Monday, December 17, 2007

Ticket Prices Soar On Race Nights

Source : The Electric New Paper, Decemeber 17, 2007

WITH just nine months to go for the Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix, the race is on to find vantage spots around the track.

If you are thinking of getting a free look, forget it.

But what about a spot you pay for, like on the Singapore Flyer?

A 30-minute ride on the 165m wheel should offer views of the roads which will form the track.

And the view is likely to be extra special if you take a ride when the night race is on, between 26 and 28 Sep.

But it will cost you.

A basic ride will cost between $23.60 and $69 when the Flyer opens in March. But the night rides from 8pm to 10pm on the race days are likely to cost at least $200 each.

And don't expect to catch a free show after that at the Flyer's Waterfront Dining Promenade, which also offers a track view.

Said Ms Patsy Ong, managing director of Adval Brand Group, the Flyer's ticketing agent: 'The area around the Flyer, F1 pit building and street circuit will be cordoned off during the race period. Those who want to visit the Flyer will have to purchase race passes from Singapore GP (the race promoter) to access the track-side.'

In other words, a visit to the Flyer during the night race can cost you $475, based on the $275 three-day race pass.


What about the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) and Singapore Recreation Club (SRC)? Will members be able to watch the race from their premises?

The New Paper on Sunday understands that the clubs are in talks to decide on this.

A businessman in his 50s, who is a member of both clubs, groused: 'Why should members pay the race promoter if we want to watch it from our premises? It doesn't make sense, the race is encroaching on our space.'

Both clubs are located on the Padang, inside the street circuit.

Already, SRC members are making enquiries about its terrace, with a view of the St Andrew's Road section of the track.

The club said it will be meeting Singapore GP and the Singapore Tourism Board for a discussion next month.

The chances of anyone getting free glimpses of the race are slim. SingaporeGP is speaking to various private venues within the 5.067km circuit to structure joint ticketing and land-use deals for the race period.

Obviously, it wants to prevent unauthorised viewing from track-side venues.

Mr Michael Roche, Singapore GP's executive director, told The New Paper on Sunday: 'We need to ensure the fans get maximum value from our range of daily or season passes. We will erect screening fences at appropriate heights to restrict any unauthorised views.'

It seems you won't be able to watch the race for free even if you book a track-side venue like the 100-seater Bacchus wine bar at the Fullerton Waterboat House.

It has a view of the hairpin bend from Anderson Bridge leading to The Esplanade. The premises will be leased out for more than the usual rate of $5,000 a night.

Said Mr Don Tay, who runs the wine bar: 'From our discussion with Singapore GP on Wednesday, the organisers of the private function will have to purchase tickets to watch the race from the Waterboat House.

'There will be no free show.'

The three-day F1 race, which aims to draw 240,000 visitors, can cost up to $150million to stage annually.

It is not known at this point how much each private venue ticket will cost. But the three-day race passes can go from $275 to as high as $7,500 per person.

To offset some of the cost of staging the event, 11 track-side hotels will also pay a 30 per cent room levy to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, while off-circuit hotels pay 20 per cent.

The track-side hotels are almost fully-booked for the race period. But it could not be confirmed yet if hotel guests have to purchase race-day passes too. Or if there would be a restriction on the number of people allowed in each room.

At Swissotel's City Space Bar and New Asia Bar, party goers can enjoy a view of the circuit from the 70th, 71st and 72nd storeys.

The hotel said it will be accepting bookings for its three-day party packages.


Those working at the tall office buildings near the track may be able to watch the race for free - from a distance. (See box at right.)

Singapore GP said the 'unofficial' vantage points may not have unobstructed views. Because of the 4.5m debris fence, multiple crash barriers, lighting pylons, safety fencing and advertising billboards, those at the unticketed venues might end up hearing more than seeing the race.

The off-circuit venues include One Fullerton, which overlooks the hairpin turn.

Said Mr Roche: 'We are in discussion with the facilities around the circuit on a win-win deal. But only Singapore GP has the rights to offer tickets to the race.'



Aerial view

Anderson Bridge

Aerial view

Aerial view

Aerial view

Offices facing the Anderson Bridge

Offices facing Parliament House can see cars zip by the Padang

Offices facing Collyer Quay can see cars racing to the Esplanade

Sub-Prime Turmoil: Tables Turned

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 15, 2007

Even as the US crisis spills overseas, other markets, including those in Asia, are helping US capitalism stay afloat.

MAYBE some day we shall call this the year Asia got even with the West.

This week, GIC of Singapore bought a 9 per cent stake in UBS, paying 11 billion Swiss francs ($14S billion). The Swiss lender needed the bailout after being hit by a fresh $10US billion ($14S billion) loss from the US sub-prime market collapse. GIC is probably now its single largest stakeholder.

Then, a minute before the US Federal Reserve announced a quarter-point rate cut to stave off what looks increasingly like a recession in the world’s No. 1 economy, Citigroup, which may write off as much as $11US billion in sub-prime losses in the fourth quarter alone, said it has hired Mr Vikram Pandit as its chief executive.
The India-born Mr Pandit’s job is to rescue America’s biggest financial group from its troubles with a basic canon of banking - effective management of risk.

What a turn of events.

Earlier this year, the focus briefly was on sovereign wealth funds, government-owned investment vehicles with names such as Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Temasek Holdings, that were seen as barbarians ready to crash the gates of the temples of capitalism and steal its riches. Now, the same companies are acting as saviours for thousands of jobs in the United States and Europe.

For years, the so-called ‘emerging’ markets of Asia and South America suffered lectures on financial and corporate transparency, the need for open markets and the perils of moral hazard when governments step in to save companies that should have known better.

These pearls of wisdom from the men in button- down shirts and tasselled shoes rose to a crescendo during the Asian Financial Crisis a decade ago.

Now, it turns out that the big names of global finance such as Citi of America and UBS of Switzerland may not have told us the full extent of the tricky financial manoeuvres they had been up to over the past few years.

SachsenLB, one of the first European banks to hurt from the sub-prime crisis, may be staring at soured investments of as much as 43 billion euros ($91S billion) - much larger than initial estimates - and may even be at risk of closure.

Will the errant institutions in the US be forced to close? Unlikely. The US Treasury’s recent rescue plans - to save the funds as well as to intervene in the mortgage rate-setting process - indicate that Washington thinks these firms are too significant to be allowed to fail.

