Archive for May, 2007

Youtube is banned in Thailand

A direct link to a Youtube video kept erroring out.

When you try to go to www.youtube.com while in Thailand, this is the lovely message you see:

“ขออภัย ทางสำนักงานตำรวจแห่งชาติขอระงับการเชื่อมต่อมาที่เวบไซต์นี้ เนื่องจากมีรูปภาพ หรือข้อความที่ไม่เหมาะสม เช่น ลามกอนาจาร การพนัน
หรือเป็นภัยต่อความมั่นคงของชาติ

สอบถามข้อมูลเพิ่มเติมได้ที่ “ศูนย์ข้อมูลข้อสนเทศ” อาคาร 19 ชั้น 2 สำนักงานตำรวจแห่งชาติ
ถนนพระราม1 ปทุมวัน กทม.10330 โทร 0-2251-0164 หรือ webmaster@police.go.th

สถิติการรับแจ้งเวบผิดกฎหมายของสำนักงานตำรวจแห่งชาติ

 

Sorry, the web site you are accessing has been closed by Royal Thai Police due to inappropriateness such as pornography, gambling or contain any information which is deemed to violate national security.

For more information, please contact “Police Information System Center” Bld#19 2nd Flr, Royal Thai Police, Rama I, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330 Tel. 0-2251-0164,
email : webmaster@police.go.th

http://www.police.go.th

Well dang it, how am I going to watch my Daily Show clips?

—-

Weird – it also looks like http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/ is also banned.  Did a Seattle reporter say something derogatory about Thailand before?  (Other sites are working, such as seattletimes.com and washingtonpost.com).

I guess this is a sign that instead of surfing the web, I should be packing up for my flight back to Singapore.

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Bill & Steve together forever

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were together on-stage at “D 2007” for a Q&A session.

Engadget has an amusing and positive commentary about what transpired.

Now if only Apple and Microsoft fanboys could conduct themselves with the same respect that Gates & Jobs have towards each other.

Conservation Shophouse


I like this shophouse. Potential.  2.5 stories and can use the 1st floor for commercial endeavors.

Photo set

Microsoft Surface

I want.

I don’t know what I would do with it, but I’m sure there have to be custom applications I can design.

Ooo… imagine putting a martini glass, different bottles of liquor, and a shaker on the table.  Cocktail recipes are then presented on the table based on what you have placed.

Genius!

Can you afford that second home loan?

“Before you jump on the red-hot property-investing bandwagon, know what criteria banks look at when granting a second mortgage”

From May 27 Straits Times (by Grace Ng)

“WHEN Mr Andrew Ang, a manager in his 40s, went around the banks last month scouting for a second home loan, for an investment property, he was surprised to discover that ‘everyone and his mother-in-law’ seemed to be doing the same.

‘I bumped into so many people – my army buddies, colleagues, even my own mother-in-law – who were all asking if they qualified for another home loan,’ he said, and laughed.

The reason is simple. The dazzling property market rebound has enticed growing numbers of buyers into snapping up a second or even third home for investment.

These investors had initially focused on the higher-end districts 9,10 and 11, but interest has spread to other areas, including East Coast, Newton, Meyer Road and Thomson in recent months, said Mr Tan Chia Seng, Citibank’s business director.

These buyers are seeking properties with a good rental yield as well as the potential for a collective sale – or one-off sale – at a tidy profit if the property boom is sustained.

Figures from Credit Bureau Singapore reflect this trend: The number of home owners with at least two home loans more than doubled to 41,078 as at March from 19,901 two years earlier.

Banks such as United Overseas Bank, DBS Bank and Standard Chartered Bank (Stanchart) have noticed more customers seeking second mortgages lately. Citibank has seen one in 10 mortgage customers apply for a second home loan, for a second property.

Most of these borrowers tend to be higher-income customers with comfortable six-figure annual salaries, say banks. So they can easily meet the requirements for a second or third home loan.

But those in the middle-income brackets, such as Mr Ang, have also been swept up in the investment property buzz, and are knocking on banks’ doors for a second home loan as well.

Financial advisers urge caution when making such a major financial commitment.

‘Overstretching your financial limits can be disastrous. A property correction can potentially lead to bankruptcy,’ warned Ms Tang Yin Fon of independent financial advisory firm Providend.

A borrower should ensure that his total loans do not exceed 50 per cent of his total assets, which include salary, savings and equities.

