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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Can we afford to buy that property?

The last two weeks were rather sobering.

There was this small 700 sq ft condominium unit that seemed rather promising for retiring in, priced at more than half a million ringgit. There were no steps to manoeuvre, no slippery floor tiles and the bath was elderly friendly. The project had all the merits for retiring in with nearby amenities.

There was another unit, about RM800,000, which was about twice the size, which, from the start, was way beyond the radar of affordability. So off to the financiers.

The first, after looking at the relevant documents, and assuming the purchase would be for the small unit, looked up and smiled broadly. Doable!

The little heart smiled, relieved! Incidentally, according to ancient Chinese culture and beliefs, it is the heart that is the fountain of wise decisions - and bad ones - not the mind. That is why, the word wisdom (hui) is written with the heart symbol as its base, or root word. Unlike Romanised languages, Chinese is based on pictograms or pictures.

So let's consider the second and bigger unit. Doable! That is shorthand for getting the bank's stamp of approval, that is, getting a loan would not be a problem.

But wait! It will be a stretch after retirement, she cautioned.

A second and third bank officer were consulted. Both gave an outright No! even for the small unit.

The conversation went something like this:

“We could approve it for you. We just lengthen the tenure up to 20 years but you make your repayments based on a 10-year tenure. But you will be the one to suffer when you retire.”

The third officer said: “You can put in 40% of the purchase price, instead of 10%. Or you can stay with 10% downpayment, we stretch your repayment, but six months before the unit is completed, you sell your present house, and put in a big lump sum. But you will be the one to suffer because it is a huge risk you are taking.”

They said it will not be right to earn the commission because they will not be doing their good turn for that day if they were to go ahead with the loan application. They want the good karma to remain with them. Both convey the same message not a wise purchase at all. So perish the thought.

Before parting ways, they brought up several reasons why a property purchase was not the best decision. That was when the moment of truth came, which brought about the sobering effect. Being a bit defiant, another type of financier certainly not an Ah Long was consulted; a reputable lender, but one that does not come under the purview of Bank Negara's regulations.

Incidentally, the most recent change in lending criteria when evaluating loan eligibility is based on the net income of applicants, and not the gross income, as was done previously.

This new lending guidelines deduct all personal commitments which may include car and computer loans, personal and credit card loans. It also includes contributions to the Employees Provident Funds and other deductions. The loan application is based on the net figure.

Another broad smile came from the fourth financier. No problem! Doable. Unfortunately, the terms and conditions were not attractive. At that point, the question was not how desirable the property may be, but how much does one want it? Does the end justify the means?

When one arrives at such a metaphorical fork in the road, there will be two sets of emotions. The greedy little heart says, “Go on, take the risk”. And there will be all sorts of justifications you've worked long enough and you deserve it. While wisdom says, “Wait! How will you finance it after retirement? Do you want this apartment at all cost?”

The crux of this rigmarole is this, there are always ways to get around rules and regulations in order to have what we perceive as “our prize”.

When it comes to the stage when one wants something at all cost despite the hordes of naysayers and the little barriers to entry, then maybe it is best to just walk away.

A property consultant said he has come across clients who want to buy a property so much that they begin to take all sorts of risks. “Buying a property should not stretch one's resources to the point of having to give up the little treats in life,” he says.

So, there goes the little 700 sq ft to somebody else!

The saying “when there is a will, there's a way” does not sit well with deputy news editor Thean Lee Cheng.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

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