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I Regret Buying A DBSS: 5 Homeowners Share Their Biggest Regrets

Posted by Jayson Ang on January 16, 2024
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Launched in 2005 but canned in 2011, folks still chat about Singapore’s Design, Build & Sell Scheme (DBSS), even though it only lasted a few years. This one-of-a-kind housing plan aimed to jazz up public housing by roping in private property builders, which was a pretty big shift from the usual way the Housing and Development Board (HDB) did things.

Still, even with the promise of posh living (think balconies, secured gates, and supposedly better finishes), the DBSS projects left some home-owners feeling a bit miffed. To get the real scoop on the issues, we chatted with a few DBSS residents who spilled the beans on their struggles and let-downs.

1. Some design glitches just can’t be fixed.

Back in 2011, Lily and her other half scooped up a pad at Centrale 8. Fast forward to now, they’ve got their sights set on selling and skipping town by the close of 2023. Even though the folks behind the building sorted out a bunch of initial hiccups, there were some bits and pieces that couldn’t be tweaked.

Lily shares, “I’ve got the same beef as what you’ve heard on the news loads of times. Our kitchen has this service yard, right? But it’s nearly half-gobbled up by these pesky pipes. It’s such a pain, ’cause once you hang your laundry, there’s hardly any wiggle room left.

And don’t get me started on the leaks. We’re talking about patching up a dozen times over just a decade. Sometimes, it’s the upstairs neighbor causing a ruckus, other times it’s the air-con. We even had this one leak that had the contractor scratching his head. Good thing it gave up after a few months.

Honestly, the design is a hot mess. You can’t fix something that’s just born this way.”

In the same boat is Richard, another reader, who snagged a resale unit at Trivelis. He admits, though, he doesn’t have much to complain about since he kinda knew what he was getting into.

“I was aware that Trivelis had its quirks, and I could already see those pipes in the service yard. But it didn’t hit me how big of a deal it was until later. Boy, it’s both crammed and an eyesore.”

Yeah, the main bedroom is a bit of a tight squeeze. Didn’t measure it, but it’s definitely tinier compared to my in-laws’ or siblings’ places. My better half brought it up before we sealed the deal and well, I thought she was just seeing things. Guess I should’ve paid attention.

Still, I’m sticking around. It’s a stone’s throw from where I work and that’s handy. Though, part of me wishes I had held out a bit longer for other options.

2. Feeling like the developer has completely forgotten about you.

Lim and his missus had their eyes set on an Executive Condo at first. However, when they learned that DBSS flats were crafted by private builders too, they figured it would be a sweet deal:

“In our heads, it was like getting an EC minus the maintenance fees. We’re not too fussed about stuff like gyms or swimming pools. So, we were like, wow, what a cool plan, and we quickly grabbed a DBSS.”

The excitement, however, didn’t last long as they were let down later, especially by the way defects were handled:

“I know you must’ve heard about the issues with many DBSS flats. Ours was no different. We had tiles that were broken and some that were darker than the others. Our toilet window wouldn’t even close right, and this was from day one.

But we’re not the type to lose sleep over such things. What ticked us off was how the builder handled everything. There were so many intermediaries involved, and we had to get MPs to voice our concerns.

All this shouldn’t have been required. They are the ones who built the place, but they couldn’t muster the courage to face us? The government has to step in? And initially, there was so much confusion about who we should raise our complaints with – whether it was the HDB, the builder, or someone else.”

3. Downplaying the ripple effect of the MOP, aren’t we?

Back in 2014, Lucy and her mom, who stays with her, had to make a choice. They were stuck between buying an old EC or a used DBSS flat. Both places were pretty close to Lin’s work. After some thought, they picked the DBSS flat because it was easier to get to the MRT from there.

A few years later,

Lucy found herself regretting that decision. She switched jobs and started working at Paya Lebar. Around the same time, Parc Esta popped up. It would have been perfect for her – just one stop away from her office and near her sister’s place too.

If she had chosen the EC back then, she could have sold it and moved to Parc Esta. But since she went for the DBSS flat, she was still within the required Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP). It was a bummer as she missed out by just a year. So now, even though her main goal was to live close to work, she ended up far from her office in Paya Lebar.

Lucy also mentioned that selling a DBSS flat isn’t easy. There are certain rules about who can buy them, like the ethnic quota and the Mortgage Servicing Ratio. For ECs, these restrictions fall off after ten years, but they’re forever for DBSS flats. According to Lucy, the only reason DBSS flats sell well in some areas, like Bishan, is because of their location, not because they’re necessarily better.

Just to make it clear, new ECs also have a five-year MOP. Only resale ECs don’t have this restriction.

4. The toilet’s all choked up since we gotta keep the windows shut.

When Jack snagged his DBSS flat, he only got a peek at the floor plans. So figuring out how it matched up with the public hallway was a guessing game.

Then came the surprise. He discovered that anyone passing by in the corridor could have a clear view into his bathroom. That was a shocker! Now the bathroom window stays shut all the time, even though it’s kind of a bummer. If someone uses the loo and you’re next in line, well, let’s just say you might want to wait around 10 minutes for the smell to clear.

Jack feels a bit miffed about this:

“Sure, I can live with it. But, it ruffles my feathers. I wasn’t given a heads up about this. They just showed me the layout and nothing more. And you know, when something’s done by private developers, you’d think these sorts of goof-ups wouldn’t happen.”

5. No cash left over from the renovations as hoped.

“You guys can probably guess how this story ends, right? You all have a good feel for the market after all. The bathroom was such a mess. Even if you shut the shower door tight, it didn’t make any difference. After just five minutes under the water, my entire bathroom turned into a mini lake.

Now let’s talk about the master bedroom. If you opened the room or the wardrobe doors wide, they’d practically reach the center of the room. I mean, they were nearly touching the bed.

Don’t get me started on the kitchen. I couldn’t tell you what low-grade stuff they used for the countertop. But in the first week itself, a glass of orange juice left a permanent stain on it. Even my interior designer agreed, if he delivered work like this, he’d lose customers in a heartbeat.”

At the end of the day, Charlie had to make some “major tweaks” even after they fixed the defects. He reckons he spent almost twice the original budget and now wishes he’d waited for an EC instead.

It’s worth mentioning though, despite these gripes, DBSS flats seem to be selling like hot cakes. Maybe it’s all about the location, as one person we spoke to suggested. Or perhaps the market’s buzzing and everyone’s feeling the upswing. We’d love to hear your thoughts – would you consider buying a DBSS?

Should You Buy, Sell or Wait?

If you’re reading this, you must be trying to figure out the best course of action right now: is it the right time to buy or sell?

It’s difficult to give an exact answer since everyone’s situation is unique and what works for one person may not necessarily work for you.

I can bring you a wealth of on-the-ground experience and a data-driven approach to provide clarity and direction. From beginners to experienced investors, our top-down, objective approach will help you on your real estate journey.

I can help you by:

  1. Offering Strategic Real Estate Advice – I can help create a comprehensive plan to guide you through your property journey.
  2. Connecting Your Home with the Perfect Buyers – Through stunning visuals, an effective communication strategy, and an in-depth knowledge of the market, we’ll ensure your home is presented in the best possible way to fulfill your goals.

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