Sunday, June 13, 2010

Showflats & their telling displays

Would-be buyers should be aware of optical illusions and custom-built fittings

Visiting showflats on weekends is very much a Singaporean pastime. Many who throng the showflats are not buyers, but browsers with noisy families in tow.

But for those who are thinking of putting down some hard-earned cash for a brand new home, this seemingly leisurely activity is actually the homework they should do carefully before they commit themselves to a purchase.

They should scrutinise every nook and corner in the showflat and be clear that they may not get all that they see.

Showflats, after all, are done up by interior designers engaged by the developers to make them look as attractive or as spacious as possible.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak advises potential buyers to take note of 'optical illusions' employed to make the units look bigger.

For instance, glass partitions are often used instead of walls to separate the bedrooms from the living area. This gives the illusion of more space than there actually is.

Glass partitions are also thinner than actual walls, and thus take up less space.

A buyer can always do the same for his own unit, but may then have to compromise on privacy.

It is common for developers to remove the non-structural wall of the bedroom nearer the living area to make the unit look bigger and allow more space for visitors, said EL Development managing director Lim Yew Soon.

'In such instances, buyers should ask whether the wall can actually be removed,' he said.

'Another question they should ask is whether all the appliances - for instance, the non-standard ones like dishwashers and washing machines - are provided or are there for interior design purposes.'

Wall mirrors are also often employed to give the living area the illusion of spaciousness, experts say.

'The buyer can also use a wall mirror in his own home, but the key is where is the best place to put it. And that depends on the individual unit,' said Mr William Ong, executive chairman of Axis ID.

'Showflats do give you an indication of what you can put into the unit.

'When you do up your own unit, you have to first think about how much furniture you need and how much storage you need.'

Where furniture is concerned, the key is in having it in the right scale, said Mr Ong.

Another expert, who declined to be named, warns that some small projects may use very small customised furniture. For instance, a supposed double bed in a bedroom may be much smaller than an actual double bed.

When checking out the bedrooms, Mr Mak says, potential buyers should ignore the furnishings and try to imagine if they can comfortably fit in a normal- size single or queen-size bed, a desk and a wardrobe.

Also, experts say buyers have to consider how efficient the layout is. A square or rectangular- shaped room is always easier to manage.

For odd-shaped apartments, it may be a good idea to engage an interior designer who can help to maximise space.

'The smaller the apartment, the more you need expert help to help you maximise space,' said Mr Ong.

Some home hunters have complained about having to pay for bay windows and planter boxes when they have no use for them.

For instance, the actual living space in a 1,200 sq ft unit that includes bay windows and planter boxes is much smaller than 1,200 sq ft.

But, under a new government ruling from January last year, developers - although they can still build bay windows and planter boxes - no longer have the incentive to do so because they will have to pay for the space for these features. Previously, they did not have to.

One good thing about showflats is that they are chockful of design ideas.

And as Mr Ong said: 'Whatever developers show in the showflat is usually achievable. The ideas are there to make the space look bigger but they are doable ideas.'

Source: Sunday Times, 13 Jun 2010

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