Would you buy one?
Some will, some haveThese are walls that have seen too much: blood, violence, innocent lives brutally snuffed out. But some S’poreans don’t mind living there. Just give it some new paint, they say
THE ninth-storey unit at Block 114, Geylang Lorong 3, where a gruesome murder took place is now eerily empty.
It was where factory supervisor Leong Siew Chor allegedly killed and cut up the body of China national Liu Hong Mei.
That happened two months ago.
Leong’s wife and his three children have since moved out of the flat, which had earlier attracted curious visitors after he was charged with the murder.
Strangers had turned up looking for lottery numbers. Superstitious neighbours held prayers outside the flat, to ‘cleanse’ it.
Will the flat be sold? Would anyone want to live there?
In the same month that Ms Liu was killed, Madam Tan Chiang Eng, 39, was found dead in her Wellington Circle five-room flat in Sembawang.
Her Indonesian maid, Rohana, has been charged with the murder.
Painful memories and the publicity surrounding the case often force families to abandon homes where violent crimes have been committed.
In at least two other cases, such flats have been put up for sale.
On New Year’s Day last year, Mr Pay Boon Chye, 32, was burnt to death in his flat in Block 757, Woodlands Avenue 4, by his brother-in-law.
The case was classified as murder but the suspect, Sim Swee Kee, 48, died in Malaysia after an asthma attack last March, while he was on the run.
And in 2001, Madam Zaiton Abu Bakar, 45, was stabbed to death in her bedroom in Block 303, Canberra Road.
The family members of Mr Pay and Madam Zaiton decided to sell their homes after the murders.
Mr Pay’s family managed to sell their four-room flat last year after giving it a fresh coat of paint.
A property agent helped them sell it to a family of four who have moved in.
The current owner, who declined to be named, told The New Paper on Sunday that they did not know of the history of the flat before they bought it.
They only heard about the murder from their new neighbours.
‘Initially I was shocked and angry that the property agent and ex-owner did not tell us about it,’ said the owner.
‘They should have been more transparent or they should have lowered the price of the flat. I paid quite a high price for it.
‘But at the end of the day, I am happy with my new home. After I read about the owner’s plight in the newspapers recently, I do sympathise with her.’
Madam Zaiton’s flat was sold two years after her death.
Mr Ahmad (not his real name), a bachelor in his 40s, bought it from her daughter.
‘I knew that the seller’s mother had passed away, but I didn’t know that she was killed violently in the flat,’ said Mr Ahmad who declined to be named as he does not want his colleagues to know about this.
He moved into his new home last January.
But far from thinking that the flat is spooked, Mr Ahmad regards it as his ideal home.
‘I spent six months looking for a flat. I wanted a cheap unit on a high floor. This flat was clean and cosy and I like its layout,’ he said.
‘I found the flat with the help of a property agent.’
The price was $230,000, which was considered to be quite high at that time, added Mr Ahmad.
He bought it anyway because he liked the flat the moment he stepped into it.
‘But I wish the agent and ex-owner had been honest with me. At least I could have asked for the price to be lowered a little.
‘I am not pantang (superstitious) so I would still consider buying it even if they had come clean with me.’
Mr Ahmad added that his neighbours had not mentioned the murder when he chatted with them.
If he should decide to sell the flat one day, would he tell prospective buyers of its dark history?
‘Maybe I will,’ said Mr Ahmad.
‘I am a good testimony (of its value) since I have been living here alone for almost two years and nothing has disturbed me.’
Don’t ask, don’t tell
Property agents say they won’t tell if you don’t ask
TO tell or not to tell?
Property agents whom The New Paper on Sunday spoke to had different views on whether to be upfront with potential buyers about deaths in the flats they sell.
Said a property agent who wanted to be known as only Mr Koh: ‘If the potential buyers ask about the history of the flat, I will tell them. If they don’t ask, I usually won’t tell them too much.
‘If we tell potential buyers about the murders or deaths that occurred in the flats, do you think they will still want to buy?
‘We have to be fair to the owners as well. But if the buyers ask, we have a duty to tell.’
He said buyers should do their own checks. One way is to ask the neighbours.
‘Once, I had a buyer who withdrew from a purchase after he learnt from neighbours that the owner had died in the flat. In such situations, I usually convince the seller to return the deposit and let the buyers withdraw from the purchase.’
Mr Koh, 38, who has been an agent for six years, said a colleague once lost a sale because he came clean.
‘My colleague had taken a potential buyer to view a flat and the buyer was told that the owner had died recently. The buyer asked a family member of the owner how he died,’ recalled Mr Koh.
‘The family member said the owner had hanged himself. That really scared off the buyer.’
Mr Koh has not marketed any flat in which a murder had taken place. But he did sell two flats from which the owners had jumped to their deaths.
He said: ‘Before I market such flats, I would burn joss paper to the deceased to tell him or her about the sale and to ask that the new occupants not be disturbed.
‘I would also go to the temples to pray and seek guidance in the sale.
‘Usually, I would advise the sellers to sell their flats below market value. This way, it’s easier to find buyers.’
Mr David Cheang, 29, from PropNex Realty, has sold two units next to the flat where a Thai national, Madam Molee Sae Tuang, 54, and her husband, Mr Quek Swee Kia, 44, were murdered.
ROBBERY GONE WRONG
Madam Molee’s son, Somrata Sae-Tang, had plotted with two men to rob his mother and stepfather as he needed money to go to Hong Kong to meet a woman he had befriended on the phone.
But his plan went wrong and his two accomplices ended up killing his parents.
The bodies remained in the walkup apartment in Balestier Road for seven days till the smell drew the attention of neighbours.
Somrata got 11 years in jail and the maximum 24 strokes of the cane for helping the two men, who are still at large, to commit robbery.
Mr Cheang thinks that there are agents who would jump at the opportunity to market such flats when they learn about the murders from newspaper reports.
This is because such flats are usually sold below valuation.
‘Ethically, we should reveal the murders or deaths that occurred in the flats. I usually tell potential buyers whatever I know,’ said Mr Cheang.
‘But sometimes the sellers try to hide the truth from the agents too.’