July 4, 2009

home & garden

Condo-style granny units

Frasers Centrepoint's two-room units with adjoining studios prove a big hit with buyers

By tay suan chiang

The layout of Frasers Centrepoint's "dual key" apartments at 8@Woodleigh (left) has a studio unit attached to a two-bedroom unit. CapitaLand's The Metropolitan also offers options for multi-generational living. -- PHOTO: FRASERS CENTREPOINT

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Always close, but never too close. That is the carrot dangled before extended families buying new condominium units which come with adjoining studio apartments.

Apart from the usual two-, three- or four- bedroom layout options, property developer Frasers Centrepoint Homes has introduced what it calls 'dual key' apartments at two recent two projects, Caspian at Lakeside and 8@Woodleigh.

This new layout has a studio apartment attached to a two-bedroom unit and is about 10 per cent larger than a regular three-bedroom unit.

And it has been an unqualified success.

At the recently sold out 8@Woodleigh at Potong Pasir, the 390 sq ft studio apartment comes fully equipped with its own kitchen, bathroom and dining and living areas. It also has its own entrance, which opens up to a foyer that is shared with the 682 sq ft two-bedroom unit.

Frasers' chief operating officer Cheang Kok Kheong says such units are 'specially conceptualised to promote inter-generational ties within families'.

All 30 units of this new layout at Woodleigh have been sold. Scheduled to be completed in 2013, the project has a total of 330 units, including one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom types.

Over at Caspian, a 712-unit project, all 17 such 2+1 bedroom units are also sold out.

Global investor Simon Yong, 50, bought one such unit at Woodleigh. He nows lives with his wife in a semidetached home at Braddell. When the Woodleigh project is completed, he hopes to move in with his mother, who is in her 90s. She will live in the studio apartment.

'My wife and I still have our privacy, but we can take care of my mum easily too,' he says.

CapitaLand is another developer that has offered a similar adjoining unit option to encourage multi-generational living.

Its The Metropolitan at Tanglin contains 29 single units with two entrances. In these apartments, a partition wall can be built to divide the living space.

Another option the development offers for multi-generational living are adjacent separate units. There are 14 pairs of such units, which offer buyers the option of removing the partition between the two units to create a single living and dining area.

The condominium was completed recently. At its launch in 2006, Ms Patricia Chia, chief executive of CapitaLand Residential Singapore, said: 'Many families today would like to live near to, or with, their ageing parents, while enjoying a certain amount of privacy.

'We also recognise that every family's lifestyle needs would change with time. The flexibility that we have built into the unit layouts at The Metropolitan is ideal to meet these needs.'

There is another use for 2+1 bedroom units: rental.

Frasers' Mr Cheang says: 'The new layout also gives buyers the option to finance their purchase by renting out the studio component of the unit.'

It is still about four years before they can move in, but buyers of units at Woodleigh that Life! spoke to are already thinking the same way.

Ms Teresa Kwan, a manager in a financial institution who is in her 50s, has bought a 2+1 bedroom unit at Woodleigh. She says: 'I can live in one and rent out the studio, or I can rent both units out.'

At Lippo Realty's Newton One, one of the bedrooms in its five-bedroom units comes with its own kitchenette and entrance - ideal for extended families and also rental.

Mr Chris Koh, director of Dennis Wee Properties, says these units are a good option for property hunters, particularly those who are looking to lease out the unit. 'Both the tenant and the landlord still have their privacy.'

Such apartments are a new trend in the private property sector, but HDB introduced them about two decades ago. In 1987, it launched multi-generation flats, or 'granny flats'. They comprised a four- or five-room flat with an adjoining studio apartment with a separate entrance. Around 367 units were built in Bishan, Tampines and Yishun.

However, HDB stopped building them 'as the demand then was not high. The completed multi-generational flats are still available in the resale market', says a spokesman.

Dennis Wee's Mr Koh believes that 2+1 units are a hit now because they can generate extra income.

A check with other property developers, such as UOL Group and City Developments, showed that they are not implementing these special two-in-one units in their upcoming projects.

Still, tutor Leah Teo, 35, hopes that more developers will offer such units. 'I can rent out one unit for extra income, and later on, I can have my elderly parents living next to me,' she says.

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