A two-bedroom unit at Landmark Tower has been the object of Mr Adrian Loo's affection for 16 years.
Over the last 20 years, Mr Loo has invested in a handful of properties, but this 16th-floor unit in Chin Swee Road is the place he calls home - a cosy and comfortable setting which reflects the passions and the personality of a single man in his early 50s.
The unit has an unobstructed view of lush greenery within its precincts, and of the Marina Bay area in the distance. In the evenings, the sweeping views of the city can be breathtaking, Mr Loo says.
Apart from a vast collection of English, Chinese and Indian movies that vie for attention, the apartment is full of beautiful pieces of Chinese artwork and antiques that adorn its corners and walls, giving it an oriental aesthetic.
The unit has served Mr Loo's needs very well, be it entertaining guests, hosting friends from overseas or simply relaxing by himself.
In recent years, it has also become the focal point of Mr Loo's work life, especially after health issues made him slow down his pace as director of corporate/marketing communications at information technology company Enovax. He now visits the office just twice a week.
Rising maintenance cost is the only drawback of his Landmark Tower home. And if he ever does end his romance with this apartment, he would part with a heavy heart only because of the irresistible lure of an en bloc sale.
Q Describe your property.
A My love affair with Landmark Tower started back in the 1990s when I noticed the skyscraper from my unit at Pearl Bank Apartments. I thought it a rare gem in land-scarce Singapore with stunning views from top-floor units, surrounded by tall trees and lots of greenery.
I bought this two-bedroom unit as an investment in 1997, as it would be convenient to manage and easy to rent out as it is so close to my Pearl Bank home. Three years later, I moved in myself. My friends questioned the rationale behind my buying a 17-year-old property with a 99-year leasehold, but I believed its value would appreciate over time. I was not wrong and I have not regretted my decision.
I love the unobstructed views from my unit. Every room, including the balcony and kitchen, commands spectacular views of the park and greenery, the Marina Bay area and beyond.
Q Why did you choose this property to live in?
A For the last 16 years, this place has been my home for relaxation, comfort and social gatherings. Although smaller than my previous properties, it is easier to manage, maintain and clean.
Besides all the usual condominium facilities, like security, carpark, swimming pool, gym and barbecue pits, the Tower is located conveniently near major expressways, Outram Park MRT station, Singapore General Hospital, Central Business District, Chinatown and so on.
And yet it is quiet and provides solace from the usual humdrum of life. One of the two bedrooms serves as a guest room for my friends who frequently visit from overseas. My art and antique collection also fits perfectly here.
Q What was the cost of the property?
A I paid $620,000 for the 1,028 sq ft property at the height of the property boom in 1997. I believed its value would appreciate especially because of its prime location. Today, a same-sized unit in the area is selling for around $1 million.
Q What are the other properties in your portfolio?
A I invested in five properties overall - four of them were private high-rise apartments and one was a three-room HDB flat.
Besides Pearl Bank Apartments and Landmark Tower, I also owned one condo unit at Hillview Heights in Bukit Timah, an HDB flat in Yishun, and one condo unit at Parkview Apartments in Bukit Batok.
The Pearl Bank unit was 1,745 sq ft. I purchased it for $315,000 in 1992 and sold it for $1.2 million in 2007. With the cash, I bought the 11th-floor unit at Parkview Apartments as an investment for rental income. I paid $618,000 in full for the 99-year leasehold property which is 1,140 sq ft with a patio. It is now rented out for $2,300 a month.
The Pearl Bank sale also helped me pay off my outstanding loan of about $100,000 for Landmark Tower, freeing me from any financial burden.
Besides this, I had a 997 sq ft unit at Hillview Heights in Bukit Timah, which I purchased for $614,000 in 1998 and sold the following year for $750,000. The 800 sq ft HDB resale flat was bought for $104,000 in 1995 and sold for $183,000 in 1999.
So, now, I own two fully paid-up private apartments.
Q Describe your property investment strategy and market view.
A Initially, the idea was to have my own home. With a little more disposable income came my second property and additional income from rental yields. I still did not see that as a form of investment, and used my spare cash to chase my passion in collecting antiques. Had I utilised the cash to acquire another property in the 1990s, I would have made a tidy pile by now.
I realised that money can grow only after I bought and sold the Hillview Heights unit, pocketing about $80,000 in profits. The real windfall came when I sold my Pearl Bank unit at four times the purchase price.
But the days of quick returns on property investments are over. One can still make money but the returns will be modest at best. Now, commercial property investment is better for higher rental yields in the short term.
Q What is your financing strategy?
A For most of my property purchases, I used a combination of financial instruments like CPF savings, loans, overdrafts and bridging loans. My strategy is to borrow the least possible liquidity from banks or financial institutions and pay them back in the shortest possible time. This is because of a bad experience in the past. During the Sars period, my financier bank had recalled one of my loans even though I never once defaulted on the repayments. So, in future, I would continue to restrict borrowings from any bank.
My overall investment strategy now is to be extra careful in what I am investing. This is due to losses suffered in the past because I dabbled in the wrong investment instruments. I would recommend that investors be diligent, seek expert and professional advice and have well-thought-out commitments while investing money.
Q What is your insurance coverage for property and contents?
A Normally, a financial loan is always structured with a fire insurance cover until the loan is fully redeemed. But for my current two fully paid-up private properties, I have only the usual insurance coverage taken up by the MCST (Management Corporation Strata Title) for general protection of the entire building. As for my home in Landmark Tower where I keep a large antique collection, I used to have an insurance policy to protect these contents, but after a few years, I stopped it.
Q Your dream home is..
A I am fairly happy with my current home. But if I can realise my dream home, I would love to live in a small two-storey cottage perched on a cliff overlooking a river or the sea but equipped with all the modern amenities. It should have a well-established garden with fruit-bearing trees and year-round blossoms.
But, this dream is hard to realise in Singapore, so my next best dream home would be a black and white Tudor-style bungalow like those built by the British in Sembawang.