Fatherly Interior Designer Buys Into Young Realtor’s First-Home Investment Dreams

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Purchasing your first home can be an exhilarating experience. After all, it’s an adulting milestone checked off, and there are endless opportunities abound when you have a living space that you can proudly call your own. And as a realtor at real estate agency OrangeTee & Tie, Qing Jie’s work involves exactly that – helping others find their perfect home to live in.

To find out more about the journey that Qing Jie and wife Bernice – first-time homeowners themselves – underwent, we spoke to them to understand more about the challenges and issues they faced while preparing their new home, as well as any tips or advice they have for fellow first-time homeowner couples out there.

The Search

A homeowner’s journey is not an easy process, especially if you’re doing this for the first time. The first challenge is usually the search for a suitable place, and having to factor in considerations such as personal preferences and price. Next up is the paperwork which, all things being considered, is actually not too difficult. Then comes what is perhaps the biggest challenge for all homeowners: renovation.

When it first came to looking for a place to stay, both Qing Jie and Bernice wanted a place that they could stay for the foreseeable future, with a potential of upside investment as well. Having grown up in the Hougang area, they hoped to find somewhere in the surrounding vicinity; apart from the plentiful amenities and transportation options, it would also provide much-needed convenience being close to their parents, when they eventually start a family in the future.

It was with these considerations in mind that eventually led the couple to a resale 2-bedder unit at Parc Vera, a private condominium nestled along Hougang St 32. While it was not the ideal unit layout that they had in mind, they nonetheless settled for it as they were drawn by its location, given the abundance of food and retail amenities that Hougang and its neigbouring estates Kovan and Sengkang offered.

The Build

Planning For Their Living Space

One of the conveniences of purchasing a condominium unit is that it typically comes with basic furnishings such as flooring and built-in features in the bathroom, bedrooms and kitchen. This is different from other home types like a BTO unit, where you’re essentially purchasing an ‘empty shell’ and thus have to go through the hassle of getting basic furnishings up.

As the unit that they had bought was relatively new and well maintained, Qing Jie and Bernice did not have to break the bank to fund extensive renovation to rehaul the apartment. This gave them more budget room to spruce up the place, such as adding in hardware fittings, decorations and furnishings, and for better furniture.

To assist them with their renovation efforts, the couple engaged local interior design (ID) firm AC Vision Design Pte Ltd, after looking through several other firms. And what a blessing it turned out to be!

“The main reason why we chose AC Vision Design was because of our interactions with them,” shared Qing Jie. “We worked with Mr Alan Yap, who was a very fatherly figure to us. Throughout our reno journey, he guided us along and also provided his expertise and suggestions, which helped us make informed decisions. One of the things we liked about him was that while we were enamoured by all the fanciful design ideas we came across on the Internet, Alan would take the time to analyse and break down the pros and cons of each design. And yes, he did talk us out of some designs because they weren’t practical!”

Challenges Along The Road

As with many other things, the COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges to the couple’s reno journey. For one, the price of raw materials had risen significantly, and so Qing Jie and Bernice had to tweak their design plans as and when the costs for certain features crossed what they budgeted for. This was also an area that the couple were thankful for Alan, where he and his team would try to refurbish existing furnishings instead of replacing them, to make them look as good as new.

According to Qing Jie and Bernice, one of the main issues that they faced during their reno journey was plumbing. In an effort to streamline the reno process, they both had purchased toilet fittings (e.g. taps) prior to the start of renovation, in hopes that this step would eliminate the long waiting time expected for particular fittings to be delivered. However, this gave rise to several problems, such as how their purchasing fittings did not fit into the carpentry. As such, they had to rely on AC Vision Design’s help to recommend suppliers that could provide an exchange of parts for free, and this eventually helped to iron out any teething issues they had when it came to fittings for their bathrooms.

The Finish

After 8 weeks of renovation, their home was finally completed, and they moved in on XX. “We were very happy with our new home,” Bernice quipped. “All the things that Alan projected and planned for were delivered, often ahead of schedule!” 

“Our guests were full of compliments for our home design,” Qing Jie added. “According to them, the space gave a very welcoming vibe, which kind of reflects the personality that both Bernice and I have. We love to have friends and family over, and our home definitely provides for a comfortable setting to just chill and hang out.”

To give a rough guide of their budget, the couple shared that the total cost to build this beautiful home amounted to approximately $48,000. This comprised of the following:

  1. Furniture costs – approx. $10,000
  2. Decor and soft furnishings – approx. $2000
  3. Hardware and other fittings (e.g. sound system) – approx. $11,000
  4. Renovation works (e.g. plumbing, electrical, carpentry, flooring) – approx. $25,000

Advice For Fellow First-time Homeowners

So what advice would the couple have for fellow first-time homeowners embarking on their renovation journey? Qing Jie and Bernice had the following three tips:

1. Choose an ID whom you trust

It’s important to do your due diligence to research and come up with a handful of ID firms to choose from. After all, there are many of such firms out there, and so you’ll have to ensure that you settle for someone whom you can trust your home with. Apart from reading independent reviews, sometimes it’ll be useful to get recommendations from friends who have had positive experiences with a particular firm!

2. Keep your design plans nimble

When it comes to plans for major renovation works such as built-in carpentry/masonry or installing various features in your home, try to keep things modular, and be prepared to change your plans along the way. After all, there will be minor hiccups and unforeseen circumstances faced during the reno journey, and so you’ll need to have the flexibility to adapt to these changes by switching up your plans for a particular feature, if needed.

For instance, Qing Jie and Bernice’s eventual design had less built-in carpentry than initially planned for; this was so that the couple could easily refurbish their home in the future at a fraction of the cost, if they had to remove said built-in features.

3. Stick to your budget

Home renovation can be a very costly affair, especially if you’re not disciplined in keeping to your budget. Often enough, many couples fall in love with elaborate design ideas that come up during research, but are unable to afford the renovation works without breaking the bank. Thus, it’s important to stick to your budget, but do cater some breathing room for exigencies along the day (e.g. rise in material/labour cost as a result of the pandemic).

One cost-saving tip the couple have is to rely on your ID’s recommended suppliers when it comes to procuring items like small fittings. This is because they usually would have an established partnership with the ID to allow for 1-1 exchanges of similar items, which will save couples some money as compared to outright purchasing new ones.

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