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Thinking About Investing In An Old Landed Property In Singapore? 7 Crucial Tips To Keep In Mind Before You Make Your Move

Posted by Jayson Ang on April 8, 2024
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TLDR

Older properties come with unique challenges due to outdated design elements, potential roofing issues, odd land shapes, basement drawbacks, plumbing concerns, uneven floors, and insect infestations. These issues may require costly repairs and maintenance. When considering buying an old property, ensure thorough inspections and negotiations to address these concerns beforehand.

You know, there’s a certain charm in old landed properties, especially if they have a rich history dating back to the 1950s or even earlier. But just like with anything vintage, these houses come with their own set of challenges. Many of them were built way before modern building regulations were in place. No BCA, URA, or other regulatory bodies were around to set the rules that we have today.

Plus, let’s not forget about the regular wear and tear that becomes more noticeable over time. Unlike living in a condo or a managed townhouse, there’s no committee overseeing the maintenance of these old homes.

All these factors combined can lead to some costly issues down the line. So, before you dive headfirst into buying an old property, it’s crucial to understand what you’re stepping into.

1. Older Properties Might Actually Have Design Elements That Wouldn’t Pass Today’s Legal Standards

Think about it like this: there are a few rules about how far your house should be from the road. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has classified roads into five categories. Smaller roads fall into the fourth and fifth category, and for these, your house should be at least three metres away from the road. For bigger roads, your house needs to be 7.5 metres or more away.

But here’s the catch. Some of our beloved old houses were built before these rules came into play. So, you might find that your house is a little too close for comfort to the road. This isn’t just about the noise from passing cars. If the authorities ever discover this, you might need to make some changes, like pushing back your driveway a bit.

The same goes for the height of your house. In today’s world, a two-storey house in a landed zone shouldn’t be more than 12 metres high, and a three-storey one shouldn’t exceed 15.5 metres. But some older houses tower over these limits. So, if you ever decide to knock down and rebuild, your new property might not reach the lofty heights of the old one. And if you have any renovation plans that require approval, you might have to stick to the current rules too.

2. Roofing Issues

Your home’s roof is like a knight’s shield, always battling the elements. It’s no surprise then, that it’s usually the first to show signs of wear and tear. Ever noticed how many old houses have those classic pointed roofs? They’re called pitched roofs.

Here’s a fun fact: pitched roofs aren’t as popular in modern homes. Why, you ask? Well, they can be quite the money drain. The sharper the slope, the more materials and work hours needed to keep it in shape. Plus, a larger roof surface means more tiles or shingles to replace, especially after a rough wind or heavy rain.

It’s a smart idea to get a professional to give your roof a once-over. If you’re buying the house, you might want to negotiate a deal where the seller fixes any issues before closing the sale.

Inside the house, if you spot a pitched roof, keep an eye out for any leaks or stains on the ceiling. Those are telltale signs of broken or missing tiles, letting rain sneak in. Do you really want to deal with that? Probably not. So, just like the outside, you might want any inside issues sorted out before you become the proud new owner.

3. Sometimes These Older Properties Can Be Found On The Oddest Pieces Of Land

About ten years back, imagine a super affordable, massive house in Hougang sitting empty for 11 long years. Why? Because it was built on a triangular piece of land, making any future remodelling or total rebuild really tricky. It’s not something you hear about often, but real estate agents have run into this more than once, typically with older properties.

One agent shared a story about a house that essentially lost 400 sq. ft because of an odd L-shaped extension of land. The owner didn’t bother dealing with it as it was simply too difficult to fit into the house layout.

Another agent talked about a property in Siglap where the land plot was stretched out like a hallway. The entrance had to be at the narrow end since that’s the part facing the road. She likened the final look of the house to a thick wall – almost as if a piece of the Great Wall of China had landed there.

It seems that back in the 50s to 70s, land parcels came in all sorts of shapes, so it’s something to keep an eye out for. Remember, the current shape of the house may not give away the actual shape of the land. Like the L-shaped plot where a good chunk of land went unused. And don’t forget, future buyers will probably check this too, so it could affect your resale value.

4. Basements In Older Homes Aren’t As Great

Ever noticed how modern homes often have basements peeking just a bit above ground level? That’s been the trend since 2015, all thanks to URA’s decision to give basements a bit of breathing space, allowing them to rise at least a metre from the ground.

The beauty of these above-ground basements is the natural light they let in through windows. It’s such a contrast to older homes where basements were completely underground, giving off a gloomy, dungeon-like vibe.

A real estate expert who knows a thing or two about landed homes pointed out why basements in older properties can be quite a downer:

“Back in the day, not many homes had basements. There was a good reason for that. Singapore’s hot and humid climate isn’t kind to these underground spaces. They can become breeding grounds for mold, pests and unpleasant odors.”

His advice? If you’re set on having a basement for your man-cave, extra bedroom, or even a garage, go for newer properties. He also mentioned that modern homes are more likely to come with a fully functioning bathroom in the basement – a luxury not often found in older properties.

5. Just Because A Bathroom Looks All Shiny And New, Don’t Assume The Pipes Are In Tip-Top Shape

Older houses often have their fair share of plumbing problems. How much you’ll encounter really hinges on how the previous homeowners treated their home, especially what they let slip down the drains. Just remember, this aspect of the house isn’t always immediately visible.

We had a chat with a contractor who gave us a heads up about older properties. He warned that freshly renovated bathrooms could just be a smokescreen hiding shoddy plumbing conditions underneath. He shared his wisdom with us:

“Make sure to check the water pressure when you flush, and I always like to test out the heater to see if it’s functioning properly. Sniff around for any peculiar smells too – they could hint at corroded pipes. Occasionally, homeowners spruce up the bathroom fixtures and slap on a new coat of paint. Everything appears shiny and new. But if you pay close attention, you might pick up the scent of rusted pipes, or notice the water taking an eternity to drain away.”

6. Houses Often Have More Issues With Their Floors Than Apartments Or Condos

Got an old house? Chances are, a big-shot developer didn’t iron out the land before it was built. So, you might notice a few bumps or dips here and there. Depending on how lumpy or bumpy your local area is, this can vary from house to house.

Now, this isn’t usually a biggie. It’s more about looks than anything else. But hey, some folks can get pretty irked by feeling their floor isn’t flat underfoot. If it gets really bad though, it could mess with your flooring materials like tiles (making them more likely to crack), or even cause someone to trip and take a tumble.

Here’s the silver lining – most builders today think this is a piece of cake to fix. However, you might want to get the seller to sort it out before you put pen to paper and make the purchase.

7. Insects That Destroys Your House

Cockroaches and mosquitoes? No sweat! Call in the exterminators and problem solved. But, let’s talk about another sneaky invader – termites. And their little buddies like powder post beetles, pinhole borers… you name it. Our tropical weather is like a paradise for these wood-boring party poopers.

See, here’s the kicker. Even after you shoo them away, the mess they leave behind doesn’t magically disappear. You might find yourself dipping into your wallet again to fix damaged beams or replace creaky floorboards.

Now imagine this. The house next door, another old beauty, hasn’t been looked after or is vacant. Guess what? Those pesky bugs don’t recognize property lines. They’ll happily trot from one home to the other. And without a management committee or town council to step in, you’re pretty much left hoping your neighbor feels like playing nice.

Wanna know more about old homes? Or maybe you need someone to give you the lowdown on a specific property? Just reach out to me. I’m here to help.

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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