Which is worse – getting a pig head hung on your door, or getting your cars scratched and acid poured on it? Suddenly, the tactics used by loan sharks didn’t seem that bad after all. Pig head – just send it to the coffee shop to roast it; painted wall – just clear it or paint over it; glued lock – just change the lock… but vandalized cars? Expensive leh

Anyway, it seemed that the cooling of the property market is forcing some people to take extreme measures to ensure that the deal pulls through, with residents of Laguna Park being the latest "self-imposed victims" of such actions. Here, there are 4 possible parties who may be involved – residents who wants to sell the place, residents who do not want to sell the place, the investors who bought the units there, and the developers.

Since there’s still no names out, let us speculate a little here on the motives of each of the possible groups:

Residents who want to sell the place – to make the residence as horrid a living place as possible so that the residences who are not selling may give in and change their minds

Residence who do not want to sell the place – to give the residents a warning that they are not to be trifled with

Investors – similar to residents who want to sell their places, but they do not stand to lose out on the neighbourliness part

Developers – to create a misunderstanding between the residents and then jump in to offer a "peace solution" – selling the place

Oh well… speculations, speculations. Until the culprits are caught, no one is guilty yet.

NAME calling: check. Anonymous letters: check. Scratched cars and damaged property: check.

Residents of an East Coast condominium are now entering the next phase of what has become an especially fractious en bloc sale: finger-pointing.

At a Laguna Park meeting last Saturday, residents against the collective sale squared off against those in favour. They each blamed the other for a recent spate of vandalism which saw cars doused with what was likely to be acid.

The situation is the latest example of en bloc battles that are bleeding the neighbourliness out of neighbourhoods. As the fever for collective sales cools and profits thin, some insiders say the battles are becoming nastier.

Property consultant CBRE says a total of 112 sites sold for $12.45 billion last year. So far this year, six sites have been sold for $360.03 million.

Residents in some estates have seen a surge in pressure tactics, from name-calling and flyers shoved into letter boxes to paint thinner poured on cars.

But just who is behind the crimes is a matter of much debate.

En bloc vandals work on the sly and have yet to be caught, but those in the property industry feel that investors are the ones playing dirty.

Property consultant David Chia said that the crimes are unlikely to have been committed by long-time owners, as they would not want to risk the embarrassment of being found out.

‘This narrows it down to investors who have nothing to lose,’ he said.

Many of these investors bought multiple flats at the height of the en bloc fever last year and are eager to sell them off in the face of a cooling property market.

But investors such as Mr Simon Teh, 50, disputed the accusations: ‘Why should we go and fight and vandalise cars? That doesn’t help us get 80 per cent approval for the sale and, worse still, we can get jailed.’

Mr Patrick Kumar, 53, who has been involved in three collective sales, agreed: ‘Violence will just harden a person’s sentiment not to sign.’

As an investor, he said, he was ‘more likely to placate the residents’. ‘Investors are there for the money, not for the violence,’ he explained.

Instead, he passed the buck to owners living in the condominiums, saying some might be anxious to catch the tail end of the en bloc wave and cash out.

Another bogeyman cited by unhappy home owners: agents appointed by the sales committee, who usually collect a fee of 0.2 per cent to 1.5 per cent of the property value.

Veteran ‘en blocker’ Mr Kumar said agents are the ones who ‘rile people up’ and keep track of who has signed the collective sale agreement and who has not.

But Mr Jeremy Lake, CBRE’s executive director of investment properties, maintained otherwise.

He said: ‘We will be proactive, but we also know that if we push too far, it would be counter-productive.

‘In fact, we do take appropriate steps to dissipate tension during meetings.’

Property consultants who deal with en bloc sales say the ugliest cases, like in Laguna Park, are rare.

More common, said Mr Karamjit Singh, the managing director of Credo Real Estate, are shouting matches during residents’ meetings.

Property firm Savills’ director of marketing and business development Ku Swee Yong said: ‘When it comes to en blocs, even educated people become idiots.’

LIM WEI CHEAN & MELISSA SIM

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_266799.html

Article extracted on 11th August 2008



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