End lesson: You can get away with anything, you just need to be big enough.

Six months into the sub-prime crisis, it feels incredible to realise that the butterfly whose flapping wings caused all these avalanches so far afield was a 3-percentage point increase in seriously delinquent high-risk US mortgages.

Between April last year and this April, when it began to develop, this translated into $34US billion of soured high-risk loans. That was enough to rock the roughly $60US trillion American financial system to its core.

The first to get into trouble were the German banks Sachsen and IKB Deutsche Industriebank. Today, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, estimates that losses from the sub-prime fiasco could total $300US billion.
Even faraway Singapore felt its rumble. The Monetary Authority of Singapore said on Sept 17 that the three local banks hold $2S.3 billion of collateralised debt obligations, of which 28 per cent contain some US sub-prime loans.

All this is going to make for a very interesting year ahead for Asian financial markets.

Several indicators bear watching. The signals are mixed for now and while there is plenty to be wary of, it may be too early to turn despondent.

Take the No.1 economy. Goldman Sachs predicts a ’substantial recession’. The head of Fannie Mae, the largest mortgage originator in the US, says he does not see the mortgage market recovering before 2010. US consumers have turned a tad cautious.
Yet, Mr Charles Holliday, head of DuPont, says he does not see a recession, only a slowdown. ‘Chad’ as he is affectionately known to friends, should know: His products appear on the covers of golf balls, the paintwork of cars and the stretch fabric of athletes’ garments.

Those mixed signals hold for Asia as well.

Japan, the world’s No.2 economy, is slowing. Japanese producer prices have accelerated, the result of high oil prices. Unable to pass on the higher production costs to consumers, companies have chosen to take a hit on their balance sheets.
Just this week, China, the fastest growing major economy, reported that industrial production last month expanded at its slowest pace in the year. Government measures to cool inflation, including five interest rate increases in the year, are clearly beginning to bite.

Without doubt, a US recession is a nasty jolt to the global economy. Yet, 10 per cent economic growth in China and India totals up to more than $300US billion added to the global economy. This is more than the output the US, with a GDP of $14US trillion, could add by growing at 2 per cent in 2008.

The consensus among economists is that it is too early to say that Asian economies can be decoupled from the US. But just take a look at the orders for Boeing’s Dreamliner and Airbus’ A-380. Such orders from the Asian airlines are providing a good many of those jobs in Seattle and Toulouse. Maybe the phrasing should be reversed: the US cannot be decoupled from Asia any more .

Asian stocks, after a magnificent ride up this year, have been a bit nervous lately on concerns that global growth will ease and that the concerted action by central banks to boost liquidity will not be enough to stem credit-market losses.

But Asian central bankers, many enjoying an excess of liquidity, have not thought it necessary to join that effort by the US, Canadian, European and Swiss central banks.

The message, in short, is: ‘We are watching you, but this isn’t our problem.’

What is the lesson in all this for Singaporeans, especially those eyeing their own property and mortgage markets?

The island’s indicators are generally healthy. The urge to upgrade to better homes persists, combined with a Government policy to boost the island’s population, ensuring continued demand for housing. The rise of China and India will ensure sufficient economic ballast for years to come.

All that should indicate that the property market and the economy as a whole should stay healthy. Still, it will not hurt perhaps to hold off on buying that second apartment - just for a while.

Just do not get too greedy.

It’s The Best Of Times, And The Worst Of Times

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 15, 2007

WHEN the talk of the town turns to who’s getting bigger bonuses, hotels and restaurants being fully booked for the festive season, and the rising prices of coffee shops and the hawker fare sold there, you know the economy is red hot once again.

Not only is the cost of a bowl of noodles rising, but so too is just about everything else, from taxi fares and school bus fees to Housing Board flats with million-dollar views.

Even so, around town, Christmas shoppers are bagging gifts and setting tills ringing.
The drink of choice for today’s young and trendy is champagne, no less, as a story in the Life! section of this paper reported recently.

We have been here before.

In previous boom times, such as the 1990s, when wages, bonuses and prices were on the ascent, it was the best of times, but also the worst of times.

For every one out celebrating at never having had it so good, there was another moaning that he was not having it as good as the next guy, or that he was being squeezed by prices, and expectations rising even faster.

Three things, however, distinguish the boom this time from that of expansions past.

First, growing demand - for food, resources, housing, talent - is being felt just about everywhere and is running up against short supply, fuelled by the relentless rise of China and India, with millions of new capitalist middle class wannabes seeking to acquire the modern consumerist good life.

The result is higher global prices, with very local effects.

Secondly, even as more people are feeling the pinch from rising prices, the widening gap between the rich and poor in just about every society around the world means that some people are going to find it harder, and increasingly so, to cope than others.

The front page of The Sunday Times a few weeks ago said it all, perhaps oblivious to the irony. It had a poster picture of a cash- strapped man, with the headline declaring ‘Belt tightening times’. Yet, above this was a blurb across the page for a bumper special report on hot properties to buy.

Clearly, some people were tightening their belts, while others were reaching for their cheque books.

Set against this is the growing concern about the natural constraints of the planet, as well as the environmental impact of relentless growth, and with it energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming and climate change, which must surely be the buzzwords of the week, and even the year.

So, what to do? How are Singaporeans to cope with the downsides of rising prices, mounting expectations, and widening gulfs in society that come with these boom times?
Memories are short. But there are some lessons to be drawn from the last time we were faced with such a go-go economy. Here’s five:

Don’t panic: Just as prices will rise, so they will fall.

At times like this, this might seem a little hard to believe. Yet twentysomething Singaporeans, sitting in trendy bars in Dempsey Road lamenting that they are being priced out of choice housing in land-scarce Singapore, need only look up from their drinks and take in the sights around them.

Imagine all that land in Dempsey Road cleared for new housing projects, swanky condominiums, or leafy estates. The fact that it has not been - yet - should be reminder enough that there is land for further development, even on this tiny island.
No one should rush out to buy in a panic. Those who disbelieve this, should talk to one of those who are only just emerging from the unhappy position of sitting on properties which languished for years at prices below what they paid during the last property rush in the 1990s, as highlighted in a recent report on negative equity in this paper.

Don’t shoot the statisticians: One of the first targets in any price spiral has usually been official statistics.

Since people sense prices are rising rapidly, they question why official figures on inflation do no shoot up as well.

