You know your budget, you roughly know what kind of flat you are looking for, now it’s time to look for the flat itself.
We looked for a flat from propertyguru.com.sg and then from the Straits Times’ Saturday edition. The PropertyGuru website is pretty neat. You can specify the location and the type of flat (3-room, 4-room, etc.). Some of the units have pictures, some don’t. Some will specify the COV, some don’t. Then you can start calling the respective agent and arrange for viewing (or ask for the tentative COV, if they don’t provide it on the webpage). The ST’s property listing is also neat. It is grouped according to townships, so you can immediately look for a unit in an area that you want.
I would personally advise you not to use an agent to represent you, as the whole process is not difficult (hence the series, DIY). But, from our experience, sometimes you just can’t escape them. The problem is when you contact the agent’s number given in the listing (both online and newspaper), more often than not you don’t really know whether it is the owner’s agent or a buyer’s agent. The chances are, if you saw multiple listings of the same unit by multiple agents, most likely you will end up contacting a buyer’s agent. When you view the unit, you definitely will know whether you are meeting the owner’s agent or a buyer’s agent. If there are two people, it means you have contacted a buyer’s agent. But, even if you have contacted the owner’s agent, there is one time where she still insists that we use an agent from her company to represent us. That’s crazy and defeats the purpose of trying to buy HDB without a buyer’s agent. Luckily it’s not the unit that we want.
We were also lucky for the unit that we purchased. There are two listings on the same page at ST for the same unit, and it means one of them is definitely a buyer’s agent. We called one of the numbers, and we arranged for a viewing. It turned out to be the number of the owner’s agent, so we directly coordinated with him. After our viewing, there were another 4 couples who viewed the house, all with their respective agents. (And that’s one of the reasons we made the decision quickly.)
So, I would say try your best not to have an agent to represent you, but in the end you might be just stuck with one.
After viewing so many units, finally you want to decide which one that you want. Then, you should call up your owner’s agent to meet him/her and pay the Option Fee of $1,000 (by cash or by cheque, but preferably by cheque since it is neater).
Next, the owner will issue the Option to Purchase (OTP). Basically it is to say that the owner could not enter into another agreement with other prospective buyers for the entire Option Period, which is 14 days, inclusive of Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays, and ends at 4pm. So let say the owner issue the OTP at 1st of June, then you need to sign and exercise the OTP by June 15, 4pm. Likewise, you are not allowed to enter into another agreement with another seller as well. You must decide whether you want to buy the unit within this 14 days. If you don’t, you will lose the Option Fee. So, unless you think $1,000 are peanuts, you need to be very sure that this is the unit that you really want.