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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bigger homes may not be happier homes

The phrase “old is gold” certainly holds true for many things such as family relations and friendships, but it does not seem to apply to consumer items, especially trendy ones. Barely months old gadgets are being replaced by new and trendier ones these days.

This underscores the strong consumerism movement and how it is promoting buying frenzy among the young and old alike.

The list of “must haves” is growing longer and it is not surprising that many of the items are actually status symbols.

One of the most easily replaceable items include mobile phones and other tacky communication devices. The big rush for Apple's new iPad 2 is a good example of how much headway these tacky gadgets are having a hold on the people.

Even though it has been more than a month since its release, there is still a long waiting list for this latest tablet computer. Just try to place a booking for one with an authorised distributor in Kuala Lumpur and you'll know what I mean.

When the economy is doing better, there is a tendency for people to splurge a bit more on themselves and their loved ones.

The property market is certainly one of the biggest beneficiaries of this stronger consumer confidence. Many developers are turning in one of their best sales ever.

From just a handful previously, there are now more developers who have surpassed the RM1bil annual sales mark.

The housing market is riding on this wave and there is a rush for a variety of property, especially well located landed housing projects.

Beelines are once again making their appearance at project launches, and more people are snapping up property either for their own occupancy or for investment purposes. There are also those who are buying to upgrade to bigger houses or move to better neighbourhoods.

It is undeniable that one's residential address has become a status symbol and many can't wait to move to more prestigious neighbourhoods.

Although it is uplifting to have a more prestigious address or move into a better community, one should also think about the consequences of uprooting one's family when moving to a new area.

It will mean new schools, new friends and neighbours, and grown up children, especially teenagers, often don't take to such changes easily. Having built up their bond with their schoolmates, teachers and neighbours over the years, they will need time to adjust to their new environment.

Another issue that needs to be considered thoroughly pertains to how much space the family really needs and how much loan one should commit to.

A bigger house may sound like something to look forward to but it can be a dampener to family bonding, unless efforts are expended to ensure the family find time to gather together in some common areas, like the study and computer rooms, and of course the dining room.

When there are too many floors (more than two storeys), sections and rooms in the house, it may mean the family members may not “bump” into each other often enough, and communication may suffer.

With many families having both parents working and their grown up children driving themselves around, the communication gap may grow wider.

Buying a new property may also mean more borrowings from the financiers unless the buyer has the means to make higher cash downpayment.

Banks have become very innovative these days and a number of them are promoting housing packages where the repayment can be stretched up to the next generation.

The question is whether it is wise to commit to such high loans to the extent of involving one's children in the loan repayment.

I believe one should not over commit in their borrowings, and it is advisable to be prudent and leverage up to one's own ability to repay.

Instead of buying, it can even make better economic sense to rent a house. This way, one gets to enjoy the choice of address, and do not have to fork out any downpayment, or be bothered with the high maintenance and renovation costs to upkeep a property.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng subscribes to the maxim that while everything is in a state of flux and change, sound values should be upheld at all times.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)