Monday, May 31, 2010

Straits Times: More Singaporeans buying pricey homes

May 31, 2010 
More Singaporeans buying pricey homes 
Locals overtake PRs and foreigners as buyers of units costing above $5m
By Lee Zhi Xin 

THINK most buyers of homes priced above $5million are foreigners? Not any more, according to a report by Savills Research and Consultancy.

It has reported a stunning reversal of a trend that has prevailed for at least three years, when foreigners had dominated the top end of the market here.

The proportion of Singaporeans buying these pricey homes shot up 12.8 percentage points to 42.3 per cent for homes sold in the four months ended April 30, compared with the figure in the fourth quarter of last year. 

Locals have easily overtaken the 39.7per cent combined figure for permanent residents and foreigners. Their share is 21.4percentage points lower compared to that in the three months ended last December.

Companies made up the other buyers.

'This decrease could be partly due to more cautiousness as a result of the financial woes and uncertainties facing the European countries,' senior manager of Savills Research and Consultancy Christine Sun said. 'Another reason could be... that the Singapore currency is generally stronger against other currencies, making these houses more expensive for foreigners. 

'On the other hand, Singaporean buyers are more upbeat, especially after seeing the boost in our gross domestic product (GDP) and the influx of tourists and investors.'

Indeed, this strong optimism was reflected in the surge in sales of non-landed, high-end private homes. An impressive 214 homes costing $5million or more were sold in the first four months of this year, surpassing the 208 for 2008. 

This year's sales also amount to 70 per cent of the 307 homes sold in the whole of last year, bolstering Ms Sun's confidence that this year's sales total will better last year's as well.

Optimism in the high-end market started picking up in the third quarter of last year, when 147 homes worth at least $5million were sold - a 283per cent jump from the figure in the previous quarter. In the first quarter this year, 137 of these pricey units were sold. 

But Ms Sun noted that these figures are still a far cry from 2007 figures, when 1,249 units priced at $5 million or above were sold as a result of the property boom.

In the primary market, Urban Suites sold the largest number of these high-end homes - 24 units - for the period from the third quarter of last year to this April. 

Goodwood Residence and Nassim Park Residences were not far behind, with 18 and 16 units sold respectively. 

In the resale market, Ardmore Park took the lead with 19 units sold, followed by Grange Residences with 15 units. The subsale market saw Tate Residences swiping first place with 17 units, while Ardmore II bit at its heels with 16 units sold.

As a result, the total transaction value of these non-landed private homes priced at $5 million and above has shot up 30 per cent in the first quarter to $953 million from the figure in the previous quarter.

This upswing looks set to continue with last month's figure of $507 million already more than half of last quarter's.

Leading the pack in price so far this year is a 6,889 sq ft unit at Nassim Park Residences, sold for an eye-popping $20million. This, however, is still some distance away from the record $33.4million for an 8,051 sq ft unit at Boulevard Vue sold in November last year.

These rising figures have translated into a larger share of the non-landed market for these homes, from 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of last year to 3.4 per cent last month. 

As a result, the share of private homes priced at less than $2.5 million has dropped from 95 per cent to 87.4 per cent.

'All these findings may indicate that more buyers are increasing their risk appetite for pricier homes as the economy recovers,' said Ms Sun, who was quick to note that this may also be a result of private home prices rising in recent months. 

Add another reason to the mix: Buyers are going for larger units as well.

Sales of non-landed private units above 2,000 sq ft saw a year-on-year leap of 426.7 per cent for the first quarter of this year to 553 units. These homes now make up 7.6 per cent of the non-landed private market, a 4 percentage point rise in the same period. 

But Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han thinks that demand for luxury homes will not continue rising at this rapid rate. 'Our rapid GDP rise is clouded by the European crisis, and the stock market does not look buoyant at the moment... I expect the property market to take a breather,' he said.

Team Marshe
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
93833992/ 98444400

Business Times: The Minton sells 180 units over weekend

May 31, 2010
The Minton sells 180 units over weekend
Observers say sales below figures achieved during March/April height

(SINGAPORE) In a widely watched property release, developer Kheng Leong had sold about 180 units of The Minton condo in Hougang as of 6 pm yesterday.

This is out of a batch of more than 300 units that Kheng Leong has released since last Friday in the 1,145-unit development at Lorong Ah Soo/Hougang Street 11 at an average price of $850 per square foot.

