Last kampung house in Geylang for sale at $9.2 mil

February 6, 2024

Until last July, Daniel Saw had lived in the same kampung house in Geylang, where he was born 63 years ago. It sits at the corner of Lorong 19 Geylang, just off Sims Avenue.

His father and three of his friends had purchased the piece of land from a Malay gentleman in 1951, Saw relates. They each took a quarter stake in the land and shared in the construction of the house, which was built in 1954. The house has four separate units, each with its own entrance. There are two units on the first and two on the second level.

Saw, who has five brothers and four sisters, lived together with their parents in one of the four units. The other families occupied the other three units. Each unit had a kitchen and a toilet, which, in those days, was a hole in the ground with a pail or a bucket and relied on the services of a night soil collector.

“At one point, more than 40 people lived in the kampung house,” he recounts. When it got too crowded in their unit, Saw and some of his siblings would go upstairs to a neighbour’s unit.

In the past, it was an actual kampung village with other timber houses around it. There was a single-storey coffee factory next door, a big hardware store down the lane behind the house, a provision shop and a temple nearby.

Before the neighbourhood was developed, the area around the kampung was swampland. Saw recalls playing hide and seek with his siblings and friends in childhood. “We used to hide in the grass that was taller than us, and behind banana trees, where we saw a ‘banana ghost’,” he relates. “We even saw a ‘water ghost’ at the swamp.”

Another favourite childhood pastime was catching small cranes at the swamp by baiting them with cockroaches and homemade traps. When Sim was about 13 years old, he was at the swamp one day setting one of his traps when he saw a crocodile. “So I ran, and from that day onwards, I never went to the swamp again,” he says. Other “unwelcome guests” included pythons that used to hide near the hardware store behind their home.

Redevelopment, rejuvenation

The swamp made way for HDB flats in the mid-1980s. Over the years, the neighbours in the kampung sold their land and moved away.

The new owners who purchased the land parcels redeveloped them into mid-sized industrial buildings. Some are now multiple-user light industrial factory buildings like Enterprise Industrial Building at 46 Lorong 17 Geylang and Wing Yip Building at 77 Lorong 19 Geylang.

Others are single-user light industrial buildings by a single-owner occupier, such as PH Building at 76 Lorong 19 Geylang, Poh Heng Jewellery’s headquarters. Another is L&K Engineering, a Taiwanese engineering company at 72 Lorong 19 Geylang. Nearby is the Harvest Care Centre, which is run by a non-profit organisation and owned by the Harvester Community Church, according to a property title.

An upcoming development, Space 21, at 51 Lorong 21 Geylang, is a five-storey, freehold industrial building by developer JVA Venture. It has 19 strata-titled industrial units for sale. The developer had purchased the 15,365 sq ft freehold land at 51 Geylang Lorong 21 for $21 million in May 2019, according to a caveat lodged.

At the kampung house on 74 Lorong 19 Geylang, some of Saw’s siblings got married and moved out over the years until only three residents remained: Saw and two of his siblings — a brother and a sister.

It was only in July last year that Saw decided to move in with one of his brothers who lives in Tampines. He has since vacated the premises in Geylang. “I still think of the kampung house in Geylang,” says Saw. “It was my home for 63 years,” he says.

The property title shows the four shareholders with a 25% stake each. Saw inherited his stake from his father, as did Mr Yap. Three sisters with the surname Kwek also jointly hold a 25% stake that was passed to them from their parents. The fourth owner, Mr See, had purchased his stake from one of the previous owners.

Sometime late last year, Yeo Khee Liang, associate senior marketing director of Huttons Asia, was driving around and canvassing the Geylang area when he came across the house at 74 Lorong 19 Geylang.

“It’s possibly the last kampong house in the Aljunied Planning Area, if not one of the last standalone kampong houses in Singapore, other than the famous Kampong Lorong Buangkok,” he says.

‘Mini collective sale’

While canvassing, Yeo, like all enterprising real estate agents, distributed flyers too. Mr Yap, one of the four owners, chanced upon one of his flyers and contacted him. Subsequently, Yeo was introduced to the other owners and was appointed the exclusive agent for the property.

Like the other buildings in the area, 74 Lorong 19 Geylang is zoned for B1 light industrial use. It has a plot ratio of 2.5, with an allowable gross floor area (GFA) of 11,675 sq ft. Yeo says the property can be redeveloped into a new eight-storey light industrial building.

The freehold property is available for sale by private treaty. There are six owners — Saw, Yap, See and the three Kwek sisters. “It’s like a mini collective sale,” says Yeo of Huttons Asia. “However, in this case, 100% of the owners have to agree to the sale as the land is held under one property title.” And they all have.

The kampung house is on the market at a guide price of $9.2 million. If it achieves the price, each 25% stakeholder will walk away with gross proceeds of $2.3 million apiece.

Since putting the property up for sale, Yeo says he has received enquiries from developers and business owners. Developers are looking at redeveloping it into an industrial building with strata-titled units for sale. Meanwhile, he adds that business occupiers are looking at redeveloping the property for their own use or even for lease.

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