Ms Elaine Heng, Stanchart’s general manager for mortgage and car loans, advised customers to consider four factors before committing to a home loan.

They are: employment stability, current cash flow, long-term wealth management goals and view on the long-term interest rate environment.

Borrowers may also wish to ‘maintain a surplus or savings buffer in your Central Provident Fund account to service one to two years of monthly instalments’ in case of an unforeseen temporary financial crunch, said Mr Koh Kar Siong, DBS’ head of home loans.

And of course, having ensured that they have the financial muscle to handle a second or third home loan, borrowers need to cross another hurdle – getting approval from the banks.

What banks look for

  • Repayment ability

    The key factor that banks look at is the customer’s debt servicing ratio, said Stanchart’s Ms Heng.

    This refers to the customer’s ability to service all his loans, which include existing home loans, car and personal loans, as well as credit cards.

    The ratio that banks accept normally ranges from 40 to 60 per cent, said DBS’ Mr Koh.

    This represents the proportion of a borrower’s monthly income taken up by total monthly loan payments.

    Income may include rental from investment property.

  • Loan amount

    Banks also assess the loan amount that they can grant to customers by considering the valuation of the investment property.

    They use a measure called a loan to valuation ratio: the home loan value divided by the property valuation.

    Banks say they typically do not grant loans of more than 80 per cent of an investment property’s value.

  • Steps you can take

    There are some steps that you, the borrower, can take to endear yourself to the bank to get your investment home loan approved without too much hassle. Here are some tips to boost your chances:

  • Keep debt servicing ratio at or below 50 per cent

    If you have enough cash, you can choose to pay off your car loan, and wipe your slate clean in terms of personal loans and credit cards, said Mr Dennis Ng of mortgage consultancy portal http://www.HousingLoanSG.com.

    This may boost your chances of getting approval for a higher loan value even if your income is relatively low.

  • Maintain a good credit history

    Stanchart’s Ms Heng noted that banks assess customers’ credit reports over the previous 12 months or longer, to find out if customers pay their credit card bills and monthly mortgage instalments on time.

    A good credit history over the previous 12 months is a plus factor when the bank is considering whether to grant a second loan, said Citibank’s Mr Tan.

  • Show a commitment to repay

    One way to show your commitment to repaying your mortgage is to opt for a shorter loan tenure than you are entitled to, said Mr Koh.

    This may signal that you are prepared to pay up the principal sum as well as the interest on your property, that you are not just servicing the interest until the market is hot enough to allow you to sell off your unit.

    Also, if you feel comfortable doing so, tell the bank how much you have squirrelled away in your CPF accounts, unit trusts and bank savings accounts.

    This may reassure the bank that you have enough funds to pay your instalments if rental income from your investment property dries up in a market downturn.

    Cultivate a stronger and longer relationship with your bank

    If you have several products such as savings accounts, home loans and unit trusts with the bank, this may boost the debt servicing ratio it grants to you – lifting your chances of getting a higher loan value.

    And it also pays to be a loyal customer. The longer your relationship with the bank, the more leeway you may get.

    ‘Two years and above is already quite telling for the quality of the relationship,’ said Mr Tan.

    ‘You don’t necessarily need to have had a loan relationship with the bank previously. Investments with the bank can also help it to gauge your repayment ability and creditworthiness better.’

  • Make sure your rental income more than covers your interest instalments

    One common misconception among investors is that banks take into account the entire rental income from the property when granting a second or third home loan.

    Banks actually look at a portion – possibly 50 to 70 per cent – of monthly rental as they also consider the fluctuations and sustainability of this cash flow in covering monthly loan payments, said Mr Ng.

  • Try not to opt for interest-servicing loans

    Such loans allow customers to service only the interest but not pay up the principal amount borrowed. By paying interest only, you are ultimately paying more interest over the long run.

    DBS said it offers this option only ‘to assist customers during a transition period in order to manage cash flow’. Thus, such loans will usually be offered only on a short-term basis.

    Financial advisers also note that banks are unlikely to grant approval for such loans to customers unless they are high net-worth individuals who are savvy property investors.

    What may crop up

  • Extra charges

    You may need to set aside extra funds to pay for maintenance, income tax and stamp duty for your second property, said Mr Ng.

    Investment properties, especially older condos, may also require refurbishment expenditure.

  • Unfavourable property cycles

    Mr Tan cautioned: ‘If there is an economic downturn, the rental rates may fall faster than your mortgage interest rate, especially for fixed rates.