Property agents marketing the project told BT that the sales result, while encouraging, was below what they would have expected during the recent height of the property market in March/April. The peak was prior to the fallout from Europe's economic problems and the Singapore government's announcement in May that it will deliver a bumper land sales programme for the second half of this year to meet hot demand in the residential property market.

A new release like The Minton would have sold closer to 300 units in its first weekend and at about 5-8 per cent higher pricing, said CB Richard Ellis executive director Joseph Tan.

Knight Frank managing director (residential services) Peter Ow, also reckoned the 99-year leasehold project could have sold about 300 units in its initial weekend had it been put on the market a couple of months ago. He said: 'The government land sales announcement has definitely had an impact. When we talk to (potential) buyers, they're now taking a bit longer to decide. They're worried that with the new supply coming up, prices might fall.'

As has been the case with other launches, the most popular units at The Minton's holiday-extended weekend preview were one and two-bedroom units.

Kheng Leong's general manager (property) Luk Kwok Wing said prices of one bedders sold (as of 6 pm yesterday) ranged from about $480,000 to $590,000 per unit. Two bedders cost $750,000 to $870,000. The project also has three and four bedders, penthouses as well as dual-key units.

Buyers were predominantly young Singaporeans, including families. Generally, buyers have HDB addresses, including Hougang, Serangoon and Tampines (all in the north-east part of Singapore).

Mr Luk said buyers were drawn by The Minton's lush landscaping and generous facilities afforded by the large site area of close to half a million square feet.

The Minton will have a 50-metre lap pool, a 20-metre heated pool, a treehouse playground, a tennis court and an air-conditioned badminton hall that doubles as a function room. It will also boast a big library, a sky-terrace and spas/gyms. The grand clubhouse will accommodate activities like yoga, karaoke and billiards/table soccer, apart from an indoor children's playground.

Kheng Leong, a privately owned property group controlled by the family of banker Wee Cho Yaw, is developing The Minton on the former Minton Rise site that it bought in 2007 through a collective sale.

Team Marshe
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
93833992/ 98444400

Sunday Times: New launches aplenty amid uncertainty

May 30, 2010 
New launches aplenty amid uncertainty 
Analysts believe demand likely to be healthy despite market volatility
By Jessica Cheam 

New residential projects have been launched for the long weekend as Singapore celebrates Vesak Day. But with the recent uncertainty in the financial market, will property investors bite?

Property experts whom The Sunday Times spoke to said the jury is still out on whether April's bumper sales of 2,207 new units - the second-highest monthly sales achieved - can be sustained this month.

This figure was up from 1,761 in March and 1,202 in February.

But recent turmoil stemming from the sovereign debt crisis in Greece and other European countries, coupled with stock market volatility, may have a cooling effect on the market in the short term, experts said.

Last week, the Government also released the largest amount of state land for private homes in response to surging demand.

It put 18 residential or residential/commercial sites on the programme for confirmed sale in the second half of the year, and 13 sites for residential use on the reserve list.

Together, the plots could yield 13,905 new homes - a figure that has experts speculating about a possible supply glut in the future.

The big question on the minds of property hunters on the prowl this weekend: Is this the right time to buy?

Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak said that investors will now have to consider that there may be cheaper projects on the horizon.

'With the bumper crop of land sales, bids will be less aggressive and this could translate to lower launch prices,' he said.

Chesterton Suntec International research and consultancy director Colin Tan said the uncertainty of the global economic outlook could also be a reason for investors to stay away.

Mr Tan did not think, however, that the Government's recent land release would have a big impact on demand as there are still genuine buyers in the market.

But both experts agreed there is a healthy level of demand that will still move sales this weekend.

Major projects launched this weekend include Kheng Leong group's The Minton in Lorong Ah Soo/Hougang Street 11, which officially opened to the public yesterday. 

The 99-year leasehold development offers a range of one- to four-bedroom apartments and is due for completion around 2014. Units were sold during the soft launch at an average price of $880 psf. 

Another project launched last Friday was Frasers Centrepoint's Flamingo Valley in Siglap.

About 40 of 120 units released during the previews have been sold at an average price of $1,200 psf, said Frasers.

The freehold development offers a range of units from studios to four-bedders and penthouses.

