BTO flat owners turn to Facebook to share anxiety and fears
Instead of decor ideas, future BTO flat owners are engrossed with defect news
Concerned flat owners have taken to Facebook to express anxieties about on-going Build-To-Order (BTO) flat defects.
Private Facebook groups were set up for owners of new BTO projects to connect but uneasiness, instead of excitement, is dominating the talk.
Flat owner Kathleen Dragon, who is in the Facebook group for a Toa Payoh BTO project, told The New Paper there are already reminders to be vigilant when checking for defects in the flat. Her four-room flat is expected to be completed in 2017.
Ms Dragon, 26, said: "The general sentiment is that everyone is feeling worried and expecting this (slew of problems) to happen (to their flats).
"This is especially so as our general contractor is the same one for the recent executive condominium (EC) that had a problem."
The fashion and marketing student at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts was referring to QingJian Realty, the contractor for RiverParc Residence.
Ms Dragon conceded that she is not expecting a 100 per cent perfect flat. She attributes her mindset to her working experience in the retail industry prior to her studies.
"When you have a bag of clothing, maybe five to 10 per cent will be defective. Even Chanel has made defective bags.
"The only difference is for a defective jacket, you can return it to the manufacturer. But how do you return a flat?
"The only thing you should expect is for the problems to be rectified," Ms Dragon said.
Another BTO flat owner, Ms Sarah Wang, 27, used to count down to the day she is to move into her new place - her first big-ticket purchase - with her fiance.
Now, she has a sense of foreboding that overrides the anticipation of getting her new home.
With all the bad news on defects and poor finishing in new BTO and Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) projects, she is hoping her new home does not make the news for the wrong reasons.
DBSS project Pasir Ris One, for instance, had corridors that were too narrow for comfort.
Trivelis, another DBSS project in Clementi, was plagued with problems such as shattered glass panels and rusty dish holders.
Earlier this month, residents of EC RiverParc Residence in Punggol complained of rusty stairs and water seepage on rainy days. Others were plagued with problems like poor fittings and finishes. (See report above.)
Ms Wang's four-room flat in the north is expected to be ready in two years.
She said: "We were looking forward to building our first home together, but the defects we read about make us worry about the number of things we have to deal with."
Ms Wang feels that HDB should keep a tighter watch when it comes to quality control of each unit's workmanship.
"Owners should not be burdened with the responsibility of spotting defects in what is supposed to be a new flat," she said.
In Parliament last week, the Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee assured the House that there was no compromise in flat quality despite a significant ramping up in the BTO programme over the last four years.
He had revealed in Parliament that an average of a third of all new residents approach the Building Service Centre for assistance with defects in BTO flats after collecting their keys.
The vast majority of defects reported are surface imperfections such as hairline cracks on walls, scratches on timber floors or uneven tile joints, he added.
Mr Lee was responding to questions from Members of Parliament on defects in BTO flats.
Like others, Ms Wang, who works in the healthcare industry, was not convinced by his explanation.
"I will be upset to see even a scratch on our floor. For something that we have painstakingly saved up for, I expect that it will be completed with close to zero flaws as far as possible," she said.
And she is not alone.
From looking forward to the completion of her Hougang BTO in 2017, Ms Christianne Ang, 26, said she is now fervently hoping that she will not be a victim of the flat defects.
"If it is a minor defect, it won't be too bad as long as I can get the contractor to fix it up... I understand that some defects like cracks on walls are common and do not pose a big problem, said Ms Ang, who declined to reveal her occupation.
"But water seepage and sewage stench are not tolerable. They definitely have to be resolved by HDB."
Response speed crucial on Facebook
WATER WOES: A Centrale 8 unit in Tampines had water seeping into its bedroom wall and floor after a water pipe in the bathroom burst. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE LIM
As a home owner, he is aware that superficial defects such as hairline cracks on walls or tiles that differ slightly in colour are common.
They are not specific to public housing and can be found in private developments too.
But Member of Parliament Zaqy Mohamad draws the line at issues like water seepage.
"How is it possible (that water seeps in)? Did we check before handing over?
"It is not so much the defects I am concerned about but the quality assurance. How is the quality ensured before the flats are handed over?" he told The New Paper.
Mr Zaqy was one of the four MPs who raised questions about the quality of our public housing in Parliament earlier last week.
Sometimes, the issue may not be about the defects but how they are managed, he pointed out.
He added: "The speed at which the contractors or developers respond is just as important. Some of the unhappiness may not necessarily be due to the defects but the way they were handled.
"For instance, it may make more economic sense for contractors to consolidate flat units with defects before they put up a gondola to fix the external walls three weeks later. But for the owner, it means suffering water seepage for another three weeks."
Property analysts The New Paper spoke to do not see these defects deterring potential BTO flat buyers.
Mr Ong Kah Seng, director of R'ST Research, said: "While there may be flat applicants who are unhappy with the recent defects, I think there will be even more (flat applicants) who are appreciative of their new flats. The flats are an invaluable start for family development.
"Also, flat applicants will still go ahead to get a BTO unit because it is subsidised housing, almost the cheapest and within affordability among all forms of housing."
As for whether the defects of a unit will affect its value in the resale market, SLP International's executive director Nicholas Mak said it boils down to two factors: the market conditions, and whether the defects can be permanently rectified.
"If we are talking about narrow corridors, it becomes a permanent feature. There is no way (to rectify), short of hacking down walls or the whole building.
"This may result in the unit being a less preferred choice. The owner may then lower his asking price to attract buyers. This is the effect a unit like that can have on resale prices," he said.
But if the market is hot, and the demand is greater than supply, the situation will be reversed, as buyers may feel they do not have many choices.
In the spotlight
- Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats
Project: Pasir Ris One
Developer: SingHaiyi Group and Kay Lim Holdings
Completed: May 2015
Issues: Residents say the 1.2m-wide common corridor is too narrow although it meets fire safety standards.
Developer: EL Development
Completed: March 2015
Issues: The Clementi flats made headlines for shower room glasses that shattered easily, rusty lift doors and water seeping into units from floods in corridors in rainy conditions.
Project: Centrale 8
Developer: Sim Lian
Completed: October 2014
Issues: Residents of the Tampines flats were upset over the low quality of Centrale 8's fittings and finishes. Some complaints included faulty locks and bursting water pipes.
Project: The Peak
Developer: Hoi Hup
Completed: August 2012
Issues: Inferior materials, such as flimsy lamination, were reportedly used in the Toa Payoh flats.
- Build-To-Order (BTO) flats
Project: Punggol Waterway Terraces I
Developer: Tiong Seng
Completed: First quarter of 2015
Issues: Residents complained of ponding, soaked furniture and damaged parquet floors due to rain seepage despite tightly shut windows.
- Executive Condominium
Project: RiverParc Residence
Developer: Qingjian Realty
Completed: August 2014
Issues: One resident complained about a sewage stench that has plagued him for six months. Other penthouse residents complained of water seepage and rusty steps.