Archive for June, 2007

Nirvana’s Nevermind Baby

 17 years ago Nirvana’s album Nevermind was released.  Remember the baby floating in the water on the cover?

NirvanaNeverMind

Check out what that baby looks like 17 years later

Bill Gates’ Legacy?

Interesting opinion piece by John Foley of InformationWeek on the legacy that Bill Gates will leave behind.

“Gates will be remembered as an inspiring technologist and brilliant businessman who jump-started the commercial software market and populated the world with nearly a half-billion PCs, unleashing a wave of personal creativity and productivity on a scale never before seen.

Gates’ postretirement biography will have its share of ugliness, too–a decade-long spat with the open source community, monopolistic business practices that culminated in a U.S. government-led antitrust trial, buggy software that was easily exploited–but those will be footnotes when all is said and done. The good that has flowed from Gates’ Windows, Office, and hundreds of other software products far outweighs the bad.”

I agree with John’s last sentence.

Ilustration of Bill Gates by Dale Stephanos

Ilustration by Dale Stephanos

Jackie Chan’s Coffee & Tea

Let me start by saying that I like Jackie Chan.  Not his latest movies, mind you, but the wonderful older fare such as The Legend of Drunken Master.

Straits Times reported today that Jackie will be opening up his own cafes around the world.

“Hoardings for the cafe, Jackie Chan’s Cafe Coffee & Tea, have come up at a shop unit in 10 Tanglin Road, across the street from Tanglin Shopping Centre and on the same row as Da Vinci Home Gallery, an upscale furniture store.”

Look out Starbucks!  Jackie Chan is going to kung fu chop your business!

(Yeah, right…)

What the heck does Jackie Chan have to do with coffee or tea?  Soon we will see the Lindsay Lohan Tutoring Center, the Britney Spears Electronics Mart, and the Christopher Lee Driving Academy.

The Summer of Love: 40 Years Later

Interesting article in MSNBC talking about the Summer of Love and some of the ramifications from that period.

Ahh… 1967…

“To hear the ex-hippies and Summer of Love enthusiasts tell it, the spring and summer of 1967 in San Francisco changed everything, especially sex.

At first, this sounds like more of the same generational hagiography from baby boomers that we’ve been subjected to for several decades now. But there is no question that we are still living with the “free love” fallout. Everything from the rise of Viagra to “Girls Gone Wild” and feminist porn, to the sex education debate and the Christian fundamentalist backlash, bears the mark of that bohemian sexual revolution.”

Read more

Home Loan Shopping

From Straits Times – June 24, 2007

“Let’s go home loan shopping

The Great Singapore Sale frenzy is spilling over into banks as homebuyers scout for the best mortgage bargains. But with more than 100 packages on offer, it is no wonder the average Singaporean is left confused. Grace Ng wades into the mortgage muddle to compile this guide to help you find a loan that suits your needs.

ILLUSTRATION: LUDWIG ILIO

1. Whither interest rates?

YOUR view on where rates are headed will determine whether you take a fixed-rate or floating-rate loan.

The three-month Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (Sibor), a benchmark rate that banks use in determining mortgage rates of home loans, is hovering at about 2.5743 per cent, having dropped steadily from 3.3763 per cent just six months ago.

OCBC’s head of consumer secured loans, Mr Gregory Chan, says Sibors still show ‘relatively high volatility’.

Indeed, the three-month Sibor has plummeted by almost 0.9 of a percentage point over the past 12 months, to as low as 2.3159 per cent on May 22. But since that date, it has climbed up by 0.2584 of a percentage point, leaving analysts and customers alike scratching their heads about where rates are headed.

Mr Chan noted: ‘It is too soon to predict housing loan rate trends although any upside appears limited at this point.’

If you think that rates have peaked and might even drop, you can opt for a floating-rate package because the rates tend to trend down with Sibor, said Mr Dennis Ng of consultancy http://www.HousingLoanSG.com.

But banks might delay adjusting rates downwards, so if you want certainty that your loan rates will keep in step with Sibor, pick a loan offered by the three Singapore banks or Standard Chartered Bank (Stanchart). These are tied to various Sibors, so you have a degree of certainty.

2. Are you ready to get a home loan?

BETTER check your credit history first to make sure you have a clean bill of financial health. And do a quick calculation of your debt servicing ability. This is the ratio of your total monthly financial commitments – such as car loans and unsecured credit – to your monthly income. The usual range accepted by banks is 40 per cent to 50 per cent.

Once you are satisfied you are credit-ready, get loan-ready: Seek in-principle loan approval from a bank for the property.

‘This will forestall any complications that may arise from a less-than-stellar credit history,’ said Mr Geoffrey Ying, the head of mortgage loans at financial adviser New Independent.

