March 4, 2007

More cluster housing projects in the pipeline

Such strata-landed projects gain popularity as buyers zoom in on perks of shared facilities, basement parking

By Fiona Chan

LOOKING for the prestige of a landed home with the conveniences of condominium facilities?

Cluster housing may be just the thing for you. These strata-landed developments are increasing in popularity as home buyers zoom in on the perks of communal living and move away from the notion that conventional landed homes are superior.

Cluster homes come with strata titles rather than land titles. Currently, there are more than 3,000 cluster homes in Singapore, with more such projects coming on the market to cater to the growing demand.

Yesterday, Fortune Land officially launched Milford Villas in Braddell Heights, with 13 cluster terrace units that will be completed in 2009.

Two units have already been sold at a preview. Prices average $1.25 million for each unit, which will be between 2,500 and 3,000 sq ft.

The boutique developer also plans to launch a cluster bungalow project in Dunsfold Drive off Braddell Road towards the middle of the month.

Each of the 18 bungalows will be between 4,000 and 4,600 sq ft and boast its own private pool.

Prices have not been finalised but are likely to be between $2.5 million and $3 million for each unit, sources said.

Another nearby cluster terrace project, Marlene Ville in Serangoon Gardens, has sold 11 out of 17 units since last October.

The terrace units range in price from $1.25 million for an inter-terrace to $1.5 million for a corner unit.

The Sunday Times also understands that Far East Organization, one of the biggest developers of landed homes in Singapore and a pioneer of cluster housing here, has a few more such projects in the pipeline.

One is said to be a cluster bungalow site in Punggol. The developer will also be releasing its next phase of Greenwood terraces as a cluster development, probably later this year.

So what makes cluster housing - which was first introduced here in 1993 and became more mainstream in 2000 - so popular?

The main draw is the common facilities, says Mr Ku Swee Yong, the director of business development and marketing at Savills Singapore, which has marketed several cluster housing projects.

These developments usually come with security guards, swimming pools, clubhouses and gymnasiums, which typical landed properties lack.

Another big attraction is the basement carparks that are a key feature of cluster housing.

'The advantage of strata housing is that underground carparks are not considered part of the gross floor area, so you can usually accommodate two cars per unit,' said Mr Ku.

In contrast, most conventional terrace homes have enough space for only one car at most.

Relegating carpark space to the basement also frees up space on the ground level for more spacious living, noted Colliers International in a report last year about cluster housing.

However, it added that such homes also have their drawbacks. For one, owners lose some of the privacy and independence generally associated with landed homes.

'Conventional landed homes... come with the freedom to pull down the entire landed structure and build to one's desire or make additions and alternations that may affect the external appearance,' Colliers said.

'An owner of cluster homes would not be able to enjoy these perks due to the requirement to maintain some form of uniformity.'

In some cases, however, giving up this privacy means lower prices for cluster homes, said market players.

However, buyers must bear in mind that strata housing comes with added costs such as maintenance fees for the upkeep of the recreational and security facilities.

Colliers estimates that these fees range from $250 to more than $400 per month, depending on the size of the development as well as the facilities available.

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