Saturday, 15 July 2017

HDB Journey #1: Buying a Resale without an Agent

First thing we did after K's PR application was successfully completed (took about 2 months) was to start looking for a resale.

Our reasons for buying a resale was simply that 
1. we couldn't (didn't want to) wait for BTO, which will take approximately 3 years to be ready even if we get our balloting number on the first try
2. BTOs are damn small and we wanted something spacious.

We initially engaged an agent, but after the first day of 'house shopping' with her, I decided to venture out on my own.

Why we didn't go with the agent:
Our case was quite a unique one, K just got his PR status, his CPF wasn't ready, and the agent was quite clueless about whether our case could go through, and if so, what are the limitations. K is also a Korean and the agent wasn't even sure if we could purchase our HDB under the 'others' category when he's the PR and I'm the SC (we could).

I had to be the one to research online about the HDB rules and regulations, and K had to call up HDB to ask on his own.

Also, the agent brought us to only 2 houses in one day, and the time (I feel) was not fruitfully utilised. Moreover, the 2 houses (Executive Apartments) she brought us to were owned by 'other' races, but they were asking for the market rate. From our understanding, usually houses owned by non-Chinese have a lower selling price because the buyer pool is smaller. But she kept trying to convince us that it was a good buy at $830k.

Step 1: Obtaining your HLE or IPA from the bank:
We applied for the HLE (which takes about 2 weeks to process) and realised that it was a no-go for us. Since K just got his PR, his CPF does not have any money and the HLE was still calculated based only on my income. Although HLE loans you up to 90% of the retail price, it is still dependent on your income, so we decided not to wait for a new HLE and went for a In-Principal Approval at the bank instead. They loan up to 80% of the price.

Step 2: looking for houses

After looking through propertyguru and finding that there are other suitable (big) 5 rooms in the same area, I decided to schedule my own viewing.

We had a specific area that we wanted, and specific conditions that we would like.

Some of our requirements were:
1. it has to be big
2. it cannot have weird layouts (you'll be surprised how many HDBs are not squarish in layout)
3. it has to be walking distance to the MRT and interchange
4. the price should preferably be below $600k

What I did was to comb through the area that we wanted block by block. So I'll click on the individual blocks to see all the suitable listings, then contact the agents myself.

The appointments were scheduled at most half an hour apart (since the units were so nearby) and we could see like at least 7 houses in a day.

It's a very time consuming process. After a while, you forgot which agent is for which house so I had to do up a timetable with the following information:

1. agent's contact number
2. unit address
3. asking price
4. price/sqf
5. lease of years remaining
6. last transacted price

useful website included property guru and

On that HDB link, you can find a lot of useful information such as the make up of the block, the ethnic ratio, the last transacted price, number of years remaining and so on.

In total, we viewed about 15 houses.

Step 3: Our decision:
Even I was surprised by how quick and decisive we were.

Fate is funny sometimes, our final choice was the first house we viewed on our own. And somehow that became the standard. All the subsequent houses we viewed were either too small, too old, too stuffy, not bright enough, not windy enough, etc.

Our first viewing on our own was on 2 April, we made up our mind and went back to place the deposit on 8 April, in just 6 days.

The asking price was $600k, which was very high compared to the last transacted price of $538k. We were hoping to get it at maximum $550k but ended up we agreed on $580k.

We didn't want to risk losing the house over $30k, and since it was the only house we liked after viewing so many we decided to just take a leap of faith.

During the signing, you have to pay the option fee of $1000. The agent for the seller will issue the Option to Purchase and you have 21 days to exercise the option.

Step 4: Buyer to submit valuation request the next working day
This step is VERY IMPORTANT. Upon request, the valuer will contact the seller directly and arrange for a valuation within 4 working days. The report should be ready in about a week.

For our case, our valuation was $550k, which meant that the extra $30k is the COV which we have to pay in cash.

Step 5: Letter of Offer from the bank + Resale Checklist
Complete the resale checklist online.

Obtain the letter of offer from the bank. We only went to OCBC to ask but we decided to go with them anyway. We were too busy so we also didn't have time to go compare rates. Their rates sounded reasonable so we just took it up.