    ‘Be prepared with enough cash to top up the difference for the monthly instalment.’

  • Higher interest rates

    Customers should also take note that investment property generally has a higher mortgage rate compared with residential property, said Prudential financial adviser Lim Szer Khee.

    He explained: ‘Investment property generally has a shorter loan life span as there is a greater tendency to sell the property, so the banks may make less money from lending to finance investment properties.’

    graceng@sph.com.sg

  • I don’t care about Ubuntu

    Why are there so many Digg stories tracing Dell and where they are selling their Ubuntu machines.

    Latest story – “Dell Puts Ubuntu Machines on Main Page” (read the story and it talks about how it’s actually part of the rotating script).

    I’m not against Linux, I’m not against Open Source, I even like Dell.  I just don’t understand why a social news site is so fixated on Dell’s offering of Linux!!  Aargh!

    I want to read more about Lindsay Lohan’s drunk driving, after all!

    Hefty rents force expats here to downgrade or buy

    From May 28 Straits Times (by Joyce Teo):

    “RENTS of private homes are rising so fast that some expatriates are being forced out of prime areas, sometimes into HDB flats, while others are choosing to buy instead.

    Expats have been complaining about soaring rents since late last year, with some facing rises of 50 to 100 per cent or more when their leases come up for renewal.

    ‘I entered this (business) at the end of 1993 and I have never seen such huge rental increases,’ said leasing agent Raymond Han.

    Savills Singapore’s director of corporate real estate, Mr Simon Hill, said most of his firm’s recent deals in districts 9, 10 and 11 were at significantly higher rental levels.

    ‘Certainly, there were no deals done at below a 50 per cent rise in rent,’ said Mr Hill.

    An Australian who faced a 66 per cent rent hike for his 1,250 sq ft apartment in Newton recently moved into a HDB flat, preferring that to a condo unit in poor condition.

    He now pays $1,500 for a five-room flat in Ang Mo Kio, well under the $1,800 he was paying on his old lease.

    ‘There is a perception that expats come here on huge salary packages,’ said the expat, who is a teacher. ‘Many are lower-rank professionals like me. So this rental issue just doesn’t come down to a need to revise salary packages.’

    He said his colleagues are also reporting exorbitant rent increases.

    ‘But our rental assistance has increased by only $100 or $200 a month,’ he added.

    Official data shows that rents of non-landed homes rose by 8.1 per cent in the first quarter this year, up from a 5.3 per cent rise in the last three months of 2006.

    Overall, residential rents remain about 29 per cent below the 1996 peak. But market watchers say the data reflects the situation in the whole market, not just recent renewals or deals in coveted condos and prime areas.

    Asking rents at Ardmore Park in the Orchard Road area, for instance, have shot up to between $17,000 and $18,000, from $14,000 to $15,000 a year or two ago.

    But some tenants with ongoing leases at the posh estate could still be paying as little as $12,000 a month.

    ‘I would say the huge increases started only in January,’ said Mr Han.

    He is helping an Australian banker find another home, after the expat’s landlord demanded $6,500 a month more for his four-bedroom bungalow in Bukit Timah. That would have meant a monthly rent of $18,000.

    The hefty rises have also prompted some frustrated expats to buy instead of rent, said property agents.

    Housewife Cara Killham and her husband, a teacher, chose to buy after rental demands for their Clementi condo became too extreme.

    ‘The rise in rentals got us looking for a place. That was the tipping point,’ said Ms Killham, a British citizen who came here eight years ago.

    The couple recently decided on a unit of about 1,600 sq ft in Dairy Farm Estate on Dairy Farm Road.

    ‘Our mortgage and condo fees would still be less than the monthly rent,’ she said.

    Mr Hill of Savills Singapore told The Straits Times: ‘What we are seeing is a massive resistance building against the rental increase.

    ‘Either companies won’t bring in so many expats, or expats will move out of districts 9, 10 and 11.’

    Yet, there are still expats, mostly those new to Singapore, willing to take up the new rental offers, agents said.

    Apart from strong demand, rents have also risen as a result of tight supply caused by the many collective sales.

    It means a double whammy for companies, as rents for quality office space have risen sharply as well.

    ‘Finding a new place is very difficult,’ said an expat in the technology sector. ‘We have made a number of offers and had cheques cashed, only to be told that the landlords had changed their minds.’

    ‘It has been very stressful, and has forced us to reconsider our future in Singapore.’

    joyceteo@sph.com.sg