Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dream Home Chase Turns Bad

Source : The Electric New Paper, October 05, 2008

Buyer loses unit & savings after mistake in loan application

HE wanted to upgrade from a four-room HDB flat in Hougang to a new condominium unit near the city.

Now Mr Thomas Ng, 49, may end up losing his life savings, all because of a mistake in his loan application.


He wanted to buy a $630,000 one-bedroom studio apartment in the Mackenzie 88 at Mackenzie Road, near Little India, under the Deferred Payment Scheme.

Under this scheme, buyers have to pay the stamp duty and 10 per cent down payment upfront and settle the remaining 90 per cent when their apartments are ready in 2010.

For Mr Ng, that would have been $78,000.

But when he signed the option to purchase, Mr Ng claimed, a property agent ticked the Normal Payment Scheme in his loan application.

This means that Mr Ng has to pay a 20 per cent down payment, and then make progressive payments as the condo is being completed in phases.

To add to his woes, the bank later would only offer him a 70 per cent loan instead of 80 per cent.

In all, he had to pay the developer a total of $202,000 by June this year.

Mr Ng, who earns about $5,000 a month as a self-employed salesman, could not afford this amount.

Wrong option

He could now lose the $140,000 he had paid up so far, after the developer told him in July this year that it was going to annul their agreement.

Mr Ng told The New Paper: 'What can I do now? I've lost everything and my wife told me that she wants a divorce.'

The unit which he reserved has since been sold.

Mr Ng claimed his problem started because one of the property agents in charge of marketing the project had ticked on the wrong loan option, perhaps because of his rush in handling a long queue of buyers.

Without checking, Mr Ng signed the document and passed it to his lawyer.

He assumed that everything was correct and that his lawyer would notify him if there were any mistakes.

He only realised the error some time in April or May this year when his lawyer asked him for a 10 per cent progressive payment.

Mr Ng found it strange since he had already paid 20 per cent of the purchase price and stamp duty in June last year.

Asked why he paid a 20 per cent down payment when in the deferred payment scheme, he just had to pay 10 per cent, he said he paid up because he could afford it, and did not question the discrepancy at that time.

He said: 'I know that I am partly to blame for not checking the documents, but I was not the one who ticked the wrong option. It's so much money to be paying for someone else's mistake,' he said.

OCBC bank withdrew its 80 per cent loan offer to Mr Ng and approved a loan for 70 per cent of the purchase price.

Under banking confidential rules, Mr Gregory Chan, head of Consumer Secured Lending at OCBC Bank, could not comment specifically on this case.

But he said: 'Typically, banks assess and approve each loan application on the basis of the customer's credit-worthiness which takes into consideration factors such as income level, credit history and repayment ability, among others.'

To make the 10 per cent progressive payment, Mr Ng tried to secure a bridging loan close to the July deadline.

He sold his flat for $355,000, so OCBC approved a loan of $63,000 to him in August.

But it was too late, Mr Ng said, because his payment deadline was already over by then.

He said: 'My house was sold, the bank had offered me a bridging loan, everything was ready. But I was told that the developer was confiscating my money because I missed the deadline, and the deal was over.'

Mr Kenneth Liu, 28, a relationship manager who specialises in mortgages, said Mr Ng should have got an Approval in Principle, valid for one to three months, to qualify for a loan of a certain sum even before he views a property or commit to buying it.

He said: 'He should have made sure his loan would be approved before shopping around for his house, instead of going the other way round.'

Mr Ng has tried to meet the condo developer at least twice to see if it could work out an arrangement for him to buy another unit at Mackenzie 88 or in its other developments.

He claimed that when he went to the developer's office the first time, the secretary told him the person in charge was out of town.

The second time, Mr Ng was told to deal with the developer's lawyer instead.

Mr Ng said: 'The property market now is bad, why not let me proceed with buying the unit? I am a sincere buyer, and I've tried everything to meet the developer, but it still wants to confiscate my money?'

When contacted, the condo developer declined to comment, but it is understood that it had sent Mr Ng several reminders to pay up.

As he failed to do so, he was deemed to have breached the agreement, which in turn led to the forfeiture.

