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Condo vs HDB: Why undergraduate, 25, bought private condo

True HDB Stories: Daniel Heng, who is also a financial advisor, shared why and how he did it.

Daniel Heng in a suit and tie with an office in the background, illustrating a story on why he bought a condominium unit as his first home instead of an HDB flat.
Daniel Heng, an undergraduate and a financial advisor, shares why he bought a condominium unit as his first home instead of an HDB flat. (PHOTO: Daniel Heng) (Daniel Heng)

SINGAPORE — When it comes to purchasing first homes in Singapore, it is common to buy a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat, either through balloting for a Build-to-Order (BTO) unit or buying one from the resale market.

Eschewing the usual first-property route, university undergraduate Daniel Heng, 25, recently put down a hefty deposit for a S$1.27 million condominium unit. The low-rise condo, in which Heng told Yahoo Finance Singapore he intends to live, is located in the central region and is slated for completion in 2027. Heng, who is also a certified financial advisor and personal wealth manager, bought the home with some help from his mother – she loaned him S$100,000 for the downpayment of S$354,000; Heng said he intends to repay her with interest.

As a working university student majoring in accounting and business, he earns over S$20,000 per month providing financial services and advice to high-net-worth clients. He started as a "broke university student" at 22, spurred by events in his personal life. With a modest family background – his mother is a single mum who worked as an accountant to support him and his two sisters – Heng was motivated to work and pay for his own university fees.

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"I only spend what I need to, and invest the rest of my money as discipline savings," Heng shared. His investment portfolio includes, among others, equities, fixed-income investments and cryptocurrency.

Condo vs HDB

Heng, who is single but in a relationship, considered purchasing an HDB flat as his first home. Though there is a fiance-fiancee eligibility route for BTO and Executive Condominium (EC) units, Heng's monthly earnings had exceeded the S$14,000 and S$16,000 income ceiling for BTO flats and EC apartments respectively.

Furthermore, Heng said that he wanted to live in the central region as he travels around Singapore throughout the day to meet with clients.

"Central is really the most efficient place, and I don't mind paying a space premium for being efficient. I don't mind getting a smaller unit within my budget if I'm more connected," said Heng, referring to his newly purchased 463 sq ft condo unit at Orchard Sophia.

Heng also explained that buying an HDB flat in the central region, or in a Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) project, would mean that the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) would be 10 years – this is five years more than a regular HDB flat. This was an opportunity cost, Heng said, as he could "upgrade" only in 10 years.

Resale flats were out for Heng too. Besides being ineligible as a single buyer who is younger than 35, Heng said that buying a condo unit is a form of "investment into my business". He shared that he hopes to inspire his team members and give them something to aspire to.

"I thought that being able to buy a condo will serve as an aspirational visualisation for my associates. It illustrates the potential rewards of hard work and ambition. Letting them see the place, and see that I can afford it, will motivate them to work hard so that they can afford it for themselves," said Heng. He had emphasised to his property agent the need for a home that would fit a "swanky" image.

Daniel Heng and his girlfriend at the show unit for Orchard Sophia.
Daniel Heng and his girlfriend at the show unit for Orchard Sophia. (PHOTO: Rachel Chan) (Rachel Chan)

Condo as an investment

While Heng said that he had purchased the condo with the intention of living in it, he also wanted a property that would not "lose money".

"My plan is actually to stay for a short while... (about) two years. Then, I can flip. Once I sell the house and use that to buy a nicer property, maybe a two or three-bedroom unit, that will be enough for me to have kids," said Heng, who added that he is open to resale options.

Heng thought about the future even when it came to selecting his unit. By choosing one on the first floor, Heng reasoned that it would be easier to sell in the future since units on lower floors tend to be cheaper, and would come out top in searches as buyers tend to search by price.

I thought that being able to buy a condo will serve as an aspirational visualisation for my associates. It illustrates the potential rewards of hard work and ambition.Daniel Heng

"I find that Daniel is very visionary in his thinking because he's already thinking of an exit strategy before putting the downpayment. He knows that this is not going to be his last home; it's only going to be his first," said Rachel Chan, Heng's property agent who helped him secure the unit.

"It's a myth for people to believe that they must buy HDB as their first property or that they must go into it with their spouse. It really depends on what you want," she added.

To aspiring homeowners, Heng said, "Make sure you do your math properly and talk to your financial consultant. Also, do a lot of research and don't be desperate to buy."

If you have an interesting True Singapore HDB story to share, email us at sea-finance@yahooinc.com

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