Archive for the ‘Musing’ Category


Cloud Spotting at Tiong Bahru

April 27, 2008
I was conducting an open house for one of the unit I’m marketing this afternoon. After the crowd thinned out, I found some time to read the newspapers.

As there were no furniture in this flat, I had to find the best place to sit down.
The view I had when I was seated on the floor of the balcony
And the place I sat was at the floor of the balcony. It was very breezy and bright day and my portable radio was humming away in the background.

My Open House Kit

Periodically there was a gush of wind and it messed up the papers.

At some point, I looked up and noticed the big blue sky….and there were hardly any buildings to interrupt the view.

I was tempted to lie down on the floor to check out if the view was indeed that fabulous.

Eventually I did and while I was at it, I was thinking’ “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just laze around here in a comfortable couch and enjoy a book and occasionally peeping out to see if there are any interesting cloud formation to spot”.

The next owner of this flat will be able indulge in this simple pleasure at will.

My stolen pleasure did not last too long coz my wife called to remind me to go straight home after the viewing as she needed me to mop the floors. Sigh.


Up for grabs!!! (TAKEN – SORRY)

April 27, 2008

One of the brand new Tiong Bahru Pre-War flat owner just gotten her keys to her place and she does not intend to keep these 1936s windows and DOOR!!!!!

As most of these doors are located in the balcony area, one would not be able to spot them at the street level. If you think the windows are rare, these doors are even rarer.

These relic may require some work to restore them to the former glory. The handles seemed broken too.

Too bad the green panes were replaced. Otherwise, it would have been a complete set.

The other things the owners will not keep is this:

I think there is only so much one would do when it comes to living in a conserved flat. The occupants needed to make it functional. The chimney system does get in the way as it has been placed in a rather awkward position in the kitchen.


A Part of Tiong Bahru

April 23, 2008

Photo taken from my nokia E90
(I’m not impressed with the photo quality but that was the only image capturing device I have with me all the time)

This is a part of the Tiong Bahru Estate landscape which most people would have missed as it is located in some obscure corner in Tiong Bahru.

If you took the trouble to explore Eng Hoon Street and walked all the way to the entrance of St Matthew Church (1K Eng Hoon Street), you would have found this building.
This building is located beside the main gate of that church.
I wonder who the owner of this building is.
The place looks so abandoned and some contractors even had the audacity to use the entrance of that building to store their excess goods.
Why do some property owners just let their property die and rot?
This, I cannot comprehend.

Insider News

April 22, 2008

“I’ve got insider news”. “Someone I know works inside”. “This place is gonna en-bloced in 6 years time”.

These words were uttered smugly by a bespectacled man with a cigarette in his hand.

I had to walk away upon hearing these words as the resentment welling up within me was too intense to handle.

Maybe I’m just too obsessed with this estate.

As a real estate agent, I had to be professional about such remarks and not let my emotions get the better of me. (By the way, that guy is not my customer. He just bought a place in the HDB section of Tiong Bahru and is currently renovating his place and I happen to overhear his conversation with a buyer who just viewed a unit I was selling.)

Perhaps this frustration stemmed from the seemingly indifferent attitude I witness and felt amongst some Tiong Bahru residents.

Maybe no one really cares if this place would be en-bloced or conserved. What seems to matters most would be how much the en-bloced compensation would be and would the allocated flats be near a MRT station.

Seriously, you do not need HDB to en-bloced your home to get a windfall! There are many other ways to make money.

My family has never benefitted from whatsoever handouts HDB has given out.

When I purchased my 1st flat*, it was a total disaster for my wife and me.

We bought our flat impulsively at $495,000 and plonked in another $80,000 to renovate and furnished it.

HDB gave us a $40,000 CPF grant but that did more harm than help.

We later sold the flat off at $425,000.

Our losses come up to about $125,000 (inclusive of accrued CPF interest). To me, that was a financial disaster.

To add insult to injury, if I ever buy a direct flat from HDB, I would have to pay a levy of $107,000. And that amount does not include the interest incurred from the time I sold my SUBSIDIZED flat till the time I purchase my next one. (I wonder who was subsidizing who)

My wife and I never whine about that. We took it in our stride and recovered from it.

We stayed focused in our plans to become financially educated.

I also put in effort to improve my knowledge in real estate so that I can be a better investor and at the same time provide better advice to my clients.

We are still learning as learning is a journey with no destination.

We kept reading relevant books and tried to put what we have read into action.

I am also fortunate enough to meet many people along the way who could offer good advice and directions.

We have developed some kind of AWARENESS and this is a good start.

We have since made back what we lost from our 1st HDB flat through our real estate investment. (By the way, my wife is not in the real estate business but she took the time to understand how it works…..actually she does not have a choice, I have verbal diarrhoea and I demanded total attention when I am exploring my theories or analysis with her)

I strongly agree with Robert Kiyosaki that all of us should stop having this ENTITLEMENT mentality and instead steer our own future.

As the saying goes, give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life.

But BEWARE of the person who does neither but wants to sell you the fish. (They have a SELFISH reason for doing so and real estate agents** are classified by Robert as a fish seller in his book, “Why we want you to be RICH!”)

I was sold a fish when I bought my 1st HDB flat. I am now learning how to fish.

