Hotels.com discounts, cashback and travel deals galore at ShopBack!

Ever since I’ve gotten a place of my own, money has been flowing out like water on renovation, appliances, furniture and cute things I probably don’t need but may look amazing in the house. Sounds familiar? Lol! This is probably why I’ve been trying my hardest to find cheaper alternatives, and save more.

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This means going to the wet market for groceries, comparing prices before I buy things and asking “Do I REALLY need that?”. Omg, adulting is TOUGH.

So anyway, recently I’ve tried out and learnt the joys of Shopback. Even though I’ve heard about it from way back, I never got around to trying it out because I thought it would be too complicated. But now that I have – there’s no turning back! Let me tell you more.

How it works

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Landing Page

Basically, Shopback gives you cashback when you shop THROUGH them. So all you have to do is to head over to their website, find the merchant you want to buy from and click on it. You will be redirected to the merchant’s website and when you make your purchase, you will get cashback!

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Practically me – every part of the month

Travelholics – REJOICE!

If you are a travel-holic (on a budget) like me, this is definitely one platform to get familiar with. I usually book my hotels from Hotels.com to get the rewards and better prices. This time, I tried using Shopback too!

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This means, in addition to my rewards on Hotels.com, Shopback gives me 6% cashback! And sometimes there is even Hotels.com promo codes for me to use. Free discount why not take right?

Did it work? Yes it did!

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I did it! Yessss

After I made my booking (one night’s stay in Bali), it took a few days before the pending cashback showed up! It’ll only be redeemable after you complete your travels.

Not bad right? They also have attractive cashback for popular travel sites like Booking.com, Expedia, Jetstar and more.In addition to that, they have cashback promos every now and then here, with special increased cashback rates for a certain period of time! So make sure to look out for those.

Click here for the latest travel deals.

Shopaholic? That’s cool too!

If you look at the screenshot above again, you’d realized I decided to shop too. Since I was looking for a birthday present for a girlfriend, I decided to use Shopback too. 5% cashback – why not (:

They have cool cashback deals for Lazada, Asos and Shopee, and if buying your groceries online are your thing, they have cashback for Honestbee too!

Conclusion

Now that I’ve used it, I must admit it’s pretty idiot-proof and simple. If clicking a couple more times will save me 5%, I’d do it – wouldn’t you? Try it for yourself and tell me which are your favourite merchants on Shopback!!

Club Room Stay at Oasia Novena – Worth It? Read and decide!

Date of stay: March 2017

Since it was J’s birthday, I decided to surprise him with a luxurious-ish pampering staycay, to get his mind off work and away from all the crazy house reno, wedding, planning stuff.

I decided then on Oasia Novena because it looked peaceful and quite luxurious, and had a good location (near food, yay!) without an exorbitant price tag. At the very last minute, I decided to get the Club Room (for the first time) for extra pampering.

With the club room, we were to have Club Lounge access – a private lounge and pool area with refreshments and snacks, as well as a nice room with a bathtub!

Did we enjoy the staycay? Yes.

Was it worth it? Hmm.

Let me share more and you can decide on your own.

 ROOM

The room was slightly on the small side at 25sq-meter. No complaints there though, as it looked really good and was comfortable, just a little less walking space than we expected.

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Pretty much the view of the room from the entrance (toilet to my right, TV and table in front of the bed)

Although there were some reviews of people not getting a bathtub, I’m glad we got a room with one!

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Yay!

Club Room Perk: Complimentary in-room selection of healthy beverages.

This was actually 2 packets of coconut water, 2 sparkling water and 2 bottles of normal mineral water in fridge. Really? We were hoping for a little minibar or even free chips, but I guess that’s not counted as healthy at all. Haha.

Other Club Room Perks: Cable TV Channels (yes, loads of Harry Potter movies to keep us entertained), Nespresso coffee, premium bath amenities… so this was alright, and while really nice, nothing much to be wowed over as well.