Another recent launch: the freehold Cascadia condo in Bukit Timah Road.

More than 50 of 90 released units have been sold, said its developer Allgreen Properties. Units sold at between $1,300psf and $1,600psf, with average transacted prices close to $1,400 psf, it said.

For buyers on the lookout for completed properties, Melodies Limited's freehold 72-unit Cassia View in Guillemard Road offers three-bedroom units and penthouses. Prices range from $900 psf to $1,100 psf.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Mr Mak said that despite market uncertainty, some projects - especially those attractively priced - will still do well.

Chesterton's Mr Tan said that the recent bidding by developers for land at bullish prices reflects developers' positive outlook on demand for homes.

Team Marshe
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
93833992/ 98444400

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Straits Times: A treehouse for the kids

May 29, 2010 
home & garden
A treehouse for the kids 

(Residential Projects category) 
Where: Off Holland Road, Singapore 
By: Zarch Collaboratives 

This 6,500 sq ft two-storey bungalow off Holland Road is part of a collection of six villas called the Lien Collective. 

Six architects were hired to build six homes on plots subdivided from the garden of the Lien family's colonial bungalow. Each home sits on 15,000 sq ft of land. The land belonged to the late pioneer banker and philanthropist Lien Ying Chow.

The brief to the architects, who were selected through a series of interviews, was to create a home with four bedrooms, a pool, and a wet and dry kitchen. These homes will be leased out.

Local architectural firms K2LD, Zarch Collaboratives, Ministry of Design, Metropolitan Office Experimental and Tierra each built a new home. 

The last firm, Terre, was hired to restore the colonial bungalow and to build a new extension to it. This bungalow will be used as a clubhouse for the compound.

The home by Zarch Collaboratives was a winner at this year's SIA Architectural Design Awards. Architect Randy Chan's design was to have a series of 'floating boxes' that surround a central courtyard.

'The courtyard is the focus of the home and most of the rooms in the house look into it,' he says.

The Zen-like courtyard is filled with gravel and in the centre is a piece of artwork designed by Mr Chan.

On one side of the first floor is the living room and a guest room. Opposite it are the kitchen and dining room, which look out to the courtyard on one side and to the compound's greenery on the other.

While each villa has its own entrances, the homes are not gated. A path connects all the homes and leads to the clubhouse.

'The villas have a different look each but we had to work together to ensure that each home still had privacy and ideal views,' says Mr Chan. For example, they had to ensure that the back-service areas would not look into the neighbour's living room.

On the second floor are three bedrooms, each housed in a box. They all have a different look 'to give the user a different experience', says Mr Chan.

One bedroom has concrete walls, dark timber flooring and a black sliding door. He designed it to be spartan as he wanted the area to be a tranquil and contemplative space. The other two bedrooms have white walls and a more airy feel.

His treehouse for children is also in the shape of a box. But rather than cover it up with solid walls, it has an open look, with steel poles to simulate branches.

The houses are built of concrete, glass, steel and timber. 'I think of them as a montage of different materials that were put together in a strange way, but somehow work,' says Mr Chan.

Team Marshe
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
93833992/ 98444400

Straits Times: Living on water

May 29, 2010
home & garden
Living on water
Close to 30 architectural projects in Singapore and overseas by local firms were winners at last week's 10th Singapore Institute of Architects Architectural Design Awards. The awards are the profession's highest recognition of works that show excellence in architectural design. TAY SUAN CHIANG highlights three of them

(Residential Projects category)
Where: Off Holland Road, Singapore
By: Wallflower Architecture and Design

Living rooms are usually located on the first floor of a house, but not in this bungalow off Holland Road.

The 6,000 sq ft home, belonging to a doctor and her family, has its living room on the second floor.

Its designer, Mr Cecil Chee of Wallflower Architecture and Design, says this was done so that the home owner could fully enjoy unblocked views of the lush vegetation surrounding the estate.

The $2.6-million home, which sits on 15,000 sq ft of land, took 14 months to construct. It won an award in the Residential Projects category.

The living room, which has a teak roof, sits in the middle of a 38m by 10m pond.

'The owner wanted her home to be cool so I surrounded the living room with water,' says Mr Chee.

The 40cm-deep pond also helps to cool the bedrooms and family spaces underneath it, which are on the first level of the home.

