Published March 11, 2008

All eyes on govt land tenders this month

$500m site above Serangoon MRT, 3 suburban housing plots on offer


AMID the current quiet market, all eyes will be on four 99-year leasehold suburban Government Land Sale site tenders that close this month.

They comprise three private residential sites including one for landed housing, and a 'white' site above the Serangoon Circle Line MRT station that could potentially be worth more than $500 million.

The action kicks off today, with the closing of a tender for a landed housing parcel in Westwood Avenue, Jurong West, big enough for about 50-60 landed homes.

Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han reckons the 151,759 sq ft plot could fetch about $200-250 psf of land area. The plot is next to the landed housing area at Westville.

Those looking for clues on how developers read the suburban mass-market residential sector will have to train their eyes on tender closings for two plots this month, both boasting scenic locations.

One is at West Coast Crescent next to Blue Horizon condo and faces West Coast Park and overlooks the sea. The other is in Yishun, fronting Lower Seletar Reservoir and close to Singapore Orchid Country Club/Golf Course. It is also near Khatib MRT station.

Property consultants polled by BT in January, when the tenders for the two sites were launched, indicated bids of about $200-300 psf per plot ratio (ppr) for the Yishun plot.

Mr Han reckons the winning bid will be closer to $300 psf ppr, reflecting a breakeven cost of about $550-600 psf and a possible average selling price of $700-800 psf for the new condo.

As for the West Coast plot, consultants earlier indicated a wide range of bids - $260-400 psf ppr.

Mr Han estimates the plot's value at the higher end of that range, around $380-400 psf ppr as 'it is near parks, recreational facilities and the sea', translating to selling prices of about $850-950 psf for a new condo on the site, on a project-average basis.

He expects the Yishun and West Coast condo sites to attract at least five bids each, while the landed housing plot at Westwood Avenue could draw more bids, about five to eight.

'Developers may be willing to look at smaller profit margins because these are sure-sell markets, given pent-up demand in the mass market. However, buyers are still price-sensitive,' he said.

While some analysts and consultants still feel the mass-market will be relatively resilient this year, City Developments executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng recently offered a different perspective.

'The mass market will do well, but selectively. It's not going to be what you've seen before. . . people queuing up,' he said, noting that the Housing & Development Board provides a credible alternative to mass- market private housing.

The Serangoon Central site was quietly launched in December by the Land Transport Authority.

The 269,180 sq ft plot can be developed into an estimated maximum potential gross floor area (GFA) of about 850,000 sq ft excluding a bus interchange that the successful bidder will have to build. The developer will be reimbursed the cost of building the interchange.

The site can be developed into any combination of commercial, hotel, residential, and sports and recreational use.

Cushman's Mr Han said that assuming 30-40 per cent of the GFA is for retail use and the rest for residential, the plot could be worth about $400-450 psf ppr, or a total of around $340-380 million.

'So the breakeven cost would be about $700 psf for the residential component and the developer might be able to achieve selling prices of say $900-1,000 psf on average. The retail component will break even at about $1,200-1,400 psf,' he reckons.

However, other property insiders say that assuming an all-retail development, which would be the 'highest and best use' of the site, land bids could come in closer to the $600-700 psf ppr mark (about $500 million to $600 million in total).

'Suburban malls are generally valued at about $1,800-2,000 psf of net lettable area currently,' one player pointed out.

However, another major player countered that sentiment today is subdued, and said the challenge of securing bank finance for such a big project with a likely total investment of about $1 billion or more will put a dampener on bullish bidding for this site.

The action and market watching continues next month, with at least two interesting offerings at state land tenders - a private condo site at Toa Payoh Lorong2/3, and a 1.56-hectare site in Choa Chu Kang for residential development that comes with the existing Ten Mile Junction mall.