November 13, 2009 Friday

Record $653,000 for 4-room flat

Industry players caution high price for unit in Queenstown is a one-off

By Jessica Cheam

The four-year-old 969sqft unit at Forfar Heights, Strathmore Avenue, is just five minutes walk from Queenstown MRT station, and on the top, 40th floor of the block. The price paid by the Indonesian buyer is about 2.5 times the $262,000 the seller and his wife paid a few years ago. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

A FOUR-ROOM Queenstown HDB flat has sold for $653,000, setting a new record for price per sq ft (psf), amid continuing red-hot demand for resale flats.

The buyers, a male Indonesian permanent resident and a Singaporean woman, could have bought a condominium unit in an outlying area for the price.

But they were won over by the location, just five minutes walk from Queenstown MRT station, and on the top, 40th floor of the block, with unblocked views of greenery from all windows.

The four-year-old 969sqft unit at Forfar Heights, Strathmore Avenue, sold for $68,000 above valuation - a level determined by an independent valuer.

This works out to $674 psf, smashing the previous record of $609 psf, achieved in January last year, by about 10 per cent.

This may be an unusually high price but resale prices have been moving up.

Recent Housing Board data shows resale flat prices surged 3.8 per cent in the first nine months of the year, reaching a historic level - surpassing even that of the 1997 property peak.

The deal was brokered by Mr Chris Neo, 32, and Kelvin Lim, 28, marketing directors of ERA Realty. Mr Neo told The Straits Times yesterday that the price was good for the prime location.

'Although at that price you could buy a private property somewhere else, at this location, you wouldn't be able to get private property for less than $900 psf,' said Mr Neo, who has three years' experience and specialises in HDB flats in Queenstown.

He clinched the deal by persuading the vendors, who had not been looking to sell, to part with their home - promising a good price. He then trawled property websites to look for potential buyers.

The buyers declined to be interviewed.

However, seller Michael Nandakumaran, 55, was thrilled. 'We were surprised that we could achieve this price, but are very glad about it,' he said.

The final selling price is about 2.5 times the $262,000 he and his wife paid a few years ago when their flat was selected for HDB's en bloc redevelopment scheme.

They paid a designer $60,000 to renovate their Queenstown home.

The couple, who have three children, are off to live in Jurong East in an HDB flat.

HDB's latest data shows four-room units in the Strathmore Avenue block sold for between $501,000 and $595,000 between February and June.

The latest record stunned some industry observers. Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak said it was 'highly unusual' for buyers to pay that price when they could get a private condominium unit, albeit in an outlying estate.

Still, he feels that this could be the first of more to come as HDB resale flat prices creep up. 'The record will stand for a couple of quarters and if prices keep climbing, we'll see another record.'

ERA Asia-Pacific associate director Eugene Lim, however, thinks the sale is a one-off, owing to its good attributes.

'This is not common at all and is not the general trend. Usually, such sales happen only when there's a well-off buyer who wants a specific location and has the budget for it,' he said.

Mr Mak added: 'This sale is going to be quoted by sellers and agents to try and get people to pay higher prices. Buyers have to bear in mind such sales are not usual and not get pressured into paying more than they should.'

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Some record flat prices

# FOUR ROOMS: November 2009 - $653,000 ($674 psf), Strathmore Avenue

Previous record: January 2008 - $590,000 ($609 psf), Jalan Membina

# THREE ROOMS: December 2007 - $382,000 (about $580 psf), Upper Cross Street

# ABSOLUTE RECORD: January 2008 - $890,000 ($552 psf), for executive flat in Mei Ling Street