact items needed - this helped to keep in check the purchase of items,' says Ms Foo.

Life Design - Made To Order

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

Want a home that's one of a kind? Go for custom-made furniture

Size: 1,367 sq ft
Renovation budget:
Under $40,000

LUXE LIFE: A chandelier adds an ornate touch to the dining area, which is furnished with a custom-made dining table and fabric-panelled walls. -- PHOTO: EDGELINE PLANNERS

MARRIED couple Audie and Angeline Dimailig knew what they wanted when it came to furnishing their second home, a three-bedroom apartment in Pasir Panjang.

'We wanted a modern look, one that would be different from the usual Zen, Balinese or tropical look,' says Mr Dimailig, a senior finance manager.

The couple, who are in their 30s and were married in 2001, got the keys to their $700,000 home in February last year and moved in last June. They hired lead consultant Keith Kang of Edgeline Planners to do the renovations, which cost about $40,000.

As it was a new apartment, there was less work to be done, compared to an older unit.

With instructions from the home owners to turn a bedroom adjoining the living room into a study, Mr Kang - who noted that the living and dining areas were tiny - replaced the walls of the study with floor-to-ceiling glass panels. 'This opens up the study and gives the illusion of a bigger living room,' he says.

GLASS ACT: The glass-enclosed study (above) has red floral decals and a black string curtain (below) that shield it from the living and dining areas while adding interest.

Part of the renovation budget was also spent on making a TV console which has one side serving as an extension of the step-up platform to the study.

Money was also spent on custom-made furniture such as the dining table, a table console and side table for the master bedroom. 'Custom-made furniture is more costly than buying from the stores but the pieces are unique,' says Mr Kang.

REST OF THE HOME: A rich purple hue gives the master bedroom (above), Mrs Dimailig's favourite room, a cosy feel. Guests staying overnight will also get to enjoy the same sense of luxury in the guest room (below). -- PHOTO: EDGELINE PLANNERS

Mrs Dimailig, a treasury consultant, says the furniture is a snug fit with the home's modern and baroque theme. 'Sometimes, it can be difficult finding the piece you want,' she says.

The couple spent another $70,000 on soft furnishings. Nearly $10,000 was spent on curtains from J&S Design. Organza and polyester curtains line the living room and bedroom windows.

CUSTOM ORDER: Even the cushions and ottoman in the Dimailigs' living room (above) are custom-made so that they match the organza and polyester curtains. -- ST PHOTOS: SHAHRIYA YAHAYA

'These materials are more lasting than cotton ones,' says Mr Kang.

The couple also spent about $30,000 on furniture from upmarket stores such as Space, Mod Living and Lifestorey. To add character to the walls, they spent another $12,000 on abstract artworks from gallery Ode To Art.

'Since we're going to be spending a lot of time here, we believe our apartment should make us feel comfortable,' says Mr Dimailig.

Tips from the home owners

1 Reuse items

The couple used a mirror from their previous home in their current bedroom. 'We love it and it was still in good condition. It saves us from buying another,' says Mrs Dimailig.

2 Take pictures when shopping

Whenever the couple saw an item but were not sure if it would fit in the home, they'd take a picture to show Mr Kang. 'It saves you from buying the wrong item,' adds Mr Dimailig.

3 Decide on the look

Rather than buying randomly, the couple decided on the look they wanted even before hiring Mr Kang. This helps to narrow down on what to spend or splurge on later.

4 Shop around for an interior designer

Mr Kang suggests that home owners check out three to four interior decor firms before deciding on one. 'Some make promises but can't deliver and you may end up paying more than what you budgeted for,' he says.

Ask to see the designer's past work and be sure that he is open to your ideas rather than forcing his on you.

