Monday, June 2, 2008

New HDB Flats Priced Too High

Source : The Straits Times, Jun 2, 2008

I READ with interest news on the Housing Board website on the new build-to-order (BTO) projects launched in Punggol and Sengkang.

However, I am astounded by the high prices of the four- and five-room flats. The five-room premium flats in the Punggol Sapphire BTO project are selling at between $330,000 and $400,000. These prices are comparable to the new flats on sale in mature estates just two years ago.

They cost almost $100,000 more, or an almost 50per cent jump, than similar flats in Punggol just two to three years ago.

By pricing the units so high, is HDB not further stoking the inflationary trend of home prices?

Ho Koon Woei

Fusionopolis Phase 1 Nearly Sold Out Already

Source : The Straits Times, Jun 2, 2008

The 120,000 sq m complex will be opened in October

IT HAS yet to be named, but the first phase of Fusionopolis - a complex with two towers and a podium - is almost fully taken up already, ahead of its official opening slotted for this October.

RICH TENANT POOL: The Asian Food Channel, the Thales Technology Centre and NRG Engineering have already moved into Fusionopolis. Upcoming tenants include the Institute for Infocomm Research. -- PHOTO: JTC

The soaring complex, which comprises two towers - one with 24 floors and the other, 22 floors - and a podium, will be named next month.

The complex is one of 10 buildings that make up Fusionopolis, a 30ha purpose-built infocommunications and media research and development site at the one-north area off Buona Vista Road.

According to a JTC Corporation spokesman, 'nearly all of the 120,000 sq m of space in the complex has been taken up'.

Three tenants have already moved in: the Asian Food Channel, the Thales Technology Centre and NRG Engineering.

Other tenants that will be moving into the complex include some of the nation's top high-tech research institutes, such as the Data Storage Institute, the Institute for Infocomm Research and the Institute of High Performance Computing.

Besides offices and five floors of retail and food and beverage outlets, including supermarket chain Cold Storage's newest Market Place outlet, JTC has set aside space for sports and lifestyle activities.

There will be rooftop pools, fitness clubs and a theatre devoted to experimental art forms - all designed to cater to the needs of those working and living there.

To accommodate staff living in the complex, there will also be 50 serviced apartments. Each 'work loft' will be about 60 sq m in size.

They are part of the architect's vision of creating a 'work, live, play, learn' environment for the complex, which was designed by the late, internationally renowned Dr Kisho Kurokawa.

This design and vision, said the JTC spokesman, will hopefully 'foster synergistic collaborations between the public and private research institutes and energise the vibrant infocomm and media industry'.

Industrial landlord JTC charges rental rates of $4.67 per sq ft for the business park.

Fusionopolis Phase 2A, with 103,000 sq m of floor space, will have dry and wet laboratories, as well as Singapore's largest clean-room facility, when it is completed next year.

Phase 2B, which is also scheduled to be completed by next year, is a 16-storey mixed office and retail building with a maximum gross floor area of 50,271 sq m.

JTC has shortlisted 10 building names following an online competition, and it is expected to announce them next month.


The complex will offer tenants and visitors not only offices, retail shops and food outlets, but also space specially allocated to sports and lifestyle activities.

There will be rooftop pools, fitness clubs and a theatre devoted to experimental art forms.

For staff living in the complex, there will be 50 serviced apartments, done up as 'work lofts'.

En Bloc Sales Bring Out The Worst In Singaporeans

Source : The Straits Times, Jun 1, 2008

After a most spectacular year for the en bloc market last year, sales activity has finally frizzled out and for most parties involved, it is a welcome time-out. While property agents may lament the slowdown, one group of home-owners can heave a sigh of relief, as the threat of being forced to sell their homes retreats into oblivion.

Well, for most, anyway.

The recent debacle at the annual general meetings of two of the most iconic condominiums on the East Coast - Bayshore Park and Mandarin Gardens - proves that while the market has gone dead, en bloc woes have not, and will not, go away.

Some points of contention that arose at the meetings were the use of proxy votes to influence decisions, and conflicts of interest arising over the roles of management councils and sales committees.