Mr Ng plans to consult a lawyer on how he can recover his money.

He said: 'I have nothing to lose. I might have to downgrade from my current four-room flat, but at least I will have a roof over my head.'

迪拜要高高“再”上 建1000公尺世界最高楼

Source :《联合早报》October 7, 2008



迪拜房地产开发商纳赫勒集团(Nakheel)前天宣布,集团将在迪拜中部地区发展“纳赫勒海港与高楼”,这个房地产项目面积广达270公顷,核心就是至少1公里高的“纳赫勒塔”(Nakheel Tower)。此摩天大厦由四座并立的高楼合围而成,从地面至顶端共200层,约有150部电梯。











On The Hunt For Illegal Tenants

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 7, 2008

The HDB has stepped up enforcement blitzes to stop the illegal subletting of its subsidised rental flats. Jessica Cheam joined Housing Board officers in the search for illegal tenants at a block in Circuit Road last week.

ONE sign that something fishy might be going on at a rental flat is this: closed shutters and doors - especially if the lights are on.

An HDB officer pasting a "Notic to Quit" letter on the door of a subsidised rental flat in a block in Circuit Road. The letter orders the tenant, believed to be illegally subletting the flat, to contact HDB and vacate the unit within a month. -- PHOTO: HDB

HDB officers were on the lookout for such flats at a 16-storey rental block with two- and three-room units in Circuit Road as part of their stepped-up checks last Tuesday.

Such checks are in addition to HDB's regular visits to all rental flats to ensure tenants are not illegally subletting the flats for profit.

Those with nothing to hide usually leave windows and doors open for ventilation as rental flats typically do not have air-conditioning.

When The Straits Times joined them on their inspection last week, the officers spent little time at several flats that had their doors open, taking only a few seconds to verify the status of the tenants.

Equipped with a file detailing tenants' names and particulars, they went around in pairs, knocking on doors. They said they typically visit after working hours or during weekends, when tenants are likely to be at home.

A Thai teenager was found living in this unit that the HDB had rented out to a 70-year-old man. -- PHOTO: HDB

When a tenant answered the door, they asked for names to verify identities. They also kept a lookout for any irregularities in the flat or in an occupant's profile, such as a mismatch of his or her stated age with the records on file.

Units with doors closed were harder to inspect. In some cases, nobody was at home and in others, the occupants had apparently decided not to open the door.

After knocking on about 10 doors, the officers stopped at one flat where no one had responded. Although the windows and door were firmly shut, the lights were on and faint noises could be heard - betraying the presence of its occupants.

The officers rapped loudly on the window's metal shutters. One officer, Mr Tan (not his real name), called out: 'Is anybody home?'

No answer.

'It's the HDB,' he called out again, this time identifying himself.

Still no answer.

Mr Tan and his colleague were about to move on when a girl aged about 15 opened the door. She said she was staying at the flat for a week with her parent's female friend, who was not in at the moment.

According to Mr Tan's records, the tenant was a 70-year-old man.

The officers exchanged knowing looks. Mr Tan politely but firmly asked her to unlock the gate, assuring her it was a 'regular HDB inspection'.

She looked scared but let them in. They took photographs of the interior, part of their procedure to gather evidence, and noted that it appeared to be occupied only by her.

There was just one bed in the two-room flat. Books and girls' clothing were strewn all over the flat; a laptop and a television sat in the corner. On a table were some Thai baht notes.

Mr Tan explained that he needed a statement from her. Looking worried, she finally confessed.

She said she was a student from Thailand who went to a secondary school nearby. Her 'parent's friend' did not live with her and visited only occasionally to collect the mail. Obviously not aware of the rental rules, she revealed - to raised eyebrows - that she paid $1,000 a month to live there.

This meant that her landlord - the legal tenant who pays a base rent of $44 - had been making a tidy profit of up to $956 a month.

Mr Tan asked the girl if they could have the contact number of her 'parent's friend' but she refused to give it to them.

The team thanked her for cooperating and left.

The next day, HDB pasted a 'Notice to Quit' on the door - giving the tenant notice to contact the Housing Board and vacate the flat within a month.