Life Design - Get The Hang Of It

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

A cantilevered centrepiece that is both a TV console and a stove? You bet

Size: 1,080 sq ft
Renovation budget: Under $60,000

TWO IN ONE: An island counter with an attached dining table (above) shares the spotlight with a stove built into the hanging centrepiece in the dining area. -- ST PHOTOS: ASHLEIGH SIM

HOME owner Vivi Law's three-bedroom apartment near Bukit Timah is done up exactly how she wanted it. After all, the design manager from interior firm Spacious Planners is also the apartment's interior designer.

She bought the six-year-old, 1,080 sq ft apartment for $530,000 and spent about $58,000 on renovations and $20,000 on furnishings. The 33-year-old, who lives alone, moved in last month.

The main addition to the apartment is the installation of a cantilevered structure that separates the living room and the kitchen. Costing about $8,000, it is made from a metal frame that is cladded with wooden panels.

It serves two purposes: On the side that faces the living room, it is a hanging TV console with storage space. On the side of the kitchen, it is where the stove is placed.

Ms Law, who designed the structure, says there is enough allowance to ensure that neither the TV nor the stove will affect each other. A gas pipe and electrical wires are all hidden in it. Her clients have yet to adopt this idea but 'this will serve as a real-life example for them'.

The bachelorette also wanted to create a 'fireplace' in her home.

By having the structure cantilevered, this allows her to create a floor feature using pebbles. Lighting installed under the structure lights up the pebbles, giving them a glow and creating an illusion of a fireplace.

FIRE UP ON STYLE: In the living room (above), the cantilevered showpiece-cum-TV console has lights underneath that create a glow to simulate a 'fireplace' effect.

Installing the showpiece, however, would have been impossible without removing some walls to reconfigure the living space, such as switching the original dining area with the living room and vice versa.

The new space allocation also allowed her to put in an island kitchen with an extended L-shaped black granite-top six-seat dining table as well as a Blum drawer system that costs about $1,000.

The old kitchen is now a pantry and a shoe cabinet with a row of new built-in cabinets.

Money was also spent replacing the original granite flooring in the living and dining areas with homogenous tiles. Ms Law says she wanted to keep the original flooring but changed her mind later as she did not like the feel of it.

DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS: The tear-drop hanging lamp (left) from Lumiere is Ms Law's favourite and lights up a corner of her bedroom. In the foreground is a Murano glass figurine that she bought in Italy.

But she kept the parquet flooring in the bedrooms. But it was stained a lighter shade to 'give it a more modern and airy feel'.

Other changes include replacing her wardrobe's original wooden casement-type doors with mirrored sliding ones to give the bedroom a larger feel, as well as fitting a TV on a rotating panel so that she can watch it from either her bed or her bathtub.

WATCH FROM ALL ANGLES: The TV in the master bedroom rests on a swivel panel (above) Ms Law can watch TV either in bed or from the bathtub (below). A rainshower and homogenous tiles in the bathroom add to the luxurious feel.

Her advice for home owners? Be prepared to spend to get their ideal home.

'It makes more economical sense to do the whole home at once rather than do small renovations,' she says.

Tips from the home owner

1 Stick to professional help

As a design manager, Ms Law has seen many home owners who buy items for the home only to realise they don't fit with the theme.

'Keeping in mind your budget, we will recommend items that will fit in with the look of your home,' she says.

2 Don't leave shopping to the last minute

While the renovation is being done, go shopping with your interior designer for furniture. This comes in handy especially for appliances that have to be built in, such as ovens and dishwashers. There is still enough time to make measurement changes at this stage.

3 Invest in core pieces

Your budget may be tight but it pays to spend on certain items. 'The sofa and bed are most important. I believe in getting better quality ones as you will be spending more time on them,' says Ms Law.

4 Change the details

Instead of changing the doors in her home, Ms Law changed just the knobs and handles. 'The doors are still in good condition so they can be kept. But I changed the handles so they fit in with the overall look,' she says.

