Still alive, have just been travelling

Standard

Hello. And thanks again for reading my blog, and yes, I’m alive and still living in HH. Just that life has been pretty mundane and nothing much new to write about without repeating myself.

So, I’ve been travelling a fair bit more this year and one contributing factor for that is that I’ve finally managed to solve my dog boarding problem. Previously, it was hard for both me and the hubs to go on long vacays together, because while dog boarding is widely and easily available, it wasn’t the most ideal option for us. Depending on where we boarded our dogs, they would either come back really skinny (I suspect they are fed just the minimum so they don’t pee and poop much for convenience of the boarders), covered in ticks or develop some sort of illness after boarding. I guess living in a cell with multiple other dogs is a very stressful experience.

It got to a point where we seriously contemplated hiring a maid to look after the 4 dogs + help with the upkeep of the house…apart from the dogs, the garden is nearly driving us crazy. I swear, living in a house with 2 gardens is a full time job in itself! Almost went through with it but the indonesian girl we found ran away before the paperwork got processed (we were DIY-ing the hired help rather than thru an agency. Troublesome but totally doable.) and so we abandoned the idea. If you can find a willing worker, the wage of an indonesian helper is only around rm1k a month..if you do the math, house cleaning + dog sitting + gardening + vet bills because of sick dog(s) already exceeds this amount, so it’s a pretty sweet deal. Please don’t ask me where to find willing workers though because I have no clue where the good workers are.

And then as luck would have it, our dear friend and fellow dog lover (she’s got 2 dogs and 1 cat), agreed to house+dogsit for us. I think it’s the most perfect arrangement ever. I come back to a clean house that isn’t covered in dust and happy, healthy dogs. I don’t have to rush to put the dogs at the boarders before leaving, nor do I have to worry about how they are when I’m away.  She takes our dogs on their regular walks, and everything is the same for them except that their owners aren’t home.

I know, this sounds a little crazy and over the top to folks who don’t have pets, but the peace of mind knowing that your house and your pets are going to be fine while you are away is totally worth it.

 

Advertisements

What goes up, must come down

Standard

So I recently did a search on the house prices of HH on the internet. Haven’t done that in a long time as I don’t have any inclination to sell, and what do you know?! The prices have come down a fair bit since HH’s heyday. The ridiculous supply of housing in IM has hit home.

I have mixed feelings about this, since no home owner, even if it’s just merely unrealised, paper perceived value, likes to see their property value go down. Even though I’ve been expecting it, still sian mah..haha, it’s a few hundred Ks that disappeared in smoke. LOL. On the other hand, I’m also thinking, finally.

Of course, there are still some unrealistic listings, but by and large, the asking prices of at least 50% of the listings seem to be near fair value. Don’t take me at my word though, please do your own research since I’ve only done a 5min cursory search to look-see-look-see. The prices definitely have come down and are closer to the asking prices about 4 or 5 years ago. The price for a landed terrace in HH is just maybe 100k+ more than the asking price for a 1 bedroom studio condo by other developers, so I think this is quite a good price point, wouldn’t you say? I believe that if you dig deeper and bargain hard, I think you might be able to find a gem. Buying-to-stay at HH is at least a possibility again now.

On the other hand, I still think buying-to-rent is still not quite feasible (rent vs mortgage installment numbers don’t work out). In fact, I’m not sure if buying-to-rent HH property will ever be a good option. Given the price points of the houses, and the overall income of the general non-expat JB population who rent, the numbers just don’t make sense. If we look at other cities in the world (i.e. in the UK or US), it will take about 8 to 10years to break even on less than average buy-to-lease property, assuming you pay in full. The numbers for HH (at current price point) show that it will take at least 20 – 25years to just break even, assuming you can get above market rent…making it quite unattractive, to me at least.

I believe there are still properties in JB that are worth buying-to-lease, but I’ve not done my research thoroughly on this yet so can’t say where or what type to look at. Maybe I will look into this after I finish my last module for my CFP certification. I hope I pass, because I haven’t been studying! 😛

 

Did you know you can use your medisave in JB?