In the course of my job, I have covered my fair share of en bloc deals, and as a non-partisan observer of proceedings, I have come to one conclusion about the 'uniquely Singapore' phenomenon that is the en bloc.

It is ugly. And it brings out the worst in Singaporeans.

Recent developments have also highlighted weaknesses in the law regarding collective sales and a private property owner's rights. This is despite the tightening of en bloc rules that kicked in last October, which ensure, among other things, that sales committees are properly elected, and collective sales agreements witnessed by lawyers.

This has no doubt cooled the en bloc fever which gripped the nation last year, with a total of 116 collective sales generating record investment sales of $13.64billion.

But some glaring flaws in the en bloc process remain. They include the distribution of sale proceeds, the role of the management council versus the sales committee, and the use of proxy votes at annual and extraordinary meetings.

Let me elaborate.

Firstly, owners should be compensated according to their flat attributes - height, cost of renovation, view.

I have found that pro-en bloc types usually own low-floor units, with average furnishings and view. Anti-en bloc types, by contrast, typically own beautifully renovated top-floor units with stunning views - it is no wonder that these owners want more compensation or refuse to sell, according to how much they have invested in their homes.

Current laws favour the average owner, who receives a pay-out equal to that of his top-floor neighbour, which is obviously unfair and has been the root of many conflicts and arguments.

The Strata Titles Board (STB) has also previously ruled that renovations, along with interest, are not a 'deductible expense', which means your renovations count for nothing in a collective sale.

To create a level playing field, provision should be made so that owners get fair value for their homes, perhaps by a government-appointed independent valuer.

Secondly, the management council and sales committee should be kept separate by law, since the role of the former is to maintain the upkeep of the estate, while the other's role is to sell it.

Current laws allow a sales committee member to be on the management council as well, but this has caused unhappiness at many estates - not just at Bayshore and Mandarin - where suspicion breeds among residents towards those who carry both positions.

On the issue of proxy votes, it is theoretically democratic. But it also allows decisions to be skewed one way, because residents who want certain things changed will attend meetings and get proxies from similar-minded neighbours to achieve the results they desire.

Meetings currently require only 30per cent of the total share value held by residents of an estate to attend, which enables decisions to be made without majority consent.

This should be looked at. One solution could be to raise the minimum requirement of residents present to 80per cent, or instead to do away with proxy votes altogether so that voting cannot be manipulated - perhaps via an online or e-mail voting system.

My advice in the meantime?

Don't buy into a strata-titled property if you do not want to be forced to sell your home. Current laws do not ensure you will be able to live in your condominium unit until your dying days - even though, in my opinion, you should be able to.

Most countries in the world allow this basic right, why can't we?

Perhaps the lawmakers could take some of these issues into consideration when compiling the next set of refinements.

Beyond the economic value of urban rejuvenation or boosting shareholder value for property developers, the en bloc phenomenon has ripped apart the moral fibres and harmony of our society.

Is this a cost our society is willing to pay?

On the one hand, I can sympathise with those who want to sell: they may be approaching retirement, or perhaps have plans to move away, and want to get the best price.

But there are people who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars beautifying their homes to be their retirement nests, plus those who value the environment they live in beyond any amount of realisable value.

Do the former have the right to determine if the latter lose their homes? Owners still have a choice to sell their homes on the open market.

In terms of 'specuvestors' who swoop in to snap up units in the hope of making a quick collective sale buck, their motivation is even more inexcusable. It is okay to want to make money, but do it without hurting someone else.

It's not just Singaporeans who become embroiled in controversial sales, but also foreigners and permanent residents.

I just hope that my estate never has to go through this nightmare. It is sure to do permanent damage to relationships which have taken years to build up, but which take only a sale notice to destroy.

New Homes Set To Raise Level Of City Centre Buzz

Source : The Straits Times, Jun 1, 2008

With office units in short supply, condos make a good option for investors: Analysts

Shophouses are a staple of Tanjong Pagar. But while these properties are usually more affordable than other commercial units, says Mr Mak of Frank Knight, they are more sensitive to market downturns. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Singapore's city centre is set to get bigger and bolder in the next decade, with the injection of around 23,000 homes that promise to take the buzz to another level.