He also advised scouting around for a law firm that is on the panel of most of the major banks, so as to ease the conveyancing process.

3. How much to borrow?

BANKS run credit checks and decide how much to lend.

Loan quantums of up to 80 per cent of the purchase price generally come with lower interest rates than those with a quantum of 81 per cent to 90 per cent. The rate difference is normally between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent.

If you are buying an investment property and you are trying to lower your monthly mortgage repayments, you might consider an interest servicing package. This lets you service only the monthly repayment for the interest while the principal amount is maintained.

Mortgage brokers warn that the interest rate for this type of loan could be slightly higher than for conventional ones. You might also chalk up losses and hefty interest charges if the market turns south.

If you have a relatively significant level of cash reserves, you could also consider whether you should invest your reserves in potentially higher-yielding investments such as stocks, or keep the funds liquid in an interest-offset arrangement with the bank, added Mr Ying.

4. How soon are you likely to pay off your loan?

THIS depends on whether you are buying a property to live in or for investment.

If you are going to live in the home, then consider the loan tenure. ‘Typically, the longer the loan period, the more interest you end up paying. As a general guide, do not stretch the loan period to more than 25 years,’ said Mr Ng.

For example, a $300,000 loan at an interest rate of 4 per cent over 20 years requires monthly instalments of $1,818 and a total interest payment of $138,529. If the loan is stretched to 25 years, the monthly interest is $1,584, but the total interest paid is a hefty $177,771.

If you plan to sell your property in the short term, pick a housing loan with no lock-in period, or a shorter one of one or two years. Lock-in penalties can range from 0.75 per cent to 1.5 per cent, said Mr Wu Yihong of consultancy MyHappyHouse.com.sg.

Some packages might impose penalty charges on any partial repayment within the lock-in period. If you’re likely to make partial repayment in the next two years, choose a package that allows this without penalty fees.

If your property is still under construction, ask yourself how likely you are to sell it before the Temporary Occupancy Permit (TOP) is issued, or before the loan is fully disbursed, advised Mr Ng.

In the latter case, you should get a package with a lower cancellation fee. ‘This is especially important to speculators who typically sell the property within a short holding period,’ he added.

Also, you might want to opt for a free loan conversion. This allows you to convert your existing loan to a better one when the TOP is issued.

You can also choose the payment structure: deferred or progressive. Mr Ng noted that developers typically charge a higher price for deferred payment schemes: 1 per cent to 5 per cent higher.

5. How much volatility can you stomach?

THIS will help you to determine whether you want a stable rate – either a fixed rate or one pegged to the relatively stable Central Provident Funds (CPF) rate – or a floating one.

Arguably the most volatile rates are those pegged to Sibor, but they also offer the benefit of transparency, giving you assurance that your rates will move in tandem with benchmark rates.

Blended-rate packages might appeal to borrowers who have some appetite for risk and can accept slight fluctuations in interest rates in the hope of making smaller repayments, said Mr Ben Tan of mortgage consultancy Money Mind.

For packages with a higher proportion of years on a variable rate, the effective rate would be lower than for packages with a higher proportion on a fixed rate. There is more security with the latter, as a smaller proportion is exposed to the fluctuations of the market, Mr Tan added.

For loans linked to CPF rates, you can enjoy more predictability, but you might also want to weigh the hassle of getting the CPF Board to keep changing the CPF amount used for monthly instalments, warned Mr Ng. For housing loan packages that are pegged to a three-month swap rate, the instalment amount would have to be changed every three months.

So if you are using CPF monies to pay monthly instalments, you need to inform the CPF Board every three months to adjust the amount to be deducted from your account.

graceng@sph.com.sg

King Albert Park

From Straits Times – June 24, 2007

“Mix of condos and low-rise homes

CONDOS LIKE THE NEW NEXUS prominently line the Bukit Timah stretch leading to King Albert Park and its host of amenities such as Cold Storage and McDonald’s. — ALPHONSUS CHERN

THE stretch of Bukit Timah Road leading to King Albert Park is dominated by a prominent cluster of condominiums, which include Maplewoods, the new Nexus, The Sterling and The Cascadia.

Prices range from $888 per sq ft (psf) for Maplewoods to $924 psf at The Sterling, based on transactions in the second quarter of this year.

These developments enjoy the convenience of being located near the King Albert Park Cold Storage and McDonald’s, as well as the Tan Chong Motors showroom along Bukit Timah Road, which is particularly busy during weekends.

But travel further in along Wilby Road and Old Holland Road and the hustle and bustle give way to quiet undulating roads sparsely dotted with low-rise houses and condominiums.

The presence of large plots of as-yet-undeveloped state land and the Malayan Railway Track which cuts across Bukit Timah Road, give a rustic feel to the area – a sharp contrast to the contemporary feel closer to King Albert Park itself.

