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Published December 11, 2006

Indian expats make their mark in high-end property market
Influx pushed up rental, sale prices in secondary market


(SINGAPORE) Locals at some of Singapore's posh condominiums used to be entertained by young trick-or-treaters as the kids of their American neighbours knocked on their doors on Halloween night on Oct 31.

Increasingly, some of the condominiums have also rocked to Bollywood theme parties organised by their Indian residents on Deepavali, which comes within a week or two.

More Indian professionals are coming to work and settle in Singapore and their preferred homes are luxury apartments in districts 9, 10 and 15.

'They are well-heeled NRIs (non-resident Indians), expats, very international; they come from all over the place and have worked in London and New York,' said Ong Choon Fah, executive director at property consultancy DTZ Debenham Tie Leung.

Jasdeep Singh, who organised this year's Bollywood party at Leonie Towers, is typical of some NRIs who have been all over the world but feel most at home in Singapore.

Africa-born with family in Sydney, she and her husband with their two kids, a girl, 12, and boy, eight, came here two-and-a-half years ago from Connecticut, in the US.

'The whole lifestyle in Singapore suits us well - schooling and transport - we have more quality life for the family,' said Mrs Singh. 'Connecticut was like The Stepford Wives - snooty, very hard to break in,' she said.

In Australia, taxes are very high and it took a lot of time to get anywhere, she said, adding that the family is considering taking up permanent residence here, although this also depends on her husband's career. Mr Singh is director of services at US United Technologies Corp.

The influx of Indians into the high-end property market - more than any other group, some say - has contributed to pushing up prices for both rentals and sales, especially in the secondary market.

Mrs Ong noted that Indians buy mainly in the secondary market chiefly because many are buying to stay and the 'secondary market is ready for occupation'.

In the third quarter of this year, Indian nationals formed the third-largest group of home buyers of all foreign buyers, up from fourth previously, said Mrs Ong.

Indians made up 11 per cent of all foreign buyers, up from 8 per cent from a year ago and 6 per cent in 2004, she said.

At Costa Rhu Condominium, where rents have risen 20 per cent since last year, one expat from New Delhi estimated that over 120 Indian families live there. He said he knows about a dozen who have bought their homes recently.

'When I moved there six years ago, there were less than 10,' said the expat who works with a US bank.

According to the government, the Indian resident population in Singapore as at the end of June 2006 is 319,100, up 24 per cent from 257,791 in 2000. The figure includes permanent residents and Singapore citizens, and it compares with a rise of about 8 per cent each in the population of the other two major groups, Chinese and Malays.

There are about 65,000 employment pass holders in Singapore, a category which is made up of foreigners who earn $2,500 a month or more. The official data do not provide further details.

Inevitably, there is occasional friction arising from differences in cultural values and the changing proportions of residents of various nationalities in some buildings.

Horizon Towers, in District 10, recently saw a difference of opinion about the use of a play area, which pitted Indian residents who wanted to surround it with nets so that it could be used for cricket, against those who preferred either to keep it as it was or use it for other recreational activities. The pro-cricket lobby was narrowly defeated at the latest annual meeting of owners.