ERA Daily Research - 24 May

Option granted to buy Cluny Hill bungalow at record $4,291 psf

The Straits Times, 23 May 2021, Sun

A freehold property on Cluny Hill near the Singapore Botanic Gardens, with a bungalow under construction, is in the early stages of a sale for $63.7 million.

That translates to a record $4,291 per square foot (psf) based on 14,843 sq ft land - exceeding the $4,005 psf high set earlier this year for an existing bungalow in Nassim Road on a much larger area of 32,159 sq ft.

A local tech entrepreneur in his 30s, who recently sold a start-up firm, was recently granted an option to purchase the Cluny Hill bungalow, which will have two levels plus a basement and an attic. It will have six bedrooms and a swimming pool.

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Good Class Bungalow prices keep rising

The Business Times, 24 May 2021, Mon

By Kalpana Rashiwala, Sharanya Pillai and Claudia Chong

PRICES in Good Class Bungalow (GCB) Areas continue to rise - fuelled by strong demand from well-heeled Singaporeans, low interest rates and the scarcity of properties available for sale, especially brand-new bungalows near the Botanic Gardens.

A local tech entrepreneur in his thirties, who recently sold a startup firm, is in the early stages of buying a freehold bungalow under construction along Cluny Hill for S$63.7 million, or a record S$4,291 per square foot on 14,843 sq ft land area.

Due diligence by The Business Times suggests that the buyer may be Tommy Ong, who entered into a deal in March to sell the Singapore-based e-commerce marketing platform to Canada-listed WeCommerce Holdings for up to US$110 million.

Founded in 2016 by Mr Ong, Stamped helps online merchants implement and manage customer reviews and loyalty programmes through Shopify and other e-commerce platforms.

The S$4,291 psf price for the Cluny Hill property exceeds the S$4,005 psf high set just in March for an existing bungalow in Nassim Road purchased by the wife of Nanofilm Technologies founder Shi Xu. That property has a much larger land area of 32,159 sq ft.

The Cluny Hill bungalow, which will have six bedrooms and a pool, is being developed by the Soh family behind lifestyle developer Meir Homes. SRI co-founder Bruce Lye brokered the deal, which is in the option-grant stage.

Meanwhile, along Chatsworth Road, two adjoining freehold vacant sites, each slightly above 15,000 sq ft, are being sold by the family of Stamford Land executive chairman Ow Chio Kiat for a tad above S$39 million per plot - totalling S$78.06 million or S$2,600 psf on land area, BT understands.

This is nearly 40 per cent higher than the S$1,867 psf fetched in August last year for a neighbouring property with an old house on it that is ripe for redevelopment.

That said, by some accounts, the two plots in the latest deal are deemed to be more choice as they have a wider road frontage and upon redevelopment will have a commanding view over Chatsworth Park.

The two plots are being bought separately, by two Singapore citizens in their twenties and thirties and who are the children of Lim Ek Kiong, also known as Bachrum Karim and who has roots in Indonesia.

Word in the market is that Realstar Premier brokered the deal but the company declined to comment.

Realstar is also said to have acted for the seller in the S$48 million sale of an old bungalow along Grange Road, within the Chatsworth Park GCB Area. The price works out to S$1,697 psf on the land area of 28,288 sq ft.

Kishin RK, founder and CEO of Singapore-based property group RB Capital, is buying the property from a company controlled by some members of the Goh family that founded Tat Lee Bank.

The existing house faces Grange Road but a redevelopment will see this change to Chatsworth Road; along with this, the property will bear a Chatsworth Road address. The deal was entered into in early February.

Newsman Realty managing director KH Tan said strong demand for GCBs is emanating from both new citizens and local buyers, including wealthy families buying for the next generation. "Quite a number of buyers have sold their business or benefited from an IPO (initial public offering)".

Realstar Premier founder William Wong expects strong transaction volumes in the GCB market to continue and does not see a price gap manifesting anytime soon. "Even though sellers have raised their prices, buyers are prepared to match them as their biggest concern is scarcity of supply. They know that if they do not meet the sellers' price expectation, they'll probably have to wait longer to find a good property - and meantime, prices would have escalated further."

Mr Tan estimates that GCB prices in locales near the Singapore Botanic Gardens including Nassim, Cluny and Tanglin have easily gone up 20 per cent since the start of this year.

"In the Holland area - including Leedon, Belmont and Queen Astrid Park - the increase has been about 10 per cent," he added.

However, GCB prices have not moved up much in the Bukit Timah area - which includes places such as Binjai, Swiss Club, Second Avenue and Third Avenue.

"But this could be the next area to see price gains, maybe 5-8 per cent this year, as potential buyers cast their nets wider. There are not many new listings in the Holland and Tanglin areas," said Mr Tan.

Mr Wong, too, said: "We are having a hard time looking for more GCBs in prime locations to serve our existing clients."

Other recent GCB deals include the S$44.3 million or S$1,413 psf fetched for an old house in Astrid Hill that is ripe for redevelopment. Talk in the market is that the transaction is being brokered by Newsman.

The agency also acted for the buyer in a S$30 million (or S$1,991 psf) transaction in Jervois Road for a bungalow that is 10-plus years old, and for the seller in a S$24.5 million (S$1,699 psf) deal along Holland Park, with an old house.

Another property with an old house on it, along East Sussex Lane, has been transacted at S$29 million or S$1,067 psf on land area of nearly 27,200 sq ft. Realstar brokered the sale.

Bungalows in the 39 gazetted GCB Areas are the most prestigious form of landed housing in Singapore, with strict planning conditions stipulated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority to preserve their exclusivity and low-rise character. One generally has to be a Singapore citizen to be allowed to acquire a landed property in a GCB Area.


