Craze over collective sales

Face-off at Laguna Park over en bloc attempts

Remisier Sung Yoon Chon, 65, at his block. He says there should not be any ugly spats or efforts to persuade others over the collective sale. Mr Patrick Mowe, 80, in his home in Laguna Park, reading through a printed copy of the e-newsletter he creat
Mr Patrick Mowe, 80, in his home in Laguna Park, reading through a printed copy of the e-newsletter he created for the "anti-en bloc" group.ST PHOTO; DESMOND WEE
Remisier Sung Yoon Chon, 65, at his block. He says there should not be any ugly spats or efforts to persuade others over the collective sale. Mr Patrick Mowe, 80, in his home in Laguna Park, reading through a printed copy of the e-newsletter he creat
Remisier Sung Yoon Chon, 65, at his block. He says there should not be any ugly spats or efforts to persuade others over the collective sale.ST PHOTO; DESMOND WEE

For some, it could be third-time lucky with selling en bloc. For others, it would be dreadful.

Retired advertising veteran Patrick Mowe, 80, does not want to sell his Laguna Park home in East Coast.

The apartment is spacious at 1,650 sq ft, and with Siglap MRT station right next to the estate soon to be completed, there are reasons why Mr Mowe wants to remain here for the rest of his life.

So strong is his attachment to his apartment, where he lives with his wife, that he is leading a soft campaign against Laguna Park's third attempt at selling en bloc, gathering like-minded home owners to stay away from signings.

Mr Mowe, who moved in five years ago, has also been publishing electronic newsletters meant for the "anti-en bloc" group, promoting the beauty of their estate and why they should keep it.

He has already compiled and distributed six editions of Our Home - the title of his e-newsletter - with personal stories of Laguna Park and news clippings of articles critiquing selling en bloc.

Says Mr Mowe, looking out wistfully from his sixth-floor balcony: "If I had to get another home after this, it will be half the size and cost just as much as the amount I would get from the en bloc. I will never be able to get a place like this again."

The 528-unit development was built by the Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) around 40 years ago. As of last month, Laguna Park has gathered signatures from about 56 per cent of home owners for a collective sale.

About a third of the estate's home owners are landlords who rent out their homes. This group, says Mr Mowe, wants to cash out because of the weak rental market.

 

"Why should these 30 per cent of people decide whether we get to keep our homes or not when they don't even live here," he says.

With around 59 years left on the lease, Mr Mowe says he does not need to be too concerned about the depreciating asset. He does not have any children.

He says: "Value can still be preserved if we keep on upgrading our estate and build a better home, and not put these plans on hold because of en bloc possibility. Let's focus on living."

ON THE OTHER HAND...

"How do I tell my children I have allowed our home to age and depreciate?" asks pro-en bloc resident Sung Yoon Chon, 65.

The father of two wants the best for his children, both of whom are above 20. Says Mr Sung, a remisier: "A home is an asset to be protected."

The reserve price is currently set at $2.1 million, compared with the typical resale price of $1.4 million for a 1,650 sq ft apartment. This means Mr Sung stands to make $700,000 more in a collective sale than at any other time.

If the third attempt at selling en bloc fails, the likelihood of a fourth is even smaller, says Mr Sung.

"Many people need this additional money to change their lives. One family here is counting on the en bloc sales to go for a medical treatment. Another can pay back their loans.

"I love this home, but the new home can be just as good or possibly better," says Mr Sung, who has lived there for around a decade.

Tales of rusted pipes, expensive repainting works and water leaking through the floor into other residents' homes have dominated recent meetings with the building management - signs that Laguna Park is ageing and ripe for redevelopment, he says.

But it takes a minority - 20 per cent of households - to block the aspirations of the majority. While Mr Sung believes they have a right to their opinions, he says there should not be any ugly spats or efforts to persuade others.

Laguna Park made headlines for a spate of vandalism incidents over selling en bloc in 2008.

Asked if he had considered the other party's reluctance to sell, Mr Sung says: "Having to move is uncomfortable, but change is part and parcel of life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Face-off at Laguna Park'. Print Edition | Subscribe