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Thread: Seafront homes

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    Default Seafront homes

    http://www.straitstimes.com/Life%252...ry_440248.html

    October 10, 2009 Saturday

    Seafront homes

    A new book on the homes at Sentosa Cove takes a peek at lifestyles of the super-rich and the rules they have to abide by

    By John Lui


    The swimming pool (left) at Austrian national Helmut Widdek's three-storey bungalow at Sentosa Cove stretches into the house to help cool it. Two stone lions (Photo 2) flank the third-floor jacuzzi that overlooks the sea, while the first floor (Photo 3) houses an additional living area. --ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG

    View more photos

    Austrian national Helmut Widdek's financial records were put under the microscope by the Singapore Government. Not because he was suspected of a crime, but so that he could buy a plot of land.

    Rather than being annoyed at the intrusion, he was pleased by it.

    'You have to prove you earned your money legally and I was very happy about the background check,' says Mr Widdek, 67, who recently retired from his job as owner and chairman of Hong Kong-based high-end leather goods manufacturer Emper Industrial.

    'Because, what if a Russian mafia guy wants to buy land also?' he says with a laugh, pointing at the houses of his neighbours in what could be Singapore's most contradictory piece of real estate.

    To own a piece of this resort-style 99-year leasehold development is to enjoy a set of privileges unparalleled in Singapore. A coffee-table book, titled Sentosa Cove, has been launched, tracing the history of the project and offering a glimpse into the homes and lifestyles of residents.

    But with the privileges come unique restrictions.

    Mr Widdek and his wife Sonja spoke to Life! while seated in the living room of the home designed to suit their wish for a modern, airy space that can showcase a collection of art and antiques.

    They paid $4 million, plus stamp fees, for the 8,500 sq ft plot five years ago, making him one of the first 'gwailos' to buy, he jokes, referring to the Cantonese term for Westerner.

    He declined to say how much the building cost. Such homes typically cost upwards of $5 million to build.

    Not only were his accounts probed, the couple also have to abide by rules unheard of in the rest of Singapore.

    No wall or fence higher than 1m is allowed around the owner's plot, for example. This is to allow for unbroken vistas and to stop owners from storing anything unsightly behind cover. There are several other rules dictating the style of roof, the public display of religious icons and even the look of letter, electrical and water meter boxes.

    The scrupulousness is understandable.

    Sentosa Cove is a government-driven showcase, designed to be a magnet for sightseeing boats, a means to create a permanent population on the previously visitors-only island, an architectural landmark and lastly, a home for the world's mega-wealthy through its 420 landed homes, and also the very well-heeled through its 1,720 condo units.

    The Cove is the only place where foreigners without permanent resident status can buy landed property, though permission is still needed.

    About 60 per cent of the buyers are foreigners. The Widdeks, who moved to their Sentosa home in 2007, have become Singapore permanent residents.

    Boats moored at their doorstep

    Aside from the beachfront units - Singapore's only such homes - owners of waterway-facing homes can navigate along Singapore's only private waterway to moor boats at their doorstep. This is within 15 minutes driving time from the central business district or the Esplanade Concert Hall.

    The restrictions were not a problem for the Widdeks. Mrs Widdek, 62, says: 'There is enough security here anyway. We don't want to live behind a wall and barbed wire.'

    The Cove's streets are designed to be closed to non-residents without a permit - another first for a landed estate in Singapore - and the coastal waters around it are patrolled by the Police Coast Guard and monitored by surveillance cameras.

    Mr Alan Choe was chairman of the Sentosa Development Corporation from 1985 to 2001, and chairman of land sales body Sentosa Cove Pte Ltd from 1995 to 2004. A town planner by profession, he was a strong advocate of the idea of permanent residents on the island. Without residents, the island would stay an enclave dependent on tourism, falling back on government subsidy when visitors were scarce.

    The more use is made of infrastructure facilities, such as the roads, the causeway and monorail, the more they can be improved. Residents were vital for the island's economic self-sufficiency, he argued.

    But to justify the high cost of land reclamation, the plots had to be sold to private developers at a premium. Hence the idea of a place for waterfront, resort-style living which cannot be found elsewhere in Singapore, he says.

    Mr Choe shaped many of the rules that govern life there today.

    Some of the rules are meant to encourage flights of creativity in the architects hired by the owners and others are to curb any garish impulses lurking in the super-rich, he says.

    'We thought we'd better not allow the owners their own letterbox designs. People can have weird ideas, such as dragons or some such thing,' he says, with a laugh.

    Rows of parked cars are today a blight on the streets of Singapore's older landed estates, he says. To prevent the same fate at the Cove, there is a ban on street parking.