Life Design - Back To Basics

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

Now that you've paid for your new home, it is time to put in the wow factor. In this annual design special, TAY SUAN CHIANG gets home owners and interior designers to reveal their secrets to turning living spaces into beautiful homes with varying budgets

Cement flooring, white walls and black accents - that's a pure and simple yet winning concept

Size: 828 sq ft
Renovation budget:
Under $20,000

DIY MAGIC: Mr Chan, left with his wife Winnie Ong and their Corgi, Doughnut, dressed up the glass divider by sticking on it a poem written by their interior designer. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

THEY were floored by the look.

Mr Jonathan Chan and his wife Winnie Ong were at a friend's home and were taken in by the cement flooring.

'We initially wanted laminate flooring to get a retro look for our home,' says Mr Chan, 28, a sales executive.

He and Ms Ong, a 24-year-old manager, had thought about using cement for their first home - a three-room HDB resale flat in Toa Payoh for which they paid $170,000 - but were afraid that they might not like it.

'Almost immediately, we decided it would be cement after all as we liked the feel of it,' he says of their last-minute change of mind.

But that was not the only change. The couple, who were married in May last year and had moved into the bright and breezy flat five months ago, also opted to replace the retro theme with a modern one.

POSTER PERFECT: A Rolling Stones poster, which Mr Chan bought from because it has a splash of red, adorns the wall in this space which is furnished with a custom-made bench-cum-shoe cabinet.

They worked with freelance interior designer and friend John Ma to makeover the 828 sq ft flat, spending $17,000 on a month-long renovation that included changing the apartment's original terrazzo flooring, redoing the kitchen to fit in cabinets and a stove, and custom-making furnishings like a built-in TV console and bench-cum-shoe cabinet.

The original divider between the kitchen and dining room was replaced with a glass panel and door that helped to brighten the flat by letting more light in.

To jazz up the panel, Mr Chan printed the words of a love poem on removable black adhesive film and pasted it on. He already has plans to stick on a red 'xi' (Chinese for happiness) for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

For the flat's colour theme, the couple decided to keep it simple - black, white and grey.

'Too many colours would make the home look too chaotic,' explains Mr Chan, adding that the white walls make the flat look brighter and complement the grey concrete flooring.

'Black also goes well with these two colours,' he says. But a gift the couple received made them receptive to the idea of introducing colour into the flat, albeit in small doses.

Mr Ma gave them a red vintage telephone, so the couple are now on a quest to add splashes of red around the home which they share with Mr Chan's brother and their Corgi, Doughnut.

CRIMSON CRAZE: From this red, still-functional vintage telephone (above), the owners added other red items to their home, including a standing ashtray (below) bought from a Yahoo! auction. -- ST PHOTOS: LIM WUI LIANG

These include cushions, an ashtray from an online auction and an Aids campaign poster with red lettering.

'We now go hunting for red items. Thankfully, they're fairly easy to find,' says Mr Chan.

Tips from the home owners

1 From junk to funk

We're not telling you to steal from the office but, sometimes, unwanted things there can be used at home.

The Aids campaign poster featuring actress Charlize Theron was for a shoe store that Ms Ong manages, but when it was no longer used, she took it home and used it to jazz up her dining area, hence saving money on artworks.

2 Online finds

Check out deals online, such as on eBay or Yahoo! auctions.

The couple bought shopping vouchers that others were selling cheap. 'Once, we bought a $100 Takashimaya voucher for $80,' says Mr Chan. 'Any amount of savings will add up.'

3 Do it yourself, really

Dabble in some DIY decoration. Mr Chan got crafty and stuck words on the glass panel in the dining room to jazz it up.

Printing the words on adhesive film at printing shops costs about $120. 'It's easy to use and you save money by doing it yourself,' he says.

Alternatively, if you love photography, pick your favourite pictures and have them framed to put on the wall.

4 Scout around for lookalikes

Shop for 'designer' furniture.

The couple found their dining chairs from furniture store Gnee Hong in Bencoolen Street for $68 each. The seats are designed in a style similar to Israel-born architect-designer Ron Arad's Tom Vac chairs.

