Published September 26, 2008


Spoilt for choice

Home buyers have a wide range of projects to choose from that will match their lifestyles, write CHUA CHOR HOON and ONG KAH SENG

PROPERTY investment requires substantial capital outlay and it takes a longer time to dispose of it compared to other assets like shares, especially in a soft market. Important factors to consider before making a purchase therefore include:

# Purpose of purchase, ie whether for owner-occupation or investment;

# Your budget and the price of the property;

# Surrounding environment;

# Proximity to amenities such as MRT stations, schools, and shopping centres;

# Rental and resale values (especially if you are buying for investment);

# and Reputation of the developer.

Many of these factors are related to location, which is often cited as the most important criterion in property purchase. Besides the traditional prime districts 9, 10 and 11, there are other areas worth considering.

The east coast has always been a favourite among Singaporeans, being close to the city and beach, easily accessible to the airport, and with many amenities like shopping, food and beverage, and the Marina Bay golf course. Faced with high rents in the prime districts, the East Coast has also become a popular alternative with many expatriates.

Joo Chiat and Katong are rich in the culture of Eurasian and Peranakan communities, and their food and architecture. Residents in the East Coast will also enjoy proximity to the Sports Hub when it is completed in a few years' time. Besides Parkway Parade and Kallang Leisure Park, the Sports Hub will offer 441,000 sq ft of commercial space and the redevelopment of Katong Mall is expected to have about 185 retail units.

There are ample choices of developments to suit different budgets. Developments with sea views such as The Belvedere, Water Place and Sanctuary Green enjoy strong leasing interest with monthly median rentals ranging from $3.80 to $4.50 per sq ft.

The last three years have seen other areas getting popular as they offer alternative quality lifestyle living.

Waterfront living, which in the past had been mostly confined to the east and by the Singapore River, gathered momentum in the last few years with areas like Sentosa Cove, Keppel Bay and Marina Bay coming up.

Sentosa Cove offers luxurious houses and condominiums with sea or canal views, and more than 50 per cent of the buyers are foreigners. Many of the properties are bought as weekend or holiday homes. Keppel Bay offers exhilarating views of Sentosa, ships cruising in and out of the harbour front and pleasure boats berthed at Marina at Keppel Bay.

Since the completion of Caribbean at Keppel Bay in 2004, the Harbourfront area has livened up with many lifestyle amenities such as VivoCity, St James Power Station, Marina at Keppel Bay and Jewel Box at Mount Faber.

Future developments that residents in Sentosa Cove and Keppel Bay can look forward to are the integrated resort at Sentosa and the government's development of the Southern Ridges and waterfront.

The Southern Ridges, Labrador area and Keppel waterfront will collectively form a major recreational and leisure destination at the southern part of Singapore. Already bridge connections have been made to link the 9km chain of green, open spaces across Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park. Soon, an elevated boardwalk over the sea will be built skirting the foothills of Bukit Chermin, and connect eastwards to the future promenade at The Reflections at Keppel Bay condominium project and westwards to Labrador Park.

According to URA statistics, Caribbean at Keppel Bay consistently enjoys one of the highest rentals among condominiums islandwide. Its median rent was $6.40 per sq ft in 2Q 2008. The potential supply in the area is fairly limited. Besides the uncompleted The Reflections at Keppel Bay, with 507 units available out of a total 1,129 units as at end 2Q 2008, the only other projects in the pipeline in the area are 307 units on a parcel next to Caribbean at Keppel Bay and 94 units on Keppel Island.

At Marina Bay, there will be plenty of buzz from the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, Marina Bay Shoppes, and events and activities that are being/will be held in the bay. Marina Bay Shoppes will provide 800,000 sq ft of retail space, close to the one million sq ft in VivoCity. Nearby is the uncompleted Gardens at Marina South which will provide nature relief from the hustle and bustle.

Tiong Bahru, with its MRT station, Tiong Bahru Plaza, conserved buildings, Tiong Bahru market and hawker centre and freehold condominiums like Twin Regency, Regency Suites and The Regency at Tiong Bahru, has a strong following for its convenience of transport and amenities. The area is attractive with many expatriates and working professionals who like the quaint living environment near their workplaces. Monthly rents of Twin Regency, which was completed in 2007, are generally above $4.50 per sq ft.

Other growing fringe city areas are at Selegie and Beach Road/Kallang area. Both are near the Bras Basah/Bugis area which is developing nicely into a bustling arts, cultural, entertainment and education hub. The rich history and conserved shophouses at Beach Road and Kampong Glam offer a variety of experiences with their traditional trades, interesting shops and food outlets. Nearby at Bugis, Illuma will be completed soon by end of the year.

At Selegie, there are upcoming malls like Wilkie Edge, while Tekka Mall is being re-positioned and re-named The Verge. New residential developments include Parc Emily and Parc Mackenzie. Monthly rents of Parc Emily are at least $4.50 per sq ft while some units were recently sold for about $1,100 to $1,200 per sq ft. Projects currently available for sale include Parc Sophia and Mount Sophia Suites, with the latter not fully released.

At the Beach Road/Kallang area, the government plans to develop the Ophir-Rochor corridor into a vibrant office cluster for financial and business institutions that will complement the financial district at Marina Bay and Raffles Place. The Circle Line will further enhance the accessibility and connectivity of the vicinity.

Further up at Kallang Riverside, plans are announced in the draft Master Plan 2008 to develop it into a commercial hub with a residential enclave capitalising on the beach and waterfront. Launched at about $1,400 per sq ft last year, The Riverine by the Park, a 96-unit development at Kallang Road, was well-received and fully sold in weeks. A more recent launch is Concourse Skyline with selling price of $1,500-$1,800 per sq ft, which will be able to take advantage of an area that is anticipated to grow into a sought-after mixed commercial and residential area at the city fringe and with waterfront views of the Kallang River and the sea.

Property buyers are now spoilt for choice, as more areas take off, backed by the government's plan to introduce city living and develop different parts of the island to provide for varied lifestyle needs. Understanding the attractions and potential of each area is therefore important so that it will be easier to sell or rent the property that is purchased and to ensure that there is better capital protection or appreciation.

Chua Chor Hoon is senior director, while Ong Kah Seng is assistant manager, DTZ Research Singapore