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The 1 Check That Can Mean The Difference Between Buying A High Quality Property And A Dud

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

This article applies to both new launch projects and resale properties.

checklist of what to look out for when buying a property

One of the common fears that friends and clients bring up to me is that they aren't confident to buy a new launch property because they lack faith in the end product.

In a new launch, we can't see the quality of fittings and construction, we can't feel whether the environment will be peaceful and well ventilated and that all compounds our fear of the unknowns."

Whereas, in a resale property, although it is older, you get to see, touch and feel almost everything and have more faith in your decision.

Yes, it has happened where buyers end up being thoroughly upset by the overwhelming defects and quality of their new property upon getting the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP).

Although there are few cases, one is enough to put a buyer off property investments for a long time to come.

Quality issues with Kingsford Hurray's projects raised alarm bells, prompting a 1st ever no-sale licence issued by the Controller of Housing.
Quality issues with Kingsford Hurray's projects raised alarm bells, prompting a 1st ever no-sale licence issued by the Controller of Housing.

Take for example:

Kingsford Waterbay and Hillview Peak developed by Kingsford Developments and Construction, a new player in Singapore's real estate development.

Warning bells started ringing with the 2 safety breaches in 2017 where the developer was fined and construction suspended.

Following that, buyers of the completed Hillview Peak and Kingsford Waterbay came out on social media to speak about their dismay on the quality, which resulted in a mediation session between owners, developer and a Member of Parliament, and a no-sale licence for Kingsford's next project - Normanton Park.

163 buyers are still waiting, 2+ years later for building progress to resume on their properties.
163 buyers are still waiting, 2+ years later for building progress to resume on their properties.

Or worst, where the developer fails to complete their projects and buyers and their savings get stuck in limbo - in the case of Sycamore Tree and Laurel Tree by Astoria Developments, the first cases of developers going bust since the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.

The stress, injustice and opportunity costs of this experience is almost certain to scare many of them off future new launch property investments.


So, what can we learn from the experiences of others instead of going through them and suffering ourselves?

For those who are keen in new homes (Or just keen to find out the construction quality of a resale condominium), here's one of the methods that i use to improve the probability that my clients buy into something low risk and would end up likely happier with the end product for a long time to come.

It's not a fool proof way of course as life is unpredictable; but it works out pretty well for me almost every time.

So what exactly can help you be sure that you are buying a high-quality property?

Enter CONQUAS - The Indicator of High Quality Construction.

CONQUAS stands for Construction Quality and Standards and was developed by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA) back in 1989.

Outside of the construction industry, not many consumers know of this indicator that helps them make better property investment decisions.

It's importance cannot be stressed upon more these days as:

"Higher land prices and more stringent stamp duty requirements may cause developers’ profit margin to come under pressure. This may inturn lead some to compromise on Construction Quality. The URA and BCA will be stepping up checks in this regard."

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister of National Development (MND) 14 November 2017

A short overview of CONQUAS in case you're curious.

The purpose of CONQUAS is to:

1. Standardise quality assessment and benchmark quality of construction projects.

2. Measure quality of constructed works against workmanship standards and specifications.

3. Improve the quality standards of Singapore's construction industry.

Construction areas covered include:

1. Structural works where the structural integrity and safety of the building is assessed.

2. Architectural works where the workmanship quality of the finishes and components are assessed.

3. Mechanical & Electrical (M & E) works concerning the performance of selected mechanical and electrical services and installations.

In private projects cases, unless specified in land sales agreement between authorities and the developer, CONQUAS isn't a compulsory assessment.

However, i see it this way. If a developer is serious about its business, proud of its construction quality and has nothing to hide, it would definitely be all in for this certification. It enhances the good and weeds out the bad.

Although there may cause short-term compliance pain, the effects of great quality work, improved reputation and accountability of its contractors all add up to increased sales & profitability in the long run.

CONQUAS Project Score Example - The Average Quality Score for the past year is represented by the red line.
CONQUAS Project Score Example - The Average Quality Score for the past year is represented by the red line.

If you're buying a resale condominium, what should you check?

In the example above, despite The Cosmopolitan costing more with higher grade materials, Parc Centros fared better in it's construction quality. Take note that design and materials do not factor into the score. Only workmanship quality does.

This check can help prevent costly and stressful surprises for buyers; for example where a resale project with a low score requires costly maintenance and rectification works, guess who pays for that?

The owners without a doubt!

If it's not in there, it could mean that the project was constructed before CONQUAS implementation in 1989, or wasn't assessed by a BCA CONQUAS assessor as assessment is optional. This does not by default mean it's low quality.


If you are buying a new launch, what should you check?

Check on the developer and their contractors CONQUAS score history to find out whether they have been exhibiting a consistent level of quality workmanship in their past projects.

Consistent construction quality is to me, a sign of consistent management oversight quality.

At a glance, you can see the top 10 developers, contractors and properties in Singapore.
At a glance, you can see the top 10 developers, contractors and properties in Singapore.

But wait, there's more! You can do your own checks here at Developer CONQUAS score.

It does not mean that developers not in the Top 10 are no good as some have really close scores to each other and the difference might be insignificant in the grander scheme of things.

To summarise,

whether you are a resale condominium or a new launch buyer, i highly encourage you to do a CONQUAS score check on the developer, contractor and/or property to double (or triple) confirm that you will be buying into a high quality property with low risks of defects and potential pitfalls.

The peace of mind will be worth your while.

All the best in your search!

Comment, like and share this article if it helps someone you know!


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Stuart Chng, Senior Associate Executive Director of OrangeTee & Tie, is a renowned leader and personality in the real estate industry.

He adores music and can play a few instruments decently without upsetting his neighbours. When not doing so, he enjoys pillow fighting with his son and coming up with silly puns which barely amuses his wife.

Professionally, he is a licensed real estate agent, investor, team leader, speaker and columnist for several property newsletters and blogs and is often quoted in media interviews on 938FM, Channel 8, PropertyReport, PropertyGuru and other publications. Throughout his career, he has helped many clients grow their wealth through selecting great property investments and managing their portfolios actively. Read his clients' reviews here.

Stuart has also coached many top million dollar producing agents from different real estate agencies in Singapore. Read his agents' reviews here.


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