To many Singaporeans, buying a house is a synonym for investing in a property. There are tons of information about the financial aspects of a property purchase, but very few discussions about what you should take note if you are buying a house to stay in.


To me, the house you buy for yourself will never be the same as the one you invest in.

If you follow my blog, you know my wife and I sold our house two years ago and we have been renting a place in the neighbourhood we enjoy. As much as I want to enjoy my debt free life, we were actively checking around for a bargain.

Nowadays, finding the hard facts and financial information of any property is so easy via Singapore real estate sites like Property Guru. But making decisions on the non-financial ones is the real challenge.

Speaking from experience, here are the top 4 rules you must follow to find your dream home…

Just like retirement is always to balance the life you want to live today with the life you want to live in the future; buying a house always a tradeoff between your financial commitment and your aspirations.


You will always find something you don’t like about the house you view, but you ought to know which imperfections are more than just nuisances.

What you need is to constantly remind yourself to focus on the big picture and not to sweat the small stuff.

#1. Do not violate the golden rule

Everybody can tell you location is the most important aspect of a house, but people violate this rule the most.

It is not that you do not know what a good location means:

  • A district that will hold up the value at property downturn
  • A development within 1km of popular primary school
  • A place next to MRT or shopping malls
  • Sea, reservoirs or parks are within reach.

But you can always find reasons to compromise this

  • Maybe you are attracted by the slighter cheaper price because the house is just one street further from a good location
  • Maybe you love the renovation so much that you are convinced your children can take a bus instead of walking to school
  • Maybe you find yourself “odd” in the neighbourhood but you dismiss the feeling.

You should be very clear if the location and neighbourhood are right for you. You can fix plenty of things in your new house, but you cannot move it.

And what is better than spending some time in your potential neighbourhood first? After all, you need to spend years there after you buy the house right?

You can have a date with your spouse by walking around the area, you can visit a friend there, or you can simply view a few developments there (the property agents will be more than willing to give you a tour introduction).

After viewing so many houses, I can promise you that it will be fun and eye-opening.

#2. Don’t compromise the size

I am not a big fan of spending a lot of money on a house, but if you got children, you really have to plan out the size you need.

Singapore’s house has become so expensive that is tempting to buy a smaller house than you need. However, even if you find a two-bedroom so attractive and perfect in several ways, you need to think twice.

The property rush in the past decade not only created shoe box units. Nowadays, you will find a long stretch of bay windows, extra large balcony or odd shaped rooms. You may find some creative designs, but later you will find it difficult to put in your desired furniture.


All these are commercial gimmicks for the developers to pocket extra money from the existing homeowner, but you have a choice not to be the victim too.

Personally, I think I am better off with an old development which comes with spacious and squarish rooms. Luckily these houses still exist today, enjoy when you can.

#3. Buying a house that can last

Talking about older developments, they are never Singapore home buyers’ favourite.  The show flats are always packed, and the new units are selling at an insane premium.

But that is good news for us.

First of all, if they are not popular, we have a higher chance to find a good deal.

Secondly, our regulators are always strict on the building’s structural integrity. A building collapse is unimaginable in Singapore.

Recently, we visited a nice house in a 50 years old building, it is at a premium location and the agent told us that Building & Construction Authority (BCA) just checked and approved the building’s integrity, which is an exercise they do every 10 years.

However, that doesn’t mean you do not need to care about the building. There could be other external factors.

When visiting a unit recently, our friend who stays there told us that the tree roots have grown along the years and caused a slab problem in the swimming pool, and potentially the building. Luckily the management discovered and rectified the situation in time.

And don’t think premium projects are free from defects. Even Sentosa Cove’s owners were suing developers for defects just shortly after they moved in.


Buying a house with issues like these will only mean costly repairs and replacements in the long run, and that’s a hefty inconvenience to pay after purchasing a home. The story of two in five Sentosa Cove’s units sold at a loss even when the property market was still hot was a hard proof.

#4. Focus on the things that matter

Somehow our human brain are wired to focus on noises. There are things like dirtiness, faded paint and old air conditioners are difficult to be overlooked by home buyers, but do they really matter?

When we were visiting a unit lately, there were a few other potential buyers. Because the unit was tenanted, the floor was pretty dirty. One person started to criticize that the floor was dirty. The other person kept on talking to the agent about a plant in the house because it could potentially fall off.

That is interesting, because I cannot see how it matters. After you buy the house, you will repaint the house, spruce it up right? I am sure you will throw away the plant if you don’t like it.

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. – Mark Twain

Many people will tell that you should check thoroughly when viewing a house. But when you start to focus on these small issues in your first viewing, you may lose the big picture of the location, facing, suitability, environment, etc.

Back to you…

I hope this article gives you a new perspective on how buying a house could be different.

Life is a always a trade-off, when you say yes to something, you have to say no to something else.  – Ivan Guan

Remember that it is critical to focus on the big picture and not let trivial keeps you from finding your perfect home.

How is your house hunting experiences? What tips do you have? leave your comments below and let me know.

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About the Author

Ivan Guan is the author of the popular book "FIRE Your Retirement". He is an independent financial adviser with more than a decade of knowledge and experience in providing financial advisory services to both individuals and businesses. He specializes in investment planning and portfolio management for early retirement. His blog provides practical financial tips, strategies and resources to help people achieve financial freedom. Follow his Telegram Channel to join the FIRE community.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This does not reflect the official position of any agency, organization, employer or company. Refer to full disclaimers here.

  • Great point highlighted on not compromising on space but also agree that you need to invest a lot if you have a family because in a small home it would be conjusted and it wont be worth the money spend so why not spend a bit extra and enjoy in future as well. Very well explained thank you

  • Hi, thanks for sharing this article. This will be surely helpful for the young ones and who are looking to buy homes. Keep sharing your ideas and thoughts thanks.

  • Thanks for sharing this information. its really very helpful. I personally think that we should check the condition of the property and also, neighborhood, facilities around the property.

  • I really like your post and think that your advice is great for anyone looking to buy a house. You are also right that there is no shortage of financial advice when it comes to buying a house. I also agree that you should not compromise on the size house you need. Emphasis on need. All of your kids don’t need their own rooms, and a good yard can help make a small house better. What I mean is that it is OK to go smaller as long as it is within your size limits. The tiny house movement is big, but it isn’t for everyone.

  • My wife and I are just starting our house buying process. I am excited about finally having a home, but I don’t want to make any big mistakes. I like that you focused on things that don’t necessarily have to do with money. I agree that one of the most important things about a house is its location. This gives me a better idea of what to be looking for. Thanks!

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