Families with young children will appreciate the proximity of Methodist Girls’ Primary School situated along Old Holland Road.”

Hillview

From Straits Times – June 24, 2007

“Rich in history and tradition

RISING UP like a rhapsody, Symphony Heights on Hume Avenue offers a serene hideaway in an area rich with old-world charm. — ALPHONSUS CHERN

THE area bordered by Hillview Avenue and Upper Bukit Timah Road owes its old-world charm to the presence of the sprawling Bukit Batok Nature Park and nearby Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The Old Ford Factory, which dates back to World War II, contributes to the air of history and tradition, as does the Bukit Batok Memorial located at Lorong Sesuai.

There are a number of condominium developments in the area that have taken advantage of the natural beauty to create a scenic atmosphere that blends in with the surrounding greenery.

The freehold Petals development near Hillview Terrace was priced at $424 per sq ft (psf) in transactions carried out in the second quarter of this year.

During the same period, the Summerhill and Symphony Heights, both on Hume Avenue, saw prices of $652 psf and $569 psf respectively.

Residents in the area also have the option of shopping at the Rail Mall opposite Hillview Road, which boasts eateries, pubs, a hairdresser, a Cold Storage outlet and other amenities.”

Hindhede

From Straits Times – June 24, 2007

“A hit with nature lovers and trekkers

NESTLED INTO the side of Bukit Timah Hill on Hindhede Road, The Raintree, a 99-year leasehold condo, is featching $568 psf. — ALPHONSUS CHERN

LUXURIANTLY green, the area in and around Hindhede Drive is a hit with nature lovers who make the most of the proximity of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Large trees and shrubs line the roads criss-crossing the neighbourhood, which has a sleepy feel for most of the day.

This is broken only by groups of trekkers making their way up and down Bukit Timah Hill, Singapore’s highest natural summit.

The area is also a hit with cycling enthusiasts who want to be near the popular Bukit Timah mountain-biking track, which stretches all the way to Mandai.

Besides the soothing presence of the nature reserve and Angsana Park, residents also enjoy the convenience of being a minute’s drive from the Pan Island Expressway as well as the main Bukit Timah Road.

Prices for condominiums in the neighbourhood range from $450 per sq ft (psf) for the 99-year Le Wood project to $568 psf for The Raintree, also 99 years, at the end of Bukit Drive. “

Binjai

From Straits Times – June 24, 2007

“Exclusive turf that also draws in food lovers

HUGE TREES with their lush foliage offer shaded seclusion for the good-class bungalows clustered around Yarwood Avenue (centre).– ALPHONSUS CHERN

THE shady Binjai Park area’s exclusiveness is boosted by the presence of the Swiss Club, the Belgian embassy and the British Club nestled deep in the estate.

Narrow winding roads shaded by immense trees lead to large sprawling good-class bungalows along Yarwood Avenue and Binjai Park itself.

Away from the main Bukit Timah Road are many low-rise bungalows and semi-detached houses, and the neighbourhood boasts a cosy, friendly ambience.

One of the main attractions is the Binjai Park cluster of eateries just a stone’s throw away from the turning on to Bukit Timah.

A perennial favourite with many Singaporeans is the Ivins Peranakan restaurant, but there is a wide variety of restaurants to choose from.

Developments in the area include the Binjai Crest cluster housing project, priced at $451 per sq ft (psf) based on transactions in the second quarter.

The 99-year leasehold Gardenvista condominium, which is eight years old, recently transacted at $806 psf, said property consultancy CB Richard Ellis.”

Watten

From Straits Times – June 24, 2007

“Good access to schools and eateries

EATING PLACES APLENTY along Greenwood Avenue, which features a stretch of eateries such as Sebastien’s, with terrace houses opposite at Hillcrest Road. — ALPHONSUS CHERN

WITH the Adam Road Food Centre located nearby and the Greenwood Avenue row of eateries, bistros and pubs nestled in the heart of the Watten estate, foodies will never be short of options here.

There also many leading schools within a one-km radius, including National Junior College, Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Primary School.

During term time, traffic is predictably high before and after school hours, but the presence of the Adam Road-Farrer Road junction nearby provides easy access to town.

What characterises both the Watten estate and the Duchess Road residential area across the road is the seclusion despite being near busy Bukit Timah Road.

With largely low-rise developments and landed properties, residents can usually expect unblocked views in all directions.

Home to many of Singapore’s wealthy elite, the area also features new developments such as The Tresor, being built at the junction of Duchess Road and Duchess Avenue.

The 999-year development is going for $1,397 per sq ft (psf), based on transactions in the second quarter of this year.

The freehold Casabella tucked into the end of Duchess Avenue recently saw transactions priced at $1,020 psf this year.”