Published December 5, 2008

Adding quality to condo life

High-end properties are including lifestyle features such as art galleries, private dining rooms and party pads on their premises, report AUDREY PHOON and AMANDA DE GUZMAN

OLYMPIC-SIZED pools tiled in the finest Italian marble and gyms filled with state-of-the-art equipment may yet be an unheard-of extravagance for some, but in the world of ultra-luxe condominiums they're no longer enough to lure discerning residents to their polished doorsteps.

Wine and dine: Orchard:Scotts has two private dining rooms (such as the one above) that are fully equipped with Western and Asian cooking equipment - a feature that has become common in other luxe new properties. It also has a wine cellar (next)

Given the current economic climate, high-end properties have been looking to add even more value to their spaces with the inclusion of other lifestyle features such as art galleries, private dining rooms and party pads on their premises. Indeed, it seems like these new developments are virtually trying to outdo each other in offering such added perks.

As one source puts it, 'Demand for high-end property is definitely slowing. But these added facilities, which were first introduced to add value to properties when prices were rising, don't cost very much in the grand scheme of things. So it's even more important at a time like this that they be included to offer value to buyers.'

Lifestyle needs

According to the executive director of property consultancy DTZ, Ong Choon Fah, the downturn has meant that most of the people who are buying for investment purposes 'are being very cautious'.

'Most of the people buying now are living in the apartments themselves. That's why it is very important that the complex suits their lifestyle needs,' she says.

Take JBE Properties' newly completed The Luxe on Handy Road, where an art gallery on the ground floor allows residents to browse the works of artists from all over the globe and purchase them if they wish.

In turn, Far East Organization's Orchard:Scotts development at Anthony Road and Orchard Turn Development's yet-to-be-completed The Orchard Residences both have wine and cigar rooms where residents can store their bottles and cigars in a temperature-controlled environment.

Orchard:Scotts also has two private dining rooms that are fully equipped with Western and Asian cooking equipment - a feature that has quickly become common in other luxe new properties such as Ferrell Residences (by hedge fund firm Ferrell), The Sea View (Wheelock Properties) and Nassim Park Residences (UOL Group). Not to be outdone, The Orchard Residences has taken it up another notch: it will offer a private party house on-site, the first for residential developments in Singapore.

'This feature of The Orchard Residences will provide residents with a unique venue for their private parties and events,' says the chief executive officer of Orchard Turn Developments, Soon Su Lin. The party house, she adds, will have its own living room, dining room, kitchen, barbecue pit and a dedicated private swimming pool, 'so that residents have the exclusive privilege and comfort of entertaining in a 'second home'. Of the expanding range of luxury facilities being offered by luxury developments, Ms Soon explains: 'We want to ensure that our high net worth residents can enjoy city living without compromising on their quality lifestyle.'

Adds DTZ's Mrs Ong: 'As we live in a more globalised world, people are starting to appreciate the finer things in life much more. Now, buying a private property is certainly a lot more aspirational; you aren't just buying bricks and mortar, you are actually buying a lifestyle.'

Ferrell's executive director Jeanna Chan notes that offering these additional, exclusive entertainment options to residents 'provides more complete living through attention to detail, from quality finish to identifying a need for a private lifestyle'. They also serve to extend residents' living space - the dining area concept, for example, is 'growing in popularity and becoming essential in a prime district where city living is crowded', adds Ms Chan.

That factor is particularly appreciated by Orchard:Scotts resident Junny Lee. 'The dining area in my complex gives me much more flexibility,' says the property investment analyst, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the development. 'I can hold functions for more than 50 people if I want to. It makes your living space larger than it actually is.'

Facilities such as this have become 'essential' to him, he says, adding that while he initially chose the apartment because of the layout, he has found that these perks 'enhance your social life and your quality of life as a whole. Having space is priceless. It's good because it's personalised space, but the costs are shared'.

Waterfront facilities

Apart from adding features to their properties that are targeted specifically at the audience they hope to draw, property developers have also let the facilities they include be dictated by their locations.

The Sea View, for instance, has converted a neo-classical bungalow located on its site into a huge function room with a party lawn. 'Whenever an opportunity arises, we hope to create an enhanced living environment for the residents,' says director of Wheelock Properties Tan Bee Kim. 'The Sea View is a good example. We saw the potential of the bungalow located at the site and conserved it, turning it into a grand clubhouse for the development.'

Meanwhile, those who choose to live at Reflections at Keppel Bay will enjoy sailing lessons and boat charter services, among other things, apart from a view of the ocean.

'High-end developers are seeing merit in offering real value-add in terms of premium quality, facilities and finishings which would be appreciated by tenants and homebuyers,' says Augustine Tan, chief executive officer of Singapore Residential, Keppel Land. That's why folks living at Keppel Bay will get the full waterfront lifestyle experience, from marina playground to 'an exclusive twinning association with Nongsa Point Marina & Resort in Batam', he shares.

The broadened lifestyle-experience scope also helps to enhance the exclusivity of these complexes, which DTZ's Ms Ong believes adds to their desirability.

'Only a certain group will be eligible to make use of all these perks, and that is part of the attraction,' she says. 'The people living here will probably all be members at the same exclusive country clubs, but it will be nice for them to enjoy the same facilities in their own backyard.'

One property expert feels that these increasingly luxurious developments are essential to Singapore's progress towards becoming a truly global city.

'Talent gets attracted to a place where you can not only earn big bucks but also to a place where there is life outside of work,' she says. 'The quality of life represented by these properties goes beyond just bricks and mortar. To have a world-class city, that is exactly what you need.'

These sentiments are shared by Chia Boon Kuah, chief operating officer of property sales and executive director of Far East Organization. 'The fact that Orchard:Scotts' dining area is always fully booked underscores that we have been able to connect to our residents' lifestyle aspirations,' he says.

Right now, that lifestyle may seem to be slipping from the fingers of potential buyers - but for those still staying in the market, it's a lifestyle worth waiting for.

A notch up: The Orchard Residences (above) will offer a private party house on-site, the first for residential developments in Singapore, while Farrell Residences (next) also features private dining areas