And if Singapore's urban planners have their way, more office buildings will sprout at Marina Bay, along with mixed-use developments in the Beach Road and Ophir-Rochor areas - bringing people closer to their jobs.

All this will come to pass while hotels and lifestyle hot spots in Little India and the Singapore River surroundings ensure that the city teems with activity.

And even if you need a quick getaway from the city's frenzy, green open spaces such as the upcoming Gardens by the Bay and Esplanade Park are all within walking distance.

This vision for Singapore's 1,650ha central area was unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) last week as part of its latest masterplan, which outlines Singapore's land use over the medium term.

With all these grand plans and more, is it time for investors to hunt within the city for a good buy?

Property experts say this depends on the location of the property, the timing and how quickly URA's blueprint materialises in the next few years.

Let us start with the Central Business District (CBD).

Office space investments are limited, although there are some strata-titled commercial units available, such as those at The Arcade in Raffles Place and International Plaza in Tanjong Pagar.

However, there is only a small pool to shop from, and units in good locations could be beyond the reach of the average investor. Units at The Arcade, for example, changed hands at around $5,000 per sq ft (psf) at the end of last year.

Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said there are 'very few good strata-titled office spaces in the city'. A more obvious choice would be to shop for homes.

With the government's latest strategy to repopulate the city centre and bring people closer to their jobs, investors can rest assured that this pool will only get bigger.

Some projects that have already been launched include The Sail@Marina Bay and Marina Bay Residences. Further inland, One Shenton Way and Scotts Square also offer units in the heart of the city.

The latest URA data shows Marina Bay properties transacting at around $2,100 psf. This is a slight dip from the peak prices seen in the property boom last year.

At Scotts Square in Scotts Road, units are being sold at an average price of $3,700 psf this year, down about 8 per cent from $4,000 psf in last year's fourth quarter.

At One Shenton Way, the latest sale went at $2,069 psf in January.

Prices might be falling at some condos now, but as these homes were launched at just below or around the $1,000 psf level, the question remains whether the upside is limited if one buys now, say some market watchers.

It is possible that prices might drop further, given the current cooling of the market, but Mr Mak added that owners are unlikely to let go of units if they would incur a loss.

Savills Singapore's director of business development and marketing, Mr Ku Swee Yong, said that sellers are more likely to negotiate now given the current market sentiment.

For investors holding out for drastic price drops, he said it is unlikely that home prices in the city will drop as much as 30 per cent, as recent bank reports have predicted.

'Current market conditions do not support that. At the most, we will see a 5 to 10 per cent decrease for top-end luxury homes.'

Mr Ku said that even at the $2,000 psf level, city homes can command rental yields of about 4 per cent as they are attractive properties to rent, catering to the international expatriate community.

At DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, senior director of research Chua Chor Hoon agreed.

'City centre homes fetch pretty good rentals and therefore give good yields...URA's data shows that rentals for condos such as Icon were in the range of $6.50 to $7.50 psf a month,' she said.

Mr Ku added that investors who are in for the long haul might find that their investments will pay off in the next five to 10 years, especially after the Marina Bay integrated resort opens and the city gets busier.

Other homes to consider include those at Robertson Quay and Tanjong Pagar.

The condos include Robertson Blue, RiverGate and Watermark at Robertson Quay; at Tanjong Pagar, there are the Pinnacle @ Duxton and Icon. Units at these projects have changed hands for $1,400 to $1,600 psf in the last three months.

The other option for investors is to wait for further government land sales, for more new homes to be developed, said Mr Mak. These developments would probably be in the Marina Bay area, he added, unless URA allows city properties to be converted into mixed-use projects.

Around Beach Road and the Ophir-Rochor area - touted as the northern gateway to the city - investment opportunities are more diverse.

There is a good mix of shophouses and strata-titled commercial and residential units on the market for the average investor.

The 101, Premier Centre and The Plaza, for example, are all strata-titled properties with a mix of commercial and residential units. At The Plaza, transacted apartment prices have gone up 28 per cent, rising from $600 psf in June last year to $900 psf currently.

