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How I Bought 8 Properties in 10 Years (Part Two)

Life got even crazier for Hubby and me after acquiring our third property. We had 2 businesses to manage and were working 24/7. Sleep and time spent with our baby were rare and precious commodities.

By 2007, we were exhausted and the work environment of our second business was taking a toll on my health. It was lucrative, but health should be paramount, especially with the discovery of my new pregnancy. We decided to shut our second business and put the property up for sale.

Our third shophouse was sold for S$1,400,000.00 in 2008. A 180% profit in under 3 years. By then, the typical local's perspective of Little India was shifting. The area had developed a bohemian feel. A mishmash of the western vagabond spirit and authentic Indian vibes. It had become the Khao San Road of Singapore.

We took some time off to enjoy the fruits of our labour and bond with the family. We were the proud parents of 2 little girls by then. In the third quarter of that year, the collapse of Lehman Brothers hastened a global financial meltdown. For the first time, we turned our attention to the landed residential property segment and started to search for a value buy.

We strayed from the norm of looking at the Prime Districts of 9, 10 and 11, and focused on areas which were just in the periphery, equally central and well-connected, yet with prices at a fraction of the cost of Districts 9, 10 and 11.

It took a while before we found a gem in District 8. A 3.5-storey freehold intermediate terrace with built-up of about 4,200 sq ft was purchased for S$1,880,000.00 at the start of 2010. The size and layout of the house suited our purpose and we were able to rent it out at well above market yield.

That same year, we were approached by a property agent with an offer for our first shophouse. He represented a well-heeled couple who was willing to pay S$1,780,000.00. The sale tugged at our heartstrings, as it was our first love after all. We set our sentiments aside and accepted their offer, locking in S$1,100,000.00 in profit. A 162% gain in 8 years.

We had ambitions to grow our property portfolio and actively hunted down investment opportunities. In the 2 years which followed, we ploughed our funds into 4 freehold properties - a commercial building, a condominium unit, and 2 landed intermediate terrace houses.

The commercial building we purchased in 2011 was in the vicinity of Little India as well. Hubby had found out about the building from a conversation he had with a real estate agent. Its built-up area was roughly the size of our first 2 shophouses combined and it came along with a price tag of S$4,800,000.00. By then, online property portals like CommercialGuru, PropertyGuru, etc. were already popular, but this property had not been listed yet. Being familiar with the price per sq ft for the neighbourhood, we knew we had to act fast as it was clearly undervalued.

Hubby roped in a friend who had substantial means and connections to participate in the venture. His friend would take the lion's share in the purchase (60%), and we would take the remaining 40%. His friend would arrange financing for the purchase, and also give us the option to buy into an empty plot of land and co-develop it.

We successfully sealed the deal on the commercial building at S$4,800,00.00, and a string of separate legal entities was quickly established to move the venture forward. Our dream of finally developing a property seemed within grasp and we were very excited about it. Hubby accompanied his friend to meeting after meeting with banks, accountants, etc. Those meetings shed light on how the ultra rich could cut through layers of bureaucracy easily and be given flexible terms. It was an eye-opening experience, but not always pleasant. In fact, things got complicated in the end, and we found ourselves at the short end of the stick being the minority shareholder.

Things unraveled rather quickly between Hubby and his friend. We could have gotten our funds locked into the holding company without an easy way out if his friend had played hardball. Fortunately, he was a gentleman and we agreed to dissolve the partnership amicably by selling the building.

Less than a year after our purchase, the building was sold for S$8,800,000.00. A whopping S$4 million profit within a few months. Everyone walked away happy. Pity we didn't try hard enough to purchase the building on our own, instead of getting caught up with the prospect of wearing a developer's hat. My own estimate is that the building should now be worth north of S$12 million.

Hubby and I had sniffed out precious stones in places where few people, even seasoned investors like my own dad, had cared to look. Our journey taught us the importance of believing in oneself, even if everyone around casts their doubt. So long as we apply logic and common sense to a situation, we should not be afraid of being wrong.


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