CLUB LOUNGE

This was actually the only reason why I would consider getting a Club Rooms again. The club lounge is on the 22nd floor with indoor seating and an outdoor pool area with more seating options.

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Even coffee and chips can look instagrammable!

I loved that we could chill there with unlimited coffee/tea and some snacks (peanuts, tapioca chips..). It made me wonder if this was what I had been missing out all my life. Lol. Okay, but seriously, it was quite good. The staff there are attentive, and don’t judge when you pig out on a bowl of chips. Plus the coffee they make is quite good.

 

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Mini burgers

They also had cocktail hours from 6pm – 8pm where you can get free flow cocktails, red and white wine along with some light bites.

 

YASS.

The light bites were even quite fancy, and we had that for dinner (not really because we were cheap, but because of such a late check-in, more on that later!).

The other thing I really loved was the pool area – a pool and heated Jacuzzi without the massive crowd. Yes.

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Jacuzzi View

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The cold pool

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Of course I had to take some pictures… lol

Because of the cold weather (it was pouring), we stayed mostly in the heated Jacuzzi, which was heavenly, and amazing at night! Love love love.

 

 

SO WHAT’S MEH ABOUT IT?

Okay, so on the website it stated that a Club Room perk was “priority check-in”. In my mind, that’s pretty awesome itself, because what better way to start a relaxing staycay than to skip the long queues of people checking in and out and having a expedited check-in?

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Screenshot from their website

When we arrived, we asked around for the priority check-in, only to be told that it doesn’t exist anymore. Whut. 

We were ushered to join in the queue and I was a little annoyed. When it finally got to our turn, I asked again about the priority check-in and the concierge said as well “Oh, we don’t have that anymore. That recently changed.”

While she was saying that (I kid you not, WHILE she was saying that), there was an Ipad displayed right next to me encouraging guests to upgrade to a Club Room with one of the perks being “priority check-in”. Okay.

To this date, it’s still featured on the website as a benefit of getting a club room. Now looking back, it’s probably not THAT big of a deal, but it was rather disappointing to have the expectation of a fuss-free priority check-in but being told to join the crowd.

*Another perk of Club Room – guaranteed either early check-in or late check-out. (Being Singaporean, I requested for both, lol)

But the thing that happened was that our room wasn’t ready, and would only be ready at 5pm. It was around 2.30pm at that point of time, so that meant at least 2 hours of waiting.

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However, they agreed to let us have a late checkout at 5pm the next day, and we could wait it out in the club lounge with coffee and snacks. Pros and cons, I guess? There were also quite a few guests waiting impatiently there, and occasionally going to check with the staff whether their room was ready. Again not a big deal,, but a rather disappointing start.

PRICE

So was it worth it? I guess it boils down to the price.

The Club Room on Hotels.com (which I do almost all my bookings on) was originally $340, but had a discount at that time of booking to about $280. I’m not sure about you, but that’s on the higher side for us, as we don’t usually spend that much on a staycation.

CONCLUSION

I am still quite undecided if it was worth it, to be honest. Spending that much (for me), I was expecting the weekend to be a little smoother, from a priority fuss-free check-in (that was promised) to a comfortable-slightly luxurious stay.

So it started off shaky with the definitely-not priority check-in, super late delay, but it got slightly smoothened by the late check-out and club lounge perks. So I guess it’s like GPA – once your first semester kind of screws up, even though your subsequent semesters’ GPAs are good, you probably won’t get a stellar cGPA at the end.

Maybe I’ll just stick to normal rooms from now?

 

What do you think? Was it worth it or not?

 

 

 

Farm To Table (Tanjong Pagar Centre) – Fresh Produce at Damn Good Prices!

Did you know that Tanjong Pagar has a new shopping mall right at the MRT called Tanjong Pagar Centre?

There are quite a few cool F&B places there (plus retail too!) like Cocorica Plus, Food Anatomy, Japan Rail Café and Seattle Pike Chowder– perfect for people who work in the CBD area looking for lunch options!