In the 1990s, this set the country off on a needless tangent relooking the accuracy and veracity of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. It proved to be a red herring, with the number crunching process here done in line with the best practices elsewhere.

Because the CPI is an aggregate or omnibus figure, some things in the

For a more meaningful gauge, look also at the more micro indices, such as the CPI for various housing types or income groups.

Whatever the case, bashing up the statisticians, just because no one likes the effects of the rising numbers, is a fool’s game, which will not get anyone very far.

Don’t just ask what the Government is doing about it: The Government can, and should, do more to help the less well off cope with rising prices, ensure they have roofs over their heads, food on the table, and their children continue to be able to go to school.

But, let’s face it, just how much the Government can do depends on how willing society is to pay higher taxes to finance greater state largess.

A more direct way to do this would be for the better off to give directly. They could adopt a cause, a charity - you need look no further than The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund - or even a child.

The extent to which a society’s better off are willing to dig deeper into their pockets to help others along the way is often a good gauge of how much taxpayers are really willing to pay to finance grand government welfare schemes.

If they are not, then simply calling for more state welfare - presumably financed by taxing someone else - is just so much political grandstanding.

Don’t scrimp and cut corners: This applies both to consumers and service providers.
The next time you are out at a fancy restaurant enjoying an expensive meal, spare a thought for the service staff, who also have families and are coping with rising costs. Leave a generous tip. Never mind that you are already paying a service charge, which the management will pocket.

If you really believe that the gap in society needs to be closed, well, put some money on the table.

Not only will you be doing your part, you might also enjoy better service, and give service standards here a boost.

For those at the receiving end, who run a service, such as a restaurant, don’t be tempted to cut corners and short-change customers, just because the queues are back. Customers have long memories. Those establishments that look after their clients, even when they do not need to, are likely to be patronised even when times take a turn for the worse.

Don’t hanker after what you don’t have: It was just three or four years ago that graduates left schools with no jobs waiting, companies slashed bonuses and payrolls, and businesses cried out for orders and customers.

That might all seem so last century now. Yet when times are good, it is tempting to lament about what we don’t have, rather than savour how much we do.

But that would be such a waste of what should really be a good end of the year for most, if not all.

Season’s greetings to one and all.

Office Sector To Finish 2007 As Property’s Star Performer

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 15, 2007

Prime office rents grew 92% this year; premium office rents have done even better - up 96%

RESIDENTIAL property may have been red hot, but office rents - with their phenomenal growth amid a severe supply crunch - will finish up as the year’s star performer.

Latest figures from property consultancy CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) confirm the trend.

SIZZLING: LaSalle puts the growth rate for grade A office rents at 70 per cent this year, the fastest in the region. -- ST FILE PHOTO

CBRE executive director of office services Moray Armstrong told The Straits Times yesterday prime office rents grew 92 per cent this year from last year. Premium, or grade A, office rents did even better - up 96 per cent.

He said, however, this growth ‘won’t be sustainable next year’.

‘We’re likely to see it moderating at 15 per cent to 20 per cent’.

One trend seen this year, which is likely to accelerate next year, is the number of companies moving out of the Central Business District into non-prime areas, he said.
‘The costs are too high in prime areas. In the short term, there’s still a critical shortage of office space, and this will remain a favourable market for landlords and investors.’

Singapore’s monthly prime office rents shot up 82.6 per cent to $12.60 per sq ft (psf) in the year ended Sept 30, CBRE said previously.

Current levels have already exceeded the historical high reached in the early 1990s of $11.50 psf.

At a separate event yesterday, LaSalle Investment Management also predicted a 15 per cent to 20 per cent growth in office rents next year.

LaSalle, a unit of real estate broker Jones Lang LaSalle, placed the growth rate for grade A office rents at 70 per cent this year. ‘This is the fastest growth rate in the region,’ said the firm’s regional investment strategist for Asia-Pacific, Mr David Edwards.

‘In comparison, rents in the private residential market rose at a healthy, but milder, 25 per cent,’ he said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority said office space rentals rose an overall 40.7 per cent for the nine months ended Sept 30 based on its official office rental index. Its figures for the year are due next month.

The Government has released transitional office sites - where buildings can be constructed quickly - to relieve the short-term supply crunch.

Two of these - at Scotts Road and Tampines - have been awarded, while two more at Mountbatten and Aljunied Road are now being tendered.

A more permanent supply is expected by 2010, and Mr Armstrong believes this will ‘deliver a great balance between supply and demand’.

Some analysts, such as Citigroup, however, recently warned of a supply glut to come. ‘We see no reason to conclude it will be an oversupply situation,’ countered Mr Armstrong.

‘With Singapore’s diversified economy boom, mass market residential and retail properties will also perform well,’ said Mr Edwards.

LaSalle plans to invest $20 billion in Asia-Pacific properties over the next three to four years, half of which will be in Japan. Demand is rising for modern logistics offices and shopping malls, said Mr Edwards.

The firm also recommends South Korea, for moderate-risk investors, and emerging markets such as China, India and Southeast Asia, for investors with a bigger appetite for risks.

LaSalle said it would also integrate sustainability concerns into its investment strategies.

‘Where environmental concerns was previously ‘interesting’, it is now necessary,’ said Mr Edwards. Given the soaring prices of crude oil, energy- efficient buildings have become very attractive investments.

‘Tenants are also increasingly demanding green buildings. In the long term, if investors don’t take this sustainable approach, it will have a negative impact on their portfolio,’ added Mr Edwards.


‘Where environmental concerns were previously ‘interesting’, it is now necessary. Tenants are increasingly demanding green buildings… If investors don’t take this approach, it will have a negative impact on their portfolio.’ MR DAVID EDWARDS, LaSalle regional investment strategist for Asia-Pacific

He Divides 4-Storey House Into 10 Rooms

Source : The Electric Newpaper, December 17, 2007

HAVE your house and rent it out too. That is the retirement plan that Mr Fung Chi Shing, 43, has in mind.

In 2005, he bought a single-storey terrace house, a seven-minute walk from Tanah Merah MRT station, for $730,000.

He then tore it down and replaced it with a modern four-storey house.

The house, which is almost complete, has 10 rooms.

Mr Fung plans to add two more rooms on the ground floor and maybe a gym, he told The New Paper on Sunday.

Each room is designed like a studio apartment.

He took a loan from a bank to pay for the building, which cost him $800,000.

