Nov 27, 2006

Buyers merging flats in quest for space

Some are buying multiple condo units and making them into one

By Fiona Chan

TEAR down the walls.

That is the unusual request to property developers from some home buyers with a hankering for more spacious living.

These cash-rich buyers are snapping up multiple units on the same floor and combining them into a single, larger apartment.

High-end developers City Developments (CDL) and SCGlobal say they have received requests from buyers to remove walls between adjacent units to create bigger apartments.

Some buyers at CDL's ultra-exclusive St Regis Residences have even reportedly bought entire floors with this purpose in mind, although CDL declined to verify this.

St Regis apartments, which cost at least $4 million a piece, range from 1,507sq ft to 7,287sq ft.

This new appetite for spacious living has led developers to pitch their bigger units at a higher price per sq ft (psf) than smaller ones, a new trend first highlighted by The Straits Times earlier this month.

The average price of apartments bigger than 2,500 sq ft has risen by 40 per cent over the last year, compared to just 20 per cent for smaller units, according to property consultancy Savills Singapore.

Other developers are also entertaining requests to merge units.

Wheelock Properties says there have been 'two to three requests each' for two of its recently-launched projects: The Sea View in expat-friendly Marine Parade and The Cosmopolitan in Kim Seng Road.

The Straits Times understands that Far East Organization has also received similar requests for its Vida condominium in Cairnhill Rise.

At another new condominium, Metropolitan in Alexandra Road, joint developers CapitaLand and Lippo Group have gone a step further.

They have put aside 28 two-bedroom apartments to sell in pairs, offering buyers the flexibility of removing the partition between the two adjacent units.

This allows buyers to combine the two units to a total of 1,787 sq ft, with the option of reinstating the partition in future.

One such pair costs around $1.39 million, compared to $1.35 million to $1.47 million for a four-bedroom apartment in the project.

All 14 pairs of these apartments were snapped up within the first two weekends of the launch, said CapitaLand. It added, however, that it was too early to reveal how many buyers had asked for the partitions to be removed.

Most developers are not charging extra for combining multiple units, but property consultants say it may still be 'costly and impractical' to combine two apartments.

Joining units may result in an awkward layout, said Mr Lui Seng Fatt, regional director and head of investment at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Also, added Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore: 'If you buy two units, you end up with two maid's rooms and two kitchens, and you may need to do rewiring and re-plumbing for the kitchens and toilets.'

Consultants say these requests to combine smaller units are probably isolated to selected developments that buyers insist on living in, even if there are no units big enough for their tastes.

Developers agreed, saying that there is no 'significant trend' yet of buyers requesting that adjacent units be combined.

But the current paucity of sufficiently large units may be one reason for such requests surfacing now, said Mr Ku.

During the property downturn, developers built smaller units that were more affordable for buyers, he said.

'Big units only started being launched again last year and it will take some time for them to be completed,' he added.

On the whole, however, Singapore's apartment sizes are still bigger than those in Hong Kong and Japan and comparable to those in central London and Manhattan, said Mr Lui.

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