Demand for luxury penthouses holds steady despite pandemic

The Business Times, 24 May 2021, Mon

By Nisha Ramchandani

DESPITE the pandemic and ongoing border closures, demand for penthouses has proven firm, with nine transactions so far this year.

While the recent surge in the number of community cases is a temporary setback, demand for luxury homes could gather pace again in the near future, especially as travel restrictions are eased, consultants said, pointing to interest from ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI) and foreign investors.

According to data from List Sotheby's International Realty (List SIR), seven penthouses were sold in the Core Central Region (CCR) this year, based on caveats (as at May 21). List SIR defines a penthouse as an apartment or luxurious flat at the top of a tall building, typically occupying the entire top floor of an apartment block located in a prime residential enclave or the heart of downtown.

In addition, two penthouses were transacted in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) at the low-rise Meyer House on Meyer Road in district 15.

Among the properties scooped up in the CCR were two that surpassed the S$4,100 psf mark - a 3,520 sq ft penthouse at Midtown Modern at Tan Quee Lan Street, which sold for S$14.83 million (S$4,213 psf); and a 2,185 sq ft penthouse at Irwell Hill Residences, which went for about S$9 million (S$4,123 psf).

"The premium could be (due) to their strong location attributes and access to an MRT station," said List SIR's research director, Han Huan Mei.

Meanwhile, two penthouses were bought this month at the super luxury Park Nova on Tomlinson Road. A 5,899 sq ft, five-bedroom penthouse went for S$34.438 million (S$5,838 psf), while a four-bedroom 4,499 sq ft penthouse sold for S$26.026 million (S$5,784 psf). The 54-unit freehold development in prime District 10 is Hong Kong-listed Shun Tak's maiden residential project in Singapore.

And in March, SC Global Developments sold a five-bedroom, 8,385 sq ft penthouse at freehold project Hilltops in Cairnhill Circle for S$33.5 million (S$3,995 psf). It was acquired by a pair of buyers - a Cambodian citizen and a Chinese citizen.

List SIR also looked at penthouse deals in recent years (based on caveats lodged). It showed 11 penthouses were sold in 2020 - 10 in the CCR and one in the RCR.

At least 19 penthouses were transacted in 2019, of which 15 were in the CCR and four in the RCR. Not included in that tally is the triplex super penthouse in the 64-storey, 99-year leasehold Wallich Residence in Tanjong Pagar, which was bought by billionaire James Dyson and his wife for S$73.8 million in June 2019. The price worked out to S$3,496 psf based on the 21,108 sq ft strata area.

No caveat was lodged for the sale of that unit. This would lift the total number of penthouses transacted in 2019 to about 20.

The Dysons made the headlines once again in 2020 when they sold the penthouse in October for a lower price of S$62 million or S$2,937 psf. The buyer was said to be Indonesia-born, US citizen Leo Koguan, co-founder of IT provider SHI International.

Ms Han said: "The higher volume and price points in 2019 (vis-a-vis 2020) could be attributed to a relatively higher supply of penthouses from new projects, such as Boulevard 88 and 3 Orchard-By-The-Park in the CCR as well as Amber Park in the RCR."

Penthouse sales have likely been bolstered by UHNW foreign investors, some of whom might have already been in Singapore throughout the pandemic outbreak, reckons List SIR's executive director Lewis Cha. Demand could also stem from affluent businessmen amid a burgeoning of family offices here.

According to data from data analysis firm Handshakes, 221 single and multi-family offices opened in Singapore last year, rising from 129 in 2019, and 22 in 2018.

The biggest proportion of foreign directors for these family offices are from North Asia, at 27.3 per cent in 2020.

Aside from Singapore's growing status as a financial hub and its stable political environment, foreign investors may also have made a beeline to Singapore after having been reassured by the government's handling of the pandemic, Mr Cha said.

"These factors could have led them to decide to invest in an alternative home here. As foreigners are not eligible to buy landed properties in Singapore, the next best option for them is luxury penthouses in premier locations which offer the enjoyment of both living space and an opulent lifestyle."

Luxury homes are also seen as a safe long-term bet for investors looking to park their wealth for value preservation and capital appreciation.

Knight Frank's head of residential international project marketing, Nicholas Keong, pointed out that the limited availability of newly launched penthouses in 2020 prompted UHNWIs - for whom size and the quality of living space are key criteria - to turn to the resale market. "Now, with more new launches in the CCR, UHNWIs will have more choice when hunting for new units of large sizes," he added.

And while the resurgence in Covid-19 cases here is a speedbump in the short-term, foreign investors are expected to continue to underpin demand for Singapore's luxury private residential market, especially as travel restrictions are gradually eased. According to Knight Frank's Wealth Report 2021, Singapore is the leading destination in Asia for prime homes among well-heeled Asians.

Mr Keong said: "This hiccup in demand for luxury homes in the city-state is expected to be temporary, as foreign home-buyers have been making inquiries while waiting on the sidelines for border restrictions to be lifted.

"As soon as community infections come under control, together with the dogged progress made through countrywide vaccinations, it is likely that demand for luxury homes would regain momentum in the coming months."


Wanted: Ideas for facilities at new Bukit Timah park

The Straits Times, 24 May 2021, Mon

By Ng Keng Gene

Members of the public can have a say in deciding the kind of facilities the upcoming linear park along Bukit Timah Canal will have.

A six-week public consultation process by the National Parks Board (NParks) is under way, as part of efforts to gather ideas from the public about the design and management of the Bukit Timah-Rochor Green Corridor.

The corridor, first announced in August 2019, will be constructed in phases. The first phase - a 1km-long stretch from Rifle Range Road to Jalan Kampong Chantek - is set to be completed by 2025, barring any construction delays arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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