Beyond psf- what’s your property’s bright-&-airy quotient?

In a recent Bloomberg article on Asian Millionaires taking charge of their own wealth, Akbar Shah, Head of Southeast Asia and Australia for Citigroup’s private-banking unit, describes real estate markets as hands-on markets that require a feel. I respectfully agree with her opinion. As I’ve mentioned on several occasions, both verbally and in writing, property analysis is more than just dollar-per-square-foot.

I’m struck by the number of times I’ve heard comments from clients like, “It’s pretty old, kinda rundown even… but somehow I just have a good feel about this place!” or “It’s a pleasant-enough place, but somehow it just doesn’t feel quite right?”

Obviously, when it comes to choosing a place to stay, there’s a wide spectrum of lifestyle needs, tastes and preferences. But one trait that almost all home-seekers unanimously favour in a home is the “bright and airy” factor. I believe this is something that contributes greatly to whether a home conjures up a feeling of spaciousness or not, perhaps even more so than whether a home is 1,200 square foot or 1,400 square foot. In a sense, this also echoes some of the principles of Fengshui – “qi” flows easily in a place that enjoys a good breeze and ample natural light, and in theory makes for a more auspicious home.

I’ll just highlight a few factors that contribute to a better “bright-&-breezy quotient”, and in turn, a more appealing home to both would-be buyers and tenants.

Building layout
Apartments in a single-loaded building would usually enjoy a better flow of light and air, as compared to homes in double-loaded buildings. For similar reasons, corner units are usually breezier and brighter than their neighboring units flanking the common corridors of a condo building. Of course the greater the exposure to light, the higher the likelihood of catching that much-dreaded “afternoon sun”, but this is one “evil” I reckon has been over-exaggerated by the general property market. As someone who stays in a home fully exposed to morning sun, afternoon sun, and other various forms of daylight, I can personally vouch that this is something easily resolved, be it solar film, blinds, drapes, special glass windows or even just good air conditioning.

For most condominiums, windows are something that cannot be customized by the subsidiary proprietors as changes would affect the facade of the development. Given their fixed-nature, and their direct influence on the bright-&-breezy quotient, I find it a challenge that most show flats are not fitted with the actual windows that will eventually be installed in the final building.

Very often, what looks good on the exterior of the building does not look as enticing from the inside looking out, and vice versa. For example, there are certain condos where all units have green or blue-tinted windows, which looks great from the outside, as it makes for a neater facade, unaffected by the various curtain colors and patterns selected by the occupants. Unfortunately it also tends to result in glum and dreary interiors.

The other intuitive thing about windows is, the bigger they are, the brighter the space will be. Floor-to-ceiling windows are possibly one of the best ways of creating a sense of spaciousness. On the flip side, rooms with undersized windows tend to feel boxy and jail-like.

Proximity to neighbouring buildings/structures

This is another easily understood point, but it’s a quality that is hard to ensure indefinitely given land-scarce Singapore’s constantly changing landscape. One day your home is facing a field of green, and the next it’s a towering 30-storey apartment block. This is another reason why I kind of agree that pool-facing homes do deserve that slight premium. One might not particularly relish the view of one’s rotund neighbour sunbathing pool side, but at least you know there’s never going to be an apartment block sprouting up within spitting distance of your bedroom window.

You might be a little disappointed to come to the end of my article to find that there’s no earth-shattering secret tip to making a sound property investment, but that is in fact the point I’m trying to drive home – you don’t need to be a genius to make a wise property investment, you just need to be logical and sensible. When you next go on a property viewing, think carefully over the factors that are affecting your buying decision – which aspects are permanent, which will change as the property ages, and which can easily be remedied?

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