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Thread: The land of shrinking apartments?

  1. #1
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    Default The land of shrinking apartments?

    October 18, 2009 Sunday

    Buyers pounce on 'mickey mouse' flats

    Affordability of such units - some the size of 21/2 carpark lots - is the main lure

    By Joyce Teo, Property Correspondent

    What do you call an area equivalent to 21/2 carpark lots?

    An apartment, covering 258 sq ft.

    Such units were among apartments of various sizes put up for sale at the Suites@Guillemard pro-ject in Guillemard recently.

    The cost of the small unit? $374,000 or $1,450 psf - and all four such units were snapped up.

    They might well be Singapore's smallest private apartments, beating out a 312 sq ft unit at Kent Residences near Farrer Park, which made the news in June last year.

    Indeed, buyers are seeing more so-called 'mickey mouse' or 'shoebox' flats - which are below 500 sq ft - on the market.

    The trend took off late last year.

    So far this year, nearly 500 'mickey mouse' units have been sold, up from 299 last year and 275 in 2007.

    Recent launches with units under 500 sq ft include The Lenox along Changi Road.

    Upcoming launches include the 40-unit City Loft in Race Course Road, where the units are around 323 sq ft to 420 sq ft in size and where penthouses go from 743 sq ft to 904 sq ft.

    Driving sales is affordability, especially in an uncertain economic climate.

    However, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA's) flash estimate, prices of private residential property rose from 133.3 points in the second quarter to 154.5 in the third quarter - an increase of 15.9 per cent.

    Amid rising prices, the cost of a 350 sq ft one-bedder - which can be just $370,000 to $400,000 - seems alluring, even if the price per square foot easily exceeds $1,000.

    But do buyers, many of whom are thought to be investors, know what they are getting into?

    There is increasing concern in some industry quarters.

    'The small units are more like the size of a hotel room and might be deemed by occupiers as non-conducive as a general apartment kind of living,' said Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han.

    Which means that some buyers may list them on the rental market.

    'If demand is not there for long- term leasing, owners may lease them out on a monthly, weekly or even hourly basis.'

    This raises the issue of what sort of tenants would move in.

    Mr Han's view is that there is a bigger social responsibility to make sure the projects 'are planned correctly and are sustainable as proper residential dwellings'.

    Should the Government step in?

    The URA said it does not stipulate a minimum size for private residential units. This is to allow developers flexibility to provide different-sized units to cater to various needs and income groups.

    'URA will assess the overall building design, site layout and whether the proposed residential units are able to function effectively as self-contained dwelling units, with basic amenities like living area, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom,' said its spokesman.

    There is no stopping developers from going for small but there could be a limit to how far they can go.

    The URA has apparently already rejected some applications for small units.

    EL Development's managing director Lim Yew Soon's take is that small units will still be popular but they will have to be at least 30 sq m, or 323 sq ft, for them to be more liveable.

    Said Frasers Centrepoint's CEO Lim Ee Seng: 'We would not build anything smaller, as 400 sq ft is about the optimum size, capable of accommodating a decent-sized living-dining area, toilet, pantry and a bedroom.'

    The smallest unit at its recent project 8@Woodleigh is 398 sq ft.

    An industry veteran pointed out: 'Whether such a space standard is healthy is a valid concern. Today, it is hard to imagine living in a 300 sq ft unit but things do evolve over time.

    'Planning standards change along with our social milieu. When you look at it in context, small units could become popular in the heart of town centres for single-person households in the future.'

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  2. #2
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    October 18, 2009 Sunday

    The land of shrinking apartments?

    Developers offering small units gain from a higher per-sq-ft price, but what about buyers?

    By Joyce Teo, Property Correspondent

    Property players seem to have gone flat-out in a race to offer smaller and smaller units these days .

    The foundation of this trend is mainly in the mass-market and mid-tier projects. However, upmarket developments downtown such as The Sail@Marina Bay, One Shenton and Icon have also made room for units that are smaller than 700 sq ft each.

    Colliers International executive director Ho Eng Joo said developers find it commercially viable to build smaller units because of the higher profit margins.

    More units can be packed within the space, and can be sold at a higher per-sq-ft price.

    But since absolute sums for the smaller apartments are still relatively affordable compared to bigger units, the prices may still seem like a good deal for buyers.

    This explains why a lot of developers are looking at cutting unit sizes so that they will be able to sell out their projects faster, said industry sources.

    This was especially true when the economy went through a slow phase in the earlier months of the year.

    The bigger developers have larger sites so they would not usually consider very small units, or at least not many of them.

    Typically, it is the smaller players with small sites which will try to carve out as many pigeon holes as possible, property experts said.

    'If the sites are near MRT stations, developers will want to make the units as small as possible so that they are affordable,' said EL Development managing director Lim Yew Soon.

    Some examples include Alexis in Alexandra, 8@Woodleigh, Kembangan Suites in the east and Mr Lim's own sold-out project Illuminaire in Devonshire Road.

    Going by the good take-up rates, buyers seem happy to ink on the dotted line.

    Whether they will eventually live in these small units themselves or look for tenants remains to be seen as many of these projects are still being built.

    One consideration on their minds must surely be: Will the quality of life be compromised by such compressed spaces?

    Not if the developer pays attention to the layout, view and planning of the project, said property experts.

    'I don't think it is right if the planning layout is such that the cooker hob is next to the bed,' said EL's Mr Lim.

    But to be sure, apartments that are a tight squeeze are not unique to Singapore.

    In big cities like London and Tokyo, apartments can be as small as under 200 sq ft.

    In Hong Kong, apartments of below 430 sq ft account for a whopping 32 per cent of the housing supply.

    'As affordability gets stretched, people are prepared to compromise on the unit size,' said Mr Simon Smith, senior director of research at Savills Hong Kong.

    But in Singapore, he notes that there are 'HDB flats which are quite generously sized', which means that many people are used to a certain standard of living.

    The housing board's studio apartments are 377 sq ft.

    Said property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield's managing director Donald Han: 'Unlike other places like the United Kingdom or Japan, we don't have the problem of commuting from an inner city to the countryside. Do we need small units in the city?'

    'You don't want a nation of shoeboxes,' he added.

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  3. #3
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    Default Check actual space of shoebox units

    Oct 25, 2009


    Check actual space of shoebox units

    The interior of a 388 sq ft apartment at Soho 188 in Race Course Road. Shoebox apartments range from under 400 sq ft to about 500 sq ft in size. -- ST FILE PHOTO

    I refer to last Sunday's article, 'The land of shrinking apartments?'.

    Even if we have to settle for shoeboxes, we should spend our precious money wisely, choosing well-fitting boxes.

    I saw in the sample floor plan of a Suites@Guillemard unit that there were two large bay windows forming part of the 258sq ft area, which at first looked big enough to accommodate another bed and sofa.

    I understand the plan was only an approximation, but I measured the space depicted anyway and found that the bay windows took up 28.9sq ft of the area.

    Another 9.6sq ft space attached to a bay window was unlabelled and might be an air-conditioner ledge or planter box. This left only 219.5 sq ft of actual floor space, or 85per cent of the original 258 sq ft figure.

    If one wants to buy 258 sq ft of space, it would be a good idea to buy 258 sq ft of actual floor space, and not 219.5 sq ft, with the floor area shrunken by bay windows and other architectural gimmicks, which are usually there for the benefit of someone else other than the home buyer.

    The use of such architectural designs nowadays commonly leaves the home buyer with only 70 per cent to 85 per cent of actual indoor floor space, and the buyer realises that only if he actually measures the floor space.

    Alex Wee

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