The other day I was walking towards Elias Mall for my usual coffee break with those taxi drivers gathering there. It’s about 10 mins walk to EM cuz I stay quite far away near to Pasir Ris Dr 1 opposite the ESSO petrol kiosk. Since I shifted here about 20 yrs ago, there is still one EM – where we get all our provisions and cooked food. This is despite the fact that the neighborhood is getting more and more crowded with more and more condominiums springing up like mushrooms along Pasir Ris Dr 1 and also Dr 3. The International School at Dr 3 is also taking shape. No wonder the Sunday morning crowd at the coffee shops in EM is getting worse with longer queues. We could even beat the crowd talking the peak hour trains. I’ll talk about that other time. Anyway, I was stopped by a young handsome couple. I thought they were asking for road direction. But they told me to spare them 5 mins cuz they wanted my opinion about the neighborhood.
Obviously, the Chinese couple were not locals when they started speaking to me in impeccable American English. I asked them if they were from that country. I then told them that I could also speak Mandarin. To their delight, they started rattling away in their native language like a GPMG – General Purpose Machine Gun. Alamak, I got a hard time following them with my limited Mandarin!
After paying attention to their incessant rambling, I managed to establish that actually they came to view a nearby mansionate which happens to be Douglas’ unit when they pointed at the block and mentioned that it’s on the 10th floor. Yup, I heard from Douglas his intention to sell his mansionate flat bought about 20 yrs ago at only $199K. He is approaching 70 yrs and it’s time to downgrade to a 4-room flat to cash-out for his retirement even though he is still working as a security supervisor. He’s now thinking of retirement and spending more time to look after his grandchildren. He’s in no hurrry to sell off his mansionate. He will only sell it at $850K. Few yrs back, his mansionate could easily fetch $900K but not anymore cuz the property market is quite bad now.
In fact, someone made an offer of $800K but he still refuses to let go. Even though his mansionate is now worth 4 times its original value, he’ll still need to pay for a 4-room BTO in Yishun at about $240K. Minus the levy and other miscellaneous costs, he could make a tidy profit of almost $500K. Split that with his wife, he could only get about $250K. Furthermore, I told him he better check with CPF just in case the latter will “hijack” part of his windfall for his minimum sum and also medisave account! When Douglas heard that, he KNN non-stop. “Brother, next March, I’ll be 70 yrs old already. I’m about to die and they still want what fxxxxking minimum sum or medisave account? Moreover, I’m a pensioner with free life-time medical benefit drawing a monthly pension until I die!” As such, Douglas is different from us. He belongs to that special group of pensioners when natives like them spent all their lives building up this country! We owe them a debt of gratitude – the early pioneer generation who are now enjoying their pension in their twilight years.
Back to that young FT couple procrastinating whether to buy Douglas’ flat. They told me that it’s very expensive at $850K. They could easily buy a relatively new and an exclusive condominium with a little top-up. They sought my opinion about the neighborhood here. That is why they stopped me for a chat to enquire about the nearby facilities such as schools, eatery or any other facilities. Immediately, I launched into a salesman pitch telling them why they should seriously consider Douglas’ mansionate instead.
I told them that HDB does not build such flats anymore. The size of the flat is definitely much bigger than any other other apartment unless they get a penthouse. No doubt condominiums come with security guards, swimming pool and other facilities. But they need to pay for these facilities even though they may not use them. I told them to take a good look at the neighbourhood. They should also go to other neighbourhoods to take a good look and compare with this particular neighbourhood. I told them I’ve lived in this neighbourhood for about 20 yrs. As a taxi driver, I have been to almost all the HDB estates all over the island. I feel that my neighbourhood with Sungei Api Api running across the heart of the estate to be the best well run housing estate.
The fact that Douglas’ mansionate is a corner unit with extra space on the 10th floor facing the river is priceless. Even a condominium unit does not offer a natural view with its natural untouched mangrove swamp at the banks of the river. Where else could you find care free coconut trees swaying to the motion of the breezes with so many pine trees and even royal palms with some reaching to the height of over ten storeys? No condominiums or HDB estates except here in this neighborhood as far as I know. Even the other river known as Sungei Tampines near to Dr 6 has man-made concrete banks.