Mr Chee designed the roof of the living room with deep overhangs. 'Rain cannot enter and there is little sunlight that enters directly into the living room,' he says.

The living room has frameless full-height glass sliding doors, which are closed on hot days when the air- conditioner is needed.

The first thing that visitors see on entering the home is a spiral staircase that leads to the living room and pond upstairs.

Behind the staircase is the dining area, followed by three bedrooms.

Mr Chee added a linear 30m by 2m koi pond that runs parallel to the bedrooms. 'The koi pond helps to cool the internal spaces,' he says.

A similarly long airwell above the pond allows light and rain to enter the home, as well as increases ventilation into the bedrooms, which also look out into the garden.

The kitchen and the home's service areas are hidden away in a separate part of the house. 'This makes the home seem visually devoid of back-of-house areas,' says Mr Chee.

He adds that building the pond was the biggest challenge of this project - the engineering team had to make sure that it was level for it to be structurally safe.

'The weight of the water is evenly distributed so there's no worry about safety,' adds Mr Chee.

He deliberately kept the design and layout of the home simple, 'so that the spaciousness of the home could be felt'.

Team Marshe
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
93833992/ 98444400

Straits Times Forum: Not many rogue agents, replies real estate body

May 28, 2010 
Not many rogue agents, replies real estate body 

I COMMEND Ms Tan Hui Yee ('Getting smart against rogue housing agents'; Wednesday) for highlighting how savvy consumers can protect themselves from falling prey to rogue agents. 

But rogue agents are not aplenty. Most consumers have had satisfactory experiences with the agents in their transactions. The Public Perception and Expectations of Real Estate Agents survey carried out by Ngee Ann Polytechnic last year indicated that 64.6 per cent of the respondents were satisfied with their estate agents and 67.3 per cent rated them in the range of 'satisfactory' to 'excellent' for fiduciary dealings, which is meant to reflect the ethical relationship between parties.

The case of the Yuens involving gross misconduct of agents last year was a rarity.

Contrary to Ms Tan's suggestion that consumers were sceptical or unfamiliar with real estate bodies such as the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies (SAEA), we had 329 inquiries, feedback and complaints last year, of which 40 per cent were complaints requiring our intervention, and these included disputes over commission. 

The number of complaints alone was thrice more than what our agency handled in 2008. The bulk of the complaints was expeditiously resolved. SAEA also successfully helped settle all cases which required mediation. So, we do not believe we are ineffectual.

Finally, Ms Tan stated that 'not every agent who misleads a client into an unsavoury deal will be disciplined; some could merely be made to forgo part of their commission in a mediated settlement'. 

There is another perspective to this, that is, if indeed the estate agent is clearly proven to have misled his client resulting in financial loss or even hardship, it is likely that he will face disciplinary inquiry in addition to the possibility of civil suit. The estate agency to which he is registered with may also face censure. 

Dr Tan Tee Khoon 
Chief Executive Officer 
Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies 

Team Marshe
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
93833992/ 98444400

Straits Times: Singapore developers score big

May 28, 2010 
Singapore developers score big 
City Developments, Far East Organization, UOL and Keppel Land win international prizes for their buildings
By tay suan chiang 

Four Singapore property developers were winners in this year's Fiabci Prix d'Excellence Competition, considered as the Olympics of the international real estate industry.

The Sail @ Marina Bay by City Developments came out tops in the Residential (High Rise) category. Far East Organization (FEO) won two accolades: a top award for Central at Clarke Quay in the Office category and a runner-up prize for its Square 2/Novena Medical Centre in the Specialised Project category.

UOL Group also clinched two awards. Its Pan Pacific Suzhou was tops in the Hotel category, while its one-north Residences was a runner-up in the Residential (High Rise) category.

Rounding off the list was Keppel Land, which bagged a runner-up prize in the Residential (Low Rise) category for its Jakarta Garden City project.

Indonesian Vice-President Boediono handed out the awards in Bali last night. Fiabci is the French acronym for the International Real Estate Federation, which organises the annual Prix d'Excellence to recognise excellence in property development. Entries are judged on five criteria: global concept, architecture and design, development and construction, community benefit and environmental impact, and financials and marketing. 

There were 54 entries this year, with 12 winners and 12 runner-ups. Other winners included Hungary's Chemical Research Building and Malaysia's Adiva Parkhomes, Courtyard Terraces & Apartments.

