An affordable place close to the city with well-connected transport options were the key criteria for this couple when they set out to look for their first home together.
As they do not drive, newlyweds Derek Foo and Mandy Chen preferred a Housing Board (HDB) flat in the central region of Singapore. The couple found three potential units. Two were in Telok Blangah, while the other was located in Beach Road.
The couple liked the two units in Telok Blangah, but it was the flat in Beach Road that truly attracted them. The Lavender MRT station is a short walk away and there are many buses plying the neighbourhood.
Being in such a central location means commuting to their respective offices is a cinch. Mr Foo, a commercial director at a video production company, works in the Upper Serangoon area, while Ms Chen’s office is in Queenstown.
The couple can also get to both their parents’ homes quickly and conveniently. This means a 10-minute taxi ride to the home of Mr Foo’s parents, and a 25-minute ride to Ms Chen’s.
Watch how Derek Foo and Mandy Chen transformed an old HDB flat into their dream home.
Although it is now their dream home, Mr Foo recalls: “When we first stepped into the flat, it was cluttered and quite dark, and I was concerned about the retro-style textured plaster ceilings.”
While the initial viewing of their Beach Road flat in January 2021 had left them a tad uncertain, the couple was able to visualise the flat’s potential and the location was too good to pass up.
Furthermore, picking a resale flat would also mean they would be able to kickstart the process of homeownership, instead of waiting for a Build-to-Order flat, added Ms Chen, 30, a sales and business development manager at an urban farm.
Drawn to the flat’s central location and the fact that they could move in within months, the couple proceeded to work out their finances.
A useful tool they found was the HDB budget calculator where they could easily input details like their monthly incomes to calculate their mortgage payments and grants.
Mr Foo shares: “The calculator was simple to use and we could see at a glance how much we needed to pay for the monthly mortgage. It also offered information on the grants that we would be eligible for, which makes it a good resource for first-time homeowners.”
Through this fuss-free process, they discovered, to their pleasant surprise, that they were eligible for about $70,000 worth of grants, comprising the Family Grant of $50,000 and the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of $20,000.
The grants they received helped to offset a significant part of the cost of the flat, which was about $300,000 before the grants, and they were able to pay their mortgage instalments with their CPF savings.
Ms Chen adds: “Besides using the HDB budget calculator to check how much in grants we are eligible for, we found it useful to talk to friends who have recently purchased a flat to get other useful tips.”
Reimagining the space
After receiving the keys to their flat in April 2021, the couple worked with an interior designer to remodel the layout of the flat to accommodate their needs and wants for their new home.
“We wanted the space to suit our lifestyle. For instance, Mandy loves gardening so we needed a spot for her plants. I have been crafting keycaps for keyboards as a hobby, so we converted the utility room into a workspace,” says Mr Foo.
In the original layout of the flat, the living room and one of the two bedrooms had windows that overlooked the common corridor, which meant anyone passing by would be able to see the entire unit. This was not ideal for the couple, who preferred privacy in their home.
In addition, as Mr Foo is a light sleeper, he wanted the bedroom to be relocated away from the corridor.
Taking into account the couple's preferences, their interior designer overhauled the entire layout of the flat.
The original bedrooms were transformed into an airy, open-concept space comprising the living, work, and dining areas, while a new master bedroom was created in the middle where the former living room used to be.
To allow light into the bedroom, a fixed glass panel was built into the bedroom wall to overlook the dining area.
To keep their home clutter-free, they also needed suitable storage solutions. This was worked into the flat with three custom floor-to-ceiling shelves, in place of walls, to demarcate the different spaces in the home.
One set of shelves also doubles as a showcase for Ms Chen’s favourite plants.
“Designing the flat was a very organic process, with iterations along the way. Seeing the transformation of the flat was a most satisfying experience,” observes Mr Foo.
A home for all their needs
Since moving into their flat in October 2021, the couple had been enjoying the time spent in their new home. Mr Foo says: “It feels almost surreal to have a home with everything I need and love. I am so much more productive working from home now, and both of us love that there is room for us to do all the things we want to do.”
For Ms Chen, their home is more than just a physical space. She shares: “I wanted a home where we could start life together and grow as a couple, so being able to design our very own living space means a lot to me.”
This is the first of a four-part series on how first-time HDB flat owners can utilise housing grants to purchase their dream homes. Find out more about home buying and renovation here at the MyNiceHome website.
In partnership with the Housing & Development Board