Sales galleries get more creative to woo buyers

Developers offer more, from virtual walk-throughs to hotel-style lounges with coffee bars

Mon, Jan 27, 2020


DEVELOPERS in Singapore's private housing market, particularly the high-end segment, have upped the ante on creativity by offering more at sales galleries, from virtual walk-throughs to elegant hotel-style lounges with coffee bars and more smart home features to wow potential buyers.

Given the stream of residential projects in the pipeline this year - notably in the luxury segment - this trend of one-upmanship among builders is set to continue, say industry watchers.

OrangeTee & Tie's head of research and consultancy Christine Sun said: "Some showflats are more impressive than others. These luxury projects target high net worth individuals, who tend to be more sophisticated and have a stronger appreciation for quality and exotic features. Given that about half of the upcoming launches are in the luxury home segment, we may expect more sophisticated show galleries this year."

Alice Tan, senior director (research and consulting) at Edmund Tie & Company noted that developers have been stepping up marketing strategies at showflats since 2018 amid a wave of project launches.

"Having an appealing showflat remains a key visual and physical strategy to provide differentiation, catalyse talking points, and enables the project to stand out favourably among the rest, in a bid to attract buyer interest," she remarked, adding that more attention was also being paid to interior design.

In recent years, showflats for high-end projects have featured a meeting area for prospective buyers, styled like a hotel lounge - and with a coffee bar, in some cases - while other developers have also had playrooms in their sales galleries, such as The Woodleigh Residences and The Tre Ver, so children can be entertained while parents peruse the showflat, said Ms Tan.

Amid thinning profit margins and increased costs for other marketing efforts, developers are also trying to pull off a similar design feel for their showflats at lower budgets, she added.

A showflat carcass can range from S$2 million to S$5 million.

This year's pipeline of projects remains busy with Huttons Asia expecting 40 or more projects to be launched, of which half will be located in the core central region (CCR).

Colliers International estimates some 20 projects to be launched in Districts 9, 10 and 11 alone.

Other trends emerging at show galleries are more smart home features, such as systems which control lighting, air-conditioning or televisions with the push of a button, as well as multi-media visual presentations to give prospective buyers "a virtual walk-through" of the development or "elevated, panoramic views from different levels of the development", Ms Sun said.

For instance, the 22,000 square foot (sq ft), two-floor sales gallery for JadeScape by Qingjian Realty (South Pacific) Group showcases a five-room smart home show unit which demonstrates the facial recognition technology that the lift lobbies will offer, as well as a smart digital lockset for homeowners to remotely unlock the front door.

To help prospective buyers better appreciate the upcoming Greater Southern Waterfront and to experience the panoramic views from the top of the site, the consortium behind Avenue South Residence, which includes UOL Group, created a media room in the showflat for its project at Silat Avenue.

UOL is also jointly developing the Meyer House and has tapped Canadian design firm Yabu Pushelberg - it reportedly counts Louis Vuitton and the St Regis as clients - to curate a swanky living experience for the show flat.

In District 9, the showflat for the 376-unit The Avenir - which is jointly developed by Hong Leong Holdings, GuocoLand and Hong Realty - has three private rooms for potential buyers to conduct talks with sales agents.

According to Betsy Chng, head of sales and marketing for Hong Leong, this feature was introduced for The Avenir to ensure privacy for ultra high net worth clients and provide a sense of exclusivity.

The Avenir showflat also centres around a central courtyard with landscaping, while the corridor of the sales gallery displays artefacts and paintings akin to an art gallery.

EVIA Real Estate is planning to have an interactive show gallery for the upcoming executive condominium OLA in Sengkang. Without divulging details, Vincent Ong, managing partner of EVIA Real Estate, said: "Beyond your regular home-buying experience, we want visitors to have fun shopping for their dream home."

It allocated a marketing budget of one per cent of the gross development value of OLA to keep prices competitive for homebuyers, Mr Ong said.

At 18,000 sq ft, the sales gallery for the 592-unit Amber Park is among the bigger ones in Singapore and introduced a rotating architectural model, which is said to be a first.

A spokesperson for City Developments Ltd added: "The sales gallery... (features) wide wall screens projecting views that residents of Amber Park will enjoy. Additionally, its entrance into a curved hall was specially curated to provide visitors with a welcoming sense of arrival."

At its showflat, luxury 69-unit development Van Holland in District 10 features Italian marble flooring as well as Swarovski crystal fixtures in the master bathroom. It also has a custom-made chandelier to dial up the glamour.

"First impressions are very important, you have to impress the buyer," said managing director and group chief executive officer of Koh Brothers, Francis Koh. Nonetheless, the developer was able to manage costs in some aspects by going directly to the manufacturers, such as Swarovski. The showflat cost slightly over S$2 million to put together.

On average, a high-end two-bedroom showflat can cost S$300,000 or more to furnish, and a high-end four-bedroom apartment, S$500,000 or more, Edmund Tie's executive director (residential) Margaret Thean said.

However, she highlighted that showflats need to be modelled closely after actual units in line with the URA's Housing Developers (Show Unit) Rules so that buyers know exactly what they are getting, including fittings and finishes.

Veteran interior designer Cameron Woo, founder of Cameron Woo Design (CWD), is no stranger to designing showflats. He most recently completed the showflat for the Silkwood Penthouse Collection for Silkari in Sydney. In Singapore, CWD has designed showflats for residences such as The Seafront on Meyer, Trilight and Orange Grove Residence penthouse.

Mr Woo said: "From my observations, showflat budgets in Singapore for turnkey projects have reduced significantly compared to a decade ago, even though client expectations have increased. This means interior designers have to be more adept at working with tighter budgets and using more economic materials and finishes while still making the showflat look premium."

As apartments get smaller, showflats too have become smaller. "We focus very much on innovative space planning to show how spacious and well-thought-out the unit is in the showflat experience," explained Mr Woo. "It's about the quality of space and not just the quantum of space alone to be considered. So interior design skills are paramount here."

He added that more of the budget is now spent on interior architecture and joinery details such as bespoke walk-in wardrobes with special fittings similar to those found in fashion boutiques. For others, he might incorporate special touches such as metal detailing under a kitchen countertop and selecting sanitary-ware and fixtures that look more furniture-like than conventional built-in ones for a more luxurious feel, without busting the budget.