On the projects by Singapore developers, Mr Yeow Thit Sang, president of the awards, said: 'They are of high standards and world-class quality.'

* Strong track record

Dr Steven Choo, chief executive officer of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore, said: 'It is testimony to the outstanding quality real estate that our members consistently create and a ringing endorsement of Singapore's presence as a global city of distinction in urban design and development.'

Singapore has been a strong Fiabci award winner. Past winners include Republic Plaza office tower, St Regis hotel and Esplanade Theatres On The Bay.

Said Mr Ashvinkumar Kantilai, president of the Singapore Institute of Architects: 'Our consistent success in the Fiabci awards over the years is proof of the maturing architectural design environment in Singapore. 

'Over the years, the synergy among the developers, architects and contractors, with support from the Government, has helped to leapfrog Singapore's international standing in producing and delivering creative, innovative and sustainable design solutions.'

This year marks FEO's sixth time winning the awards, the most by any Singapore developer since they were introduced in 1992. Its past winners include residential projects Orchard Scotts, Gardenville and The Bayshore as well as The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and Far East Square.

While the accolade is handed out to developers, Mr Chng Kiong Huat, FEO's executive director for development and planning, said the awards give end-users 'peace of mind that the developer can build and deliver'.


- Pan Pacific Suzhou 
Fiabci Prix d'Excellence Award winner

Located in the south-eastern part of the Ping Jiang District in Suzhou, Pan Pacific Suzhou, a winner in the Hotel category, sits in a strategic location and combines architectural grandeur with exquisite garden features.

The design of the five-star, 481-room hotel shows sensitivity to its environment and ingenuity in integrating the old and new elements.

- one-north Residences 
Fiabci Prix d'Excellence Award runner-up

A runner-up in the Residential (High Rise) category, the 405-unit one-north Residences is part of the larger one-north master plan in Singapore. 

One-north is a 200ha development centred on knowledge-based industries that provide a stimulating and creative physical environment in which to live, congregate, interact and exchange ideas. 

The condominium is arranged around a large courtyard to make the most of the surrounding park views.


- Central 
Fiabci Prix d'Excellence Award winner

Shoppers may gripe about finding it hard to locate the shops in the mall of this development, but Central, completed in 2008, is a Fiabci winner in the Office category.

It introduced the first-of-its-kind purpose-built Small Office Home Office (Soho) units - functional and versatile spaces for office and residential use.

Central comprises two Soho towers, a 25-storey office block, a sky garden, recreational facilities and a retail podium. 

It has attracted a vibrant community of entrepreneurial businesses including consultants and professionals in the legal, information technology, logistics, recruitment, education and fashion industries.

- Square 2/Novena Medical Centre 
Fiabci Prix d'Excellence Award runner-up

This project is the first of its kind in Singapore: a medical centre with a retail podium and which is connected directly to a hospital. It is a runner-up in the Specialised Project (Purpose-built) category.

The retail segment, called Square 2, has five floors offering a variety of shops and restaurants. Its basement level connects directly to the Novena MRT station.

The Novena Medical Centre has 145 clinics located on four floors. Facilities include day surgery and diagnostic radiology centres. An air-conditioned overhead linkway connects Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore's second-largest public hospital, to the third-level lift lobby of the medical centre.


- The Sail @ Marina Bay 
Fiabci Prix d'Excellence Award winner

A winner in the Residential (High Rise) category, The Sail @ Marina Bay was designed by renowned Norwegian/ American architect Peter Pran. 

Consisting of two 70- and 63-storey towers housing 1,111 apartments in all, it is Singapore's tallest residential development.

The towers have a unique sculptural form and their waterfront location gives home owners clear views of the Marina Bay area.


- Jakarta Garden City 
Fiabci Prix d'Excellence Award runner-up

Located a 35-minute drive from downtown Jakarta, Jakarta Garden City consists of 8,000 houses with facilities such as shopping malls and a market in its compound. It is a runner-up in the Residential (Low Rise) category.

It is modelled after 'clean, green Singapore' and will be developed as 'the ideal integrated township to live, work, play and learn in'. It is Indonesia's first township to be designed with a green lifestyle theme and will have eco-friendly features.

Team Marshe
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
93833992/ 98444400