The ex-jewellery craftsman who is spending all his time on doing up his new house, had initially planned to rent each room for $900 to $1,000 a month. But with the booming property market, he can double his rental income.

Mr Fung engaged a property agent to place his first newspaper advertisement two weeks ago.

Within two days three of his 10 rooms were taken up by young professionals.

Mr Fung said: ‘I am targeting middle-income professionals. Those who cannot afford to live in a serviced apartment. These people don’t really care about having full condo facilities. They just want their private spaces.

‘Every room is self-contained, with a separate living and sleeping area, attached bathroom and kitchenette.

‘I will hire a maid to do the housekeeping. It’s like staying in a serviced apartment, but much more affordable.’

Each room is about 56 sq m and is furnished with a small sofa, washing machine, TV, fridge and electric stove. There is also a patio for drying laundry.

Mr Fung even installed a lift that can take up to three people. ‘The lift cost $60,000 to install. It’s one of the cheapest in market,’ he said.

The father of three teenagers designed the whole house by himself and intends to occupy the top floor with his family. They now live in a three-bedroom condominium apartment in Kembangan.

Mr Fung said this is his second rental project.

Four years ago he bought a three-storey terrace house in Changi and divided it to rent out to young professionals and expatriates.

He paid $1.2 million for the 280sqm freehold property.

He claimed that his Changi property is constantly in demand, with none of the rooms being left unoccupied for more than a month.

Said his wife, Madam Sheila Chua, 40: ‘During good times, we earn more. But we can still cover our overheads and loan instalments during bad times. It’s a matter of adjusting the price.’

Divide & Rent

Source : The Electric Newpaper, December 17, 2007

Landlords split apartments into studio units to lower rents and maximise returns

HOW can you earn more rent in this bullish property market?

Simple - by putting in a few partitions.

Instead of renting out a three-bedroom apartment for say, a forbidding price of $5,000, some owners are now dividing their properties into three or four smaller units to rent out individually.

The result: More money for both owner and agent.

And lower and more affordable rents for tenants.

The New Paper on Sunday was shown a 93 sq m, two-bedroom apartment in Simei, divided into three small studio units.

The cost of dividing the apartment? Only $20,000, said property agent Steven Lim.

The sole proprietor of Steven Lim Realty helped the owner nearly double his rental income.

As the condominium is just a five-minute walk from Simei MRT station, Mr Lim saw a demand for smaller and more affordable units from young professionals who cannot afford to rent in prime districts.

‘These young professionals can’t afford to pay $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment (in Simei) either,’ said Mr Lim, 48.

‘So I suggested to the owner to divide the space and create three studio units with attached bathrooms and kitchenettes. Then he can rent each unit for between $1,600 and $2,000 a month.’

An Urban Redevelopment Authority spokesman said the conversion of a single residential unit into two or more separate units requires planning approval.

Mr Lim, who claimed he has handled eight such projects, said that not all apartments can be easily subdivided. The renovation cost also varies.

He explained: ‘This particular unit is located on the ground floor, with a mini-garden, which provides a second entrance.

‘It was quite easy to divide the space and create private entrances for all three studio units.’

The apartment has three toilets, one attached to the master bedroom, a common toilet and a maid’s toilet. So each studio unit has its own attached bathroom.

The washbasins were replaced with sinks for the kitchenettes. And space was found for washing machines.


Gypsum boards are used for the partitions as they are light and can be knocked down easily.

Under the Builder Control Act, putting in light partitions does not require a permit.
The owner declined to be interviewed or to allow The New Paper on Sunday to take any photographs of his apartment.

Mr Lim’s idea is not new, but with property prices rising, it is becoming a market trend.

He said: ‘The first time I did this was 10 years ago, during the last property boom. I was then marketing a studio apartment in Tanjong Pagar, a very hot district. I noticed it had two entrances, so I thought of converting it into two smaller studio units.’

Both 37 sq m units were rented out at $2,600 a month. ‘They were snapped up on the day I placed the advertisement,’ Mr Lim claimed.

Another agent, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, said: ‘There’s a demand for such partitioned units, especially in hot locations like Outram and Tanjong Pagar.’

Mr Tan, who has been in this line for 10 years, added: ‘It used to cost only $1,500 a month to rent a studio apartment in The Plaza on Beach Road. Today, the monthly rent is $3,200 to $3,500, depending on the condition of the unit.

‘For many young expats or professionals, renting HDB flats is usually a last choice. Such partitioned studio units are considered better since they cannot afford to rent a whole apartment in this booming property market.’

Mr Lim said: ‘Usually it takes a few weeks to find the right tenants for a whole apartment. But the demand for smaller units is so good owners get to choose their tenants.

‘I just need to place one small advertisement and I get more than 10calls asking to view the unit.’

What happens when the market goes downhill?

Mr Lim replied: ‘There is always a demand for small units. Of course the price will have to drop. But the rental income from the three partitioned units will still be more than renting the apartment as a whole.’

He said it’s a worthwhile idea for those who plan to let out their apartments for at least 10 years.

After the last property bubble burst, Mr Lim went into the renovation business to supplement his income.

Today, he is able to put his interior designing skills to good use.

Not only does he provide professional advice to homeowners, he also helps them draft their renovation plans.

Mr Lim said: ‘All the plans have to be submitted to the condominium’s management for approval.


There are many factors to note when subdividing an apartment, like the TV and power points.

‘With proper planning, tenants may not even be able to tell that these are makeshift studio units.’

Malaysian Shirley Tan, who has been renting a studio unit, said she initially felt cheated when she was told that her studio unit was subdivided from a bigger apartment.

But she rented it anyway because she could not afford anything else.

Miss Tan, 29, a financial consultant, is paying a monthly rent of $1,700 for her 30 sq m unit.

She said: ‘I like the apartment for it’s accessibility to the MRT station and the amenities in the area. There are also full coned facilities and I am not in an HDB flat.’

Farrer Court : Smooth Sale-ing

Source : The Electric New Paper, December 17, 2007

Residents nervous about Farrer Court en-bloc sale, but it goes off almost without a hitch

Happy: Farrer Court resident Shirley Lee said she was happy with Credo Real Estate and law firm Rodyk & Davidson as they kept in close contact with the residents. - Picture: Kua Chee Siong

MANY residents in Farrer Court had braced themselves for a nasty confrontation.

After all, anonymous letters spreading malicious rumours about the estate and allegations of vandalism had started flying even before any en bloc deal was signed.

