5 Advantages to Buying an HDB Flat As Early On In Life As Possible

By Joanne Poh, via moneysmart.sg

Buying a home in Singapore is a complicated procedure. Unless you’ve got the dough for private property, you’re pretty much stuck playing by the HDB’s rules: get married or be over 35. For most people, that means when you can buy a home is something that has to be left up to fate.

But buying a home as early as you can does have its advantages, assuming you can find somebody who is willing to do so with you. Here’s why:

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Housing Options for Newlyweds who are Waiting for Their BTO

Just married and waiting for your home to be ready? Here are some housing options you can consider (via houzz.com.sg)

By Amanda Jayne, via houzz.com.sg

SINGAPORE — It can take upwards of three years for a build-to-order (BTO) flat from Housing Development Board (HDB) to be ready. Some projects can take just two years; others, nearly six. For newlyweds, this can prove to be quite a trying situation. It is a frustrating process (trust me, I know), and while a proposed date of completion is usually offered, it is rarely accurate. Here are some housing options you can consider while playing the waiting game.

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Singapore named Asian city with highest quality of life

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SINGAPORE : Singapore has once again been ranked as the top city in Asia in terms of quality of living, according to global human resource consultancy Mercer.

In the Mercer 2016 Quality of Living Rankings, Singapore was 26th in the world out of 230 cities ranked, unchanged from its ranking last year.

It has also been ranked as the top city in Asia in the past two editions of the survey.

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25 Simple Ways To Keep A Budget And Live Within Your Means

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By Sameen Imtiaz, list25.com

Most of us are really bad at managing our money. We’re terrible in fact. From student debt and mortgages to credit cards and car loans, most people are in the red when it comes to their finances. Today we’re going to take a close look at how we can prevent ourselves from committing fatal financial errors. Budgeting is the obvious answer, but how you budget is even more important. You can’t just wake up one day, create a budget, and hope to stick to it. It’s kind of like a new year’s resolution to work out at the gym. They’re a dime a dozen but very few people stick to them. To follow your budget you will need to start living a principled life. This is hard because it will mean forgoing certain things that you want to do or giving up various desires. If you successfully implement everything that we talk about in this list you should be well on your way to living a more responsible life, at least in financial terms. Just remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, usually it can take a while. These are 25 simple ways to keep a budget and live within your means.

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5 Easy Kitchen Decorating Ideas: Wall Decor

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If you love looking through the latest design magazines for kitchen decorating ideas but don’t have the time or budget for a major remodel, we’ve got some quick and easy decorating tips on how to give your kitchen an update worthy of a home magazine. The best part is that these kitchen decorating ideas can mix and match beautifully — use one or a few together.

Since we tend to see things at eye level first, some of the most noticeable changes you can make in a kitchen involve the walls. But most kitchen decorating efforts are placed on the appliances, countertops and cooking gadgets while the walls are sadly left ignored.

What’s looking back at you, a dingy, boring wall? Or worse, an outdated faux paint job complete with ivy or fruit-themed stencil work? It’s time to make a change.
Updating your kitchen wall decor with easy but design-savvy changes will make a big visual impact. Here are 5 kitchen decorating ideas that take your kitchen’s walls from tired to inspired:

1. The Designer’s Secret to Color
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Color is one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to update a room. But great, colorful kitchens don’t happen by accident. The secret is in the three color palette:

  • Color 1: An existing kitchen color that can’t be changed. This may be the color of the countertop or cabinets.
  • Color 2: A neutral of your choice. Use it for the new wall color that complements color 1. It’ll serve as the kitchen backdrop.
  • Color 3: The color that makes your kitchen unique. It’s often a bold and unexpected color that works with your palette. Color 3 adds pop to your kitchen. Use it as a statement piece for your accessories like bar stools, vases or cookware.

The best way to find the perfect three color palette is to grab paint swatches in the shades you like and shuffle them around until you’re happy with the combination. Once you find your signature three color palette, keep a set handy for accessory shopping.

2. The Best Kitchen Decorating Ideas Start With a Focal Point

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Try to see your kitchen the way a visitor would for the first time. Walk into your kitchen and think about what you notice. Is the first thing you see something you like? If not, what would you rather notice first? Make that spot and the closest wall your focal point.