What if the girl had not answered the door?

Mr Tan said 'it's three strikes and it's out' - at the third visit, if no one answers the door, a similar 'Notice to Quit' is pasted on the door.

'This usually gets the tenant ringing us in a hurry,' he said.

He added that neighbours have helped HDB with its checks by ringing its hotline to give feedback.

The HDB is not ruling out imposing a heftier penalty - in the form of fines - on tenants who illegally sublet their flats.

Currently, tenants illegally renting out their home can lose the flat and face a five-year ban from renting or buying HDB property.

Economy May Slow For 'Several Quarters'

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 6, 2008

But strong fundamentals will see Singapore past global crisis: Tharman

HEAVILY exposed to the global economy, Singapore will see an economic slowdown that could last 'several quarters', not just one or two quarters, said Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

In tandem, unemployment is expected to increase.

Because the problems are 'deep and extensive', it will take 'a year or two' before the world emerges from the crisis, Mr Tharman later told reporters.

But he also sounded a note of optimism, saying with its strong fundamentals, Singapore will ride out the crisis - and emerge better than most countries.

Mr Tharman was addressing some 300 grassroots leaders and residents of Toa Payoh East, after a three-hour walkabout which saw him, among other things, opening an exercise corner for the elderly.

Accompanied by MPs from the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, including Mrs Josephine Teo, it was his first ministerial walkabout since taking charge of the finance portfolio this year.

During the 80-minute dialogue that followed, residents asked 13 questions covering topics from foreign talent to greater rewards for grandparent caregivers.

But the focus was on the darkening economic outlook amid increasingly gloomy news from the United States - and the world - on what some have termed 'the worst financial crisis since the 1930s'.

So grassroots leader Raymond Teo, 39, wanted Mr Tharman's opinion of the US$700 billion (S$1 trillion) package to bail out troubled financial institutions in the US, and how it impacts Singapore.

The minister expressed relief that the US Congress had supported the package, as it is a step forward.

But it is 'not a full solution' in addressing the real malaise: shortage of capital in the banks, he noted. This, the new US President would have to work out when he takes over in January.

And because the problems are 'deep and extensive', it will take 'a year or two' before the world emerges from the crisis, he later told reporters.

Meanwhile, the crisis has moved into what he calls 'its second phase'.

'It's no longer just a financial crisis,' he said. 'It is now an economic crisis.'

Growth is slowing in the US, Europe, Japan, and even China and India, he noted. 'So globally the economy is slowing down. This is a fact we cannot escape.'

Thus, Singapore 'will see an economic slowdown which, from all indications, will last not just one or two quarters, but may last several quarters, because we're heavily exposed to the global economy'.

But he stressed that Singapore is armed with strengths that will see it safely through the crisis.

First, the unemployment rate is low.

So while fewer jobs will be created in the next few quarters, the starting level is 'much lower' than most countries.

Second, Singapore has a diversified economy.

'Some sectors are still doing well,' he said, citing marine engineering, construction and manufacturers of high-value products. Even in the embattled financial services industry, wealth management and private banking are doing well.

Third, the Government is in a strong fiscal position, 'and we'll be able to take the necessary actions if the situation turns much worse'.

He said: 'Frankly, it was just as well we decided not to spend all the surplus that we earned last year.' Part of it was given to Singaporeans as Growth Dividends.

'This crisis shows the merits of thinking not just short-term but medium- to long-term,' the minister added.

Exuding confidence about the country's strong fundamentals, he told Singaporeans to keep their eye on the medium- to long-term future, as the short-term problems can be dealt with.

'If we keep our focus on education, continuous training, and attracting new investments and new industries here - which is what we're doing - Singapore will continue to do well.

'So we'll ride through the down cycle ...I feel we're going to come through it better than most countries - not just in the region but even most developed countries.'

Asked for the full-year economic growth forecast, he said the Trade and Industry Ministry will reveal the numbers on Friday. Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang had warned growth might dip 'a bit below' 4 per cent this year.

One resident, technician Ali Khan, 43, said he was assured by Mr Tharman's replies, as he and his friends had been worried about their job security.