It didn’t help that industry people were watching them because the deal was expected to break all records here.

But instead of sour faces, there are smiles aplenty now - the deal that finally went through last weekend has made instant millionaires out of the 618 home-owners there.

Among them is housewife Shirley Lee, in her 40s. She was full of praise for Credo Real Estate and law firm Rodyk & Davidson which handled the deal.

She said: ‘Everything was so fast and smooth. Such a huge estate is not easy to handle. I’m very happy with the sale.

‘They kept in close contact with the residents, gave frequent updates, and made us feel more secure, though it’s a lot of extra work for them.’

Farrer Court was sold for $1.34 billion, the largest amount ever paid in a collective sale here. Each owner stands to receive $2.2 million or $2.1 million, depending on whether they own the 1,600 sq ft or 1,450 sq ft units.

Resident Tan Quee Hong, 65, was relieved he wasn’t caught in a legal bind like his friend at Horizon Towers.


He said: ‘Friends said it’s so coincidental that we had two in our group going through en bloc at about the same time, but comparing the two was like comparing heaven and earth.’

Even Mr Tan Hong Boon, executive director of Credo, was surprised by the smooth outcome. He said: ‘This is one of the smoothest collective exercises we’ve had, given its size.’

Credo has handled other en bloc sales like Duchess Court, Eastern Mansion and the Zion Road apartments.

Said Mr Tan: ‘It’s very rare to find a big project with only two objections.’

In comparison, the 168-unit Eastern Mansion had two objections, the Zion Road apartments had two objections out of 40, while Duchess Court had 100 per cent support.

Credo, which was appointed in July last year, took just seven months to gather the minimum 80 per cent signatures for the sales agreement.

In the end, 571 unit owners - more than 94 per cent - signed the collective sales agreement.

Only two out of 618 units filed objections against the sale with the Strata Titles Board (STB).

After mediation, both withdrew their objections last Saturday.

That’s when the STB gave the approval for the sale of Farrer Court for $1.34 billion to a consortium comprising CapitaLand, Hotel Properties and US-based Wachovia Development Corporation.

Residents The New Paper on Sunday spoke to said that although they love the spacious and leafy estate, the price was irresistible.

Said Mrs Lee: ‘I didn’t expect the price to go so high, otherwise I would have bought more units here.

‘Ours is a 99-year leasehold property, built by HDB, with no swimming pool. Where can you find this kind of price?’

Madam Lee and her civil-servant husband had bought their unit for over $500,000. They and their two sons have been living there for 10 years.

Added her neighbour, Mr Tan: ‘This estate is 30 years old and some of the units need repair, which may be hard for some (financially).’

Of course, there was a time when things seemed less certain.

In March, poison pen letters started circulating, claiming that certain blocks there had bad fengshui and could bring bad luck to residents.

Then one of the residents, Mr Lo Hung Ee, 73, found the windscreen of his 3-year-old Mazda smashed.

Someone later also used an object to damage the car’s bonnet.

Mr Lo believed his car was vandalised because he was on the en bloc sales committee.

He said: ‘I was quite upset at first about selling, because I love this place. When I bought it, I thought this is where I’ll live until the end of my life.’

But he said that after speaking to many residents, he realised most wanted to sell.

So he joined the sales committee to make sure the residents - many of them senior citizens who bought their units when the project was launched - got a fair deal.

The residents will have to move out by September next year.

One especially sad to leave is MrsEvelyn Venning, 83. As she is only a tenant, she would ‘lose’ her home, but have no gain in return.

Said the energetic retired teacher, who prefers to live alone rather than with her son’s family: ‘I’ve been asking around, who will take me in.

‘It’s very sad. I really love this place. Here, it’s a big family, everyone knows each other. It’s so safe, I keep my door unlocked.’


# The 109 deals worth $13.3billion done so far this year is a big jump from the 79 deals for $8.2b last year.
# But of these, 82 deals worth $10.49b were done in the first-half.
# Only 27 deals worth $2.81b have been done since 1 Jul.

Queensway Still Best Place For Sports Retailers

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 17, 2007

QUEENSWAY Shopping Centre is rundown and fairly inaccessible, it has none of the frills its rivals have, such as a cinema, and rents have been rising. However, tenants at the well-known sporting goods haunt appear willing to stick with it.

Queensway, said Jeans Arcade proprietor Mohamed Yahya, who was echoing what five other retailers in the mall said, is ’still the best place for a sports retailer’. It has managed to maintain its reputation for being the place to go for one’s sporting needs over the years.

He has been at the mall for more than 30 years now, and is currently paying about $14 per sq ft (psf) for his 330-sq ft, second-floor unit. Last year, when his two-year tenancy agreement ran out, his landlord raised his $3,500 rental to $4,500, a whopping 29 per cent increase. The net effect, he said, is that he is just breaking even now.

Three other tenants that renewed leases within the last year reported rental hikes of between 3 and 20 per cent.

Another factor behind Queensway’s continued popularity is that rents at other locations have moved up too. The mall, which sits at the junction of Alexandra Road and Queensway, opened in 1976. Individual owners own the freehold units. A check with tenants there found rental rates ranging from about $13 psf to over $18 psf, depending on the location.

The Straits Times saw only one shop unoccupied.

New tenants such as Kobe 2000 proprietor Chan Chan Seng, 66, have been attracted to Queensway because rents there are lower than in other locations in the Katong and National Stadium area. His shop specialises in triathlon equipment. He is paying about $16 psf for the 135-sq ft unit - not as low as he would like, but still less than what landlords in other locations were asking, he said.

The mall is even attracting new, non-sports retailers such as Games Factory, which specialises in Sony gaming products. Its owner, 23-year-old Fred Yeo, signed the tenancy agreement two weeks ago, paying $14 psf for his 248-sq ft unit. He was considering a tiny $25 psf, 160-sq ft unit at the popular Far East Plaza near Orchard Road earlier, but decided to rent the cheaper Queensway unit just in case his business failed.

Asking Rents At Specialist Malls Rise By Up To 30%

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 17, 2007

Some retailers pay willingly for locale’s reputation, others prefer mix of shops.

RETAILERS in specialist malls such as Sim Lim Square, Queensway Shopping Centre and United Square have not escaped the tide of rising rentals seen at other malls here.
Some tenants have reported demands for rent hikes of up to 30 per cent when the time came to renew their shop leases.

