En blocs can mean upheaval and drama for residents
Experts warn that collective sales - even the successful ones - are seldom a hassle-free experience
It has been more than a year since Mr R. Jayakumar launched a legal fight to block the sale of privatised HUDC estate Shunfu Ville to Qingjian Realty.
Although the High Court ruled in favour of the sale in January this year, the 62-year-old management consultant, who had claimed a lack of "good faith" regarding the sale price, has no regrets spending $100,000 to fight his case for the estate in Bishan.
The Court of Appeals dismissed his case in May.
Mr Jayakumar said that he could imagine that some residents might be bitter towards him for delaying their $1.782 million payout, but he shrugged: "Who cares? Morality and legality are very important. It's not a question about taking a long time."
Another objector, Mr Simon Mahendran, allegedly had his car tyres punctured with nails twice. Till today, no one knows who the culprit is.
Owners eventually received their money in May.
En bloc fever this year has yielded $5.2 billion worth of deals, according to a J.P. Morgan report last week.
While Shunfu Ville can be an extreme case of how such transactions can turn ugly, experts say collective sales create anxiety and upheaval for owners - no matter which side they are on.
"There can be disagreements and different camps," said Mr Aaron Wan, associate division director at Propnex Realty.
Currently, 80 per cent of owners of an estate older than 10 years need to back the sale for it to go through.
These include Shunfu Ville and the 560-unit Tampines Court, which developer Sim Lian clinched on Aug 24. Each owner at that ex-HUDC will receive between $1.71 to $1.75 million.
A Tampines Court resident, who runs a blog tracking the collective sale there, posted photos of two anonymously-written fliers in June asking residents to write to the sales committee to ask for a higher reserve price.
The resident wrote on the blog: "I can hardly keep up with all the letters flying about under doors, in letterboxes and surreptitiously passed from hand to hand."
Other than haggling over price, others may be attached to their old home or worry about having to move to a smaller unit, said Mr Winston Lee, regional head of special projects at PropertyGuru.
Retiree Alfred Chong, 62, who has lived in Tampines Court since 1989 and enjoys its proximity to Simei and Tampines MRT stations, felt it was unfair that the 80 per cent mandate meant he would have to move even if he did not vote for the sale.
Even those who are for selling also experience anxiety, with many finding the process more complicated than expected.
One Tampines Court resident who had bought his property in 2015 was caught off-guard by the need to pay his $160,000 seller's stamp duty.
The owner, who wanted to be known only as Robert, 30, had to rush to get approval from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to defer paying until the Strata Title Board issued a sale order.
The $160,000 was due on Sept 5, within 14 days of the contract for sale of the development to the developer. He and his wife plan to raise the sum by borrowing from friends and relatives.
Those pinning their hopes on a successful sale can suffer an emotional roller coaster waiting for the deal to go through.
Two residents at Tampines Court, who bought their properties in 1994, told The New Paper they had been worried when the previous attempts in 2008 and 2011 had failed.
A 60-year-old private tutor, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tan, said: "This place is very run-down. I was stressed out as it would be hard to sell on the market if there was no en bloc."
Mr Lee said that given Singapore's limited land size, the "rejuvenation of older estates is an economic necessity," and that the 80 per cent requirement ensures that the "vast majority" gets what they want.
Before 1999, a unanimous consensus from all owners was required for en bloc sales, said Dr Sing Tien Foo, director of the Institute of Real Estate Studies at the National University of Singapore.
The move to an 80 per cent mandate for estates older than 10 years, and 90 per cent for those younger than 10 years has eased hold-up problems.
"More en bloc sales could be initiated, especially for large developments, which consist of a large number of homeowners," he said.
That includes the record collective sale of $1.34 billion of Farrer Court in 2007, which had 618 units and was built in 1977.
En bloc advice
Mr Winston Lee, regional head of special projects at PropertyGuru, shares some tips on en bloc sales.
- If you are buying a condo in an older estate, ask your agent about the en bloc potential. This could save you the hassle of having to move out of a property you intended to settle in.
- Attend meetings by the collective sale committee and ask questions.
- Don't bet your last dollar that an en bloc deal won't happen at your place.
- Don't count your chickens before they hatch and purchase replacement property before knowing the outcome, as en bloc proposals do not always work out.
- Do your homework, as property is likely the biggest investment you will make.