Standard

For a long time, I thought that our CPF medisave could only be used in Singapore. But that’s not true…apparently, you can use your medisave for treatment in selected hospitals in Johor. There are currently 2 hospitals in Johor that you can use Medisave to pay for your treatment, and the best part of it is….1 of the 2 are located super near to HH!

Sorry, this probably might be old news to you, but I just discovered that Gleneagles Medini (which is just a 5min drive away) is 1 of the 2 medical centers that accepts medisave as payment!

Ok, what’s the big deal, I hear you say.

Initially, I didn’t think it was a big deal too. After all, I’m pretty healthy (I prefer to think I am fit, rather than just healthy actually, but that would be like boasting. haha!) and I’ve got pretty comprehensive medical insurance in place (for sure, since I am in the finance line and I have got to walk the talk right?) so the chance of me going to a hospital is relatively low, and if I did, I have a plan in place. But hear me out because this isn’t a sales pitch thing and I really do think you should (if you haven’t already) give some thought to this.

So like many Singaporeans and PRs, I’m on a comprehensive integrated shield plan that covers my inpatient stays and catastrophic medical treatment in Singapore. Generally, this does the trick in making sure that hospitalisation and big ticket medical treatment are covered and the bulk of the premium is serviced relatively painlessly by CPF medisave. The good thing with such plans is that not only am I covered for treatment in Singapore, but the plan also covers emergency treatment overseas. So say if I got into a car accident while in JB and ended up in a hospital in JB to treat my wounds, my bill would still be covered as this would constitute an emergency situation.

However, the fact remains that some illnesses and conditions (i.e. cancer) are chronic and don’t constitute as emergency treatment (and so cannot be claimed under the shield plan). Triggered mainly by my dog, Pepper’s, long illness, I started wondering if in the event that I am chronically ill and require medical treatment, what would I do? Generally speaking, I would prefer to seek medical treatment in Singapore as opposed to JB…so getting insured for treatment in Singapore makes sense. However, the problem is that I live in JB…and if it were a chronic condition, it would kinda suck to have to do the commute to Singapore every other day to see the doctor.

If it’s cancer, or dialysis, visits to the doctor/clinic would be a very regular thing. I mean, sitting in the car for 2 hours one way while healthy is a pain, can’t really imagine what it would be like if I were super sick. And what about those followup doctor visits that last only 15mins ? OMG, imagine driving out to see someone for just 15mins!! *faint*

So, that got me thinking more seriously about treatment in JB, and should the day come (choy!), what would I do? Yup, I’m neurotic like that. Maybe diagnosis and surgery can be done in Singapore, and the followup/outpatient treatment in JB? If so, where would be a good hospital in JB?

I checked out Columbia Asia, which is nearby, but it’s got some pretty bad reviews online so I’m striking it out. Public hospitals are out (conditions are abysmal) and other private hospitals are kind of far and old. So..Gleneagles Medini seems like is a decent choice in terms of hospital and facilities in JB, plus it’s really near where I live. Plus, it’s a familiar brand to me.

And the best part is…I can utilise my Medisave for treatment at Gleneagles Medini (subject to prior arrangement and approval), which also means I probably won’t have to come up with a big bunch of cash. Good, right? 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vets and Animal Hospitals in JB

Standard

This post probably will only appeal to animal lovers/owners who live in JB, so if you are not one, you may want to skip this post as the contents of this post may literally bore you to death. 😛

Recently, my dog Pepper, has been very sick. To make a very long story short, she suffered within a span of 2 months:

  1. MegaEsophagus
  2. Bronchopneumonia
  3. Chlyamdosis (a relatively rare disease spread by birds)
  4. Tick fever
  5. Autoimmune disease

If you are an animal lover, having your pet be so sick can be a super trying and stressful time. Since animals can’t talk, it’s really important to work with an experienced vet when the animal is sick. The thing about living in JB is that there is a dearth of good vets here.

