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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Think critically when you buy that house

Two weeks ago, we ran a piece on the importance of looking at details over and above location, pricing and the reputation of the developer. The piece highlighted the importance of installing smoke detectors, a sprinkler system and an adequate number of lifts in a condominium development.

A developer who is building a 38-storey condominium in SS2, Petaling Jaya called to say that the high-end project will have three lifts, instead of two as published.

Here is some food for thought. Another developer will be launching a 20-storey Bukit Jalil project comprising several blocks on 2.5 acres. It will be a high density project and each block will have three lifts.

A 20-storey condominium project in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, launched in 2003, also has three lifts. The same developer is now building a 40-storey building. It will have four lifts and one service lift.

As a developer builds upwards, access becomes increasingly important. That is why some very high-end projects around the KLCC city centre has their own private lift lobby with one or two lifts serving one single unit.

It is up to buyers to press developers to have a variety of foliage.

When one considers buying into a condominium project, one pays a premium for the higher floors. The view tends to be better as one goes higher, it is cooler and there are less mosquitoes. While there are advantages of buying into a higher floor, this should be balanced with accessibility.

If you have the resources to buy the penthouse, should you not consider the accessibility to get your basement car park or to level ground? The lift is the only way. You are already paying a premium for that unit and you are already compromising by sharing the lifts with everyone who lives below you. Hence, the number of lifts that the project has is very important, especially if you are going to be at the very top.

From the penthouse, we take the lift to the basement car park. Although this may be a strata-titled project – it is gated and guarded – the basement car park can be a security issue. Buyers tend to be enchanted with the show unit with no consideration for the car park.

If the project is already built, check out the basement parking. Does it have a high-ceiling? Is it well-lit and airy? Are there many nooks and corners that allow people to hide in shadows? Are the parking bays large enough or is it a tight squeeze for larger sedan?

It would be a good idea to ask for a copy of the basement car park plan and imagine the route from the lift lobby to your parking bay.

If there are elderly or wheel-chaired family members who will be living in the condominium unit, they will have problems if they have to manoeuver a flight of stairs, or even several steps, to get to the parked car.

This takes us to the importance of a project having a pick-up and drop-off points. Having a nice high-ceiling lobby may be impressive, but is there a large enough area where your family members and friends can collect you or drop you off with no hassle? Or will you have to walk to the security guard house and wait?

Since we are considering the amenities outside the building, something has to be said about landscaping. There was a time when palm trees were very popular. It makes no sense to plant trees which shed their tiny leaves near a pool. However, developers’ enchantment with palms is something that has to be weighed. Developers tend to like palms instead of trees which shed their leaves daily. While palms are easier to maintain as the fronds do not shed weekly and because the fronds come in one piece, they are easily picked up and thrown away.

While some consider them aesthetically pleasing, they are not shady. Some high-rise projects today come with a landscaped park.

It makes no sense to have a one-acre park planted with just palms. It is up to buyers to press developers to have a variety of foliage, and that includes large trees which provide shade, as well as shrubs.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

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