China’s top-tier cities post continued growth

2016 has been quite the year for China’s property sector. With property booms in top-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, overall investment in the country’s real estate rose by 6.9% last year.

chinaSince the property sector is one of China’s main sources of economic growth, and her economy did grow by 6.7% last year, fuelling 40 other main business sectors in the country, economists, the China government would no doubt hope for continued success this year. But there have been concerns that the pressure on the property bubble is building up and might be reaching bursting point.

Despite the government’s attempts to cool the market with rapid and frequent policy changes over the past couple of years, property investment growth has hit a 11.1 per cent high last December, up from the 5.7 per cent in the month before. Though home prices in some cities have began to fall slightly, analysts are seeing that market sentiments are hardly sensitive to policy shifts. Should the policies stick, any significant changes will only come with time. As most investors consider property-ownership the most feasible and desirable means of adding to their income, demand in top-tier cities remain high despite soft price growth.

GuosonCentreRecent shifts on the international front however may mean continued growth in the real estate market within China as more investors look inward, what with the Trump administration turning things on its head with his trade agreements changes. It may be in the government’s interest to acquire land revenue while keeping an eye on a burgeoning real estate sector which on the plus side will boost economic growth but may cause bigger issues later on if allowed to continue on its upward trajectory.

Decorating – It’s All About the Timing

Cash over valuation (COV) can be a controversial variable in the Singapore HDB resale market.

By all accounts, COV can be determined by many factors such as proximity to shops, food-courts, public transport or other amenities. As I’ve learnt from our apartment search a couple of years ago, another oft-forgotten determining factor is whether or not a flat is in good condition, well-maintained and recently renovated.

We looked at a number of different apartments before settling on our current block in Sengkang West. I must say that I was both amazed and disappointed that so many potential sellers put very little effort into the presentation of their interior prior to a viewing. It was an immediate turn-off to walk in and see an apartment in disrepair or simply unclean. And to add fuel to the flame, the sellers often asked for cash well above valuation – which would potentially eat into any budget set aside for renovation.

Walking in to the first viewing of what is now our apartment was a different story. The first thing that hit us was that the entire place was immaculately clean. What’s more, the renovations were already completed, and gave us an insight into something that we hadn’t seen in any other flat we had viewed. Its layout was completely unique and I can guarantee that there is no other apartment with the same fantastic features – although every 5-room flat in our block was identical at ‘birth’.

Along with the gorgeous browns, tans and light décor, one of the knock-out features of the open plan living areas is the built-in bar. Although we don’t entertain as much as we would like to given our busy lifestyle, the bar perfectly complements the rest of the decoration style.

The built-in bar. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz (

The built-in bar. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz (

We had no previous experience with decorating a property in Singapore, nor did we have any benchmark on how to go about it. We just researched extensively and went it alone – as a result, I’m guessing that although we were more than happy with the end result, we may have paid much more than we should have.
Here’s my key advice: be sure to plan your settlement and handover date in relation to required renovations, decorations and relocation very meticulously. Do not under any circumstances think that if you only have a small amount of work to be done – bathrooms or painting, for instance – that you will be able to co-locate in your new home while the work is underway.

When looking at any renovations in a HDB, the first thing to do is understand exactly what you are trying to achieve. In the case of our bathrooms, my wife had some very specific requirements in terms of placement of sinks, showers, toilets and the new bathtub. I had my own expectations about hot water systems, space utilisation and ambiance.

A computer-designed 3D visual of the common bathroom.

A computer-designed 3D visual of the common bathroom.

Once we had decided on a framework of what we wanted, we then went online and found contact details for a number of different renovation companies. We also visited a few companies we’d seen over the previous couple of years.

After talking with a number of these companies and looking at some of their previous work and testimonials, we eventually settled on a couple to give us quotations on our requirements. This involved selecting the tile patterns and designs that we wanted – the fixtures and fittings – toilets, bathtubs, shower heads, taps etc. After much searching we found a successful interior decorating firm that looked after our permits, provided labour, drew final designs and worked with us closely through all stages.

Not wanting to complicate things, and with the need to move into our flat as soon as possible, we also had the design company take care of securing professional painters to give the entire apartment the once-over.

The newly painted lounge room.

The newly painted lounge room.

The entire process of renovation was actually quite quick – maybe 3 to 4 weeks if I recall correctly – from the moment they entered the premises to the time they gave us the key back and we started moving furniture.

Although the exercise was relatively expensive, we were ecstatic that we were able to move into our very own resale flat that was unique to us in every way we wished it to be.