How Much Floor Area Do You Need?

HDB Floorplans

We all face Choice Overload. In Singapore, house options have thousands of sizes and styles and prices – which one do you choose?

On top of the ~80,000 houses available, 1600+ renovators are available. There are hundreds of millions of possibilities.

How to decide sial.

I find it helpful to list your minimum requirements. Specifically, the things you need a house for.

If I lived alone, my house would be for:

  • Reading/Drawing/Tablework
  • Exercise
  • Cooking/Baking
  • Sleeping

For this bare-bones existence, I’d need a…

  • Desk+Chair
  • Empty space
  • Oven
  • Fridge
  • Bed
  • Wardrobe
  • Washroom

And that would look like:

I added a window. I need.

This box is about 12 square meters, or 130 square feet.

So now that I know I need 12sqm, browsing property sites is a little less scary. Looking at typical HDB sizes, even the humblest of flats is enough:

  • 1 Room / Studio: 36 sqm / 388sqft
  • 2 Room HDB: 45sqm / 484sqft
  • 3 Room HDB: 65sqm / 700sqft
  • 4 Room HDB: 95sqm / 1023sqft
  • 5 Room HDB: 115sqm / 1238sqft

What about couples? The budget life is hardly glamorous, but nonetheless the mental exercise of defining your minimum requirements (perhaps with a woke spouse) makes navigating the ocean of buy/rent options a little easier.

Budgetbox v2 is about 16 square meters, or 177 square feet. Amazingly, a 1-room HDB is still larger.

Knowing the minimum size for a liveable room gives us mental building blocks to imagine greater needs – how much space do you need if you wanted:

  • A child’s bedroom? (e.g. 16sqm + 12sqm = 24sqm) (< 1room HDB)
  • A livingroom? (e.g. 16sqm + 8sqm = 24sqm) (< 1room HDB)
  • Housing 3 children? (e.g. 16sqm + 12sqm + 12sqm + 12sqm = 52sqm) ( 2-3 room HDB)
  • etc.

Adding the building blocks is a simple guideline. However, with multiple people, amenities like kitchens, desks and washrooms can be shared for further economy.

You can add literal blocks to get a picture of the minimum floor space needed:

Nice big livingroom.
Kids room < Couples’ room size, of course.
These lucky kids get a room each.

Your mileage may vary – you might need a balcony, or decide you don’t need a big livingroom, or want some separate dining areas etc as a minimum. Nonetheless, here’s a summary of the experiments above for reference:

I personally would like some spoils in the house like a balcony, a garden, a rooftop view etc. But if I can’t find these spoils, at least I know what my minimum requirements are, and whether they’re met. I hope this experiment brings some comfort to your decisions too.

I’d love to hear your feedback! Do you think I:

  • Missed any points out?
  • Should do a clear explanation on any bits?
  • Could go deeper in certain areas?

You can let me know your feedback in the comments, I’d love to hear suggestions to make these mental tools more useful.

Happy house hunting, cheers.

The HIFAS Buy vs Rent Calculator

Buy vs Rent Calculator Panel

Figuring out loans is confusing!

I’m not a broker or in finance. Like everyone, I will be paying for a home at some point. I just want to know how much my purchase costs.

Luckily, I know excel.

There are some useful calculators online which I used as cross-references:

A key feature of this calculator is seeing how much your initial loan increases (e.g. 150% of its initial value) if you stretch it out over a longer period of time. For example, if you take a$800,000 loan at a 2% interest rate, paying it over…

  • 10 years: Total sum paid is $872,182 (110%) at $7,361 monthly
  • 20 years: Total sum paid is $956,748 (120%) at $4,047 monthly
  • 25 years: Total sum paid is $1,000,687 (130%) at $3,391 monthly
  • 30 years: Total sum paid is $1,045,684 (130%) at $2,957 monthly
  • 35 years: Total sum paid is $1,091,698 (140%) at $2,650 monthly!

See how the tradeoff works? You sacrifice liquidity every month for a lower total amount. In the long term, it may look like a good idea to pay off your loan quickly, but you really have to be able to give up that amount of monthly cash. This article covers both sides of the dilemma quite well I think!

