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Protecting home buyers


by Chia I-Ling (Council for Estate Agencies) and Serene Tan

“Shelter” or housing is a basic need that is commonly associated with one’s personal well-being and quality of life. Most people aspire to own a piece of property by a particular stage of their lives. As such, property features prominently in any governmental policy and has an important role to play in the overall economic and social stability of the country.

Singapore ranks highly when it comes to our overall home ownership rate. In a city-state of just over 700 sq km, about 88 per cent of our population has a permanent roof over their heads, whether it is public or private housing. Hence, news related to housing or the real estate industry is usually one of the hottest topics discussed online and offline, by all segments of society.

In the last few years, the government has stepped up collective efforts to create a stable and sustainable property market. More notably, more effort has been made to educate and protect consumers on all fronts. Skyline revisits some of the key moves put in place to empower home buyers in the last 18 months.

Enhancing transparency for home buyers

URA implemented important changes to the Housing Developers Rules in April 2012 that will require developers to be more transparent with the information given to potential buyers.

To help potential home buyers make better informed decisions on their purchases, developers will need to provide a scaled unit floor plan and detailed breakdown of the strata floor area, including the sizes of individual bedrooms, kitchen, dining area, balconies, and private enclosed spaces.

Developers will also have to disclose their track record in real estate development. All these information will be given to home buyers before the issue of the Option-to-Purchase. For any changes to the approved plans and specifications of the units, and substantive changes to the common property in the housing project, developers will have to seek the home buyers’ consent before proceeding with the changes. Controls and deadlines have also been put in place to ensure that developers issue the Option-to-Purchase and hand over the keys to home buyers in a timely manner.

To avoid any misleading information being published across various media, existing controls on advertisements in newspapers and sales brochures will be extended to advertisements on websites. Some of the mandatory information includes the expected date of vacant possession and legal completion, and the date of building plan approval.

Other proposed changes include new guidelines on the setting up of show-flats to ensure that they accurately depict the housing units to be built, and the publication of transacted prices on a weekly basis. URA is finalising the proposed regulatory changes and the new regulations will be implemented in due course.

URA’s website provides very comprehensive real estate information to facilitate developers, property owners and the general public in making informed decisions on land development, property purchases and leasing. This includes property market updates, information on transactions and rentals of private residential properties, prices of units sold by developers and the supply of private residential projects in the pipeline. Much of the information is also available through URA’s mobile applications on-the-go.

 

Skyline is a bi-monthly publication by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.