Focal points visually jump out at you. Compared to the rest of the kitchen, the focal point is bold and unique. To create a focal wall, try one of these techniques:

  • Paint your focal wall in the bold shade you chose for your three color palette
  • Hang a large piece of art on the focal wall
  • Use textural or patterned wallpaper

Be fearless when dressing up your focal point — it’s just one wall.

3. Add the Latest Trend in Kitchen Wall Decor — Open Shelving

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If you’ve updated your kitchen with fresh, fashion-forward colors and a focal wall, it’s time to add layers. The latest trend in kitchen design is open shelf, upper-cabinet-free kitchens. The look lightens a kitchen up by creating visual space, but requires you to hide all the tupperware and mismatched glasses in fewer cabinets.

Instead of tearing out your upper cabinets, try updating your kitchen wall decor by placing one or two floating shelves on an open wall. Floating shelves come in many styles and are easy to install. Keep the floating shelf display items minimal and color coordinated for a magazine-ready look.

For a bigger change, remove a selected upper wall cabinet’s doors and paint or wallpaper the back of the cabinet. You now have a new open display shelf. To give your new display life, add LED under-cabinet lighting to highlight the items. Battery-powered lights are available if cabinet wiring is an issue.

4. The Carefully Curated Kitchen Wall

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Set your kitchen apart using your personality. Gallery wall collections are popular with designers and magazines because they’re unique and make a boring wall interesting. Gather favorite objects together and use them as kitchen wall decor.
Some kitchen decorating ideas for a gallery wall collection include:

  • Framed album covers
  • Baskets
  • Framed wallpaper or fabric swatches
  • Vintage dishes
  • Antique, empty frames of different shapes and sizes
  • A variety of mirrors

There are no absolute rules to creating a gallery wall. Symmetrical, patterned or freestyle placement are all good approaches. To save time (and extra nail holes on the wall), arrange your collection on the floor before hanging for the best spacing and placement.

5. Personalize Your Kitchen With Chalkboard Paint

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A can of black chalkboard paint is inexpensive and a great way to dress up a wall. Black is a bold, eye-catching color and the perfect backdrop for your ever-changing chalk art.

If you’re out of wall space, a door or cabinet surface is another great chalkboard (and dinner menu) in the making. Remember to layer. A floating shelf or gallery wall collection on your chalkboard wall adds to the unique look of your new, inspired kitchen walls.

Source : http://freshome.com/kitchen-decorating-ideas/

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Pay Off Your Home Loan Early

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For many people, being chained to a property loan is like being in prison. Forget about quitting your job or going on an unpaid sabbatical, because there are home loan repayments to be made for almost the rest of your life.

So being able to finally pay off your property loan early can feel like being released from jail for good behaviour. Why wouldn’t you want to free yourself from the burden of making loan repayments forever? Well, here are 3 good reasons it might make financial sense not to pay off your loan early.

You can invest the cash at a higher rate of return
While a home loan is probably the biggest loan you’re ever going to take in your life, it’s also the cheapest in terms of interest. Try asking the neighbourhood loanshark for a 1.5% interest rate and you’ll either be running for your life or patting him on the back as he howls with laughter.

If you’ve got $100,000 left on your home loan at an interest rate of 1.2%, it makes more financial sense to invest $100,000 at a higher interest rate than to use it to pay off your loan now. Even a conservative investor shouldn’t find it too difficult to get a return of over 3%, which is significantly higher than what it costs you to borrow that money.

Conversely, if you pay off the $100,000 (and we’re not even counting the repayment fees that your bank might charge you), you’d be sacrificing that amount you would have earned by investing the $100,000 minus the amount you would have paid in interest to the bank.

Not that this amount is offset a little by the extra money you would save due to no longer having to make loan repayments. But this amount is going to accrue gradually over a long stretch of time, and might not necessarily translate to equivalent investment gains.

You can put the cash to better use
Your home loan may be a pain to pay off, but always remember that it is relatively cheap. Even if you’re not about to invest the money you would otherwise use to pay off your home loan in full, you might be able to find better ways to use it—ways that can pay off somewhere down the road.

For instance, let’s say you’d like to further your studies by taking a degree course overseas. You could either:

Choose to redeem the remaining $100,000 on your 1.2% interest rate home loan and then take up a study loan for $50,000 at 4.5%, or
Hold off on paying off your home loan and use the cash to pay for your studies in full instead.
Redeeming your home loan would lead to your paying $1,050 more in the grand scheme of things.