However, what really impressed me the most was this marketplace called Farm To Table – a place specialising in fresh Australian produce, which are air-flown to Singapore.

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Love the vibes!

When I think about quality Australian meat and fruits, I normally associate it with a hefty price tag. I mean, quality is very important, but cannot be pay $20 for premium apples right? Even if my stomach feel shiok, my pocket will cry.

WRONG!

To be frank, what drew me into the store was this sign.

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Really???

Like any bargain-hunting auntie, my bargain-radar was alerted quickly and I automatically went in to join the fray. Oh my, juicy BIG red strawberries and delicious blueberries at only $10 for 3 boxes? Yes please.

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These babies are clearly on another level than what I’m used to.

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Look!!

Other than strawberries, they have many types of produce – both organic and non-organic. Whether you are looking for quality Angus beef or wood-roasted salmon, they have it all!

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Omg. Meat.

In addition to those, they also have specialty produce like these gorgeous Australian Mangoes and Rock Melons, as well as a wide variety of vegetables (even Kale!) and herbs to choose from.

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These look unbelievably good!

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Literally your dream pantry!

I also noticed that they have set up a little corner with samples for customers to try new produce daily- what a great idea!

This place is definitely an absolute gem in my opinion – with really affordable fresh produce (especially with the promotions) that are of great quality. Share it with your friends and family, don’t forget to stop by and indulge in some strawberries!

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XOXO

Taobao Hacks For Your ROM/Event + Some Tips!

Date: December 2016

BWP_2237.jpgIt is almost a unique Singaporean culture that many couples hold their ROM Solemnisation some time before their fancier wedding celebrations… because of legal purposes. In order to complete housing procedures, most couples have to produce proof of marriage, which is the ROM cert.

Like soooo many couples before me, that’s what I decided to do, especially since i had gotten a resale flat with a shorter turnaround time. (See my resale flat journey here) So with a short lead time and limited budget, I turned to Taobao for some help! Read on below for some tips and links!

Why outdoors ceremony instead of at ROM itself?
It is definitely cheaper to do it at ROM itself, unfortunately ours had to be on a weekend (ROM is closed) since many of our guests would not be able to take leave on the weekday. Also, my uncle was the solemniser, making the preparations slightly easier!

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😀

As with any planning process, I’ve learnt invaluable tips the hard way and I’d like to share them with you before I proceed on with the Taobao Links.

Tip #1. Know what can be saved on, and what should not be.

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This was the hardest struggle for me, since I wanted everything but had a budget. In the end, we had to prioritise what we could spend a little bit more on, and decide what we could save on. After all, there’s also no point saving on everything and ending up really unhappy on the day!

We saved on venue (relative’s condo function room) and decorations (Taobao) and even on my dress (Taobao) as the other options were simply too extravagant. I even did the dessert table on my own to save costs. But we did not save on catering (we chose Neo Garden based on all the recommendations) and we decided to get a photographer for the day.

#2. Don’t try to do everything yourself

Delegate and ask for help! That’s also something I had a hard time doing. I was baking the whole dessert table with a friend for 2-3 days, till the night before the event. Didn’t get much sleep (scolded by the photographer because my eyes looked tired in most of the shots) and was quite stressed out!

Thankfully, on the day itself, when I was trying to run around to do everything, my close friends ordered me to stay put and let them help out. Awwww so much love!

#3. Personalize

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Once you decide to do most of the things on your own, accept that it will never look like one of those glam pinterest pictures – whereby everything is obviously professionally set up and expensive. That doesn’t mean that your special event has to look shoddy or bad! Go from another angle and make everything cozy, intimate and personalised. Hand-drawn signs, handmade door gifts (I baked granola!), pictures and love – that’s your key to a beautiful event.

Don’t be a bridezilla ok? 😀

And now, for the TAOBAO Links! Here are items that i bought from Taobao, and the links. I used Ezbuy because of the Prime Shipping (Only $2.99!)

