Couple applies for BTO flat. Couple gets married. Couple get keys to the BTO flat. Couple lives happily ever after as they grow their family in their new matrimonial home. That’s the typical narrative of the young Singaporean couple.
The 5-year Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) was introduced with the aim of ensuring that HDB flats are not bought for speculation but as a home for couples/ families.
So what happens when couples call it quits before the MOP period?
As a realtor, I do encounter such situations and it usually requires a deft and experienced hand to manage all parties’ expectations for a satisfactory outcome.
For HDB flats which acts as a matrimonial homes – the MOP will need to be met before it can be sold in the open market, with very few exceptions. However, home owners who obtain a court order to sell their flat can do so before the MOP.
Managing a Sale For Divorcing Parties
I was engaged to sell a flat a few years back by a Singaporean couple who was going through a painful divorce.
For a start, they were having problems agreeing on whose property agent to market their home for sale under the court order. Naturally, each party wanted their interests to be protected and for their views and instructions to be taken seriously. And what better way to do so than to get their individual agent?
What made it worse was this couple was NOT on talking terms. I was first approached by the husband to just start marketing and see how it goes. But I felt that in order to fulfull my professional obligations, I had to speak to the wife first.
And to her credit, she agreed to meet me.
I explained my approach – which would be to keep both of them updated of any viewings/ progress/ discussion in a group chat.
I promised to be open and clear in my communications. I would consult both of them privately on certain matters and then share all discussions in the group chat.
She can of course still engage her own realtor, if she preferred. Fortunately, she was comfortable enough after meeting me to leave the sale solely to me. This trust earned has to be kept as well. I had to remind myself to be fair and open in my dealings. As well as to keep their matters private to prying buyers.
Eventually, I managed to sell the unit within the stipulated time frame.
The Importance of the Right Neutral Third Party
Managing and closing this HDB case was a reminder why intermediaries are needed in some chapters of our lives.
You need someone who is clear-headed, firm and tactful.
Some owners may feel that having many realtors market their flat would help speed up the process or get a better price.
On the contraray, it makes a difficult situation messier. Instead of getting the best deal for the owners, these realtors are often more anxious to sell as fast as possible, regardless the price.
Buyers may get conflicting messages and information from different realtors. Sellers themselves get different advices at a time when they are already vunerable.
In my first year as a realtor, I marketed a 3-room flat for a couple going through a somewhat amicable divorce.
There were three other realtors involved. I managed to get an offer through a co-broke agent within one week of marketing, which based on past transactions was a fantastic price.
Yet, another realtor managed to convince one of the owners to decline the offer as he had a potential buyer with a bigger budget.
Eventually, no higher offer came, and the first buyer who made the offer committed to another flat. The unit was eventually sold about two to three months later but at $3,000 less than the offer we got from the very first group.
This offer did not come from me but when the wife asked for my opinion, I shared that it is a reasonable offer and worthwhile to accept.
Divorces are hard. More so, when children and huge sums are involved. This is why it is crucial to engage the right advisor – someone who is objective and works for the sellers’ best interests to overcome the challenges faced.