Second batch of Tengah flats up for sale in May

Nearly 2,200 flats in the upcoming “forest town” of Tengah will be offered for sale when two housing projects in the estate are launched later this month.

One is a 990-unit project called Garden Vale @ Tengah, the first batch of flats to go on sale in Tengah’s new Garden District.

The other is the 1,190-unit Plantation Acres project in the Plantation District, located opposite the Plantation Grove project which was launched last November.

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Adapted from: The Straits Times, 21 May 2019

Canberra station on North-South Line opening on Nov 2

The new Canberra station, located between Sembawang and Yishun stations on the North-South Line (NSL), will open on Nov 2 this year.

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan announced this during a site visit to the MRT station yesterday afternoon.

The station, which is only the second to be built on an existing line, after Dover station on the East-West Line, is a 10-minute walk from an estimated 17,000 homes in nearby estates such as Sembawang Springs, EastLink I and II @ Canberra and Eastwave @ Canberra.

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Adapted from: The Straits Times, 21 May 2019

CPF Rule Change: What’s in it for you as a homebuyer?

The much-awaited rule change for the Central Provident Fund (CPF) was announced recently. Home owners would be able to withdraw more from their CPF to buy ageing flats from May 10, provided that the remaining lease can last them until the age of 95.

These changes are not expected to affect most of the CPF transactions today, as 98 per cent of Housing Board (HDB) households and 99 per cent of private property households have a home which covers them to 95 years or beyond, according to the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of Manpower.

Still, the changes could have some impact, especially on public housing with short leases whose buyers may struggle to cough up much cash to finance the purchase due to the restricted use of CPF.

Before May 10, once the flat crossed 40 years old (or, in other words, with 59 years of remaining lease), the eligible buyer pool would shrink dramatically as the CPF financing terms became stringent.

Buyers, young and old, may have to fork out more cash upfront if they take up a smaller HDB loan because of the new loan-to-value limits. The pro-rated CPF usage limit may restrict how much of the loan they can pay with CPF.

It was akin to a 60-year-mark curse where property values of flats fell sharply when it reached 60 years because of the restrictive financing terms.

To illustrate this, if the youngest buyer of a flat with remaining 59 years of lease is 25 years old, under the old scenario, he could use his CPF to pay for up to 49 per cent of the flat’s valuation limit.

As a result, he may have no choice but to go for a more expensive flat with a longer lease in the same location, or a flat farther away from the desired location but of the same price or even cheaper.

Under the new rule, the same buyer can use his CPF to pay for up to 79 per cent of the flat’s valuation at purchase, and the amount of cash he needs to fork out over the loan period is reduced by 30 percentage points, from 51 per cent to 21 per cent of the purchase price.

This would translate to substantial cash savings of $90,000 on a flat that costs $300,000, easing the financing burden of the homebuyers.

The new rule also applies to private properties with shorter leases, although the impact would be limited, because during the past two en bloc cycles, many such old apartments had already been redeveloped into fresh 99-year leasehold properties.

For older buyers purchasing a flat with shorter leases, the financing terms are even more generous. For instance, if the buyer is 45 years old, he can buy a 50-year leasehold property with maximum CPF usage of 100 per cent of the valuation limit, compared with only 80 per cent of the valuation limit under the previous framework.

Things are a little trickier if a flat or private property cannot last the youngest buyer until the age of 95.

In some cases, the buyers’ CPF usage will be reduced by a small proportion, though under the old rule they may have qualified to use CPF for up to 100 per cent of the valuation limit.

This is a prudent move by policymakers, given Singaporeans’ longer life expectancy of 85 years and the higher possibility of them outliving the flat leases, if the old rule remains in place.

For example, if a 45-year-old would like to purchase a flat with a remaining lease of 40 years, the CPF usage will now be reduced to 67 per cent of the flat’s valuation limit, compared with 75 per cent previously.

As the property does not cover him to the age of 95, he will not be able to withdraw CPF savings above his Basic Retirement Sum from the age of 55 (except for the first $5,000 from the age of 55, and 20 per cent of their retirement account savings from their payout eligibility age).