If you’d like to play with it and add your own figures, you can download the calculator here:

Lemme know if you:

-Think I missed anything out

-Want a clear explanation of something

-Think of any improvements I can make

Would love to hear your feedback to make this a more useful calculator.

Cheers.

Buy or Rent? A Look Into The Multiple Timelines of Your Life

Imagine you died.

A timeline of years of life.
100 is #goals.

Looking back on your timeline, how many houses did you live in?

Most of us think of:

A timeline of houses lived within one life.
Just three homes!

If you live outside of Singapore, where houses are cheaper, maybe more of a:

I base these on countries like Canada or the States, where housing is a little cheaper than Singapore. Certainly helps to widen the variety of options in one lifespan.

For the lucky bunch of us who need less variety and pretty much know what they want, the options are simpler:

#buyitforlife

In these fantasies, the first house you buy is the last house you buy.

gasp

Assuming you can confidently live by yourself/yourselves, you know what house you (and your spouse) want to live in, age in, kidz in, retire in and expire in.

If you can’t afford a loan yet, rentals might be a waste of the savings+investments you’re building to afford buying this One Home.

So in conclusion…

If you crave less variety and have researched enough to have high certainty in the house you want, save up to buy.

Of course, if you have the luxury of being in a multi-generational flat, and are comfortable living with parents, you may not have to worry about buying at all. This might seem outlandish if you subscribe to the idea of independent living, but 3Gen flats are still a thing here.

I’ve met adults with children who live in the same flat as their parents, who have no intention to move out. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not for me, but I can see how 3Gen flats are a supremely convenient, secure and frugal choice.

Sound boring?

To some, staying in the same box for 10-20 years gnaws at the soul. Comfortable routines and neighbours may be valuable to some, but life can look short. The world, your oyster, is ever ripe for the picking (well, opening). (tasting?)

What tempers variety is children and affordability.

Children

Children of parents who travel a lot don’t recount a great experience (Check out this Reddit and this Quora). While moving is exciting and makes your kids super-adaptors, it’s hard to build lasting relationships with friends who you’re ripped away from after years of bonding. LDRs are hard enough.

Super Adaptor

My advice to variety seekers who also want kids is to go forth and move to a new setting/view/style, but relocate near the same schools and amenities to help your children grow some deeper social roots in a community. Most friendships take years to form, developing the ability to maintain long relationships later in life. See the Reddit and Quora links above for more perspectives about this!

For readers who don’t want kids, its a lot easier to move houses frequently, as long as it makes economic sense to you. Which brings us to…

Affordability

Looking long term and buying a dream home for your 60-year old self can be tough for your cash!

If you’re looking to buy, say, a landed property for your retirement higher than 1000sqft (approximately a 4-room HDB flat, or 27 king-sized mattresses), most of those will cost you upwards of $800,000 SGD.

Click here to see how many mattresses you can fit into other HDB-sized floorplans.

Take this scenario:

Comparison of Rent and Taking a Loan

If you took an $800,000 loan for 35 years at a fixed interest of 2.6% (rates are lower now but it’s a good average), your future selves woulda paid $1,183,692 in total – 150% more than the initial loan amount. Renting 5 increasingly expensive different places over the same 35 years could save you $108,492.

$100,000+ That might look measly in a conversation about real estate prices, but if you put that sum to investments you could be saving much more than you think!

So buy or rent?

My personal opinion is that if you haven’t tried living in your own place yet, the experience is absolutely worth it (The woke salaryman covered this pretty well). If you are just trying things out first, go for a rental and go low until you learn what you really want. Renting provides the flexibility of GTFO-ing when you’ve had enough of one place.

The kueh lapis strategy. Try a lot, learn, then decide.

Otherwise, jumping into a multi-year commitment to pay a monthly mortgage can be stressful if you:

  • Are unsure of what house you want for the next 30 years
  • Don’t have career stability (mortgage payments are harder to get out of than rents)
  • Don’t have enough savings to bolster 6-12 months of expenses on a rainy day!

However, once you’ve figured out what you want, and can afford a loan to get it, and have enough savings to buffer a year of low/no revenue, I think that buying is a legit option.

I approach the Buy vs Rent question like a buffet.

A Buffet.
A Buffet.

At a buffet, I’m faced with 20 options at the table.

In plate 1, I sample a small part of each food on the menu.

