May 16, 2007

Single owner selling 48 units in Duchess Crest for $72m

By Fiona Chan

BUYING EN BLOC: Institutional investors buying and selling residential units in bulk is not a rare event. An overseas fund is keen to sell the 99-year leasehold units comprising 43 apartments and five townhouses.

A SINGLE investor who owns 48 units in Duchess Crest at Bukit Timah wants to sell the lot en bloc for $72.1 million.

The asking price for the 99-year leasehold units works out to about $750 per sq ft (psf).

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), which is inviting expressions of interest until June 13, would say only that the institutional investor is an overseas fund.

It had bought the units - comprising 43 apartments and five townhouses - from developer Wing Tai some years ago, said Mr Jeremy Lake, executive director of investment properties at CBRE.

The units are 'scattered around' the estate, and range from two- to four-bedroom apartments of between 936 sq ft and 2,260 sq ft. The townhouses range between 4,123 sq ft and 4,241 sq ft.

Prices at the 251-unit Duchess Crest have been rising steadily this year.

Three units were sold in February for an average of $650 psf, according to caveats lodged. This rose to $773 psf for two units sold in March, and last month four units fetched $840 psf on average.

Mr Lake said keen interest is expected for the 48 units, 'given rising rents and current strong market sentiments'.

He added that institutional investors buying and selling residential units in bulk is not rare. A United States fund bought an entire block of Wing Tai's Draycott 8 project in May last year, while another US fund, Citadel, snapped up 25 units of Soilbuild's One Tree Hill Residence in December.

Duchess Crest was launched in May 1996 at the height of the last property boom and right after the Government introduced measures to cool property speculation.

Wing Tai priced the first launch at $1,000 psf, but received lower interest than expected.

Two years later, it slashed the prices of remaining units by 10 per cent and offered buyers the choice of a rental guarantee or a buy-back option if the value of the units fell below their purchase price after three years.

The developer finally sold the last 48 units in the estate in 2000, although it is not clear if these are the same units that are now being put up for sale.