#1. My Dress!bwp_1848

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Perfect Length!

Yes, my dress was from Taobao! After SO MUCH research, I decided to order this full-length gown. I loved that it was a little sheer at the top and very well fitted.

Tips to buying dresses

  • Reviews. OMG, so important! Go through all the reviews (especially the ones with pictures) and ask yourself if you can accept how it looks like it pictures
  • Made-to-Measure. Preferably go for the dresses which have an option for you to send in your measurements. Mine did, and so it fit really well!
  • Corset back. If it’s not MTM, find those with corset/laced-up backs – this will give you a little leeway for tightening or loosening.
  • Get a back up. I bought 2 dresses (both for under $100) in case one doesn’t turn out well! That was actually the case in the end, so i’m glad i did so!
  • Give it time. This should be the first thing you buy, at least 2 months in advance. Just in case, ya?

TB Link: https://world.taobao.com/item/525317411772.htm?fromSite=main
Cost:  $65

#2. Photobooth

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Nice backdrop!

Photobooths don’t come cheap, and if you can afford it, hire someone to do it for you, along with the instant print-outs! (Aww Snap Photobooth is one such company I’ve worked with, and they are good!)

If not, make your own with a Photostand & gorgeous coloured streamers to suit your theme! You can even reuse them for future events!

Photostand TB Link: https://detail.tmall.com/item.htm?id=45020903534
Cost: $27.83 (Background Frame only)

Streamers TB Link: https://detail.tmall.com/item.htm?id=520560001952
Cost: $18.55
*Use the 20cm width option, you will need about 15 of these
I bought: 5 x  #50(white), 5 x #25 (light blue), 5 x #26(water blue). Tada!!

#3. Rose Petals

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Rose petals on the floor!

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Rose Petals on the table ❤

Rose petals are definitely a good way to get that romantic vibe. Best still, these fake rose petals actually look pretty good (and they won’t turn yellow or rot…). There are plenty of sellers for these kind of rose petals, so be sure to read the reviews.

TB Link: https://world.taobao.com/item/43925444093.htm?fromSite=main
Cost: $5.46
I bought 4 packets of White petals & 2 packets of Light Blue petals.

#4. Paper Tassels!

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Jazz up your dessert tables or photobooth with these pretty tassels! I love love love the colors!

TB Link: https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=525962866983
Cost: $13.23
(1 packet has 5 tassels) I bought 3 x White, 2 x Silver, 2 x Light Blue, 2 x Lake Blue.

#5. MR & MRS Sign

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Yes, it’s cheesy, but it’s super cute too! After all, who doesn’t want to announce their newly-wed status (:

TB Link: https://detail.tmall.com/item.htm?id=43649815054
Cost: $14.78 ( I bought the Medium size in Silver Glitter)

Non-Taobao deco items that you should get as well!

#6. Table Cloth

Duh, don’t forget the table cloths! They are super important. If possible, get some other colours to liven up the white.

I got mine at Clementi (those cloth shops selling rolls of fabric!), plenty for only $24.

#7. Wooden Boxes – Dessert Table

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Elevate your treats and decorations with these wooden boxes/racks from DAISO! Only $2 per piece, and it looks good! You can also get a bag of potpourri there for that lovely scent and red hints.

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Ultimately, it should be a day that you look back upon fondly with wonderful memories. Making it pretty shouldn’t have to come with a hefty price tag, right? I hope these links will come in handy, so spread the love and share!
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My Resale Home Journey Part 1

So I’ve recently embarked on this huge journey, and I just wanted to document it as I go along, as well as share my experiences and tips with whoever who might be thinking about it too! After all, it is a HUGE and scary af step for a Singaporean – lifelong debt, here I come!

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Why Resale?

Of course, before any of these began, I always thought I would settle down at 26 in a nice BTO 4 or 5 room flat, in a nice place some day. Which girl wouldn’t like a big house in a nice place?