For some, it makes sense to pay the higher rent and stay put and enjoy the advantages of being in a specialist-themed mall. Others say that more variety in the tenant mix might draw even more shoppers.

A check with tenants at the three malls - well-known for electronic products, sporting goods and children’s products respectively - found that rentals went from a low of about $11 per sq ft (psf) to a high of more than $30 psf.

This is still lower than the $44 psf commanded by retail space in Singapore’s prime shopping belt - Orchard Road.

Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said that, despite these rental hikes and the limited walk-in appeal of such malls, setting up shop in specialist malls can make sense.

This, he said, is because a concentration of specialist shops can create a useful ‘cluster effect’ for a retailer.

A grouping of specialist retailers can give a locale a reputation as the ‘place to go’ for such products or services. This attracts customers looking for particular products, and in turn attracts more of such retailers to the mall.

For example, Sim Lim Square is known to both locals and tourists as the place to get electronic products. This means that a visitor to Sim Lim Square is much more likely to buy something than someone visiting a ‘generic, cookie-cutter’ mall, he said.
The owner of computer retailer IT Harvest, who wanted to be known only as Mr Sajan, said he has no intention of moving out of Sim Lim Square, even though his monthly rent is more than $30 psf.

‘Sim Lim…is the IT hub. You can’t do business in electronics elsewhere.’

Likewise, Queensway Shopping Centre is known as the place to go for sporting goods, which is why retailers continue to set up shop there.

In 2002, United Overseas Land (UOL) relaunched United Square, located next to the Novena MRT station, and themed it a ‘Kids Learning Mall’, targeting middle- to upper-income shoppers ‘who want to provide the best for their children’, said UOL spokesman Ruth Yong.

One tenant, who declined to be named, said sales at her children’s apparel outlet are on a par with those at her branch in Suntec City, where she pays a higher rental. The latter mall does not have any specific theme.

The tenant, who has had her United Square outlet for about a year now, said that while ‘traffic is lower than I had expected…it’s not a bad choice’.

But things can also be more competitive in a specialist mall.

For example, while the number of potential buyers of electronic gadgets at Sim Lim is likely to be higher than that at Suntec City, the presence of so many competitors will also make it hard for a new computer parts retailer to stand out and secure a sale, Mr Mak said.

Mall specialisation does not always guarantee hordes of shoppers and, in fact, may deter those who are not looking for those particular products.

This is the concern of one tenant at United Square, where rents have risen by an average of 30 per cent this year, according to industry watchers.

Unlike Sim Lim Square or Queensway, where shop units are owned and rented out by individual owners, United Square is owned and managed by property giant UOL.

One tenant, Ms Cordelia Ling, has approached UOL to ask that she be allowed to break her two-year-contract.

She started her four- month-old children’s furniture shop at the basement in United Square ‘because I thought it was central and the crowd was a good fit, but I can’t even cover my rent’, she lamented.

She pays $13 psf in rent, plus 10 per cent of profits made, for her 468-sq ft, basement-level unit.

Ms Ling puts it down to over-specialisation. ‘There are no walk-in customers, and when the schools do not have classes, the place is practically dead,’ she said.

Specialised appeal

A concentration of specialist shops can create a useful ‘cluster effect’ for retailers.

It can give a locale a reputation as the ‘place to go’ for such products or services.

This attracts customers looking for particular products, and in turn attracts more of such retailers to the mall.

Pressure Building Up In Crowded S-Reit Sector

Source : The Business Times, December 17, 2007

Mergers seen as one response to slowing growth as assets, funding get scarce.

THE Singapore real estate investment trust (S-Reit) market is expected to face waning investor appetite and a short supply of potential acquisitions next year.
The S-Reit sector could also enter a consolidation phase, triggered by the implementation of a takeover code for Reits, analysts say.

‘Reits are under pressure at the moment,’ said Mark Ebbinghaus, the head of Asian real estate at investment bank UBS. ‘Many Reits have been sold off because of money leaving Asia.’

S-Reits have taken a beating over the past few months as large chunks of capital fled Asia on the back of the US sub-prime crisis. Many Reits are now trading at about 20 per cent below their June or July peaks.

Despite this, the sector will grow, with analysts predicting that at least three to five Reits will be listed in Singapore next year. This compares to five Reits in 2007 and seven in 2006.

Mr Ebbinghaus, for one, expects at least five Reits to go public here next year. The Reits are more likely to come to the market in the second half of 2008 as global financial markets recover, he said.

Others see a smaller number. ‘Going into 2008, we can expect at least a further two to three Reits to come into the market,’ said OCBC Investment Research analyst Wilson Liew.

However, he cautioned that the success of these new Reits is not assured. To do well, the Reits have to offer ’something new’ to differentiate themselves from the others in a now fairly crowded market space, Mr Liew said.

The S-Reit sector has grown substantially since the first trust - CapitaMall Trust (CMT) - was listed back in 2002. Right now, there are 20 Reits listed on the Singapore Exchange. Their combined market capitalisation is about $27.2 billion.
This compares to 15 S-Reits with a total market capitalisation of $24.4 billion at end-2006.

Right now, most S-Reits are based on properties in Singapore. A few are based on properties in China, India, Indonesia and Japan.

More diversity is needed, market watchers said. ‘A Reit based on properties in Thailand or Vietnam could do well,’ said Mr Ebbinghaus.

The S-Reit sector has to some extent become a victim of its own success, said OCBC’s Mr Liew.

‘The success of early Reits encouraged more players into the market, all hoping to replicate the same growth strategy,’ he said.

This quickly led to an asset squeeze, made worse as other new players - such as private equity and property funds - entered the market. The buying spree mopped up all the quality properties, pushing up valuations while bringing down yields, Mr Liew said.

BT understands that some Reit managers are putting off buying assets from the sponsor companies due to the high capital values of properties, which reduces the yields.

Acquisitions are slowing down as some S-Reits are also having trouble raising funds to buy the properties they want amid poor market conditions.

One theme for 2008 could be merger and acquisition activity in the S-Reit market.
Singapore’s Securities Industry Council (SIC) announced in June this year that it will extend the Singapore Code on Takeovers & Mergers to Reits. Now, anyone who acquires 30 per cent or more of any Reit must make a general offer for the remaining units.

Underperforming Reit managers could also be removed under the code. Guidelines allow for the removal of a Reit manager if at least 50 per cent of unit-holders are present and the majority votes for it.