Like, seriously…the veterinary field in JB is YEARS behind Singapore. For one thing, there is NO 24hr animal clinic; the latest any clinic opens here is till 830pm. This can be nerve wrecking especially if your pet starts displaying great distress at night and all you can do is to wait until the next morning for the clinic to open.

I can’t blame the vets though. It costs the same to get a degree in veterinary medicine as it does to be a human doctor. But in general, vets earn a lot less than human doctors even though their hours are just as long. So I guess, if I were a Malaysian vet, I would prefer to work in Singapore where compensation is much higher. I digress.

 

So anyway, considering that I’ve now accumulated a fair bit of experience in dealing with the veterinary services in JB, I thought I’d just share my findings with you.

  1. Global Pets – Good for minor ailments that are non-critical.
    It is the animal equivalent of Shenton/Raffles Medical. I generally bring my dogs there to get their vaccination done or if they are suffering from some minor ailment (i.e rash). As a member, your consultation fee is waived so that’s quite nice. Thing is, the vet turnover is quite high and I can’t say the vets are very experienced. The Nusa Bestari branch in general is the place to go if you want to seek treatment as they have the facilities for operation, hospitalisation, and bloodwork tests. However, I can’t say their facilities are super up to date as certain tests need to be sent to other labs and test kits need to be ordered. So far, if I were to bring my dogs for treatment at Global Pets, I always looks for Dr San (Bestari branch, but think she has resigned since), Dr Eddie (Bestari branch) and Dr Shiwa (Perling branch). These vets have a good bedside manner, decently experienced and are sincere in trying to cure your pet. My experience with some others felt more like I was part of the customer ferris wheel where I was just a statistic or case count.
  2. Koh Animal Clinic – For the REALLY sick and critical cases
    My clinic of choice, but the only problem is that there is ALWAYS a long wait. Be prepared to wait anywhere between 1.5 – 4hrs when you go. The vets are all experienced (nearly every single of them are qualified to operate), but the go to vet is, of course the boss, Dr Koh. He has over 40 years of experience and is extremely qualified. This is also the place to go if your pet has joint problems (i.e. luxating patella) or needs complicated and major surgery. Apart from the perpetual wait, the other downsides are that the place is rather run down (I think they are too busy saving animals to spend time to do up the place) and the manner can be rather brusque (because there is a long queue). I generally don’t go to Koh Clinic unless the illness is serious as I find the wait to be quite off-putting; no way I’m going to queue for 3 hours for my dog’s rash! LOL.

    That said, if you meet with an emergency situation (and I do mean critical) at night when the other clinics are closed, you can go bang on the side door of the clinic. The level of care may be limited (if the doc looks at the animal and thinks it can wait until tmr, he will ask you to go home and come back the next morning. Happened to me before, so apparently my idea of critical is not the same as the vets’) but if you are desperate, this is the only option available. Oh, and be patient and persistent when pressing on the intercomm…someone will come….eventually.

  3. Nusajaya Vet – Probably good for cats only. Run by a Malay doctor who, in addition to treating animals, seems to sell cats in his clinic. He can treat dogs I guess, but I think his specialty really lies in cats.
  4. Han Veterinary Clinic – Good for dogs, with the main vet specializing in skin illness
    Haven’t visited this clinic mainly because it’s kinda of far from where I live but have heard good things about it. Dr Han apparently is an authority on dermatology, not just in Malaysia but in the region. I guess this would be a good place to bring your pet if it has skin problems.
  5. Government vet clinic – Don’t even bother. At the most, bring the animal there for vaccination else you should avoid at all costs.

It seems, (in my opinion and not a statement of fact) that the vets in Singapore are more likely to run the entire gamut of tests before they arrive at a diagnosis. The benefit of this is that nothing is ambiguous, little is left to guesswork and treatment is prompt & accurate. The disadvantage of this is that running multiple tests is expensive and will leave you with a gaping hole in your pocket (been there and done that, so I know). On the other hand, the vets in JB tend to hold off on the tests more, and use an elimination (but may I say, old-fashioned) method which is more cost-effective (because less tests, less cost) but infinitely more nerve-wrecking. The elimination method means they might skip some tests that would double confirm the diagnosis/illness/bacteria and just prescribe a medication and adopt a wait-and-see attitude. If the animal gets better, good. If not, they will try Plan B.