After much discussion, we agreed to apply this year in May 2016. However, the BTO locations available were not that ideal for us. His parents stay at Pasir Ris, while mine at Dover – and staying somewhere like Punggol or Bukit Panjang would isolate us from the world, and make it difficult to commute to see our parents.

Location – meh

So we took the step to apply for Sales of Balance at Bukit Merah. Even though we had first-timer priority and the ratio was in our favor, we wanted to look around at other options (resale) because

  • The units available for SOB were very spread out among many blocks
  • Many blocks did not have good units left (only very low floors..)
  • Price range was really big for the same category of flats.

So, even if we were able to bid for a unit, likelihood of getting one that we liked was slim.

So our resale journey began…

We started by just looking at listings on apps, like Propertyguru, 99.co, SRX to see the prices and what we were in store for. Only after some time, we decided to take the plunge and call up agents for an appointment to view the flats, and that’s when things got a little serious.

Tip #1: Get your HLE loan application + Budget consideration done before you start looking at houses.

 

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HDB Website – Your new best friend

The HLE loan basically takes into consideration your combined incomes (using your CPF contribution, payslips) to determine the max amount of loan you can take. If you are self-employed, it’ll be a little trickier as you need to submit Credit Report, bank statements and all that.

A mistake we made was to only rush into that after we saw a unit we liked. In the resale market, good units can get snapped up really fast, and you don’t want to lose out on your ideal place just because these are not ready.

Also look at the grants you are eligible for (First timer grant, income grant, proximity grant) so that you know which price range is affordable and practical for you.

Tip #2: Get an agent

We initially started the journey with the intention of not having an agent (save the 1% man!), and so we contacted agents ourselves, went down to view units and called HDB whenever we couldn’t figure out something. Ultimately we ended up with an agent we felt we could trust, and it really made the journey much smoother and less frustrating.

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Here’s why:

  • Many good units are not even listed on these apps, and many of the listings are outdated or “fake”

Most of the listings on the apps were either sold long ago, or never existed, but are simply used as “baits”. When you call in, they would tell you that it’s no longer available, but “are you interested in some other units in that area?” That’s how they bait you in.

After we decided to use an agent, most of the houses we viewed were not even listed on the apps yet. Many of these units were also actually snapped up before they were listed on the apps. Duh.

  • Agents are more familiar with many of the rules and regulations

We had quite a difficult time with the regulations regarding CPF usage and remaining lease of the unit. And despite countless calls into HDB and CPF, it was still not that easy to grasp totally. These are the issues that good agents will take into consideration and help you manage.

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  • Much easier for agents to deal with seller agents

They have more experience to deal with seller agents than we do. Simply put, expressing interest on our side to the seller agent does not help the negotiation process. Why would the seller agent help us negotiate with the sellers if they could close at a higher price (and earn a larger cut?)

So that’s my own opinions on why I eventually decided that getting an agent would be good.

Update: For those asking who my agent was – he is Ken Koh from DWG (if you know him, say hi on my behalf!)

How do you know who is a good agent? In my humble opinion, a good agent is prompt in answering your questions and servicing you, as well as meticulous in educating you about the ropes of this process. Ultimately, he or she should not try to stretch your budget to get you to overcommit, and should never make you feel bad for not finding the right place. Your agent should also be on your side, and not act in his own interest. (Our agent actually stopped us from increasing our offer, despite being able to get a higher commission, because he knew the impact of the cashflow it would have on us. This is something we were definitely thankful for on hindsight.) Lastly, trust your instincts, we have them for a reason. 

Tip #3. Narrow down your criteria.

Like all first-time home owners, we started off with a long long list of wants and ideals, especially when we got an agent (perform magic, yo!). These were the criteria we wanted

  • Walking distance to MRT
  • Green line between Dover to Paya Lebar
  • Below $400,000
  • Property more than 60 years remaining
  • Not low floor (above level 6)
  • Preferably corner unit
  • 70sqm and above

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But of course, our agent sat us down and made us prioritise. Managing expectations is important, both your own, as well as your parents.