'It gives me some confidence that despite the downturn, we'll be all right in the long run.'

Slowdown To Last Several Quarters

Source : The Business Times, October 6, 2008

But strong fiscal position, diversity will help Singapore weather economic crisis: Tharman

Singapore's economy is expected to slow for 'several quarters' as the sub-prime meltdown has evolved into phase two - an economic crisis, said Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

With Singapore's heavy exposure to the global economy, the country is unlikely to be spared from the expected slowdown across the world, said Mr Tharman, who was speaking to Toa Payoh East residents during a dialogue session yesterday.

'We are now entering the second phase of the crisis,' Mr Tharman told the residents.

'It is no longer just a financial crisis. It is now an economic crisis,' he added, pointing to slowing growth in the US, Europe, Japan, India and China.

'We will also see a slowdown, from all indications, that will last not just one or two quarters, but may last several quarters because we are heavily exposed to the global economy.'

But he expects the country to ride through the crisis with its strong fiscal position and a diversified economy.

'The government is in a strong fiscal position,' he said. 'Frankly, it's just as well that we decided not to spend all of the surplus that we earned last year. We spent some of it, provided some support for households, but we kept some dry powder.'

He said that some sectors, such as the shipping industry and the high value-add manufacturing businesses, continue to thrive despite the crisis. And while the financial sector is expected to slow down, some segments, including private banking and wealth management, continue to show strong growth.

The minister added that although job creation will be affected in the next few quarters, Singapore's starting level of unemployment is much lower those that of other countries.

He noted that the approved US bailout package was just the beginning of work needed to get the American economy back on track.

'Globally, we were relieved that the US Congress came to a decision to support the package because it helps (to) take us forward,' he said. 'The consensus is that more will have to be done.'

Responding to queries on the recent 21 per cent jump in electricity tariffs, Mr Tharman said that next year's utility rebates would factor in this price hike - the sharpest in eight years. 'We know the large increase in the fourth quarter has unsettled many people. We'll take that into consideration in next year's budget.'

The minister said that the increase had been reasonable compared to the estimated 45 per cent spike in oil prices over the last one year. 'Let the realistic price be charged, based on the world market price. But, help our poor people. Those who are wealthier have to pay the world market price.'

Mr Tharman added that that there was a good chance that tariffs could go down if current fuel prices continue stabilising.

When asked if banks could be pushed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to disclose their exact exposure to failed structured products linked to bankrupt Lehman Brothers, Mr Tharman told reporters that there needs to be a balanced use of regulation.

'We've got to avoid swinging in pendulum-like fashion when it comes to regulation,' he said.

He declined to say if there would be further economic growth revision or if the MAS would ease the Sing dollar policy - a consensus forecast by most economists.

Private Home Buyers Cautiously Optimistic About Singapore's Property Sector

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 04 October 2008

Early estimates show prices of private residential properties fell for the first time in four years in the third quarter. Concerns are that times ahead may be rough.

The Peak@Balmeg

Still, about one-third of MCL Land's latest mid-range condominium project - The Peak@Balmeg - was snapped up over the last two days during its private launch.

Among the visitors at the launch were Panneer Selvi and her family, who have been shopping for their ideal home.

Over the last four months, they have visited 12 condominium projects, comparing prices, features and home loan packages.

Panneer Selvi said: "We have not made up our mind to buy one, we are checking with the bankers, at the same time looking around for a suitable unit."

Some visitors said they are not overly concerned with negative market sentiments. And with prices of private apartments expected to fall over the next six months, they hope to cash in on a good deal.

Michael Tan, a potential home buyer, said: "I am not plunging into it. Sometimes buying a home, if it's for a home, then there are other considerations other than just pricing alone."

Ronald Wee, a property investor, said: "I do not foresee a slump like in 2003 or 2004. It's just that if you have a good piece of property with a good location and nice view, I guess mid- to long-term is still very promising, especially the IR (integrated resort) is coming up next one to two years."

Wee Hian Woon, a potential home buyer, said: "The market condition is so bad, the financial market is in the news all the time, the general sentiments I think are quite weak, so the feeling is that prices are likely to drop, then go up."