For example, my dog would have benefited greatly and suffered less if a tracheal wash procedure (this is something to determine the type of bacteria in the lungs) was done at the onset. However, this course of action was delayed for 2 weeks and by the time the vet wanted to do the procedure, Pepper was physically too weak for it. As a result, we ended up having to make an educated guess on what was causing her malaise and the treatment for it. Sure, I saved some money (probably a couple of hundred RM) on the procedure but IMHO, the amount of stress that came with second guessing treatment is not worth the savings. >_<

So, I have found that prompting/encouraging the vet to run tests can be helpful in JB as they seem to go into auto cost-saving mode for their clients. Depending on the owner, this can be a good or not so good thing since cost needn’t always be the priority for the individual. Not saying I’m rich okay! But to me, my dog is more important than money. 🙂

Ok, this seems to be a mammoth post, so I’ll end here for now. Ciao!

 

 

 

Better to invest in Singapore or JB property?

Standard

Sorry for the lack of update folks. The last several months have been very crazy for me and the hubs because we’ve been house hunting in Singapore!

As you know, my hubs and I bought HH as our first home in 2011 due to the ridiculously high property prices in SG and have been staying here since. We’ve been really happy living in Malaysia, but with our family, friends and work in Singapore, we’ve always felt that it would be good to be able to own a piece of property in Singapore. Just in case, you know?

And so in December 2015, we finally bought an apartment in Singapore.

Initially, we thought we would move back to Singapore. Living in JB always felt like a temporary thing, and that we would eventually go back to Singapore to be closer to our friends and family. However, after doing some calculations (it’s a occupational hazard), we realised that we are by far better off staying in JB. Here’s why:

  1. It took us between 3 – 5 years to save up enough money for the downpayment of our private apartment in Singapore. We can’t buy a HDB without selling HH, in case you were wondering.
  2. Because we bought a super old apartment,the interior needs to be gutted out and be completely redone. Wiring, piping, flooring, ceiling….everything. Given the size of the place and the very extensive work required, renovation costs + furnishings + appliances will probably be upwards of S$150k to $200k. So, it will take us another 3 – 5 years to save up enough money to pay for the renovation.
  3. Adding the downpayment and reno costs together, we would have spent a total of 6 – 10 years to save up for, and buy, an apartment in Singapore.
  4. If we were to live in this apartment, this piece of property in Singapore then cannot be considered a true asset as it wouldn’t earn us any money. I know for a fact that I dislike moving, and downsizing my property when I’m older for cash isn’t an option that I want to entertain. I like my creature comforts now and I think I will only get fussier when I am older.
  5. Comparing the monthly mortgage instalment amount between HH and the SG Apt, the SG Apt costs 50% more. Ouch.
  6. Which also means that because I have to pay 50% more, I will be able to save less for my other financial goals and also have less to discretionary income to spend, affecting my lifestyle. Things are also more expensive in Singapore, thereby affecting my ability to save further.
  7. Property in Malaysia is hard to rent and the rent may not cover the mortgage loan instalment, which means that a part of our income will have to go into servicing the loan.

This has led us to the conclusion that if we choose to stay in a nice private apartment in Singapore, we would have pushed back saving for our retirement by at least 10 years. And the next earliest time we will only be able to do lump sum investment will be in 15 years time.

OMG…when looking at a SG property from this light, the opportunity cost to live in an apartment in Singapore is very high, right? Or is it just the occupational hazard/finance geeks in me and my husband talking? LOL.

My goal is to retire by 40 and my husband 45. And from our calculations, this can’t be done by living in a super expensive home in Singapore that literally eats up all our income. Glad to say, we’ve now built enough assets,  to be at the 50% mark and we managed to do this by living in JB and keeping our costs low.

b12993eea56a2173bfa75028e3bc4c11

Have you read about Winnie Tseng and Jeremy Jacobson, the couple who retired in their 30s and who are now travelling the world? The article really resonated with me when I read it as I see a number of similarities between what they’ve done and what we are now doing. Are any of you doing the same too? If yes, I’d love to hear from you.