The new rule boosts the liquidity of older flats and cheers the market. It is definitely good news for both sellers and buyers who previously faced challenges transacting a property with short remaining leases.

It kills two birds with one stone. On one hand, as long as the property can last the buyers until the age of 95, they can use more CPF to fund their housing needs. This should work well if they do not have any bequest motive, and the flexibility they get in terms of funding their housing needs through CPF should render some cash-strapped Singaporeans extra help.

On the other hand, the Government still wants to instil financial prudence when buyers opt for homes with shorter leases that cannot last them a lifetime.

More CPF savings have to be set aside for non-housing needs and will ensure the retirement adequacy of the individuals.

Moreover, there are additional restrictions in terms of CPF withdrawals when the buyers turn 55. A balance was struck between using more CPF for loans and retirement.

Though the new rule is not going to be a game-changer for the ailing HDB resale market, it does help to smoothen the transaction for older flats which have fallen off the radar of homebuyers.

We could therefore see prices of older flats and apartments stabilising, especially in light of greater uncertainties in the economy.

So should you buy a flat with shorter remaining leases?

If you can afford something with a longer lease, you should stick to this strategy because buying an older flat may come with greater uncertainties after leases run short.


Adapted from: The Straits Times, 19 May 2019

Copper-cladded Sentosa Cove bungalow sold for S$32 million

A seafront bungalow in Cove Drive on Sentosa, dubbed the Copper House, changed hands last month for S$32 million.

Covering an area of 18,053 square feet (sq ft), this translates to S$1,773 per square foot (psf). The property with a 99-year lease tenure – which commenced in November 2006 – offers views of the Southern Islands. Two adjacent plots of land of about 9,000 sq ft each were combined to form an amalgamated site. There are only a few such plots in Sentosa Cove.

The seller is Singaporean David Loh, a director with Singapore Exchange listed-Centurion Corporation, while the property was sold to Taiwanese citizen and Singapore permanent resident Hsu Chen. It is unclear whether the buyer is Taiwanese billionaire Hsu Chen, who shares the same name and co-founded candy maker Hsu Fu Chi group.

BT understands from market sources that Newsman Realty represented the seller.

Dubbed the Copper House, copper clading lines the facade of the resort-style bungalow, which was completed in 2012. All six bedrooms of the property are on the ground floor, with direct swimming pool access for the master suite and four bedrooms. The living room is on the second floor of the house to leverage the sea views, while the rooftop terrace serves as a 10,000 sq ft entertainment area.

According to a media article by The Edge in June 2016, the house was previously put up for sale then with a price tag of S$48 million.

Other features reportedly include a state-of-the-art wine cellar which can hold up to 2,000 bottles of wine, private basement parking for up to eight cars as well as a sauna room, gym and private spa.

Other recent transactions at Sentosa this year include an 8,727 sq ft property on Cove Drive for S$17 million and a 2,328 sq ft property in Ocean Drive for S$4.88 million; this works out to S$1,948 psf and S$2,100 psf respectively. Both were transacted in January.

Commenting on outlook, KH Tan, managing director of Newsman Realty, noted that transactions have started to pick up at Sentosa over the last few months.

“There’s interest coming back,” he said, adding however, that prices are not likely to go up. Mr Tan expects more transactions this year over last year.

According to Samuel Eyo, managing director of Lighthouse Property Consultants, Sentosa is currently a buyer’s market. The vast majority of buyers tend to be foreigners, especially from China.

He reckons transaction volumes for landed properties at Sentosa could match last year’s tally or even be slightly lower, given easing economic growth, the escalating trade war and the slowdown in China.

Last year, 11 bungalows at Sentosa Cove changed hands at a total value of S$180.2 million, (based on caveats lodged), The Business Times reported previously.


Adapted from: The Business Times, 18 May 2019

Singapore residential market resilient due to strong foundations

Despite the cooling measures introduced on July 5, 2018, Singapore’s residential property market has stayed resilient and quarterly primary home sales rose in the last three quarters, to the surprise of many.

