Buying a House in JB


I read this article with interest. I began shopping around for a simple double storey terrace house on a 20x70ft plot since 2007. Back then a house like this cost around RM250,000. The financing agents told me it worked out to be about S$700 or so in monthly mortgage payments. I could not remember how many years the loan was projected to be, though I was quite sure it wasn't anything like 30 years.


The reason I wanted to buy one of these was not egoistic. None of the "Here, I live like a millionaire," bullshit. It wasn't about the thrill of owning a landed property - something most Singaporeans will never afford to do in Singapore and definitely not to show off to friends that I owned a landed property somewhere else. As if they give a damn really. The main reason was retirement and I gave it a serious thought when I was in my late 20s back then. There was a restriction for Singaporeans to buy properties below RM500k. This was put in place so that the demand from Singapore buyers would not push up the lower price range of housing so that Malaysians had the choice to select lower cost housing if they wished to. As Jen was a Malaysian, we considered buying that humble terrace house with a maximum budget of RM300k. No big garden, no swimming pool, no automatic gates or balcony big enough to hold 4 mahjong tables.


I reckoned that when I retire or get the boot from the working world which comes first, I would be able to move to the terrace house and live a frugal life as I would definitely not be able to retire in Singapore for sure. More so if I have children along the way. Then about 2-3 years later, HDB introduced a rule to make owners of private properties , foreign or not, ineligible to buy HDB flats unless they sell up.


From there, we had to make a decision. We wanted to get married, so we would probably need to have a place of our own. We could not afford anything other than a HDB flat in Singapore. So I dropped the plan to buy the property in Malaysia because if I had to sell it a few years later when we get married, it defeats the purpose of buying the place for retirement. It was either staying with parents or sleeping on the streets with a property in Malaysia, staying in Malaysia and commuting between both countries everyday for work, or buying a HDB flat with no property in Malaysia. Both our working hours were erratic. It was common for us to work until late at night, with Jen knocking off in the wee hours often. We were left with only 1 rational choice. But that meant, we will face a very real problem of picking cardboards and selling tissue paper on the street in our late years. I've heard people saying this would never happen to them because they are degree holders. What these people do not understand was poverty does not recognise degrees. If you screw up, poverty comes to you, regardless or race, language or religion, degrees, doctorate or not. We have to accept the consequences of our choice.


Some told me it was a crazy idea to consider buying a house in Malaysia. It was a shit place, a snake pit, a sin city, a crime haven they said. I took these claims seriously but I wanted to open my eyes and analyse the situation myself objectively. Over the years since then until I finally left Singapore for Perth, I went to JB regularly and got to know the place better with Penny's help many times. I decided that it was worth taking the risk of buying a house in JB. Our sentiments towards JB and Malaysia was largely past data. It wasn't accurate at all. Not even the present data will be accurate enough to predict the future of Malaysia 2-3 decades away. I saw progress among the chaos, effective work done in the midst of the incapability of Malaysia so very often deemed by Singaporeans. Stereotyping can not mask the truth.  Malaysia will not be behind Singapore forever. I had gained much through my observations over the years to be convinced Malaysia will catch up by the time I reached retirement age.


This is controversial. Many would not agree with me and demand for justifications. This is not a research. I have no hard statistics to prove anything though I did have my reasons to believe that buying that property in JB in 2008 was not going to be a risky decision. I would not discuss them in this post because there isn't a point to convince anyone who can't see in clarity. Just take it as a gut feel. The gut feel can be trained to be very precise if done right. There is a difference between subconscious analysis and wild guessing.


All my plans crashed after Australia granted me visa which allowed me to stay and work here. I dropped all the findings over the years and moved on to Perth without knowing where I would be. I still wonder how things will turn out for me. Every single person around me is established in some way or another. They would either have a HDB flat back home, even paid up ones or sold up and came over with a little financial backing. Else, they will have nothing back in Singapore but already have a house of their own here. Nobody is quite in the same situation as me. For me, I have nothing to give me a hint how my future will turn out to be. No HDB flat, no house in Perth and my household income is not high enough to convince the banks to lend me an amount of money enough to buy me the entry level home over here.


In a paradox of choice, I have a surprisingly easy task to do. I have no access to do anything so I am left with 1 thing to do and nothing else. To save money fervently until my first option opens up. Meanwhile, I have not given up the possibility of moving to Malaysia in my later years. I am not sure how serious Angie was. We agreed to look into the idea of running a budget inn in Malaysia as a retirement past-time.  I wondered if she still remembers.

19 comments:

  1. Don't get me started on HDB. I have an Indian born colleague who is a PR (her husband as well) who own a HDB, have properties in India and now buying a property in JB. And yet, HDB did not ask them to sell their HDB! And I know of a couple who are Malaysians, they own a HDB as well. Wife asked the husband to apply for Singapore citizenship which he got it and so now they are trying to sell their resale flat (for a profit) and then use the HDB grant given to Singapore citizens to buy a new flat.

    I bought a Perth property 2 years back for investment purpose and just when I turned 35 (the eligble age for a single to buy a HDB), the government disallow those with overseas property to buy a HDB!

    So now I either have to fork out $1m (which I don't have obviously) to buy a private OR I have to live at my parents' flat till I die or till they kick me out to the streets OR wait for God to grant me a spouse and using our combined income, buy a private and be in debt for the next 30 years of my life.

    As you can see, many of the foreigners are way better off then Singaporeans in many aspects when it comes to property.