If you are a nature lover and like the beach it’s only a mere 15 mins away if you walk via the under pass at Dr 3 towards car park C. There is Gallop Stable with some horses to tempt your kids and few pubs along the beach. Relax in the evening after the horse ride over few drinks in a pub whilst you enjoy the beach sunset and ooze under the twinkling night stars. The beautiful park is open 24/7 with free parking and admission.
Not convinced of the well-run neighbourhood? From where we are standing, you could see the new covered link-way to EM and the old folks’ corner at the void decks of two blocks of flats taking shape. Every two or three blocks of flats, there is a playground for children beautifully themed. The Residents’ Corner is at the other side and the Students’ Study corner is right in front of them. Look at the basketball court that is nicely paved with high fencing. No need to register. Just walk thru the unlock gate and you could play basketball there with the fitness corner next to it. All these facilities just mentioned are on this side of the river. What about the other side of the river? More playgrounds and more pavilion spots along the river still under construction. As it is, I could name you at least ten projects under construction and progressing at a break-neck pace. By end of next year, most of these projects will be completed – not forgetting the upgrading and cleansing of Sungei Api Api undertaken by PUB.
Even with my broken Mandarin pronunciation mixed with some English phrases, the young Chinese couple were impressed! In their words, it is as if I have lifted the imagery veil to expose a clear sunny view of our neighborhood. Oh pls just don’t take my words on face value. Go and explore the neighborhood yourself. Experience for yourself the idyllic natural settings of our neighborhood. Do you have wheel chair bound aged parents living with you? The whole area is wheel chair friendly right from your flat to EM. Just across the road next to the ESSO, there is a special school for children on wheel chairs. They are able to move about in the entire neighborhood.
I explained to the couple that they are not only paying for the flat but the entire infrastructure in the neighborhood I briefly sketched above. If you buy a house or an apartment just across the causeway at dirt cheap price – some say less than $300K for a freehold landed property but do you get the package I just described to you? One simple experiment is to sit on a wheelchair and try to maneuver around in the overseas property you intend to acquire. I know what I’m talking about cuz I’ve been there often. They sell you a piece of property but without the package of solid infrastructure, facilities and security. In other words, you not only pay $850K for such a big apartment but with all benefits and pluses thrown in a package.
I highlighted to the couple that when I first shifted to this neighborhood about 20 years ago, there was nothing at all. EM was still under construction. Over the years, more and more improvements were added. The bridge across the river was first added about 15 years ago. Slowly, more and more facilities rolled out. Especially over the past few years, I notice that everyday, yup everyday over the past few years, there is endless construction activity. Either they changed the centralized rubbish bin, construct covered drains to prevent floods, changed the damaged flooring to concrete near to the blocks, put up chrome railings along the river and pavements and all over the place etc. The list is never ending yet I pay only $55 per month for conservancy charges. Many take it for granted but there are residents here who really appreciate the endless upgrading going on.
Like I used to say. I report accordingly what I see. I’m a fair person. Not every HDB neighborhood or condominium estates are run in such efficient manner. It mirrors the whole island where everywhere and every corner of the island is having construction activity. One tourist even commented when I fetched him in my taxi that this place is a construction country! My fren Station Manager Chia ever mentioned to me that by looking at the construction activity in a country, one could tell if it’s economy is vibrant. Every building construction project creates a huge demand in a multiplier effect right down to a pencil! In other words, much demand in goods and services are generated due to the construction boom. If you multiply one construction project to hundreds and thousands, you could imagine the tons of extras generated in the economy. I need not elaborate on the benefits. It’s quite obvious to people with common sense. No need an economics professor to explain and give statistics on the positive multiplier effects on the economy.
The young couple looking for their dream home wanted 5 mins of my time. I gave them half an hour of my lifespan convincing them of the obvious choice. They thanked me profoundly for the enlightenment. I did it partly for my fren Douglas hoping that they would purchase the flat. It looks promising cuz they came from that place lacking the obsession shown by our town council in their relentless drive to perfection.