Our final loan amount was also lowered because it was based on the valuation report (letter of offer will be based on valuation report or asking price, whichever is lower).

Step 6: Exercising OTP + resale application
We didn't wait the full 21 days before going back. We confirmed on 8 April and went back on 24 April to exercise the OTP. We had to pay another $4000 during the session.

During the session, you can also complete the resale application and set the date for the first appointment, usually 6 weeks later.

Step 7: First appointment
Our first appointment was set on 23 June, since all earlier slots were taken up alr.

It was a super eventful day because our signing was scheduled for 8.45AM, but K was stuck in Taiwan because he didn't manage to get onto the plane.

Luckily the HDB officer was kind enough to let us proceed first with all the documents completion, then held on to the file for K to sign in the afternoon.

After the signing, we went up to the lawyer's office (same building) to hand over the cheques for the remaining 20% and lawyer fees.

Step 8: Second appointment
Our second appointment will be on 4 August, but since the lawyer will be representing us, we were not required to be present.

I will update this space again after the completion. But so far it hasn't been difficult, anything that we were unsure of we could check with the seller's agent, who is very eager to clarify our query too as it means closing the deal for him. So all in all, we saved the 1% agent fee and I'd say that buying a resale on our own without an agent is totally doable.

Epilasik Surgery at Eagle Eye Centre

9 months post-surgery update

It's been about 9 months since I've had my epilasik done at Eagle Eye Centre.

Side effects: 
No glare, starburst experienced so far. Night vision is just as good as day. Have no problem driving in the dark.

Dry eyes wise, I have the good and bad days. All the good days, I only need to put in eye drops the moment I wake up, rest of the day I can go without. On the bad days when I feel like my eyes are very dry, there's a slight burning sensation in the eyeball and I would have to apply eye drops every half an hour. I'm still using the vial eye drops most of the time, but I also alternate it with the tears naturale bottle.

Dry eyes is the most obvious when I wake up in the morning. It feels very uncomfortable until I've put eye drops, especially when I sleep without the humidifier.

Vision is okay so far. No significant changes but there is still some variation to the degree. On some days I feel like my left can see better than my right, on other days it's the reverse. Vision does get blurry when I use computer or read books (more so when I read), but it 'resets' after sleeping.

There was a period of time in November when my vision in my right eye was damn blur and I was experiencing double vision. Freaked me out a lot. But turns out it was due to high pressure in the eyes. Was put on eye drops and now it's fine alr.

I don't specially take care of my eyes compared to before. Before the surgery, I was telling myself that I wouldn't use phone lying down or in the dark anymore, I'll do eye massages and so on. But it's all gone out the window now.

Hopefully the vision will stay this way, but I'm really enjoying the freedom from having to wear specs now.

Given the chance though, I might have still gone to Shinagawa instead. It's very hard to get through the hotline for Eagle Eye UNLESS yours is a new business. Tried calling them recently to schedule a eye check but till now have not been able to get through the hotline. And the waiting time is always super long.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Epilasik Surgery at Eagle Eye Centre by Dr Julien Theng (1 month post op update)

I've just gone for my 1 month post op review.

Only the first and last review would be carried out by Dr Julien Theng himself. So far the other reviews were done by the other doctors.

My vision is considered some sort perfect alr. There is still some negligible residual degree in each eye but it doesn't affect my vision. My degree was 600 before.

For astigmatism wise, it didn't really get corrected. Started off with 75 in both eyes but it's now 100 in my left and 50 in my right. But as of now, I don't notice any double vision so I'll say that's negligible as well.

Doctor mentioned that there is slight hazing in my cornea so I'm put on another month of steroid eye drops. Truth be told, this is the part that's freaking me out. But again, as of now, I don't really notice any white film when I'm looking at things. Hopefully that will clear up.

Doctor says cornea is still not done healing, so I'll update again in a month's time.

Epilasik Surgery at Eagle Eye Centre by Dr Julien Theng

TL, DR: I went to Eagle Eye Centre for Epilasik by Dr Julien Theng and everything is recovering well.

Surgery Day (Consultation)

Scheduled my appointment for 10am. First thing done was to go through all the test to check for eye pressure, cornea thickness, degree, etc etc. 

