Published July 13, 2006

Three GCBs up for auction next week


SELLERS of the substantial detached houses known as Good Class Bungalows, or GCBs, are continuing to use auction sales to try to get the best price for their prestigious property.

Space to spare: 15 Ford Avenue (above) and 27 Cornwall Garden (next) come with generous living areas

Knight's Frank's auction on Thursday next week will see three interesting freehold GCBs go under the hammer. All are in District 10 but have very different histories.

One, at 15 Ford Avenue near Holland Village, was occupied by a British couple until they died. The property, with 19,554 sq ft land area, was owned by Edward Ivor Parrish, a prominent supplier of medical and scientific products in Singapore and Malaysia before he sold his business to the Jardine group in the early 1970s.

He passed away in 1990 and his wife Renee died in November last year. The single-storey property, with three bedrooms and servants' quarters and a sloped lawn leading down to a swimming pool, is being sold by Mrs Parrish's estate.

'The charming bungalow with generous living areas, patio and sloping turf, plus the accompanying Victorian-style furniture, grand piano and old-style sewing machine all give you the feeling that you are taking a step back in time to the era captured by English novels like EM Forster's A Room With A View,' said Knight Frank veteran auctioneer Mary Sai as she showed the premises to BT.

Ms Sai expects to sell the furniture and other movables in the bungalow at a separate auction.

The indicative price for 15 Ford Avenue is $9.5 million to $10 million.

The second bungalow that Knight Frank is auctioning is 27 Cornwall Garden, once home to Indonesian businessman Kenneth Chow, who once held the Alfa Romeo franchise here.

Mr Chow, who also goes by the name Wira Tjakrawinata, ran foul of the Malaysian Securities Commission a couple of years ago in connection with a reverse takeover bid for Omega Holdings.

He is understood to have fallen behind on his mortgage payments for the Cornwall Garden bungalow, leading the mortgagee bank - shown as Standard Chartered according to searches - to put up the property for sale.

The indicative price for the two-storey GCB, which stands on 27,796 sq ft land area, is $11 million to $12 million.

The third GCB, also a two-storey property, is at 29-C Ridout Road. It is being put up for sale by its owner, which according to searches, is listed Fraser & Neave group.

Unlike the other two properties, which are being sold with vacant possession, the Ridout Road bungalow will be sold subject to a tenancy that runs until August next year. Its indicative price is $8.5 million to $9 million.

Ms Sai hopes the auction of the three GCBs will help sales of more bungalows and high-end apartments by auction - not just by mortgagee banks but also owners and trustees.

'They can capitalise on better market sentiment, and the rigorous bidding at auctions allows sellers to reach the best price for their properties,' she said.

She estimated that prices for GCBs have increased 10 to 15 per cent over the past six months.

She cited the example of a bungalow she sold at Cornwall Gardens last year for $6 million, whose new owner could have spent $600,000 to $800,000 on refurbishment. It could fetch $7.5 million to $8 million if it were to be sold today.

Net rental yields on GCBs are below 4 per cent.

GCBs have traditionally been the most prestigious type of landed housing on the island, with planning constraints such as a minimum plot size of 1,400 sq m (15,070 sq ft), and a building height restricted to two storeys above ground. A basement is allowed.

However, some market watchers think GCBs could be knocked off their perch when more bungalow developments are completed on Sentosa Cove, the upscale waterfront housing district shaping up on Sentosa Island. This is especially given the fast-track approval accorded to foreigners for buying landed properties on Sentosa Cove.

In 2004, GCBs became the first part of the Singapore residential market to start buzzing in the current upcycle.

Pick-up in GCB buying is often seen as a lead indicator of better economic times as buyers tend to be captains of industry - people who are the first to sense an overall business recovery from their order books.

Knight Frank's July 20 auction at Carlton Hotel begins at 2.30pm.