#askmeanything with Chris Tan

Mention Chris Tan and the first thing that comes to mind is his rock star persona and larger-than-life personality. A maverick lawyer and an entreprenuer, Chris founded his own boutique legal service called Chur Associates in 2003 which has gone on from strength-to-strength. A very much in demand speaker, we managed to catch up with him recently where we were granted an audience at his CAstle.

A man of many talents, Chris Tan wears many hats as a writer, columnist, speaker, entrepreneur, coach, copywriter, consultant and of course, a lawyer. Photo: Khalil Adis

You have a larger-than-life personality that seemed more intune with a career in the music industry as evidenced by your talent as a music author and a rock band vocalist. So why opt for the legal profession instead?

It’s something that I can agree with my dad who has seeded in me to be a professional instead of being in business as an entrepreneur like him for the struggles that he experienced himself and what he observed from my grandfather who was then also an entrepreneur who experienced all the ups and downs. My dad has a vision of me as the first doctor in the house and perhaps charting a later career as a politician too. I have a different set of logics that go beyond the science subjects taught in the school but I am always good with any trades that profess my oratory skills and especially anything and everything on stage. A good lawyer certainly possesses these trades, and with such trades I won my first battle in my career choice. Of course, the fact that a law degree is way cheaper than a medical degree helps too ☺.

You’re an avid collector of glasses (read: loud, almost Elton John-ish). Spill the beans, how pair of glasses do you have on hand right now?

I just added another two just two days ago. So the latest count of the functional pairs in use should now be at approximately 50 pairs. For its variety of shapes and sizes, it’s an anchor to remind me of new perspectives as well as both the elimination of old and the new existence of blind spots. Things are not seen as it is but a distortion through the lenses of your unique value system. Every new pair of glasses in my collection is a unique perspective in my armory of filters that generate options to improve my flexibility in taking on new challenges before me.

You have 10 books under your belt. How do you find time to write amid your very busy schedule as a writer, columnist, speaker, entrepreneur, coach, copywriter, consultant and lawyer?

“If you want to get things done, go to a busy person.” This was an ending statement in the testimony that I received from a children hospice that I have helped in the Gold Coast during my university days. Just like the old saying: “Where is a will, there is way”. It’s all about passion and knowing how it will eventually form the sophisticated jig-saw puzzle before you. If you want it bad enough, you will do whatever it takes. I am a firm believer of you must first give your best before you can take the better, hence “give and take”.

Now, let’s talk about property. In your career as a lawyer, what is the most common mistakes you notice among consumers?

The most common mistake is the mistaken belief in thinking that entire property purchase process is merely standard procedures and thus no real input required from the lawyers is the most common and unacceptable. There is a saying in Cantonese that goes: “Since you have already bought the whole chicken, don’t save on the soy sauce.”

Like the proportion of the chicken in your main course, property investment is one of your largest investments in life if not the largest. The tenure of mortgage repayment is also one of the longest ongoing commitments in your life perhaps only second to your marriage. To leave the entire transaction to chance without proper legal advice is one of the worst decisions you can ever made in life. There are many stakeholders involved in the process, and the lawyer is there to connect the dots for you and guide you all along the way. There is a lot of wisdom in the old saying of: “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

I sank my teeth into your BLT book that you had launched last year with Richard Oon and Miichael Yeoh and I have to say, it’s quite a juicy read. There’s nothing quite like this in the market. What was the writing process like? Did you find it challenging to have three co-authors? After all, as they say, too many cooks (may) spoil the broth (no pun intended).

We are conscious on the many cooks involved in writing this book and it was indeed challenging. We spent a lot of time to figure out how we should structure the content of this book to accommodate all three different perspectives. The reading of the first few pages that explained the concept of the book is essential before the readers can happily dive into the content. Once we got through that and achieved clarity in the big picture, the rest of it was just a smooth sailing process in filling in the blanks. I am sure you have immensely enjoyed this unique “BLT Sandwich” as you sank you teeth into it.

Your checklists in the book are very comprehensive covering both strata and non-strata titles. What is the difference between the two? Should homebuyers opt for strata or non-strata titles?

Strata and non-strata are two important choices of property ownership from the legal points of view and increasingly, strata living is capturing the imagination of homebuyers given its popularity by choice and by necessity too.

The main difference is that strata is a form of highly regulated community living with both the need to contribute financially and participation in its management. Homebuyers should first and foremost address their unique requirements of a home first rather than to be distracted by whether it is a strata or not. Both are valid and legally protected ownerships that enable you to securitise the same in exchange of the bank mortgage.

Now let’s talk about Gen Y. What would be your advice to them looking to buy their first home?

“Buy within your resources” instead of “buy what you can afford”. You are just one of your many resources in buying a home. Leverage is the key to unlock the secret in home ownership. Look at your unique circumstances to tap into your many resources.

Parents with stable income, future spouse in stable relationship are all within your reach to be part of your strategy in homeownership. To make the most out of leverage also means to start as early as possible to get the maximum tenure for the lowest monthly repayment possible.

Many Gen Ys are not aware about the legal aspects of buying their first home. Could you share with us how much is the cost?

There is a vast different in costs or rather cash flow in buying first hand from property developers and buying from the secondary market. The biggest difference being the timing in payment of the government stamp duties in the transfer of title. This cost alone is approximately 3 per cent of the purchase price and the difference is in the timing of payment.

If you buy first hand from the developer (primary market), you are only required to pay this government stamp duties when the separate title is ready to transfer in your favour that is normally months and years after your signing of the sale and purchase agreement.

For secondary property, you are required of such payment immediately as normally the separate title has been issued. The costs in buying first hand under construction property are further lowered due to the many offers of rebate and absorption of professional charges by the property developer. Normally, a good rule of thumb would be a good 5 to 7 per cent as the transactional costs in purchasing a property with bank loan and without subsidy from the property developers.

What else should they prepare for?

Importantly, home ownership with leverage is an art of cash flow management and one needs to be comfortable to make rooms for unexpected circumstances like lost of income stream and so on. Safety nets and timely support are essential.

Complete this sentence. When I think of Gen Ys, I think of…

When I think of Gen Ys, I think of myself as the prototype concept and the real Gen Ys are just the production models modelled upon me… Haha!

Got a questions? #askmeanything. Email me at christan@churassociates.com

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