Govt Calls For Proposals To Build Permanent Race Track In Changi

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 26 October 2007

The government is calling for proposals to build a permanent race track in Changi.

This is to help make Singapore into a regional motor sports hub by riding on the F1 fever that has hit the country.

Due to its size, the proposed Grade 2 track is not designed for F1, but other smaller races.

Races like the A1 are just some of the exciting events that could come to Singapore should this proposed track design materialise.

A 20-hectare land off Changi Coast Road will be the site for the permanent facility.

Its seafront location will make it one of the most scenic circuits in Asia.

More importantly, the track will allow year-round usage and have benefits beyond sport.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports said: "It is also an industry that we want to promote. A lot of people think the production and building of cars is not something that Singapore has a role in. But contrary to that, if you look at modern cars, there is a lot of research development, high-tech planning and design which goes into it and as Singapore moves up the value chain. Singapore's high precision engineering and our past experience will give us a competitive edge."

Testing of cars aside, driver training courses can also be conducted.

The track will cost some $84 million and the ministry said there are interested parties.

It will be the most compact and efficient in Asia - measuring about 2.8km.

"With limited space, there will be a compromise because the longer the track, the more corners there will be. This also means the track is likely to be slower compared to a shorter track. But having said that, you also depend very much on the design of the track," said Fan Chien Jen, Deputy Director, Motor Sports Development Division, Singapore Sports Council.

The track will also allow the sport to grow here and develop future champions at a racing academy.

"A chance for a driving school perhaps... some kind of academy that'll give the driver a chance to get on the pathway. It will allow the masses to enjoy this, not only as a spectator but also to drive," said Oon Jin Teik, CEO of Singapore Sports Council.

The ministry will not fund the project. It will call for proposals both here and overseas in May 2008.

The track is expected to be up and running by 2011. - CNA /ls

Many Home Buyers Welcome Move To Scrap Deferred Payment Scheme

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 October 2007

Many home buyers have not been put off by the government's decision to withdraw the deferred payment scheme for property purchases.

Some showflats still bustle with activity, especially those approved to offer deferred payments.

Related Video Link -
Many home buyers welcome move to scrap deferred payment scheme

The latest change, which took effect on Friday, will only affect uncompleted private homes, commercial and industrial properties.

Alan Tan has just bought a penthouse at Park Natura at Jalan Jurong Kechil in the Bukit Timah area for over S$2 million.

The project can continue to offer deferred payment, but many home hunters say this is not a major factor that will sway their buying decision.

He says: "The deferred payment of course is a plus factor, but at the end of the day we look at the property itself, the location as well as the view. It's also a freehold properties - these are the factors that we considered."

The scrapping of the deferred payment scheme is seen as a move to cool the hot property market.

Buyers will now have to make progressive payments every few months at various stages of the construction process, instead of postponing payment till the property is completed two to three years later.

Some home buyers welcomed the move as it would deter speculators and stabilise the market.

Lim Guan Huat, Home Buyer, says: "For those who are more on the speculation, they have to think twice, because they cannot predict the market in two years' time. So it's the risk they have to consider."

Cheam Heng Peng, Home Buyer, says: "Less speculators, maybe the price will be down. It's uncertain right now."

Property agents say buyers will now have to be more prudent in their selection and they must also be prepared to incur interest from bank loans taken to service the payments.

But there is a flip side to it.

David Poh, Director, Strategic Planning and Development, PropNex, says: "When they opt for deferred payment scheme, they would normally pay a higher purchase price because developers would probably build in a small percentage for them, an interest element. Now if they just go for the normal progressive payment scheme, their purchase price would be lower, so with that saving they can use to pay the interest, it's still a zero sum game."

Industry watchers do not expect the change to have major impact on the market.

But they say developers will have to tweak their marketing activities to focus on other selling points like design and eco-friendly environment, rather that offering an attractive deferred payment scheme. - CNA/ch