$$$ KPO and CZM $$$

Thursday, May 21, 2020

My Experience with Mortgage Brokers - Redbrick and iCompareLoan

Regular readers will know that we are currently on an HDB housing loan (~1 year). The reasons were we didn't want to fork out any cash for downpayment and wanted to repay the loan as slow as possible. Had we taken a bank loan then, we would need at least 5% cash for downpayment and the remaining 20% in CPF/cash as compared to just 10% CPF for downpayment for an HDB housing loan.

Let me illustrate with some numbers:
Our BTO purchase price - $420k
HDB housing loan - $42k in CPF (downpayment) + $378k loan
Bank loan - at least $21k cash + $84k in CPF (downpayment) + $315k loan

Hence, it is very unlikely for young couples to take a bank loan for their first HDB purchase as the initial cash/CPF outlay is simply too large. For more information, you can take a look at this Seedly article - A Homeowner's Ultimate Guide: Bank Loan Vs HDB Loan Which Is Better?

Seeing how interest rates are pretty low and will likely remain low due to the current economy/COVID situation (my opinion), I was tempted by the possibility of paying lesser interest and refinancing out only if the bank is willing to loan me the full amount. What do I mean by that?

Existing HDB housing loan - $370k
Bank can only loan up to 75% of the purchase price - $315k

We do not want to pay this difference of $55k just to refinance out. Hence, I decided to try out these 2 mortgage brokers (Redbrick and iCompareLoan recommended by Google) to "test the water" since they do not charge any fee (they earn through the referral from the banks). Separately, I also contacted my RM and asked about SCB's housing loan.

Redbrick was the most efficient, someone (let's call him RBG - RedBrick Guy) was assigned to me the very same day. A call was made and he explained a couple of refinancing concepts/fees that were new to me, followed by a report on the possible savings.

Type of loan packages:
1. Fixed
2. Floating based on board rate (bank's internal rate e.g. DBS FHR8) + spread/margin
3. Floating based on SIBOR + spread/margin

Fees involved:
1. Legal fee ~ $1,500 - $2,000+
2. Valuation fee ~ $160 - $200+
3. Fire insurance with the bank

Depending on the loan amount, some banks will offer a cash incentive that can be used to offset the above fees to attract/entice you to take up their loan package. For instance, my RM recommended me not to refinance with SCB because there is no incentive for my loan amount (too small). The cash incentive has a separate lock-in period of 3 years and has to be paid back if one refinance out to other banks within that period.

As you can see, there are significant savings (~8k - 11k) on the interest in just 3 years which makes a lot of difference. A housing loan is an amortized loan where one pays off the interest first before the principal and one has to pay the principal to clear the loan. Assuming if we had stayed with the HDB housing loan, we would have paid $62k but only cleared $34k of principal.

The packages he recommended (all with cash incentives) were:
May Bank - 1 Year Floating @ 3M SIBOR + 0.48% ~ 1.308%
UOB - 3 Years Fixed @ 1.68%
DBS - 5 Years Fixed @ 1.80%

iCompareLoan (let's call this person ICL - iCompare Lady) reached out a day later, explained those concepts and fees, and offered almost similar packages:
May Bank - 1 Year Floating @ 3M SIBOR + 0.48% ~ 1.308%
DBS - 3 Years Fixed @ 1.70%

After discussing with CZM, we decided to submit an application for the DBS - 3 Years Fixed @ 1.70% loan package as we are using the Multiplier account too. In addition, there is no way of knowing how much the bank is willing to lend unless we submit an application. Most importantly, there is no commitment until we sign the LO (Letter of Offer) by the bank.

A few days later, RBG reached out and asked if I have any questions or made any decision to refinance and I told him about the 3 Years Fixed @ 1.70% with ICL. He asked if I am interested in UOB new package - 2 Years Fixed @ 1.60%. Of course, the lower the better! So I submitted another application to UOB too. Besides lower interest, it is important that the bank is willing to loan us the full amount.

This is where it gets interesting. I told ICL about RBG and his UOB package and she didn't seem too happy as though it is an extramarital affair. I guess the competition is pretty fierce as she tries to win me over by submitting for an exception/special application with DBS for 1.6% fixed rate too. RBG also tries his best to convince me that UOB is better. lol. Anyway, this makes things a lot easier since we just need 1 of them to lend us the full amount.

Surprise surprise! It turns out that the indicative valuation of our house is now more than $600k and both banks are willing to lend us the full amount. In the end, I decided to go with UOB because the 3rd year rate is better (both are based on their internal board rate + spread/margin) and DBS's spread/margin was much higher than UOB + ICL accidentally revealed her unhappiness/unprofessionalism during the negotiation. Those kinds where one bad mouth people in a private chat but it accidentally went into a group chat and had to be deleted quickly. lol.

The best part about RBG was even after he has gotten our business and UOB has already sent the LO. He kept us updated on the UOB new package - 2 Years Fixed @ 1.55% and took the initiative to get the banker to update the LO. Honestly, I thought that was very commendable since even if he had not done that, we would not have known. Anyway, all these happen in the last 2 weeks with banks launching new packages almost every week. Right now, we are serving the 3 months notice to HDB and our monthly repayment will decrease by about $200 every month after that!

Interestingly, these packages are not published on the banks' own website so I will recommend that you contact these mortgage brokers instead of going directly to the banks. Anyway, no shaming here but if you are interested in engaging RBG's service, you can find his information below:
Kevin Tan
M: (65) 9116 0535

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

RTW to Peru - Sacred Valley

In my previous post (RTW to Peru - Cusco), I blogged about our first day in Peru and so much has happened since then. I guessed we were lucky to be able to travel before the COVID situation became so serious.