OCBC Investment Research said that the industrial sector is most likely to see some consolidation. ‘The candidates could be either Mapletree Logistics Trust (MLT) or A-Reit buying and/or merging with Cambridge,’ Mr Liew said.

How well the S-Reit market will do going forward will depend on how quickly global financial markets can recover next year, observers said.

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun noted that Singapore is heading into a turbulent patch in 2008, although the country’s economic engine has never been in a better shape. ‘While we have faith in the domestic drivers, we note that external threats to growth are real and visible,’ he said.

Reits listed here have raised some $4.0 billion this year, compared to $3.2 billion in 2006, according to data compiled by UBS.

With more Reit listings on the table, the amount of capital raised next year could well be higher - provided the S-Reit market comes out of the current turbulence intact.

Reits May Well Have To Go Down Development Path

Source : The Business Times, December 17, 2007

REAL estate investment trusts listed in Singapore (S-Reits) must look at developing their own assets going forward, instead of just buying from sponsors or third-party vendors.

Right now, most of them are suffering from a double whammy - potential assets are lacking and capital is getting more expensive.

Too many Reits are competing for a fixed number of assets in Singapore. Since the first S-Reit was listed in 2002, the market has grown by leaps and bounds. Currently, there are 20 Reits listed on the Singapore Exchange.

In addition, foreign funds are also snapping up commercial properties, making assets even scarcer. These funds are also eyeing assets identified by developer-sponsored Reits as being in their asset pipelines.

For example, CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT) did not buy CapitaLand’s Temasek Tower and Chevron House. Market watchers said that a third-party buyer’s offered price must have been at a level that was not accretive to CCT. This means that a sponsor’s portfolio is a guaranteed asset pipeline for a Reit only if no third party is willing to offer a higher price - an unlikely scenario in a hot property market.
Compounding the problem is the jittery market, which makes raising funds for acquisitions difficult.

For example, K-Reit Asia recently decided not to proceed with a convertible bond and unit issue to finance its one-third purchase of One Raffles Quay, citing weak equity and credit markets. Parent company Keppel Corp instead provided a revolving loan facility of up to $960 million.

This pushed up the Reit’s gearing to a relatively high 55 per cent - not far from the regulatory cap of 60 per cent - giving K-Reit little room to fund future acquisitions with debt.

Citigroup recently downgraded K-Reit Asia to a ’sell’ from a ‘buy’, citing stalling acquisition growth. The bank also cut the stock’s target price to $2.17, from $2.87 previously.

‘Acquisitions will be constrained by limited debt headroom of about $100 million,’ the bank said in a research note.

Analysts have identified four other S-Reits - Allco Reit, Mapletree Logistics Trust, Cambridge Industrial Trust and Saizen Reit - as also having relatively high gearing.

Faced with these constraints, many Reits here will sooner or later have to go down the development route.

‘So far, A-Reit is the only Reit that has pursued this route with some success,’ notes OCBC Investment Research. ‘Going forward, with less opportunity for growth, we anticipate to see more S-Reits take on development projects.’

In particular, developers looking to list Reits in 2008 should look at setting up stapled trusts. Right now, there is just one such Reit listed here - CDL Hospitality Trusts, which consists of a hospitality Reit and a business trust, although the business trust is dormant at present.

In a stapled trust in which both parts are functional, investors will get stable returns from the Reit, which could be solely used as a vehicle for holding assets.
The stapled business trust, on the other hand, can take on development jobs and guarantee a pipeline of assets for the Reit. Such a product should prove to be popular with investors, and will also be a fresh and differentiated offering in Singapore’s Reit market.

Mid-Tier, Mass Market Homes May Lead Gains

Source : The Business Times, December 17, 2007

Performance hinges on HDB upgraders, en bloc millionaires, say consultants.

Next year could be the year of the mid-tier and mass market sectors with prices expected to rise between 8 and 15 per cent.

Whether this will happen depends largely on en bloc millionaires, the return of HDB upgraders, the resilience of the Singapore economy, and the possibility of more developers stemming supply and landbanking their redevelopment sites.

CBRE Research executive director Li Hiaw Ho expects 10,000-13,000 new homes to be sold, ‘with more activity seen in the mid-tier and mass market’.

The number falls short of the estimated total number of 15,000 units sold in 2007. But Mr Li said that, in the event of a downturn, developers who can hold will push back their launches until the market turns around.

‘This is possible because most of the collective sale sites are on freehold tenure,’ he added.

Mr Li also noted that while about 67 per cent of the development sites sold in 2006 were in the prime districts of District 9, 10 and 11, this fell to 49 per cent in 2007.

‘More sites outside the prime districts were acquired via the collective sale route in 2007, compared to 2006 when there was more supply in prime areas, and when prices were more affordable,’ he added.

Based on total sites sold, CBRE estimates that there could be about 14,000 units ready for launch outside the prime districts next year. This includes a potential 1,600-unit 99-year leasehold condo built by Frasers Centrepoint and Far East Organization in Tampines, and a 630-unit 99-year leasehold condo by Sim Lian Land in Bishan.

Savills Singapore director of marketing and business development Ku Swee Yong reckons that of the new launches, the majority would be mid-tier.

‘There are not enough launch-ready mass market sites of significant size,’ said Mr Ku.

He believes that there could be more mass market sites in the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme, with prices for the mass market gaining 30-50 per cent, and mid-tier prices rising 20-40 per cent.

Apart from a rising number of new citizens and PRs (permanent residents), Mr Ku expects an influx of integrated resorts-related foreign manpower in the second half of 2008.

‘The high-end will be replenished with the re-construction of en bloc sites but the mass market housing for junior level expats and foreign talent will have to come from GLS sites,’ he added.

Colliers International director of research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying also expects buyers hoping to reap rental returns to make up a significant portion of the mass market.

However, Ms Tay believes that the mass market and mid-tier sectors will no longer be quite as easy to define.

With many developers improving their product to try and price their projects at benchmark levels, Ms Tay says, there is a noticeable blurring of tiers as the higher-end of each tier encroaches into the lower-end of the next tier.

‘As such, it would be more appropriate to segmentise the residential property market into seven tiers, namely, mass, upper-mass, mid-tier, upper mid-tier, high-end, luxury and super luxury,’ she explained.

Colliers’ target prices for the mass and upper-mass market developments are below $750 psf, and between $750 and $1,100 psf respectively.