Some food sucks. I take note and avoid it in plate 2.

Some food is not bad. I will add it to plate 2 just to double-check if I love it or not.

Some food is MUST HAVE. Smoked salmon. Eclairs. The good stuff. These go in plate 1, 2, 3, 4 and probably be part of my last bite.

By plate 3 or 4, I already have my faves down, and don’t bother with the weak options which were in plate 1. For the notbads, I’ve decided whether or not they should be dontneeds or musthaves. Applying this to housing choices, it’s like knowing what your core wants are over time, and what things are just fluff. (Do you really need that lawn?)

Before I pick a home I gotta payfor+stayin for 30 years, I sample the whole menu to figure out what I like and don’t like, lowering the risk that my eventual choice is one I grow tired of after 15 years.

I can’t speak for what the 70-year old me might want, as tastes change, but I intend to make his decisions easier by properly planning how I spend my money today.

I hope this post helps you in your own path. Let me know if there’s..

-Anything I missed out

-Any clear explanations you like

-Anything I coulda covered better

I’d love to hear your feedback! You can post in the comments to let me know. Cheers.

Choosing Your House by Floor Area – What does a Sqft and a Sqm Look like?

I’m the typical 20+ year old nearing my thirties – checking out housing options in Singapore, itching to move out of home. Inspired by talks with peers and this post from The Woke Salaryman, it’s now a habit to check out Propertyguru, 99.co and SRX from time to time get a sense of the real estate here.

Photos give me a clear picture of what living in the place will be like.

Price tells me how much I’d be sacrificing monthly on a mortgage or rent.

Floor Area … doesn’t ring any intuitive bells. I can’t ‘feel’ what a 45sqm studio or a 700sqft HDB flat looks like.

So I thought it would be helpful to feed my intuition by starting with relatable lego blocks, then scaling them up to fit some common floorplans in Singapore. Hopefully this helps you too!

The Basics

A Square Meter (sqm) is a unit of area (Length x Width) defined as the area of a 1m x 1m square.

In imperial units, the same square would be 10.76sqft.

1m = 3.28ft

1sqm = 1m x 1m = 3.28ft x 3.28ft = 10.76sqft

Intuitive lego block 1: mattresses!

Queen size is veh lucky.

In a nutshell,

  • Super Single beds ≈ 2sqm
  • Queens ≈ 3sqm
  • Kings ≈ 3.5sqm

On to the houses!

Singapore’s housing sizes change over time, so I used the amazing Teoalida’s research to narrow down a rough floor area size for 5 types of flat:

  • 1 Room / Studio: 36 sqm / 388sqft
  • 2 Room HDB: 45sqm / 484sqft
  • 3 Room HDB: 65sqm / 700sqft
  • 4 Room HDB: 95sqm / 1023sqft
  • 5 Room HDB: 115sqm / 1238sqft

Immediately, before going into pictures, we can divide these by mattresses to get a rough sense of their size:

  • 1 Room / Studios: ~10 Kings + 1 Super Single (36.6sqm/394sqft)
  • 2 Room HDB: ~13 Kings (44.95sqm/483.9sqft)
  • 3 Room HDB: ~18 Kings + 1 Queen (65.13sqm/701.1sqft)
  • 4 Room HDB: ~27 Kings + 1 Super Single (93.95sqm/1011.3sqft)
  • 5 Room HDB: ~33 Kings + 2 Super Singles (115.29sqm/1240.9sqft)

And now, some graphics.

For this one, I think it helps to simply think of 35 sqm as 10 king sized beds.

Roughly 3 more kingbeds equate to 9 more sqm!

Things start to get huge for the 3-rooms, the main difference being the twinning of the bathrooms and the bedrooms. Here, its easiest to think of it as 65sqm ≃ 700sqft ≃ 18 King beds.

With an additional bedroom and extension of the livingroom space, the 4-roomer is about 1000sqft, which is roughly 27 king-sized beds.

For the luxurious 5-room flat, the living room gets an extra space in this project, which is roughly 115sqm, about 33 King beds plus 2 Super Singles.

Hope the pictures above and the lists help you visualise floor areas for your own home searching! if you have suggestions or comments to make this more helpful, type them to me in the comments or contact page. Cheers!