Me & My Property

Heartland living suits him just fine

Successful entrepreneur invests in private properties but enjoys the convenience of HDB estate

Mr William Chin in the River Valley condo he bought for his parents. The residents have voted for selling en bloc, which may bring him a tidy sum.
Mr William Chin in the River Valley condo he bought for his parents. The residents have voted for selling en bloc, which may bring him a tidy sum.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Mr William Chin in the River Valley condo he bought for his parents. The residents have voted for selling en bloc, which may bring him a tidy sum.
The freehold Sims Close office space that Mr Chin bought last year comprises two 3,000 sq ft office units which he combined. PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

After learning the ropes of the consumer and events industry for nearly a decade, entrepreneur William Chin decided to venture out to be his own boss and found success easily.

The event organising firm which he started in 2011 - Expomal Singapore - was sold at a profit after just 18 months.

Mr Chinstruck gold in 2014 with his next venture - Mummys Market - a mother-and-baby care product exhibition with about 800,000 visitors attending its fairs annually. The 37-year-old recalled that the start-up capital was $50,000 and the business broke even within three months.

Mr Chin attributed his success to leveraging social media platforms to engage with consumers and to understand their buying behaviour.

From its early days of organising one fair a year, Mummys Market now holds eight events annually.

"Nearly $100 million in gross merchandise volume is transacted on Mummys Market's platforms annually," said Mr Chin.

Mummys Market also organises Baby Land, Baby World, Kids World and Baby Market. Together, the events serve about 70 per cent to 80 per cent of pregnant mothers here every year, said Mr Chin.

He added that he plans to expand the business regionally.

When it comes to property investing, Mr Chin believes in affordability.

He said: "Don't overstretch yourself and make sure that you can comfortably make your monthly repayments even if you go unemployed for at least one year. In my case, I prefer two years."

Mr Chin graduated from Monash University in Melbourne with a computer science degree in 2000. He is married to a marketing practitioner and they have a one-year-old daughter.

Q Describe your residential property.

A I have been living in my four-room HDB flat in Toa Payoh Central which I bought for $700,000 since 2012. My wife and I enjoy the friendliness, and the tranquillity of the neighbourhood. We had looked at condos and landed properties but still decided on this HDB flat.

We believe that being a part of the community matters to our hectic lives. The convenience of living in an HDB estate, such as having eateries, shops, necessities and parks nearby, simply makes us feel like a part of Singapore.

I haven't kept track of whether the property has appreciated in value as we treat it as our home and have no intention of selling it.

Q What is in your property portfolio?

A In 2006, I bought a 1,100 sq ft condo in the East which I sold two years later before it obtained its Temporary Occupation Permit. I made 30 per cent returns.

Last year , I bought two adjoining freehold offices, each measuring 3,000 sq ft. I broke down the wall separating them and have been using the space for my business operations.

In March this year, I bought a freehold, four-bedroom, 2,700 sq ft condominium at River Valley Road for my parents. Soon after, to my surprise, the residents there voted for selling en bloc. So it appears that I may be headed for a windfall if it goes through.

Q Describe your property investing strategy.

A To be honest, I don't have much of a strategy when it comes to property investments. I simply look at the location, the per sq ft price and the surrounding properties' latest transacted prices, to see if it's a good purchase.

I guess I'm still "old school". Property is still the safest investment but only if you are not stressed about the monthly repayments and the miscellaneous costs that come along with it.

Q What's your view of the property market?

A I'm not really a guru when it comes to property investment. I do think that property is pretty much stabilised at the moment and won't see much fluctuation until the next big global downturn hits.

It is also mentioned by financial gurus that the next downturn is going to be the biggest disaster.

Q What's your financing strategy?

A My dad had a few properties previously and he paid 100 per cent cash on them. I asked him why he did that and his answer was: "If I had been more astute in my investments, I wouldn't have done so. If I had taken a loan back then, I would have accumulated tens of properties by now."

I guess I'm influenced by that so for now, I believe in taking loans and investing my cash in financial investments. I ensure that the investment return rates of these investments are higher than the property loan interest rates.

My home loan packages range from 2 per cent to 3 per cent with loan durations of 15 to 20 years. As for the loan amounts, I would just go for the maximum permitted. This means 80 per cent loan for the first property, 50 per cent for the second and 40 per cent for the third.

Q Do you have insurance cover for your property and contents?

A I have just the basic home insurance.

Q What's your overall investing strategy?

A Being old-school, I still like property investments but I also diversify with bonds, fixed deposits, equities and such.

Q My dream home is....

A My dream home or my family dream home? They are two different things!

My dream home is a beach house so that I can just relax by the beach, drinking a cup of coffee and staring into the ocean and sky. Feasible? Not really...

Then there's my family dream home.

Ideally, my family dream home is close to public transport and malls, and yet, we can still enjoy peace and quiet when we are inside the house.

One consensus that my wife and I have is that we want a house that promotes family time and bonding.

Oh, and no TV in the bedrooms. Want to watch TV? Come to the living room and spend time with the family.

Therefore the living room must be of a nice size. So, the house should be at least 2,500 sq ft to 3,000 sq ft on a single level.

As a guy, I also hope to have my man cave. An entertainment room where I can invite friends and family over and spend time together.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 31, 2017, with the headline 'Heartland living suits him just fine'. Subscribe