    The Widdeks, for example, use up only two of the five spots available in their basement garage, so most times, the ban is not felt. For special occasions such as parties, there are 850 public lots at One Degree 15 Marina Club and a free electric golf cart taxi service to ferry residents and their guests to and from the Cove's homes.

    The Cove's streets are the only ones in Singapore that allow electric carts. There is also a shuttle bus that takes residents to VivoCity shopping mall.

    The ban on street parking is the one rule that the Widdeks wish was less rigidly enforced. They ask for more flexibility in allowing workmen to leave vans and lorries out on the street, for example.

    Ms Jennie Chua, the present chairman of Sentosa Cove Pte Ltd, wanted the right kind of people to own the landed homes in order to preserve an atmosphere of exclusivity.

    The company enlisted the aid of venerable auction house Christie's in 2006. Sentosa Cove Pte Ltd put up 12 bungalow parcels at Sentosa Cove for auction. The session was attended by high net worth individuals, both locals and foreigners from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. It was also the first time that a local auction was broadcast live via satellite to countries such as Australia, China and Hong Kong. All 12 parcels were successfully sold, amid competitive bidding, for a total value of $86.34 million, achieving a then-record price of $1,039 psf.

    And if one thinks that the success of the land sale was never in doubt, thanks to its one-of-a-kind nature, Ms Chua would like to correct that assumption.

    'Nothing moved' between 2003 and 2006, she admits. But the marketing team had the capability to 'ride the momentum of the market' when buyer interest picked up from 2006.

    She met many of those wishing to buy bungalow plots, asking about their intentions. They had to be the sort who would live there for much of the year, rather than buyers who treated it as an investment and left the houses empty for much of the time.

    'We need people who regard this as their first or second home. It has to be a place where you live, work and play. If you have too many houses left dark at night, there will never be a sense of community,' she says.

    For the Widdeks, who have spent 30 years in Asia and feel most comfortable in this region, their home on Sentosa is the place they want to spend most of their time. The couple, who have no children, have turned down several offers to buy the bungalow. They have only one other home, an apartment in Vienna.

    Mr Widdek says the Cove's management has asked him to try and keep the lights on at night to create an attractive sight for vessels entering and leaving the Marina and the Singapore Cruise Centre.

    He quips: 'The people on the boats have a nice view, but we get no help with the electricity bill.'

    [email protected]

    The book, Sentosa Cove, costs $64.20 and is available from leading bookshops.


    Sentosa home to 8,000

    Sentosa is shaped like a long, thin wedge. The broad end of the wedge, on the east shore, is where Sentosa Cove is. Out of the total land area of 117ha, about 100ha of land is reclaimed.

    # Land sales started in 2003 for North Cove and completed by early 2007. Land sales for South Cove started in 2006 and were completed last year.

    # By the year's end, 85 per cent of the projects in North Cove would have obtained their Temporary Occupancy Permit (TOP). The number of residents will increase from 2,300 to 3,000. They will live in 230 landed and 830 condo apartments.

    # The rest of North Cove will get their TOP by 2014. Development in South Cove will also be completed the same year.

    # The entire Sentosa Cove site will have a total of 2,140 units, comprising 1,720 condominium units and 420 landed units by then. It will be home to about 8,000 residents.

    Today, about 60 per cent of the residents are foreigners, hailing from 21 countries.

    PRICES

    Bungalow land parcels were first sold for $300 per square foot in 2003. By the time the last bungalow parcel was sold last year, prices had risen to $1,820 psf. Plots for landed homes range from 7,000 sq ft to 12,000 sq ft in size.

    # As of August this year, condo units were priced at $1,859 psf. Condo units in North Cove range in size from 1,000 sq ft to over 3,000 sq ft.

    # This month, the developer of the 41-unit Seven Palms condo began releasing units at $3,300 psf, or $8.5 million per unit and up, making homes in the low-rise beachfront project among the priciest in Singapore. In comparison, units in the choice Newton Road, Cairnhill and Bukit Timah areas were between $1,500 and $2,300 psf when they were released recently.

  2. #2
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mr funny
    Bungalow land parcels were first sold for $300 per square foot in 2003. By the time the last bungalow parcel was sold last year, prices had risen to $1,820 psf. Plots for landed homes range from 7,000 sq ft to 12,000 sq ft in size.
    This must be one of the highest-return investments around!

    Compounded 35% per year for 6 consecutive years!

  3. #3
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    Default have you heard

    Quote Originally Posted by jlrx
    This must be one of the highest-return investments around!

    Compounded 35% per year for 6 consecutive years!
    if you want someone not to do well, when they consult you about property, just say "don't buy. very ex now. wait till next year". keep repeating the message.

    by the time they wait, they would have missed many boats.

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