In the first quarter of 2019, developers sold 1,838 new private homes, 16 per cent higher than the same period the previous year.

Non-landed residential prices outside the core central region have also held up in the last three quarters.

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Adapted from: The Business Times, 18 May 2019

One-north draws big players with its vibrant tech buzz

A seven-storey building with streaks of electric green will add buzz to the skyline at one-north business park in Buona Vista next year.

It will look like something out of a sci-fi movie but gamers will know the colour is the hallmark of gaming company Razer, which is setting up its new South-east Asia headquarters there.

One-north will also be the headquarters of another home-grown unicorn, ride-hailing firm Grab.

Luring such big names is a significant boost for one-north at a time when other tech-themed business parks are in the pipeline, such as the Jurong Innovation District and Punggol Digital District.

Siting parks away from the central areas is designed to bring jobs closer to home and support economic development, but it can put pressure on existing centres.

But one-north seems to have retained its relevance and popularity since its conceptualisation about 20 years ago.

Grab’s $181.21 million building in Media Link is expected to open by the end of next year and house about 3,000 employees. The 42,310 sq m building will also feature the company’s largest research and development centre.

“You can sense the excitement in the place,” said JTC Corporation assistant chief executive Alvin Tan, referring to the moves to the area by the big players. “We’ve been very excited and encouraged by what’s been happening in one-north.”

The main attraction for such fast-growing companies is talent supply, added Mr Tan, who oversees industry clusters at the statutory board, which developed one-north.

“For many of these technology firms, it’s really a war for top talent. The place that they choose must be one where people want to work,” he told The Straits Times last month.

JTC has spared no effort in introducing amenities and programmes to generate vibrancy at one-north.

In 2016, for example, an old industrial canteen was converted to food hall Timbre+, a large multi-functional space where workers can relax over live music and drinks in the evening.

There have also been events such as one-north Superstar, a singing competition for workers.

Timbre+ sits right in the middle of a start-up ecosystem called [email protected], a 6.5ha site dedicated to new firms.

Ms Patricia Liu, chief of staff at Razer, called one-north a “natural fit” for the company as the area is a “vibrant hub for research and innovation for Singapore’s knowledge economy”.

She added: “Being in one-north gives us the opportunity to tap the talents and ideas (here).”

Ms Liu also said Razer will look to participate in the one-north community and work with start-ups there.

JTC’s Mr Tan added that there has also been an attempt to make one-north a place for test-bedding new ideas such as LaunchPad and Timbre+, leading to a culture of innovation. In recent years, one-north has been designated as a location for autonomous vehicle testing and drone testing.

He also pointed out the importance of a receptive community in one-north that allows for experimentation, pointing to Timbre+’s tray return system, which was well received.

This test-bedding culture has been key in attracting the big hitters. Razer, for one, is keen on rolling out its Razer Pay services to merchants and companies in one-north before releasing it to a wider audience.

And British food delivery giant Deliveroo has been testing out its dine-in concept called the Food Market in one-north since March.

Mr Siddarth Shanker, general manager of Deliveroo Singapore, said: “What was (also) really attractive is that from one-north, we can deliver to residential areas such as Clementi, Holland Village, Queenstown and Bukit Timah.”

The Urban Redevelopment Authority envisions economic nodes islandwide, from the Woodlands Regional Centre and Punggol Digital District in the north to Jurong Lake District and Jurong Innovation District in the west.

While some may wonder if the emergence of multiple economic nodes may lead to cannibalisation, veteran urban planner Steven Choo is sanguine, pointing out that the location, size and speciality of each hub are distinct enough for each to thrive.

He added that there is also space for adjustment, as in one-north’s case, which had a biomedical emphasis in the beginning but now has media and tech clusters.

“The planning vision should not be limited because of challenges,” said Dr Choo. “We would not have had Shenton Way or a new downtown area if we stopped planning during the recession.”

“The planner proposes and the market disposes,” he said. “We have to plan boldly.”


Adapted from: The Straits Times, 21 May 2019