Aug 2, 2008

The bigger, the better

If recent condominium project launches are anything to go by, expansive balconies are hot among homebuyers

By Janice Tai

BED AND BALCONY (above): Among the features of the 51-unit Parc Centennial condo is a balcony that spans from the bedroom to the living room (not shown). Located in Kampong Java Road, the project is expected to be completed in 2011. -- PHOTOS: EL DEVELOPMENT, CITY DEVELOPMENTS LIMITED

SOAK UP THE SCENERY: Cliveden at Grange Road, which offers three-, four- and five-bedroom units, comes with panoramic views of Orchard Road which can be enjoyed from the expensive balconies.

GREEN VIEWS: Located off Bukit Timah Road, the Shelford Suites condominium project has 77 units, all of which look out to lush greenery. Its targeted completion date is 2011.

ALL it took was one look at the big balcony spanning the living room and the master bedroom, and the deal was sealed for Mrs Jean Hong.

The 47-year-old company director bought a three-bedroom unit for close to $1,500 per square foot in the Parc Centennial condominium in Kampong Java Road three months ago and is still gushing about the large balcony to her friends.

She is planning to rent it out and feels expatriates will appreciate the balcony space.

'There is enough space to put some chairs and a small table in the balcony, so that the tenant is able to have a drink or read there without cluttering the place unnecessarily,' she said.

Parc Centennial is among a number of new condos that are bucking the trend of developments from the 1990s, which had balconies that were tiny corners with just standing space or irregular-shaped ones that nobody used.

In contrast, some of the new private housing projects today have large balconies that even extend to the master bedroom or outside the lift.

Projects with generous balconies include completed ones like Residences@Evelyn in Evelyn Road as well as those nearing completion such as Parc Centennial, JIA at 65 Wilkie Road, Lucida in Suffolk Road, Parc Mackenzie in Mackenzie Road and Cliveden at Grange in Grange Road.

Developers say that buyers prefer units with large balconies because the open space lets in natural light and ventilation and can be used as an alfresco dining area or just an outdoor area to relax in.

EL Development, the developer behind Parc Centennial, designed its units with large balconies because of the expansive views offered at the site: There are no tall buildings nearby so residents have good views of the surrounding greenery.

The balcony also serves to screen off the afternoon sun for the west-facing units.

Similarly for developer City Developments Limited (CDL), the decision to incorporate balconies into the projects depends on their location.

'Typically, buyers would like a balcony where there are good views of the surroundings, such as the lush greenery which residents of Shelford Suites or Cliveden at Grange can enjoy, or if there are waterfront views that can be appreciated, which is the case with One Shenton and The Oceanfront@Sentosa Cove,' said Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, group general manager of CDL.

Larger balconies are also good for homeowners to keep in touch with their surroundings, says developer SDB. Its first local project here, JIA, is only seven storeys high so owners get to enjoy the greenery nearby from their balconies.

The developer also designed the balconies with enough depth to put a coffee table.

'Enjoying the outdoors from the balcony means being able to have a relaxing cup of tea comfortably seated,' said Ms Leon Kim Yoke, senior manager of SDB Properties.

The developer has also included 'fold and slide' screens at the balconies to provide privacy when required. They double as safety features.

Their two-bedroom units even have the lift opening directly into the balcony.

'Large balconies are targeted at those who enjoy the outdoors and do not want to be confined to indoor spaces only. Anyone downsizing from a landed property to an apartment would particularly appreciate such features,' Ms Kim Yoke added.

Mrs Hong, who lives in Serangoon Gardens, agrees.

'In my house, I can take a walk around my garden or koi pond, but in a condo, you have only your bedrooms and living room to turn to, so having a balcony helps.

'Even some HDB flats are getting their own balconies too nowadays. With large balconies, I am able to get higher rents for my unit,' she said.

About 70 to 80 per cent of expatriates opt for large balconies, according to Mr John Koh, 60, associate director of Huttons real estate group.

'Singaporeans are quite kiasu. Some think it is a waste of space and don't want to pay for it,' he said.

Senior executive Kelvin Ho, who bought a flat in Parc Mackenzie, begged to differ.

'I don't understand why people don't want balconies. I like the open air, space, lights, breeze and view. I think it is usable space,' he said.

It is opportune that buyers like him have secured units that come with large balconies as they may become a thing of the past with the recent announcement by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

From Oct 7, features such as bay windows, balconcies and planter boxes are no longer exempt from the gross floor area (GFA) calculations.

This means that developers may scale down balcony sizes since they will be charged for the area, unlike now.

'I think it's scary if the sizes of balconies shrink in future as Singapore is going to be one large concrete jungle,' said Mrs Hong.

'Personally, I do not mind paying for the space if the design is nice and it is functional.'

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