MCL Land said it has yet to decide whether the project will be launched for public sales. The 180-unit project, going for S$1,000 per-square-foot, will be completed in 2011.

Overall, many home hunters are still confident that Singapore will be able to weather the financial crisis and economic slowdown in the US because the country has strong fundamentals in place. - CNA/ir

Spruced-Up Balestier Set To Create Buzz

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 5, 2008

This is the last in a four-part series on the property scene in or around 'colourful' spots of Singapore

Home buyers hankering after a place in or near the city but daunted by the high prices could be pleasantly surprised by the choices coming up in one area: Balestier.

The district, once known as a crime-infested area, has been spruced up recently, with private condos sprouting up.

While police raids of its massage parlours still make the news sometimes, the area's old-world charm is undeniable and its proximity to the city centre makes it attractive.

Because of its colourful past, it is often viewed as the poorer cousin of Novena and Newton, whose properties command higher prices though they are just next door.

But Balestier is now up-and-coming, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) marking it as one of Singapore's important 'identity nodes' and implementing plans for its rejuvenation.

URA recently awarded the last piece of state land in Balestier to a Hiap Hoe joint venture for hotel and commercial development. The developer also has to build and manage a public space called Zhongshan Park, meant to boost the profile of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall in Ah Hood Road, off Balestier.

Analysts say the development will add to the vibrancy of the area, already famed for eateries specialising in local fare such as duck rice. Balestier is also home to numerous budget hotels such as the Fragrance and Hotel 81 chains, popular with tourists and student travellers.

As at the end of last year, there were about 600 hotel rooms in Balestier. Another 50 rooms are due for completion this year, not including the new hotel site, said URA.

In addition, Balestier is dotted with old walk-up flats around Jalan Datoh and Jalan Rama Rama that attract clients such as foreign workers and students because of the cheap rents, say analysts. Rents are around $2,000 a month - cheap for a near-city location, says Savills director Ku Swee Yong.

He added that some of these flats can be bought for around $800 per sq ft (psf) or less. However, many are making way for new freehold condos, especially following a spate of en bloc deals last year.

Property developer City Developments (CDL), for example, snapped up a host of sites such as The Albany, Lock Cho Apartments and Comfort Mansion. Down the road, it also bought Concorde Residences, Balestier Court and Bright Building.

Mr Ku said prices at CDL's yet-to-be-launched condo, The Arte at Thomson, could even hit $1,400 to $1,500 psf - the top range for the area - if the market is good.

Newer existing condos such as The Marque @ Irrawaddy and The Verve went for around $1,100 to $1,200 psf in the first half. But in recent months, prices at The Verve have slipped just below $1,000 psf.

In contrast, Novena condos such as Lucida and the Soleil @ Sinaran fetch about $1,400 psf.

On the other side of Balestier, there are newer condos along Martaban Road, such as Ecoville and Medge, going for $883 to $958 psf.

Investors can also consider Balestier's historic shophouses, with as many as 150 gazetted for conservation. Some boast architectural styles that date back to the 1840s.

Property agent Frank Lim is selling a row of five adjoining two-storey shophouses opposite Shaw Plaza for $14 million. In total, they bring in rents of $59,000 a month - which give a yield of around 5 per cent, say property analysts.

This level is reasonably attractive and can be improved if investors choose the right tenant mix, said Knight Frank research and consultancy head Nicholas Mak.

Lighting shops have emerged as a major theme in the area's tenant mix. There are also eateries, karaoke bars, shopping malls and mom-and-pop shops offering goods that run the gamut from vintage sunglasses to coffee beans.

Conservation experts at URA say they have noticed an influx of foreigners renting shophouses and renovating the buildings to live in.

URA is looking into greening the fairly built-up area and exploring ways to make the walking experience along the road 'more conducive', said deputy director of physical planning Tan See Nin.

He noted the number of private homes due for completion by 2011 in Balestier will reach 860 units.

Balestier is home to the Global Indian International School and Curtin University is opening a new campus there next month. It is targeting 5,000 students, with 1,000 enrolled by year's end.