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  2. Hi asingaporeanson,

    Back in 2006, I was chatting with my driving instructor about how Singapore may not be a good place for retirement. He is a Singaporean with a Malaysian wife. They bought a HDB in Singapore and then a house in Malaysia, as per your plans. His idea was to work in Singapore to pay for both properties; and when he retires, they could live in the Malaysia house and live off the rental of the HDB flat. I agreed with him that he had an excellent retirement plan, too bad that I did not have a Malaysian spouse.

    Moving to Canada does throw up some wildcards for me. Until now, I am still not sure how I would like to retire here. Coming from Singapore and being used to city life, my tendency is towards sticking with the known comfort zone of city life. Nevertheless, I sometimes dream of buying a small house (enough for 1 person and with a vegetable garden, rainwater collection, solar/wind-powered generator) in the outskirts someday. Not for the "live like a millionaire" bullshit, but because I like the idea of self-sufficiency. My paternal grandfather was a farmer in China before he sailed down to Singapore. I like the idea of completing the cycle by returning to farming. There is something very therapeutic about working with nature to create/sustain life.

    Cheers, WD.

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    1. i like the idea of sustainable living but it is seldom practical. we will never achieve 100% sustainability on simple low budget home-made projects. Still, if we could achieve a certain amount of renewable resources and recycle wisely (such as putting the poop of the chooks back to the ground), it is good responsible living.

      Agree on the therapeutic part. When I retire, that is the kind of life I will live. Even if I die in a remote place where nobody knows, so be it. We are less important than we think we are.

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  3. ai chye, many of our forefathers (or -mothers) also came with little or nothing to a even smaller town back then...and what happened?

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  4. Hi Nix, an I qualified to join this little community. Am not a Singaporean , was a Singapore PR!!!

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    Replies
    1. I am not Singapore PR or citizen as well but always come and disturb this blog .... hahaha... welcome to this little community

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  5. johor will be the new Singapore suburbs..it will be a common sight in future, singaporeans travelling from jb to singapore via public and own transport for work and school. personally, i know many who are already doing this. to me, if i choose that path, that might limit me from exploring and trying other options e.g working or migrating overseas. a lot of effort is required to manage a landed property unlike a HDB flat. i'm sure u know already.it's ideal if all other options are exhausted and retirement is just around the corner. for me and family, i would like to give Australia a shot.

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    Replies
    1. The environment of many parts of Australia is ideal for retirement. The cost however, is a deterrent. I will probably do it in Msia or some remote Thai Village. Unless I could figure out how to amass enough wealth to afford retiring in Australia, or even Singapore.

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    2. In my few months here in Perth, I gather that, yes, some things are expensive - but depending one's way of life - affordability is relative.

      If one chooses to live like a millionaire, yes - it would be difficult to retire here, unless one was truly a millionaire.

      However, if one practices some sensibility - Perth living is very much affordable. Firstly, the big ticket items like houses and cars, and even fuel, are way cheaper than in Singapore. The major electrical appliances in the home, and the cost of utilities, are similar or slightly cheaper than in Singapore.

      What's more expensive is eating out. Thus, if one practices some self sustenance like growing a few types of plants at home, and comparing prices when marketing, and then mainly cooking and dining at home - daily living becomes similar to the cost of living in Singapore.

      Of course, we cannot compare to other countries like Malaysia or Thailand, but I do believe that Perth is definitely a better suited place to live in affordability than in Singapore.

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  6. Some Singaporeans living abroad now may want to return to SG for retirement, back to their roots so to speak. But I wonder if the SG government welcome these Singaporeans back who - don't work anymore, adds to the ageing population, crowding SG healthcare,etc.

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    Replies
    1. My guess is a big NO unless PAP is no longer in power. PAP is very materialistic.

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  7. Agreed. Our great leader didn't say that we might have to go crawl back to Malaysia today for fun. He could see where we are heading. After, he is national forecaster! Better take his forecast seriously or we may live to regret! KNN!

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  8. Msia safety is a major concern. If u read the local newspaper (which is can be accessible online), robbery is happening almost on a daily basis. There are many from Msia wish to get out ....

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  9. M'sians with S'pore PR enjoy best of both world.

    They study and work in S'pore, buy HDB flat. By then when they retire, they can use their SGD savings or rent out or sell off their HDB flat to buy a nice house and car in M'sia.

    S'poreans (not rich, not elite) without any PR in other country, will not be as lucky as their M'sians counterpart.

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  10. In the past two years, three friends who had returned to singapore after 10 to 15 years opted to live in johore in homes between 500,000 to 700,000.ringgits.
    They simply could not afford the prices of muniscule. HDB apartments. The lower cost if living where almost everything is half the price when compared to singapore helps stretch their retirement funds.
    Stories of crime in Malaysia are often played up by the media and intimidates many from opting for an alternative less stressful retirement in malaysia. There is crime everywhere event in beloved singapore. Increasingly with the influx in the population.
    Being street smart is something new to a segment of singaporeans as they labouriosly plod on in retirement in singapore. We have to make choices in life and for retirement.
    The upside of having a retirement home in jb or malaysia is the land link and proximity making access to our children,family and friends a short drive away.
    With singapore's investments i.the Iskandar Area, some singaporeans are lured toto buying lease hold properties in johor under the belief that this are projects managed by singaporean company.
    It amazes me why one would puy a lease hold property in Malaysia.

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  12. there are many splendid houses in Australia and can be a millionaire property for some. Just make sure you know who and where to invest your money for.

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