Commercial units in this area have generally stayed at the $1,500 psf price level this year, though transaction volumes have fallen since last year, said Mr Ku.

Over at Tanjong Pagar, shophouses are also a staple of the district. These properties are usually more affordable, added Mr Mak, although he warned that they are more sensitive to market downturns.

If plans for a revamped Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central go ahead, the city centre will also benefit from the buzz added by these new, nearby commercial hubs.

How soon investors will see price movements in city investments will depend on the pace of development. Market watchers agree it is still too early to see the price effects from URA's masterplan.

'Prices are peakish now, so one should consider the investment time horizon and yield before making a purchase,' said Ms Chua.


# Market watchers point out that while prices of many city centre residential properties have come down since last year's peak, the upside may be limited as many of these homes were launched at much lower prices.

# On the other hand, apartments at The Plaza, a development in the Beach Road and Ophir-Rochor area with a mix of commercial and residential units, have actually enjoyed price increases since last year.

Promising outlook

For property investors who are in for the long haul, they might find that their investments will pay off in the next five to 10 years, especially after the Marina Bay integrated resort opens and the city gets busier, says Mr Ku Swee Yong, Savills' director of business development and marketing.

CTE Widening To Start On Monday

Source : The Business Times, 31 May 2008

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will start widening the Central Expressway (CTE) between Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 and Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 from June 2.

The $16.9 million project will expand the road to four lanes each way from three. It is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Owing to alignment and terrain limitations, only the southbound carriageway will be widened at first. Subsequently, the centre reservation will be shifted to increase the width of the northboundcarriageway.

To minimise traffic disruption, work will take place off the carriageway by day. When lane closures are necessary, this will only happen after 11 pm, and directional and information signs will be put up to guide motorists to alternative routes.

To eliminate the need for multi-stage traffic diversions during the construction of drainage culverts, a new pipe jacking method, costing 50 per cent more than the conventional cut-and-carry method, will be used.

Disturbance from the works will be managed with roadside hoardings made of acoustic noise-reduction blankets, and noise guards fitted on machinery and equipment.

LTA estimates that about 500 trees will be cut down as part of the project, but it has collaborated with the National Parks Board to do advance planting behind the trees to be felled. The new trees will help screen the works from housing beside the expressway.

The works will also involve replacing an existing pedestrian overhead bridge with a covered bridge with ramps and linkways leading directly to HDB blocks.

These works are the first phase in LTA's plan to widen the CTE between the Pan-Island Expressway and Yio Chu Kang Road to a dual four-lane carriageway by end-2011.

The move caters to anticipated population growth in Singapore's north-east corridor. Details of subsequent phases of the plan have yet to be finalised. They will be announced later this year.


《联合早报》May 31, 2008

由亚洲三大房地产巨头联手发展的莱佛士码头一号(One Raffles Quay),刚刚获得世界不动产联盟(FIABCI)颁发的第17届“世界最佳房地产项目奖”(Prix d'Excellence)办公楼组大奖。


曾经获得这个奖项的项目,包括吉隆坡的国油双峰塔(Petronas Twin Towers),以及新加坡的保诚大厦(Prudential Tower)。它们分别是2002年和2004年的有关奖项得奖项目。



这个由国际知名建筑公司Kohn Pedersen Fox设计的办公楼,共建有两栋大楼,南翼大楼高29层、北翼大楼高42层,总楼面达129万平方英尺。

香港置地(南亚)商业房地产主管嘉曼(Rob Garman)和吉宝置业新加坡商业房地产总裁陈瑞耀都出席了在荷兰阿姆斯特丹(Amsterdam)举行的颁奖仪式。


这并不是吉宝置业第一次获得“世界最佳房地产项目奖”。它也曾经凭保诚大厦和佳丽比园(Carribean at Keppel Bay)获得有关奖项。坐落于吉宝湾,即圣淘沙对岸的佳丽比园共管公寓,是2006年的住宅组别得奖者。


曾在其他组别获奖的本地项目,还包括浮尔顿广场(Fullerton Square)、翠湾园(The Bayshore)、共和大厦(Republic Plaza)、新达城、滨海艺术中心等。