In a somewhat sad scenario, a new phenomenon seems to have taken hold in Singapore. Singapore brides are getting the pre-marital jitters. Hardly something a babies-short Singapore needs, unless we suddenly become much more accepting of babies out of wedlock.

Engage Rings - Exchanging Vows

We could not resist weighing in on the run away bride issue, especially when we learnt that the poor bride was told “can you please don’t talk like that? We already got a flat”! Poor girl. She is only a tender 23 years old, which probably means she started queuing for her matrimonial HDB flat when she was barely 20. Her fiance, although initially devastated, seems to realise on hindsight that they were “so kancheong (in a hurry) to get a house” because they “kept hearing people say that they balloted many times but could not get a flat”.

It is one thing to deduce through impersonal surveys, distant numbers and cold statistics that there are some young couples overly concerned about not being able to acquire or afford a flat. It is quite another to read about a first-hand experience.  This brings us back to one of the reasons why we started this blog. We wanted to share our views in a market that was increasingly driven by euphoria and frenzy to buy property, short-circuiting the logical part of the decision-making process. We wanted to empower the buyers, the sellers and other industry players with the knowledge to make balanced, well-thought decisions. It is not enough to rely on a vocal minority (with a vested interest to boot!) that constantly talks about the property market going up.  This is certainly true of most mass and social media, where almost every other day we hear of property prices going up and the property professionals touting that it will rise further. We at BLUTA can certainly empathise with the poor girl and her relatives for over-reacting to the news or rumours and rushing out with her boyfriend to book a BTO flat.

It surely looks like a case of her rushing out to book the flat on the basis of such pressure, both from family members, friends as well as the media.  The subsequent remorse and regret is clearly evident from her statements below:

Comments on forum by run away bride

We’ve all heard just about everyone’s opinion on what “Janice” did, right or wrong, as well as who is to blame. So let’s not look at the obvious pitfalls that she faced. In the interest of everyone who could potentially face her situation, we at BLUTA would like to explore the hidden costs at each and every step of her tragic journey. To do that, we started by breaking down her journey into chronological stages. If her process followed the HDB guidelines, it probably looked something like this:

  1. At a certain point in the relationship, they feel comfortable enough to discuss a home together.
  2. Friends, family, or they themselves, create pressure to buy a HDB flat.
  3. Due to the BTO process, they feel compelled to ballot for a flat.
  4.  Unexpectedly, they receive a favourable queue number.
  5. They choose a nice unit, pay the fees (option fee, down payment, stamp duty) and then wait.
  6. During the waiting period, they prepare for the wedding.
  7. Their BTO flat is ready, they receive the keys, and the stage is set for disaster.

Now, let’s take at each of these stages in closer detail:

In stage 1 and 2, they consider a life together, and that of course entails a common home to raise a family. However, external pressures start to exert undue influence. Relatives talk about how property prices will only go up. Friends relate how they balloted numerous times for their BTO flat, and then waited several years for it to be ready. Right from the beginning, they rush into a decision that is based on the wrong premise. Instead of asking themselves “Do we love one another enough to be together for the rest of our lives?”, they felt compelled to ask “Can we get a house in the future if we don’t buy one now?” What should have been an emotional and deep personal question became a question of mere economic and financial numbers.

In stage 3 and 4, they perhaps felt that “Why not just give it a try?” was the way to go. Why not, indeed? After all, a mere $10 gets you a chance to win big in the property sweepstakes. And the odds are far better than TOTO or 4D! But that’s just the monetary cost. Perhaps she did not consider that, the moment they receive a favourable queue number from the ballot, she would be progressing from a stream to a fast-flowing creek. Why do I say that? Well, imagine saying to your other half, after getting that queue number: “Let’s reconsider this whole thing and take things slower. We can always ballot again in a year or two!” For most people, that would end messily. Instead of actively deciding to take the plunge, then paying $10 to ballot, she might have instead paid $10 to have the decision made for her! Once that queue number came through, her level of commitment deepened, ready or not.

Thus, the fast-flowing creek naturally pulls her along to stage 5, where they choose the unit that they will raise a family in. At this stage, they have to put down significant cash for the option fee, then down payment and stamp fees. All this is forfeit should they back out, and so the fast-flowing creek has now become a full-fledged river. In the flurry of queuing, viewing and paying, We’re not sure if either of them stopped to think: “Is this really the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?” It was probably easier to just go with the flow.

With the flat on the way, the only thing to do now would be stage 6, wedding preparations. Instead of clear heads carefully evaluating and going over the situation, they were likely caught up in a maelstrom of bridal shops, gown fittings, food tasting and hotel bookings. We deduce this from her forum post above, where her words clearly indicate that she had not come to terms with the financial burden of a house in Singapore. Going with the flow has led them to more money spent, in the form of wedding package deposits, gown deposits and photography costs. The river has become whitewater rapids.

We all know what happened then, in stage 7. The act of collecting the keys for their new flat brought a sudden realisation to her. Instead of joy, it is amply evident that she felt panic, cold sweat when collecting the keys and was overwhelmed by the housing loan plus the fact that her CPF is wiped out. She was no longer just dabbling in a stream, but fully submerged in a rapidly flowing river, not knowing where she would wash up. And so, with the wedding just one week away, she ran in a blind panic. But what a heavy cost she paid, and is still paying, for pulling herself out of that river.

Flowers and marriage certificateWhile we can all easily point fingers at her and fault her for not getting out earlier, can we really say it would have been feasible for her to do so, once that $10 ballot fee was paid? Not many have the strength or finesse to swim against a building current, especially not at the age of 20 years. The BTO and balloting process by HDB exacerbates this whole issue, by forcing couples who are not ready, to make a decision that sweeps them along mercilessly. Yes, “Janice” made some bad choices, choices that could have been reversed with some strength of character. But are we asking too much from a 20-year-old? For sure, if not for the soaring property prices and BTO system, “Janice” would have felt more secure in waiting to make the right decision. She would have had time to ask the right question.

In our earlier article, we mentioned about how the BTO scheme no longer serves a purpose in our current property and housing landscape.

“The BTO scheme is not just obsolete; it is failing to keep up with the growing population. To put it simply, the BTO scheme was put in place because too many HDB flats were being built too fast and too soon. Today, the opposite is true.”

This case is even more reason why the BTO scheme should be relegated to the HDB halls of history, just like DBSS. As the Propnex CEO, Mr Mohd Ismail said in a quote from Yahoo!, “Yes, we hear about this (backing out) happening mostly with BTOs. With resale, almost never, because when couples buy resale, they are already about to get married and can move in straight away, there’s no need to wait so long,”.  We urge Mr. Khaw, Minister for National Development, to look into maintaining a surplus of flats for new couples, the moment he has a chance.

When asked if there was a third party involved in the relationship breakdown, “Janice” said, in her own poignant words, ”You could put it like this – the third party was HDB.”

She is certainly someone who would have benefited from speaking to someone with more property experience, but more so, someone level headed. Please do not get caught tying the knot just because you have collected the keys to your flat. Marriage is so much more than that!

If you like our article, you may want to check out our FacebookTwitter, and Google+ pages. For the latest updates and articles on BLUTA-log, remember to like or follow! If you have experienced a similar situation as above, please share it with us.  We hope another personal experience will help rationalise such important decision milestones for other couples.

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