Sellers and property agents make a lot of assumptions about what buyers want in a home. When we speak to property buyers, however, we come across surprising revelations and be stunned by how far off their priorities can be from common assumptions (e.g. near MRT, schools). Our conclusion? Singaporean home buyers can be a strange lot, going by the quirky things that prompt them to buy or walk away. These are some odd make-or-break factors about our local house hunters you might not know about, that could just help you sell your house.
Space for fish
We’re not talking about space for one or two goldfish, but serious square footage. And we’re referring to die-hard fish enthusiasts who spend tens of thousands of dollars on their arowana, koi, stingrays, and the like.
These people can form a whole different class of property buyers. Those who want a koi pond in their landed property ask questions you probably can’t answer, such as whether there are predatory or poisonous animals (to their fish) in the area, or how much vibration comes from the road. Even the most seasoned property agents are at a loss for answers.
As for those with huge fish tanks, they have specific living room requirements that might seem odd to the seller. Many don’t care about your expensive feature wall or fancy partition, for example, because they’re going to have it knocked down. What they want in its place is a gigantic aquarium. In their minds, they’re busy thinking how all the tubes and cables will link up.
And make no mistake, these people will turn down your property even if it’s 10 minutes from their office and at a good price, just because it’s not right for their fish. Never underestimate how much their koi’s needs affect how they value your property.
Selling tip: Be clear of HDB and condo regulations on keeping fish in the unit, don’t overpromise (e.g. telling the buyer they can use the entire balcony for their koi pond).
You probably know there’s a current trend towards open kitchens. In fact, HDB flats now use this layout as a default; the reason being that, as unit sizes get smaller, many people find that an open kitchen enlarges the space and let’s them join the dining room and the kitchen (e.g. have the countertop double up as the dining table).
In response, there is a category of buyers who’re hugely unimpressed, as if open kitchens are practically against their religion. The more the trend grows, the more vocal they get about the importance of not having an open kitchen. The moment they see an open kitchen, their faces darken, and they’ll explain the key drawbacks such as cooking fumes choking the living room, children (or daughter-in-laws) going into the kitchen unsupervised or that it simply looks messy.
All of this is in your favour though, if you have an old-school property with an enclosed kitchen. For all you know, your “old fashioned” layout is what charms a buyer into closing the deal. In fact, on Singapore’s largest property portal 99.co, we see many property agents touting their clients’ enclosed kitchens in their sales pitches.
Selling tip: Some sellers offer to re-enclose their kitchen (i.e. put up drywalls) as part of the deal, if the layout allows for it.
Garbage chute at home
Ever looked at the garbage chute in your HDB flat? You may not think much of it, but it’s sometimes the dealbreaker for some buyers.
You see, and here’s a little bit of trivia, the HDB started building flats with centralised rubbish chutes in the 90s. So, newer HDB flats don’t have individual garbage chutes in each unit, and residents have to dispose of their garbage at a common chute near the lobby at every floor. This was done to reduce maintenance costs and to reduce pest problems (if poorly maintained, roaches and rats can enter your flat through the chute).
And from April this year, the Singapore government has decided that all non-landed private projects with 500 units or more must implement the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System (PWCS) — a more hygienic and efficient means of waste disposal. This essentially means that most new condos will have a centralised garbage chute.
Despite society’s progress, there is a group of property buyers who refuse to accept the lack of a “private chute”. This isn’t out of laziness, they often have a good reason for it. Elderly residents, for instance, see dragging out the garbage as a big chore.
Or even if they’re young and fit, then…well okay, then we guess it is out of laziness. But in any case, whether your garbage chute is in your home can be a make-or-break factor for certain buyers.
Selling tip: Always tout the benefits of not having a chute at home, if buyers ask about one. Also, mention government initiatives like the one above, which could change their opinion of garbage chutes.
We’re not even talking about traditionally lucky or auspicious numbers, such as #08-88. You already know that affects some buyers’ decisions.
Some buyers will favour your unit because the numbers have a personal relevance to them. For example, we know of some buyers who will buy a home with a unit number picked by their spiritual medium picks for them, to guarantee their happiness (it could be a number that “resonates” with their birth date and time). Some buyers pick a unit because its numbers match a winning 4D ticket they had, or because it matches their wedding dates.
These buyers are often willing to fork out a little more to secure your unit. This is agents always engage them in casual conversation, to see if any peculiar requirements matches a unit they’re currently seeking buyers for. (Pro tip: If you’re the buyer and you fancy a unit because of its unit number, keep it to yourself. Don’t let the seller know how badly you want their unit!)
Selling tip: If a buyer mentions that he/she is interested in your unit because of the block and/or unit number, we find that he/she might have other more peculiar, super-specific concerns or needs, which you can use to your advantage if you uncover them.
A oddly specific item that’s already in the house
This one happens more often than you think. Some buyers are insistent that the certain home contents be included with the purchase, which usually involves furnishings like sofa sets and antique lights. However, you’ll be surprised at how downright weird some requests can get.
One seller, who declined to be named, told us that a prospective buyer insisted she include her two cats in the purchase. They weren’t purebred or rare species; the seller simply took a liking to one of them, and wanted to include it; later the seller requested both cats so it wouldn’t be alone. The deal failed to go through when the seller didn’t want to part with her cats. (Note: the cats were the specific reason the sale failed.
We’ve also known of buyers wanting the seller to part with his/her private collections, such as a wall of signed posters by Hong Kong movie stars, all the designer shoes in a seller’s walk-in closet, and a seller’s old sports trophies. Buyers have signed or walked away from deals, just based on whether sellers accede to these bizarre requirements.
Selling tip: Stick to the business of selling the property itself and only go as far as including furniture you or the seller is willing to part with. Bringing “valuable collections” and “personal items” into the inventory can be a source for future disputes, or even lawsuits.
Know of more homebuyer criteria that are downright strange? Voice your thoughts in the comments section or on our Facebook community page.
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