Move to studio flats pays off for seniors

BY MELISSA LIN, Straits Times 8 May 2014

SENIOR citizens who downgrade to a studio apartment have made around $200,000 per flat.

That is the balance of the sale proceeds after paying off the outstanding loan for their old flat and paying fully for the new one.

Between 2006 and last year, 7,600 households booked studio apartments, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post yesterday. Former owners of three- and four-room flats form 70 per cent of these households.

Studio apartments, which can be bought only by those aged 55 and above, have elderly friendly features such as grab bars and alert alarm systems. Two-thirds of those buying these flats were aged below 65, and half were living alone, noted Mr Khaw.

These apartments are “effective in helping seniors in their retirement”, he said. “They are particularly attractive to seniors living alone, who will otherwise find maintaining a large flat a chore.”

But because so many live alone, they will need family and community support, he added. “Hence, we are determined to help families who want to stay near to each other realise their dream.”

For instance, studio apartments are being included in integrated developments such as the upcoming Kampung Admiralty, which will also have a medical centre, childcare and eldercare centres, and shops. The apartments there will be launched in the July Build-to-Order exercise.

“We will continue to experiment and try out new layouts to see what will work best for our seniors, and to enable them to age actively where they live, in their familiar HDB town,” said Mr Khaw.

Now, only 22 per cent remain in the same HDB town when they move into a studio apartment.

Fei Yue Family Service Centres’ senior assistant director, Ms Rachel Lee, said moving to smaller units frees up cash for the seniors, though some have complained to her about the size.

Living near other seniors also provides them with some much-needed company, she added.

Retired civil servant Annie Tang, 69, sold her three-room flat in Woodlands in October 2012 and moved into a studio apartment in the area. She made about $300,000 in net sales proceeds, she said.

Ms Tang, who is single and lives alone, said she feels safer with an alarm system in her home that will notify her neighbours in an emergency.

She has no complaints about the size of her 45 sq m flat. “I’m fussy and a small home is easier to clean,” she said.

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