Thanks a lot altego76 for your inputs.
Thanks everyone for all your inputs and suggestions. I've found a condo
well within my budget at Kembangan. It's a 35 to 40 minutes door to door from office for me, which is works nicely. Thought I'd summarize my suggestions for anyone who is looking for flats with similar requirements:
1) I saw a few flats on Upper Bukit Timah Road. While the downtown line is expected to start from December 2015 in these areas, I didn't fancy the place much. I ruled out the West in my first viewings
2) The next area of search was Tao Payo and nearby. These areas have a lot of flats in the range which I wanted. However, they are HDBs and it on viewing them, I realized they didn't suit my purpose a lot as my wife was specifically looking for very good furnishings inside the flat. I then restricted my search to stand-alone apartments and condos
. However, in 2.5K, one can also get good HDBs in areas like Tanjong Pagar, Tiong Bahru, Tanjong Rhu and the likes which are pretty close to downtown.
3) I also expanded my search to one bedders also. There are a lot of good one bedders within 2.5K at Novena, and it's a fantastic area to stay with good eating and drinking options. However, I faced one constraint - they all had hot plates in the kitchen, and I was looking for kitchens with the traditional gas cookers.
4) I looked at far-flung areas like Sengkang and Punggol and you have a lot of options in some new condos there. However, to me, it looked too far from the city if I was on a night out for drinks or a party or a movie. Hence, I ruled them out. You can also find a few good standalones in the Woodleigh-Kovan stretch
5) I loved the ECP area (Amber Road and nearby). Rentals have dropped by as much as 30% in these areas, and it was fantastic to see. Unfortunately, the two flats I liked here (both full furnished beautiful two-bedders within 2.5K) - the landlord backed out because we happen to be Indians (too much cooking and all that dope). It was disappointing to lose out on these because we absolutely wanted to live there
6) My Gelyang stories have been well recorded here. The Stadium - Dakota stretch is fantastic; close to downtown, close to ECP, brilliant eating options, close to the MRT, good bus connectivity etc- finally chose against it just for the 'Geyland' tag. I am guessing this area will become more and more popular to live in the near future.
6) Finally settled on something in Kembangan. The entire Eunos-Kembangan-Bedok stretch has many options and you can really bargain like crazy here. Thanks to the suggestions on this forum, I started with a 20% -below - asking price point to bargain and could get a lot of my requirements fulfilled.
Do feel free to contact me if you have any specific queries. Once again, thank you all for sharing tips with me.