With the general move away from expat packages, which included expenses such as rent, schooling and home travel, many expatriates have decided to buy homes here rather than continue to throw money at rent.
This is what influenced Jacqui and Jamie Donovan’s decision to buy this four-storey terraced house in the Swiss Club area five years ago.
Nineteen years have passed since they left the UK, and they still can’t see themselves going back anytime soon. Buying property here has proved to be a good decision.
I met up with Jacqui to ask her about where they have lived and what they have bought during the 14 years they have lived in Singapore.
EL: What influenced you to buy in this location?
JD: When we first moved here from Tokyo, we lived in an East Coast apartment. The two elder children were still little and we had our third, Amber, here. Then we decided that a house would be nice, so we found one on the West Coast. We had experienced two different lifestyles and knew Singapore pretty well by the time we decided to buy our own home.
We love this area because it’s really nice and quiet despite being close to the main road, Bukit Timah Road and the PIE. We each have a car, so we don’t rely on public transport or taxis, which would make it less convenient to live here. Also, it’s near the British Club, which we love and regularly use.
Five years ago, the prices were pretty low so it was a good time to buy. We were able to get a good mortgage through Citibank, but have just changed to OCBC bank as it was offering a much lower interest rate.
A little while ago, the price of a property like ours had doubled from when we bought it, but it is obviously on its way down again. We are happy with our choice, but sometimes feel I could do without all the stairs!
EL: Have you worked while being an expat wife?
JD: Not while the children were young. But then I ran a business selling fitness gear, and later took over the swimwear small business Tropical Storm for a while, selling stock at the fairs.
Two years ago I started working for Expat Rentals as a real estate agent. It’s fairly flexible, but when I am working with a client it’s pretty full-on. I enjoy it, but it can sometimes be frustrating, especially when clients don’t realize that we really can get access to 98 percent of the properties on the market. When they try to work through several agents at once, it is really a waste of time.
EL: The three children obviously think of Singapore as their home, rather than your home county of Essex. Are they in the British school system here?
JD: Yes, the elder two are at Tanglin Trust School. The youngest is at Dover, having just moved from the special-needs system there into the mainstream, and we are thrilled. Dover has been fantastic.
EL: The house is great, and I know you have done a lot of work on it. Tell us what changes you have made and who has helped you.
JD: We have just undergone our second renovation. When we first moved in, we converted the three top-floor bedrooms into two as our daughters wanted to share a room. Now that they are older and want their own rooms, we have changed back to three.
We have extended the house in every possible place, pushed out every porch area and even included part of the driveway in the basement, playroom and bar area. We knocked out the wall between the kitchen and the living room and made it open-plan. I know the red kitchen may not be everyone’s choice.
Our bedroom is a work in progress. We would like to move the door so that the bed area is slightly separate and we don’t look onto my desk. The bath will probably be changed too. I thought it would be nice to have a big spa bath, but it takes so long to fill, and by the time it’s full, it’s cold. So we never use it.
The last contractor disappeared on us when there was still quite a lot of finishing off to do, but our new one, Victor Chua, is fantastic.
EL: Where do you shop?
JD:The dining room chairs are from iwannagohome and the red chaise longue is from Barang Barang. The transparent chairs by Philippe Stark are from Marquis at Great World City – we bought a lot of furniture from Marquis. The sofa and carpet in the basement are from Courts. The pool table is a reconditioned one from Centrum; we got it at a good price, about $2,000. My favourite clothes outlet is River Island, and my favourite shopping centres are VivoCity, Raffles City and Marina Square – in that order.
We spend a lot of time at the British Club and often use the gym there. The sports section has just been renovated, so it’s really looking good. We also get take-away from there at least once a week; Jamie loves the curry. The Mountbatten Restaurant there is good for formal dining and we had a very nice Christmas dinner there.
Other than that, my family’s favourite restaurant is Da Paola, near the Botanic Garden on Bukit Timah.
EL: Where in the region do you like to travel?
JD: We have a timeshare at the Marriot Beach Club in Phuket, so we go there once a year. We often drive up to Kuala Lumpur, too, and stay at the Marriot Hotel where we can pay with loyalty points. It’s just nice to hang out at the pool or do a bit of shopping.
EL: As a long-term expatriate, was buying property the right choice for you?
JD: We are definitely happy here. However, maintaining our home is a lot more work than you have with a rental – you can’t just pick up the phone and say “this needs fixing”. But it is nice to be in your own home and to be able to do what you like to it. And for us, home ownership has made financial sense.
|Centrum, for pool tables|
Unchain Design and Contracts
Ever-Bright AV Centre, for home theatre systems
Beauty Verandah, for eyelash extensions
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