And given the fact that furthering your studies could increase your income later on, you would be placed in an even better financial position by holding on to your home loan and using the money to educate yourself instead.

You have mortgage insurance
If you’ve paid for mortgage insurance, you actually have less of an incentive to pay off your mortgage early. You see, when you take out a home loan, you’re running the risk that if you should get retrenched, fall ill and be unable to work or (choy!) die and the home loan instalments don’t get paid, you or your family are going to be placed in the unenviable position of having the property swallowed up by the bank.

However, when you have mortgage insurance, should something unfortunate happen to you you’ll get a cash payout that will cover the rest of your home loan installments. That means there’s actually very little risk that you will default on your loan.

So if one of your reasons for wanting to pay off the loan now is that you don’t want to risk losing your property to the bank somewhere down the road, having mortgage insurance reduces this risk considerably.

In fact, should something actually happen to you somewhere down the road (choy!), you’ll regret having spent all that money trying to pay off your home loan earlier.

One Last Thing
If you are trying desperately to pay off your home loan early because you feel the interest rate you’re paying is too high, that may not be such a good idea (for reasons stated above). However, there is an alternative and that is to refinance your home loan to a better package. You don’t have to jump through hoops just to get one, and that’s where the MoneySmart Refinancing Wizard can help. Make sure you’re not overpaying for your house and put those savings to better use.

Source : http://blog.moneysmart.sg/home-loans/3-reasons-you-shouldnt-pay-off-your-home-loan-early/

8 Things to Know Before You Hire a Contractor

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Contractor Stephen Fanuka shares what he wishes his clients knew before hiring him — and after he’s taken on the job.

1. Don’t expect perfection — expect quality.
The most unrealistic expectation a client can have is that the job will be perfect. There’s no such thing. Painting and tiling and brickwork aren’t done by machine. They’re done by craftsmen — who, yes, are human.

2. Your contractor is making judgments from the moment he steps in your home.
This is like a first date — the first time a contractor meets a client, we size up who they are, how they conduct themselves. What’s their personality like? Are they hot-tempered? Dismissive of your suggestions? If they deal with you this way right off the bat, there probably won’t be a second date.

3. … but they know you’re making judgments, too.
Clients want to be sure you are responsible and fully involved. They want us to be attentive, direct, honest, courteous. In other words: We should be someone they won’t mind seeing every day for six months or longer.

4. Good negotiators can get a better price.
Get more than one bid. Start with the highest-end contractor, the best-stuff-money-can-buy guy. Ask him for a detailed proposal. Take that proposal and copy it, leaving out the costs. Pass it out to subsequent contractors you interview and ask them to fill in the costs. This will give you a good idea of what the job is worth. But be cautious: The lowest bid isn’t usually the best.

5. Safety is your responsibility, too.
Do a simple gut check: Do you want this guy in your home for the next year? Find out if your contractor is licensed. Ask them to show you the license. Make sure they carry liability insurance, so if one of their guys falls off a ladder and breaks his neck, you’re not sued. Likewise, if they cause any damage to your property, you won’t have to pay for it.

6. Feel free to hire subcontractors — but don’t go over your contractor’s head.
Contractors are like agents, always looking for fresh talent. Let’s say you happen to know a terrific painter who’ll do you a favor on price. Most contractors won’t mind that kind of limited subcontracting, especially if you throw a small managerial fee their way.

7. Be nice to the crew.
One simple thing clients can do to make my life easier: Allow the crew to use your bathroom. You’d be surprised how many clients ask us to go to the nearest gas station or diner. Make the work environment comfortable. If it’s 97 degrees, we’re remodeling an attic, and the client won’t let us turn on the AC — that’s cruel. Also, maintain an air of diplomacy and good cheer. Wait 15 minutes before you discuss anything that’s really upsetting you.

8. Pay attention to the warning signs.
Is the contractor usually late? Do you make several calls before he gets back to you? Does he delegate the job to one of his crew? Is he careless about keeping the job clean? Know when to draw the line. This is your home after all, not a construction site.

Source : http://www.housebeautiful.com/home-remodeling/renovation/advice/a3690/confessions-of-a-contractor/