"To live in?" - this is the most common response I received, especially among the Singaporeans, when I shared that I ended up buying a shophouse after a few months of house hunting. Well, I guess a shophouse is indeed considered an unconventional choice when it comes to a landed residential property given that all these houses were designed and built to be used as shops decades ago and majority of them are still used commercially today.
Despite that I have always found a shophouse super charming, when I first started looking for a new home, it wasn't the most obvious option popped in my head at all. In fact, I couldn't even decide whether I wanted a condo or a landed property! The condo option quickly faded out though because there are simply too few choices that satisfy our requirements of size, location, being freehold, within the budget, and not too old. I know, I ended up buying something that's much older ironically, but when it comes to a condo, I somehow can't stand it looking old. It's a different story though if you are targeting enbloc.
So then I was left with mainly two options: a terraced house or a shophouse (and maybe some semi-detached house but a bit further away). And here are the five reasons why I went for a shophouse.
ONE. They are charming and unique. It's hard to dispute this. The shophouses are cultural heritage and each carries a piece of history of Singapore. And the beautiful facades make them distinctive sceneries In a modern city: the pestal colors on the wall, the Peranakan tiles or decorative mouldings, the French windows and pintu pagar (half doors). Owning a shophouse to me is like owning a piece of vintage art.
TWO. A lot of space. Given that there's almost no outdoor area that comes with a shophouse, you get a lot of indoor space. You can easily get a built-up area of 2.5x to 3x the land size without having to climb four to five stories up and down. It's assuming that the rear of the house is fully extended though.
THREE. High ceilings and no odd shape. Majority of the shophouses are rectangular, narrow and long, with a ceiling height between 3.5m to 4m. There are no dead corners here and there and there are no load bearing walls in the middle of the house which provides a blank canvas for design. There's usually an internal courtyard or an airwell that offers some natural light into the middle of the house which is a quite unique architectural character. Because of all these, it offers a lot of possibilities to a creative mind.
FOUR. Old mixing New, East meeting West. Besides the black and white houses, there are no other types of architecture in Singapore that evolved with the history of the country and represent a mixture of cultures so well. I've always loved mixing old gems with modern styles in my interior design, hence the authenticity of a shophouse calls for my name.
FIVE. Safer investment (i hope?). Conservation shophouses are scarce. There are only 6500 of them compared to 200k+ units of condo. A lot of these houses were abandoned or demolished during the early stage of city development. However as time goes by, people will always appreciate heritage more and as the saying goes - old is gold.
All above said, there are of course many reasons why one may not want to buy a shophouse: high maintenance, tight regulations on changing the exterior and structure, no outdoor space (except the roof terrace), and one very common concern among the Singaporeans: no parking lot!
In the end, when it comes to a dream place for home, I believe in love at first sight and it has to feel right to YOU.