Not knowing how difficult or expensive it is to book a driver for a day, we pre-booked a driver for a day through Official Cusco Taxi prior to our RTW departure at USD 85. Unfortunately, we realized Uber is super accessible here and there are an abundance of tour agencies at Cusco downtown which offers a full-day tour to the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo, Pisac) at a significantly lower price (approximately 30 SOL per pax ~ 9 USD per pax). Damn.

Pisac Ruins Entrance 

But anyway, we started off with our driver driving us to a ticketing place located near Pisac to purchase the Cusco tourist tickets to Ollantaytambo and Pisac ruins for 70 SOL per pax ~ 20 USD per pax. He then drove us to Pisac ruins which is located high above the valley floor, approximately 1 hr from Cusco.

Somewhere in the ruins

We don't exactly what was the history behind it as we didn't hire any guide and there weren't many signs in English to explain the significance behind the artifacts. Suggest readers to read up (e.g. Exploring the History Behind the Pisac Ruins) prior to going there if you are feeling KPO like us. Lol. Anyways, it was a large compound and took us approximately 1 hour to complete the place.

Pisac Market

Next up, we headed to the Pisac market which is a vibrant place selling the local products like the typical Peru cloth, Llama figurines, and some pottery. We liked the place as the items are generally cheaper than other touristy places. To put things in perspective, we bought a magnet there which costs 4 SOL. An identical magnet sold at Machu Picchu costs 10 SOL. I also liked a drawing there which costs 450 SOL but decided not to buy it first. Unfortunately, a similar drawing of that size costs much more in other places e.g. 950 SOL at Machu Picchu.

Somewhere in the market

We spoke to one of the locals subsequently who told us that it will be recommended to visit the Pisac market every Tue, Thu, and Sun as there will be a bazaar going on, which means more to see at a cheaper price. 

Ollantaytambo Ruins with Llamas

We then proceeded on to Ollantaytambo ruins which again, we don't know what is the significance as we did not pay for a local guide. For anyone interested in hiring one, you can easily find them inside the ruins itself. We basically only know that it serves as an administrative center and a stronghold/fortress for the Inca. For more information, you can read up here -  The Only Peru Guide - Ollantaytambo Ruins. I almost died at climbing the Inca stairs and needed to rest every few steps, probably due to the high altitude. KPO, on the other hand, definitely looks like he has adapted well to the climate.

The view from the top of the ruins
Temple of the Sun

We did not manage to finish covering everything in 2 hours as the compound is way too big. After that, we headed to some housefly-ridden restaurant at Ollantaytambo to have a small bite as I was feeling too bloated from the altitude before heading back. If you are wondering why that place, every other food place there looks infested with flies. Turns out there is actually not much difference.

Although it sounded like a short trip only, the entire trip out from Cusco to Pisac and Ollantaytambo took us about 8 hours, attributed to the small lanes and slow traffic. 

We will be heading to Machu Picchu next (and with a guide this time round yay). Stay tuned!

You might be interested in these articles too:
Our KrisFlyer Star Alliance Round The World (RTW) Trip Planning/Booking
RTW to Mexico - Chichen Itza
RTW to Mexico - Coba Ruins
RTW to Mexico - Isla Mujeres
RTW to Mexico - Tulum
RTW to Peru - Cusco
- RTW to Peru - Sacred Valley

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Cheapest Electricity Plan - SP Group Wholesale Electricity

By now, most would have already switched to one of the OEM electricity retailers. Moving away from the SP Group regulated tariff rate (23.02 cents/kWh) is a no brainer as there will definitely be significant savings. However, there are so many things to consider, fixed/variable plan, the duration of the contract, rebates/incentives, etc. This plan I am going to share/introduce is not a widely marketed variable plan which has no contract and is definitely the cheapest electricity plan in Singapore - SP Group Wholesale Electricity.

Think of all the OEM electricity retailers as the middle man, the OEM electricity retailers are either buying or generating the electricity at the wholesale rate and then packaging them as various plans to sell to the consumers (us) for a profit. Hence, the cheapest rate can only be the wholesale rate. Let me show some of my electricity bills.

April 2020

361.83 kWh - $46.87 which translate to 12.95 cents/kWh

Compare that against all the other electricity retailers and you can see how much additional savings we are getting in just 1 month.

March 2020

222.84 kWh - $33.37 which translate to 14.97 cents/kWh
Feb 2020

169.19 kWh - $28.37  which translate to 16.77 cents/kWh

The above are just rough estimates as I included other fees such as GST, meter reading, etc. The more accurate way is to remove them and compute but it is already lower even when I included those miscellaneous fees. On a side note, you can see the increase in electricity for the month of April as both of us started to work from home.

End of the day, one might still argue that the price of the wholesale rate may exceed those fixed plans. When that happens, the electricity retailers will be making a loss and once your contract is over, it will be higher too or worst case, they will close shop before that happens. lol.

My recommendation would be to ignore those little rebates/incentives the electricity retailers are using to attract new customers and locking them down with months/years of contracts. You can refer to the SP Group Wholesale Electricity Fact Sheet for more information. Interestingly, you will see this clause - SP Group is not allowed to offer any incentive. Imagine if they did, they will definitely be the clear winner.

Although this article might be a bit late, it will still be applicable to those that are still deciding or new BTO homeowners. Hope you find this useful!

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