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DollarsAndSense Book Review: Behind The Scenes Of The Property Market By Vina Ip

If you are thinking of investing in a private property in Singapore and want to consider a contrarian view, this would be a book worth reading.

Book: Behind the Scenes of the Property Market [page length: 300]

Author: Vina Ip (PropertySoul)

About The Author: Vina Ip

Vina Ip, aka, Property Soul, started blogging about her property investing journey and experiences since 2010 on her website. She published her first book, “No B.S. Guide to Property Investment” in 2014 which was well received by the investment community for her unbiased opinion on investing in Singapore properties. She also runs the Property Club Singapore, where members get to attend workshops and network without fear of it turning into a sales pitch. She has a YouTube channel, where she further discusses her opinions on the local property market.

The author stands out in a sea of property experts, as being a non-insider and for being a practitioner rather than a preacher.

What We Like About Behind The Scenes Of The Property Market

The book consists of 5 chapters.

Chapter 1 is on “How to Lose Money in Properties”. While it may seem counterintuitive that a book on property investing starts with losing money in properties, it sets the stage to temper expectations about property investing in Singapore. Vina fills this chapter with actual encounters and experiences by investors who lost money following the common advice that are espoused by the industry professionals. In one example, Vina explains how agents will push buying brand new projects as a “sure win strategy” over resale projects when the numbers show that this is far from the truth.

Chapter 2“Lies, Lies and More Lies” and Chapter 3 – “Caution, High Risk Ahead”, gives us much to think about the next time we read a piece of headline-grabbing news in the Property section of the newspaper or on a website. Personally, we feel the information shared in these two chapters is well worth the price of the book.

Vina shares the common marketing tactics used by industry professionals to “massage” the numbers to paint a picture that fits their agenda. Vina also details how we can be more discerning of these numbers by doing our own checks. Finally, she delves into the pitfalls to look out for when it comes to investing in foreign properties. Many local investors who bought into the overseas retirement home dream had lost money due to the traps set by some unscrupulous foreign developers. Read and learn from their mistakes.

Chapter 4 – “The Road to Property Wealth”, is probably the chapter that most readers would have been looking forward to the most.  Vina does not disappoint in this chapter as she shares her personal property investing journey that enabled her to purchase 5 properties, of which, she has sold 4 for substantial profits. Vina also shares her own personal buying criteria that helped her to purchase her properties well within her means and with a high margin of safety. Readers familiar with Vina Ip’s work would probably be aware of the 3-3-5 rule, which is also adopted by CPF as a prudent measure to determine the buyer’s affordability of a property.

Briefly explained and without spoiling the content within the book for those who are intending to read it, the rules are, 1) 30% or more of the purchase price should be paid in cash, 2) monthly mortgage instalments should not be more than 1/3rd of the monthly salary and 3) the purchase price of the property should be under 5x the annual income of the buyer(s). This chapter also gives the readers more tips on how to determine buying opportunities (*hint: two important numbers; one is to determine the cash-on-cash return and the second is to know what is considered cheap based on the market valuation of the property) and how to do market timing (*hint: it pays to be an attentive citizen and listen to the cues from the government). Want to know more? You can order the book here.

Chapter 5 – Property Trends and What’s Next. Vina closes off by sharing her thoughts on how future trends will shape the property scene in Singapore. As an ageing and declining population, it’s likely that immigration and economic policies will affect and shape the growth of the property scene in Singapore. This chapter gives readers some context as to the future demand for properties in Singapore based on the projected trajectories and the growth rate that should be expected hereon.

The Bad:

At the risk of sounding like we are nitpicking, the book does appear at times to be a compilation of articles and concepts that you may have already read on the Property Soul website. This isn’t surprising as Vina is obviously the writer for both her website and her book. You will likely see a repetition of similar concepts from the website and within the book itself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but just an observation of ours as we were reading the book.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book would be useful to first-time buyers, HDB upgraders, property investors or anyone keen to understand the property developments in Singapore over the past 5 years.

This book would also be handy for both local residents looking to invest in foreign properties and foreigners looking to invest in Singapore properties as it delves into the common mistakes to avoid as an investor and the typical sales tactics employed by developers, when attracting foreign buyers.

Our Recommendation

We not only enjoyed reading this book but also gained many insights into Singapore’s property market.

Instead of the usual property books that hype up property investing, this book plays the role of a devil’s advocate. It highlights the common pitfalls of property investing (be it local or overseas) and shares how to develop a critical thinking mindset when reading property related news in the media. Best of us, it’s a very Singapore-focused book so examples that are used in the book are relatable for property buyers in Singapore.

As the saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned. Knowing what you should not be doing, “earns” you more money than those property courses that cost thousands of dollars promising to reveal the hidden property gems by buying the properties they promote.

In short, this book is not for anyone looking to being told what to buy. Rather, it sets you on a path to be a more discerning property investor by having an understanding of the macro view of the property market down to the micro view of the particular unit by running through the numbers to determine if a property is worth investing or if it’s worth waiting.

If you are keen to purchase Behind The Scenes Of The Property Market, you can order it online here. Paperback copy is selling at $33.90 while the Ebook goes for $28.90.

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