Waited a bit, then had a brief session with the consultant who will advice you on the type of surgery that is suitable for you. Since I had my mind made up about doing epilasik, he reminded me of the longer downtime and longer recovery, then I signed the patient agreement, and it's back to more waiting (for Dr Julien Theng). I was initially a bit skeptical because the number of eye tests that they conducted was lesser than that of Shinagawa, but the results turned out pretty similar so that helped to put my mind at ease.

After more waiting, I was ushered into the Dr Theng's office where he (very quickly, like really super speedy) checked on the health(?) of my eyes before declaring everything is good to go. He sounds very well-rehearsed when telling you why you shouldn't worry so he must have done it thousands of times alr.

Scheduled my surgery for 5.45pm and off to lunch it was. Halfway through, received a call that says the surgery has been pushed forward to 5pm, so all the better for me.

The waiting was intense. Actually, it was the waiting that caused me to freak out more than anything. The whole time I was wondering if I was making the right decision, will I regret, will I go blind, you know, all the standard scenarios. 

Surgery Day (Operation)

The surgery itself is really quick and painless. I'm too lazy to describe the process so maybe google for more reviews? But since I opted for the corneal collagen cross linking due to weak corneas, I spent two extra minutes inside. So basically after operating on the eye, they will drip this vial of yellow liquid into your eyes, then your chair will auto move to a new spot where a beam of uv is shone into your eyes for a minute. Then you return to the original position before they continue operating on the other eye.


Day 0 (actual surgery day): I got back about 50-60% of vision right after the surgery. No pain, no hassle except for the range of eye drops that you have to constantly apply. Wasn't sensitive to light and I could eat dinner perfectly fine. 

Day 1: Woke up okay, vision was back to being blurry (which I've been warned many times before so I wasn't too worried). Went for my check up where Dr Julien Theng declared my eyes were healing nicely. But hell broke loose a few hours after. My eyes were so light sensitive I had to draw all the curtains, and even then, I couldn't open my eyes. AT ALL. I was tearing profusely, like, really crying non-stop, with my eyes closed. It was so freaking uncomfortable and I was so scared that something somewhere had gone wrong. Called up the clinic but they assured me that it was a normal response. 

Day 2: Continuation of all the horrors of day 1. Nothing got better and I was still constantly crying with my eyes closed.

Day 3: The pain and tears subsided, but vision was still not functional. I could read the words on my phone since my fonts were huge, but watching tv or doing anything else was out of the question. No TV, no books, no computer. It got to a stage where the only thing I could do was sleep, but I couldn't sleep anymore because I've slept so much.

Day 4: Planned to return to work originally but vision was too blur. Took another day off.

Day 5: Returned to work but vision is still not good. I could see bus numbers fine but it was impossible to work on my computer even though the words were at 175%. Every time I try working on my computer, my vision would get worse and I would end up dripping eye drops constantly hoping it would help.

Day 7: Went back for my one week review with Dr Harold Choi, was told eyes were healing nicely and put on a new set of eye drops.

Day 8: Vision got superrrr blurry after the change in eye drop. I freaked out because it was like back to having full blown degrees but not being able to wear spectacles. Went back immediately to the clinic cos they were afraid it was a cornea tear or something. Turns out nothing was wrong and it might be that I'm allergic to the eye pressure eye drops, so told to lay off that eye drop and continue with the rest. 

Day 10: Vision is basically very good but will definitely fluctuate throughout the day. Usually, vision is the clearest right after I wake up/a nap, and by mid-afternoon it'll get more blurry. It also gets blurry if I work on the computer, but other than that, everything is quite clear. 

Almost a month later: I'm still applying eye drops, about once an hour, but it's more out of habit rather than necessity. Vision is very good, but it still fluctuates. Certain days vision in the left eye is better, certain days the right. But I've reached a stage where I forgot that I've had the surgery. I still find myself going into the toilet to take out my "contacts" or pushing up invisible spectacles still. Some habits are hard to kick. 

Side Effects

Halos are real. Starbursts are real. But nothing too significant that it renders you useless. I haven't actually tried it, but I don't think driving at night would be a problem.