So for whatever reasons you might have about buying into Tiong Bahru and one of them happens to be about some en-bloc windfall, I urge you to explore other options which has a more certain outcome.

Betting on some insider news is akin to gambling.

One of my wise clients recently said this to me: “Wiseman PLANs, Poor man HOPEs”. There is much wisdom in that statement.

But if you already living here in the Tiong Bahru Estate and you cannot really tolerate living in these walk-ups anymore, give me a call and I will help you explore possibilities on how you can be happily moved to a place where there are ELEVATORS and extra toilets to serve you.

That way, we can still keep Tiong Bahru low density.

Being collectively INDIFFERENT to the fate of this estate would be the greatest tragedy.

So the song goes, Coz we are living in a material world and I’m a material……..,

If everyone is consumed by that song, the GREED will eventually come and Tiong Bahru’s low density existence will be threatened.

*Note: I was not yet a real estate agent when I purchased my 1st HDB property.

** When real estate agents cajole you into buying a property, do not become too emotional and overstretch your budget. Remember, you are the one who is going to service that mortgage loan over a long period of time and that agent would not be around to help you service that loan after the sale. You need to know your own financial numbers so that no one can pull wool over your eyes.

*** Stumbled upon this site and I would like you to check it out too: I am glad there are some people at Clementi Park who cared enough to speak out.


Steel Trunk

April 21, 2008

I had a meeting with my client in one of the flats within the Tiong Bahru Estate this afternoon.

It was supposed to be routine where I basically pop in and then pop out.

I was expecting to find an empty flat as the unit was recently sold and the owner had the obligation to move everything out of the premise for my client.

So I was surprised to be greeted by my client’s domestic helper at the door, struggling with a folded table.

When I walked in, my heart sank. The previous owner did not even bother to come and clear out the place before the legal completion.

To diffuse the situation, I jokingly told my client if there were any treasures he had found.

Right after I said that, something caught my eye. It was an old rusted casing hidden within a mountain of old clothing.

I immediately pulled the steel trunk out to have a good look. Next question to my client was….”DO YOU WANT THIS?”

Frankly, I never would have expected this to be lying around in this flat.

This flat has not been renovated for a very long time and as far as I know, it has always been rented out.

The last group were 6 Vietnamese students who chained smokes in the flat and probably did this low cost activity for leisure very often:

(I found this pasted onto one of the bedroom doors)

I will provide some more pictures just to let you see how messy the place was

In the evening, I showed the picture of the steel trunk to my mother in law and she said such steel trunks were often used to contain wedding dowries in the early days.

The clothing in the chest was all neatly folded and I’m very sure it belonged to the previous owner’s mum.

If he is reading this post, he may be kicking himself for not making the trip down to take a last look at the flat.

But then again, what may seem valuable and interesting to some people may look like trash to some others.

If I may digress, let me prove my point.

About nine years ago, my mum dumped this set of chairs in my uncle’s home.

Back then, I did not like it as well and I had no qualms about her throwing that away.

These pair of chairs sat in my uncle’s home for the past nine years.

Recently retired and with more time in his hands, he decided to do some spring cleaning.

This chair was one of things he had decided to rationalise.

By some stroke of good luck, he told my mum about his intention to discard that and I happened to talk to mum about my blog posting about the old stove. She immediately asked if I wanted a pair of armchairs.

Luckily my uncle thought the chairs were trash and he was elated to part with it.

Hurray for me.

But as for the steel chest, no such luck for me.

My client wants to keep it. In life, you win some and you lose some.

By the way, I will replace the “OBIANG” red seats to some nicer colours.

OK, back to the steel trunk…..

The interior of the chest is still in very good condition.

I tried to find out about the P.M. Sultan & Company from the Internet but yielded no results.

Anyone out there who might have any information on this?

The steel trunk looks like it was from the British administration era.

Besides the discovery of the steel trunk, I also spotted this baby sized “diamond brand” clock in the kitchen.

It looks very aged but is still faithfully ticking away. It was LUST at 1st sight.

So I asked my client if he was gonna keep that clock and I got the same response….”No, I’m gonna keep it”. Damn.

My wife thinks I am slowly evolving into a KARANG GUNI man.

Tourist Attraction???

April 16, 2008

Spotted this tour bus along Chay Yan Street at about 2:15pm today.

What caught my attention was there were so many people milling around block 76 Guan Chuan Street.

Initially I thought they were tourist but on a closer look, they don’t look like the part.

I wonder why this group of people are here today.

Could they be local tour guides who are on a familiarisation tour so that they can offer Tiong Bahru Estate as an alternative local tourist attraction?

Time will tell.


Almost Unchanged

April 12, 2008
Check this out!

If you are around the Tiong Bahru Estate, walk over to Block 37 Lim Liak Street to look at stack 45 & 47. These two stacks (or columns) have remained almost unchanged all these years.

It seems that no one has moved out before. (Just look at the ORIGINAL WINDOWS!) Even if the units did changed hands, the current occupants did not do much renovation to the units.

MediaCorp, if you need an authentic 1950’s backdrop, this place would be the one!

Better hurry before someone decided to renovate and you would have lost the opportunity FOREVER.

Here are some more past and present photos to ignite some nostalgia:

Block 37 Lim Liak Street in the 2008

Block 37 Lim Liak Street in the 1950s
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore