If you believe property brochures, every house in Singapore is loaded with property amenities. The most desolate hut on Pulau Ubin would be described as having sufficient facilities to start a colony on Mars. So forget that noise: here’s how to make sense of when an amenity is real, and when it’s just marketing spin.
One person’s amenity is another person’s waste of space
Sales people talk about property amenities as if they hold objective value (the property amenities, not the sales people). In reality, “amenity” is a vague term. What one person considers an incredible convenience (like a dog park), another may consider motive for domestic terrorism (like someone allergic to dogs, who has to live next door to said park).
Sadly, many first time home owners don’t think about this, and this results in a number of things they get wrong. Such as:
Thinking that having a shopping centre nearby is a big plus
Whether you’re a first-time home owner, or first time investor looking to rent the property, let us clue you in on the general scale of value:
- A shopping centre with a low-cost supermarket that provides essentials, such as Sheng Siong instead of Cold Storage, is like a gift from the divine.
- A major shopping centre – by this we’re talking four floors of retail, a cinema, and Din Tai Fung, which is basically the McDonald’s of Chinese food – is usually a big plus. However, some residents hate the noise and crowd. And some tenants don’t care.
- Any other kind of shopping centre, such as a small strip mall, or a mall with a collection of eccentric shops (one ice-cream parlour, a florist, and an antique store that looks like a front for money laundering) is not a plus. It’s not an amenity, alright? Because what are you going to do there, apart from steal free toilet paper out of the restroom?
Don’t just take think “mall = good”. Think hard about whether it’s the sort of mall you’re happy to frequent five times a week.
Thinking nearby eateries are property amenities
If you’re coping with your first child, first mortgage, and probably first psychiatric prescription, you won’t have much money to spare. That means a coffee shop with $2.50 chicken rice is an amenity, but a $35 per head café is just harassment when you’re hungry.
Money isn’t the only concern here. Food allergies and preferences also come into play. If you’re the sort who thinks bak kut teh with bread is the ideal food of choice, then good luck when the nearby eateries are Cedele, McDonald’s, and a Morton’s steak house.
Remember, it’s an amenity if it’s the sort of food you’re happy to eat on the way home, most days of the week. Otherwise, discount it.
Thinking MRT stations are a huge deal
If you go back to, say, 1955, having a bus stop outside your block was a big deal. These days, not many people care. That’s because there are bus stops pretty much all over the country. The same thing is eventually going to happen with MRT stations, so keep that in mind before assuming a train station means capital gains in 15 years.
That said, MRT stations may not matter much to you, unless you use them. If you drive most of the time, then you might be paying a premium for an irrelevant feature. If you drive and the station is built yet, it’s even worse: you might be soaking in the noise and air pollution to no benefit, once they start construction.
Being overly impressed by park connectors, bicycle tracks, and nature walks
Both the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and developers seem to share a common mission: to assure you that you love nature, and taking long walks beside mosquito infested trees in humid tropical conditions.
Now if you happen to enjoy that sort of thing, more power to you. It’s part of the property amenities, so enjoy it.
But if your idea of a good hike is getting off the couch to buy a TV dinner from 7-11, you may want to rethink the need for this “amenity”. Sure, in theory it’s not pleasant to live in a space with limited greenery. But an urban mess of concrete might be (1) cheaper than a place with landscaped parks, and (2) not a source of any discomfort to you. And let’s be honest: there’s more than one motorist reading this who’d rather have more parking space, than another Tembusu tree to stare at.
As an aside, remember one thing about condos with landscaped parks: they need lots of gardeners. Gardeners don’t work for free. Ergo, higher monthly maintenance costs.
Thinking a great view is permanent
Bought a condo with a sea view? Well don’t experience what certain owners at condos like Bayshore Park did. Once other developments went up in the area, many of the owners found their sea view becoming a view of someone’s newer condo.
It’s hard to make predictions about how long a great view will last. You could consider the area’s zoning permits though: if there’s room for more units to be built, don’t count on what you see out the window to still be there in 10 or 15 years.
Speaking of which, a great view loses its charm a lot sooner than that. After the first year of residence, the view is about as refreshing and invigorating as taking stock of your toenail length.
When you’re buying a unit, don’t obsess too much over what you see in the window. Stick to the important things, such as accessibility, solid management councils, and neighbours who aren’t lunatics.