After viewing units from Bedok to Holland, Commonwealth, Bukit Merah, Telok Blangah, we decided to narrow down our search to Dover because of:

  • Proximity Grant of $20k (near my parents)
  • Relatively near MRT
  • Below $400K for a 3 room flat
  • Property about 60 years remaining.

After this decision, the process became smoother, with us viewing units that were available, and just waiting for the right unit to come up!

TIP #4: Be prepared for each viewing

Things to ask and find out:

  • Facing of the house: is it North-South facing? East-West facing will result in sun coming in (morning or afternoon) which will cause the house to be really hot and uncomfortable.
  • How old is the house? When was the last renovation done? If the last reno was done more than 10 years ago, be prepared for a more extensive renovation.
  • Previous owners – why are they selling? This gives you a bit of the background on the previous owners. If they are selling because they have got the keys to their next home, chances are that they are genuine and in need to close the sale soon.
  • Neighbors – who are they? This is actually one of the most impt question that you can ask (and if you are very interested in the unit, come down to CSI for yourself). Do they burn incense everyday? Do they play mahjong? Are the units beside you tenanted out? Do they look well-kept?
  • Potential for En-Bloc? This is just a bonus thing, if you are interested in it. There are many ways to speculate the potential for en-bloc (see blocks around you, space, height of block… google and read up!)

TIP #5: Interested? Don’t show your cards too obviously.

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We were really interested in one unit. And because we knew it would be sold fast, we made 2 more viewing appointments for the next day, to bring each side’s parents down. Unfortunately, the sellers knew how interested we were, and hence refused to bargain or negotiate the price.

They eventually decided to wait a little longer to see if they could fetch higher prices than what they originally asked for. (These are non-genuine sellers, who will sit around to wait for better offers, as they are in no rush to sell).

TIP #6: Valuation

Even if you are willing to increase the price to secure your dream home, beware of valuation. If the units around you (similar block/floor) have been recently sold at $360k, chances are that your unit will also be valued at around $360k. If you had agreed to offer $390k, that would mean that you need to pay $30k in cash upfront.

That might not be a wise move, considering that you still need to expense for your renovation, wedding and all that jazz.

TIP #7: Make your financial plan

Buying a home is, of course, building a love-nest for you and your partner, but you don’t want it to become a financial burden.

Yes, a 3-room is small, but that would put us at about $1,200 monthly for 25 years. That’s an amount that is comfortable for us to continue with little treats and getaways every now and then, without worrying about the next payment. Should one of us be unemployed for awhile, it would also be less of a strain.

No matter how tempting it is to have a place as big as possible (especially since your peers are getting 4 or 5 room BTOs), understand what the trade-offs are before you commit.

TIP #8: STALK THE NEIGHBORS

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Even after you have placed the option (or before), make multiple trips down to the unit on your own at varying times of the day. Do your homework to see if there are any problematic neighbor behaviors (blasting TV, Mahjong, loanshark activity). It’s your place for the next 5 -10 years at least – so do it!

TIP #9: Fees

Here are the fees you should take note of! Hope I remembered all of them

  • Option fee: $1k
  • Resale application: $80
  • Valuation fee: $200
  • Exercise Option: $1k
  • Stamp Duties/Legal: About $5-6k (Depending on your cost of your house)
  • Agent Fees: 1%
  • Insurance: Depends.

TIP #10: Love it

Other than all the practical reasons for choosing a home, you need to love it and be able to imagine to spend your next many years in it. Explore the nooks and crannies, and imagine how you will spend time there.

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It’s good to listen to the opinions of others (especially your parents) but ultimately, it’ll be YOUR home. Don’t buy it unless you love it.

xxx

So here’s where I am at! Part 1 down, and many parts to go!! Hope this will be useful to some of you, and cross your fingers for me (to finalizing the house and all the crazy reno stuff I will have to deal with!)

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