I do not really experience dry eyes, but even now, I drip in eyedrops at least once every two hours. So I think that helps.

Other than that, I'm also taking fish oil pills. Not sure if it actually helps with the healing but at least it makes me feel like I've done everything I can.

The verdict

Do it. Like what everybody claims, I really think it was the best decision of my life. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.

post op 1 month update

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Shinagawa vs Eagle Eye Centre (Dr Lee Sao Bing / Dr Julien Theng)

TL,DR : I did epilasik with Eagle Eye Centre (Dr Julien Theng) after weighing all the pros and cons.

Personally, I felt that Shinagawa was superior in almost every aspect compared to Eagle Eye Center. Not that Eagle Eye wasn't good, it's just that they couldn't match up to the level of service or ambience.

Ambience wise

Shinagawa had a much more cosy and atas feeling. Eagle Eye was noticeably more crowded though, which then also resulted in a longer waiting time before the nurses/doctors/receptionists could attend to you. But if you're the kind that feels more at ease seeing other people go through the same procedure as you, you'll feel more reassured at Eagle Eye

Service wise

It felt better in Shinagawa since the waiting time was shorter. I had to spend a lot of time just waiting around for my turn at Eagle Eye. It was like a spin-the-wheel game with the call-in for Eagle Eye as well. 9 out of 10 times I wouldn't be able to get through and I'll have to end up calling and calling and calling non-stop. That was the part that really got on my nerve. That said, you do get a guaranteed response if you contact them through their website, so that was always my last go-to resort.

You also get a lot more personal time with the Dr in charge of you at Shinagawa. For Shinagawa, Dr Lee Sao Bing was the one who attended to me, he explained my results and recommended me the procedure entirely in person. But for Eagle Eye, there's a consultant who does all that with you, so you'd have to make up your mind before going in to see the doctor. My doctor was Dr Julien Theng, and although there are a lot of reviews online that says he has a very reassuring voice and so on, I didn't get that feeling. What I felt was that he was quite robotic, it's as if he has said those lines ten thousand times (he probably had) and was just repeating them without even having to process it. The whole confirmation check plus consultation took like, maybe a minute or two before I was ushered out and the next patient invited in. The lasik assessment also had lesser tests compared to Shinagawa. But I was still quite reassured since the test results were similar to that of Shinagawa.


I also went for a lasik assessment at Dream Eye Center in Seoul, Korea. They did a whopping 24 types of tests on my eye. The whole thing was free and the consultant spoke perfect English. So you may want to drop by if you're visiting Korea. Of the 24 tests, other than your usual ones like cornea thickness, shape, etc, they also tested for eye dryness. You can pay 50 000 won (~SGD60) for a DNA test to see if you have any genetic issues that makes you more prone for cornea collapse. I really wanted to do it there because the whole thing (including medication and follow up checks for 2 years) was dirt cheap. They quoted me 1.6million won (~SGD2000), which is like less than half of what you'll have to pay in Singapore)

That said,

Everything at Eagle Eye Center was still very professional. There wasn't anything that made me lose confidence in them along the way. And yes, the one-day assessment plus surgery was really a god-sent. I know there are some research/sayings that it's not good to do on the same day, but aiya, trust your doctors right. 

So why did I not go with Shinagawa even though I preferred them?

Dr Lee Sao Bing recommended that I do the bladeless lasik (which is the one with the flap). I enquired about epilasik since I wasn't very keen on living with a flap for the rest of my life but he was quite against it. According to him, my degree was quite high (600 plus for degree and 125 for astig) so there is a possibility of corneal scarring. I'm not sure if it's because the clinic doesn't offer epilasik (on their website they say they do, but none of my friends who went to Shinagawa did epilasik), but I didn't want it to be a case where the doctor can go "I told you so" if things really turned out that way.

Also, I was all for going ahead with the bladeless lasik but it was as if some higher almighty force was telling me not to. I had to reschedule my surgery 3 times because every time, a day or two before the surgery, I would get an eye infection (read styes). So after the third time, I was like, forget it flip table, I'm not doing this.

So yeah, that's how I ended up going for epilasik at Eagle Eye Centre (will update about it in my next post). 

Surgery updates can be found here.