I suppose you might be wondering why did we choose to invest in a property in Singapore rather than Malaysia? There are a whole bunch of reasons in addition to the above, but I’ll save it for another post as this post has become rather epic already. Till then! 🙂

House Painting

Standard

Time really flies and we’ve been living in HH for about 3.5 years now. Wow. Who knew we’d stay for so long! 🙂

Anyway, living in a landed property is not always a bed of roses. And it seems like the 3 year point is where things start to break down due to natural wear and tear. 3-4 years is also the duration that algae/moss needs to grow on external walls to the point of making the walls extremely unsightly and gross. Hah!

So, after deciding that we could no longer endure looking at greenish walls every time we came home, we decided to get our house painted. And boy, getting your house painted is an expensive business. A quote from the painters to paint the exterior of our 3 storey home came up to RM18,000. *faint*

I suspect the high price is because they need to get a scaffolding up to reach the top part of the house, but what do I know?

Anyway, we were supremely turned off by the 5 figure quote so we decided to skip the middleman (again) and hire workers to do the job for us directly.

We used 2 workers as well as bought our own paint and rollers. The paint came up to be about RM2k+ and that’s the cost of paint for walls and railings, basecoat, sealer, turpentine, remover, and extra waterproofing. We learnt that you should always buy your own paint because:

  1. There’s fake paint in the market
  2. Contractors often times give you inferior quality paint but charge you a premium
  3. Inferior quality paint doesn’t last

The wages for the workers came up to approximately $4k+, which brought our total cost to about $7k. Not too bad for the getting the entire exterior, garden walls, gate, railings and grills painted eh? 🙂

Downside is that we had to spend quite some time supervising the workers.  Given our flexi schedules, we were able to save some money by going it alone and skipping the middleman, though I guess this isn’t a very viable option for everyone.

 

Build, and they will come?

Standard

So, it’s finally started. The buildings are nearly done, but where’s the boom?

I hope that if you bought a unit in HH or JB, you will be staying in it, or at least intend to stay in it in the near future. It will be really difficult to sell units at a significant gain in the short/medium term for sure. To be honest, I’m pretty peeved with the Malaysian government’s lack of foresight – what kind of goondu will approve plans to build so many residential units at the same time? Like 6000 apartment units by a single developer and thousands more along the same stretch of road? And what place does a shoebox unit costing in excess of RM1million have in Johor Bahru?! JB is very far from being the capital of Malaysia. My friends, rationality has been totally thrown out of the window.

Anyway, here’s some news about how a major developer has shelved plans to build a trade hub. And here’s the PR company trying to do some media service recovery by calling a bursting bubble as “Plan B“.

The problem with investing in Malaysia is that the authorities keep changing their mind about how to develop and grow a particular area. Usually, they start off with a fantastic idea. They get people excited and pump a bunch of money into the project. Everything looks rosy, and more people buy into the idea. Halfway through, the folks on top get greedy and start veering off the original plan in view of faster and bigger profits. Corruption probably starts creeping in at this point, and the project starts going to the dogs.

Don’t get me wrong. I STILL think living in JB and working in Singapore is a great idea. With the exchange rate hitting 2.7 now, it’s even more shiok! Despite the stupid 6% GST (which I think was very badly implemented and probably half the establishments that charge the GST pocket the extra), and the increase in the tolls, life is still good here.

With the way things are going though, I just wish to warn folks who are thinking of buying to shop CAREFULLY. At this point, buying a completed unit probably would be more prudent due to the high vacancy and huge supply of units coming onto the market. It’s a rare thing in Singapore to have a developer go bust or stop building a project halfway, but it’s a very real thing here in Malaysia.

Happy hunting folks, I believe there should be some bargains coming onto the market really soon now. 🙂