'Hungry ghosts' not dampening GCB interest

Recent deals include Simon Israel's sale of Caldecott Hill bungalow for S$25.6m to Dymon Asia Capital co-founder

SEP 09, 2017


THE "hungry ghosts" month is supposed to be a quiet month for property, but Good Class Bungalow (GCB) agent KH Tan of Newsman Realty is feeling quite a bit of buzz in that elite market these days.

"We have been receiving more offers for GCB properties in the past few months, compared with earlier this year," he said. Offers have been streaming in from Chinese citizens who have become Singaporeans and hence qualify to buy a landed home in a GCB Area, as well as homegrown developers, fund managers, businessmen and professionals.

William Wong, founder of Realstar Premier Group, reports that monthly GCB viewing activity for his firm so far this quarter is more than double the level seen in the first and second quarters of this year. "More buyers are viewing - and prepared to commit now," he added.

The increased buzz in the creme de la creme of the Singapore landed housing market comes amid a general turnaround in sentiment in the property sector, say industry players.

Mr Tan, who is managing director of Newsman Realty, recently acted for Lee Metal Group unit LMG Realty in the sale of a brand-new two storey bungalow along Maryland Drive in District 10. The price of S$20.98 million works out to S$1,832 per square foot, based on the 11,450 sq ft land area. The bungalow, which has five bedrooms and a swimming pool, is on a 999-year leasehold site.

Mr Tan acted for both the buyer and seller in another recent deal - at Andrew Road in the Caldecott Hill Estate GCB Area. The freehold property went for S$25.6 million or S$1,152 psf on a land area of about 22,220 sq ft. The house was designed by Chan Soo Khian of SCDA Architects.

BT understands that Simon Israel, the chairman of Singtel and Singapore Post, is selling the property to Keith Tan Keng Soon, a founding partner of Dymon Asia Capital.

Along Ewart Park, a bungalow designed by Guz Architects has been sold for S$20.5 million or almost S$1,350 psf on the freehold site of around 15,200 sq ft. The house spans two storeys and a basement. It comes with five ensuite bedrooms and a pool as well as an open courtyard, garden landscaping and water features.

It is being sold by a couple who were former British citizens who became Singaporeans many years ago. They have moved to a prime-district penthouse. The house had become too big for them and they plan to travel more, according to Steve Tay of CBRE Realty Associates, who represented the sellers. Despite its enchanting features and the fact that it is built with high-quality wood and natural stones, the villa has fetched less than the S$23 million asking price Mr Tay had indicated in June when he was marketing the property.

Mr Wong of Realstar - which acted for the Ewart Park villa buyer, whose profile he declined to reveal - estimates that generally, prices of bungalows in GCB Areas - have eased about 17 per cent from the peak in late 2013, to June this year.

"Prices have stabilised. In fact we are beginning to see prices picking up for some of the GCBs in prime locations and good condition." He attributes the improving buying interest to pent-up demand. "Some potential buyers have waited for a couple of years and reckon that GCB prices are unlikely to fall any further."

Mr Wong also highlights that there has been an increase this year in transactions of smallish bungalows in the central area - and that some of the sellers in these deals are upgrading to GCBs.

He is eyeing another source of demand for GCBs in the coming months as the collective sale fever spreads to the prime districts. "Some owners of large units in these developments could receive substantial sums, which they could then use to upgrade to a GCB." Mr Tan of Newsman has observed increased interest in GCBs among developers . "Some are on the lookout for a new home for their family, while others are seeking old bungalows that they could redevelop and sell."

Bungalows in GCB Areas are the most prestigious form of landed housing in Singapore, with planning conditions to preserve their exclusivity and low-rise character. Only Singapore citizens are allowed to buy landed residential properties in GCB Areas under a policy change that took effect in the second half of 2012.