Projected prices for the mid-tier market are from $900 to $1,800 psf, and upper mid-tier market, from $1,800 to $2,500 psf.

At these prices, HDB upgraders could be priced out of the private market.

Resale HDB prices are rising with cash-over-valuation now as high as $150,000. Although this is for very select units, sellers are nevertheless holding out for higher resale prices. ERA Singapore assistant vice-president Eugene Lim, for one, does not expect resale volume in 2008 to top the estimated 30,000 units sold in 2007.

PropNex CEO Mohamed Ismail reckons that resale prices will rise 10-15 per cent in 2008. In spite of this, he believes interest on mortgages, stamp duty and legal fees will still leave about 10 per cent of HDB sellers in negative equity if they sell now.

Highlighting a recent trend, Mr Mohamed notes that 5-room flats in areas such as Bishan, Bukit Merah, Bukit Timah, Central, Clementi, Kallang, Marina Parade, Queenstown and Toa Payoh commanded cash-over-valuation of $50,000 and above in Q307. He added that buyers were mainly private property downgraders or en bloc millionaires who are also finding private property too expensive.

Ascendas In $144m Viet Industrial Park Deal

Source : The Strait Times, Dec 17, 2007

DEVELOPER of industrial and business parks Ascendas has teamed up with Vietnam's state- owned Protrade to jointly develop a US$100 million (S$144 million) industrial park.

It will mark Ascendas' first major development project in Vietnam.

The ambitious project involves developing a 500ha industrial park in Binh Duong province which will cater to light and clean industries.

Such industries could include those in the food and beverage, precision engineering, electronics and health-care sectors.

Called the Ascendas- Protrade Singapore Tech Park, it will be developed in three phases. The first phase - of 150ha - is set for completion in December next year.

In three years, when the project is completed, it is expected to cater to about 40,000 people working at the industrial park.

The park will offer businesses the options of prepared land and built- to-suit as well, as ready- built facilities, to give a hassle-free start-up.

The investment of US$100 million - with Ascendas being a 70 per cent joint-venture partner - is for the preparation of the land and necessary infrastructure for the whole project.

Ascendas president and chief executive Chong Siak Ching said: 'Singapore is one of Vietnam's top trading partners. The new park will incorporate the best features and lifestyle concepts from similar projects that Ascendas has done in Singapore, China and other markets in Asia.'

Ascendas already has a presence in Vietnam as a shareholder of the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park.

The new industrial park will be a key part of a new 1,350ha An Tay Industry and Service Complex - an integrated township offering living and recreational facilities for people.

Protrade is a Vietnam state-owned company with about 5,000 employees. It has businesses in food and beverage, health care, golf courses, and service apartments.

The project was announced last Saturday in Binh Duong province at a ceremony officiated by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai.



The contract with Vietnam's Protrade involves developing a 500ha industrial park which will cater to light and clean industries.

New Launches To Slow Till Next Year

Source : The Sunday Times, Dec 16, 2007

With a still uncertain market, quiet times in property sector may continue till after Chinese New Year

THE frantic property market is taking a breather, as buyers adopt a wait-and-see approach.

FOR BUYERS WHO CANNOT WAIT for the traditional December lull in property sales to pass, Lippo Group is now offering the 124-unit Marina Collection. Located next to One Degree 15 Marina Club, this high-end project in Sentosa offers a spectacular view of the sea. -- PHOTO: LIPPO GROUP

Property launches have been scarce in the past month, and that will continue now that the holiday season is here.

POSSIBLE LAUNCHES in the first quarter include the 405-unit Waterfront Waves in the Bedok Reservoir area. -- PHOTO: FRASERS CENTREPOINT

If you are one of the few home hunters still keen on checking out show-flats, you may have to wait till the new year - or even later. 'Most show-flats are expected to close during this festive season until early January 2008,' said a DTZ spokesman.

Traditionally, December is a relatively quiet month, but not so in the past three years.

Last December, buyers jostling to buy a unit at Marina Bay Residences formed long queues and crowded into its show-flat.

A year earlier, the launch of the second tower of The Sail @ Marina Bay sparked strong interest. Back in 2004, the launch of the very first condominiums in both Marina Bay and Sentosa Cove caused excitement.

Things are different this year, though. There is the added pressure of an uncertain market, largely caused by the United States sub-prime mortgage crisis. Private home sales in the fourth quarter could add up to just $4.5 billion, well down from about $15 billion in the third quarter, according to an industry observer.

'Most buyers are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to see which way the market is heading,' said the DTZ spokesman.

While some developers may want to launch their properties in the short January window, consultants say the quiet times are likely to continue until the Chinese New Year celebrations in early February are over.

Developers have a pipeline of new properties set for launch. But, given the weak market sentiment now, most developers will still postpone the official launch of their properties, said Knight Frank executive director Peter Ow.

'If the stock market improves, they are likely to launch after the Chinese New Year.'

Possible launches in the first quarter include the 77-unit Shelford Suites off Dunearn Road, the 428-unit Marina Bay Suites in the Marina Bay area, the 405-unit Waterfront Waves on part of the former Waterfront View site in Bedok Reservoir and the 302-unit Martin Place Residences in Kim Yam Road.

Industry sources say Far East Organization could soon launch Silversea on the site of the former Amberville on Amber Road.

The developer, they say, is hoping for prices of at least $1,700 to more than $2,000 per sq ft (psf), relatively high for the Amber Road area.

If you can't wait, projects that have started sales in the past two to three weeks ago include Allgeen Properties' D'Lotus project and Hayden Properties' ritzy 58-unit Ritz Carlton Residences.

Asking prices for the top floors of the 36-storey Ritz Carlton Residences are said to have crossed $5,500 psf, nearly a record property price in Singapore. Sales at Far East Organization's 99-year leasehold, 140-unit Jardine in Dunearn Road were also said to have started.

Allgreen Properties has also sold 186 out of 536 units at The Cascadia in Bukit Timah Road at a median price of $1,618 psf. The bulk of the freehold property, which has been launched in Hong Kong, or 162 units, were sold to an overseas fund at a median price of $1,527 psf.

If a spectacular view of the sea is what you are after, there is one newly-available, high-end project - Lippo Group's 124-unit Marina Collection - in the high-profile Sentosa Cove residential enclave.

It was opened to invited guests earlier this month, and Lippo off-loaded about 40 units of the 64 units it released for the preview.

Sale prices were at an average of around $2,800 psf, according to the group.