Monday, September 8, 2008

Er, What Is White Site?

Source : The Sunday Times, Sep 7, 2008

Where do you see this?

In land sales programmes and tender announcements.

What does it mean?

A white site is a site for which a range of uses is allowed, such as commercial, hotel, residential and retail.

Developers have the flexibility to decide on the mix of uses and the amount of space for each use, subject to conditions.

They may, for example, plan to have office units, a hotel and apartments on a white site, or a retail mall-cum-apartments on it.

Why is it important?

White sites allow developers to respond to changing market conditions without incurring a hefty differential premium for any change of use.

They could change the mix of use or the quantum of each use during the lease period to suit new market conditions. For example, they could in 20 years' time decide to convert some uses to retail space if there is demand.

So you want to use the term? Just say...

'The site at the Ophir/ Rochor corridor is a white site, so expect to see anything from offices to shops being built there.'

Looking For Your First Home?

Source : The Sunday Times, Sep 7, 2008

There is more to it than setting a budget and selecting a few preferred locations

While there is little to be excited about in today's quiet property market, it may be a good time for genuine home buyers to take advantage of the slowdown and scour the market for bargains.

Now that the inauspicious Hungry Ghost month has passed, developers are gearing up to launch new projects and home sellers may also start to test the waters again.

If you are a first-time home buyer, what should you know before taking the plunge?

Of course, there are the obvious pointers: set a budget, select a few locations you prefer and consider how much space you will need.

Then there are some other considerations that new buyers may not be aware of, said Mr Dennis Ng, spokesman for mortgage consultancy portal

For instance, he recommends shopping for a home loan before shopping for the home itself. Obtaining an in-principle loan approval from a bank allows you to calculate the exact loan amount you can get based on your income and repayment ability.

Mr Dennis Khoo, Standard Chartered Bank's general manager of lending, said: 'Quite often, customers can get a larger loan than they were expecting, so they can then look for a larger home.'

The big search

Once that's over and done with, you can start house-hunting in earnest.

New buyers often ask if property agents are really needed. While they can be a big help in the initial browsing stage, it is essential to know just as much as - if not more than - your agent to avoid being short- changed.

First, find out what potential buys are out there by combing the classified ads for a few weeks. You should soon be able to identify price trends and properties that have been on the market for some time, which might be more open to negotiation.

Diversify into online property listings, like ST701 ( and the Singapore Land Authority's Nation Property portal ( They often come with pictures, floor plans and location maps, which give valuable information on a particular project.

On top of that, do your homework by checking out recent transactions in the development you are interested in. This will give you an idea of market prices and better bargaining ability.

You can find recent deals for private property online at the Urban Redevelopment Authority's website ( For HDB resale flats, check the HDB website (

Mr Ng also advises new buyers to view houses at different times of the day to gauge noise levels and sun exposure that might change throughout the day.

The big buy

When you finally locate your dream home, what do you have to do to secure it?

The bank you plan to take a loan with will arrange for a valuation report of the property and offer the services of lawyers it might have links with. If you find your own lawyer, note that not all lawyers are approved by banks and this may result in additional legal fees, said Mr Ng.

He added that legal fees are typically about $2,000 for HDB flat purchases and $3,000 or more for private property.

Also, it is important to make sure that your lawyer can act for the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board as well as the bank if you are planning to use your CPF funds for the property purchase, said OCBC Bank's head of consumer secured lending, Mr Gregory Chan.

'Not only is it more convenient, but you also save a bundle on legal costs,' he added.

Another consideration is mortgage insurance, which covers the home loan balance in the event that the borrower dies or is totally and permanently disabled.

'Because life has its uncertainties, it is our practice to recommend all OCBC home loan customers to protect their liability by taking up mortgage insurance,' Mr Chan said.

'We typically recommend that the borrower insures his or her full loan amount to ensure adequate coverage.'

The Billionaire & The Sail Penthouse - He Came, He Saw, He Bought For A Cool $15m

Source : The Sunday Times, Sep 7, 2008

Whole-floor penthouse on 63rd storey is the most expensive buy so far at Marina Bay condo

Even as the wind is being taken out of the sails in the high-end property market, one deal worth nearly $15.5 million was inked recently.

Dr Bhupendra Kumar Modi, global chairman and founder of Indian conglomerate Spice Corp, bought a whole-floor penthouse unit at The Sail @ Marina Bay for a cool $15.463 million last month.

The US$1.5 billion (S$2.2 billion) Spice Corp group makes cellphones and operates a chain of cellphone retail outlets and entertainment plazas in India.

Last month's deal makes the 5,834 sq ft penthouse - atop the 63-storey second tower of The Sail - the most expensive in the 1,111-unit condo, though not in Singapore.

The price for the 99-year leasehold apartment works out to $2,650 per sq ft (psf). Next door, a bigger penthouse in the 99-year leasehold Marina Bay Residences was sold for $26.9 million, or $2,446 psf in late 2006.

In Singapore, the record price is $5,600 psf for a 53rd-storey private apartment in The Orchard Residences. This works out to $28.27 million for the 5,048 sq ft, 99-year leasehold unit.

On an absolute basis, a freehold apartment on the 19th storey of The Marq on Paterson Hill was sold for a whopping $31 million, but at a lower psf price of $5,100. Both deals were done during last year's boom.

Price was never an issue for Dr Modi, 59. It was love at first sight when he viewed the penthouse at The Sail, which is the size of nearly six four-room HDB flats.

'You either like or don't like it,' he said of his property buy. 'The deal was closed in two hours. Even my wife didn't look at it.'

It comes with a lap pool, a private terrace, four bedrooms and sweeping views of the Marina Bay area.

Designed by architect Peter Pran, The Sail will be the tallest residential development in Singapore when completed this year. Its other tower has 70 storeys.

'I have a lot of global guests... I want to show them the best of Singapore and this flat allows me to do that,' said Dr Modi, who became a permanent resident here on Aug 15, India's Independence Day.

He has just relocated the global headquarters of the Mumbai-based Spice Corp here.

When renovation work at his penthouse is completed by the start of next year, he will move from his current base in Beverly Hills in the United States to Singapore.

Over there, Dr Modi has an 8,000 sq ft house with five bedrooms and a pool.

'There, I had my family with me. Here, my son wants to live separately,' he said.

His son Dilip, 32, is the group president for global operations at Spice Corp. One of his daughters Divya, 26, is its global director of finance.

His son will set up home at one of his two older properties here - a $12.5 million unit at The Claymore, bought six years ago, and a $10.5 million Ardmore Park unit bought in 2006.

Dr Modi has a fourth personal property in Singapore, a $10.5 million penthouse of around 5,000 sq ft in Sentosa Cove. He will use the unit, 'right by the sea', as a weekend home to get away from the madding crowd, 'to read and to meditate'.

All the four homes were bought in his personal capacity.

He has three other company-owned properties in Singapore: an office property and two small residential properties in East Coast used as company guesthouses.

Dr Modi said he will create an 'environment' in The Sail penthouse that is similar to that of his Beverly Hills house.

That means turning The Sail penthouse into a swish '24/7' entertainment zone.

'I like to be with people all the time,' said the man who led the world's largest delegation of spiritual leaders to The Millennium World Peace Summit held at the United Nations General Assembly, and who is also president of the Maha Bodhi Society of India, an organisation aimed at reviving Buddhism in India.

Dr Modi, a Buddhist, has reportedly demanded Indian citizenship for the Dalai Lama. He has a film-making firm called Buddha Films.

He has also announced his plans to help revive the shopping and entertainment scene here.

During Spice Corp's opening here in the middle of last month, he said his group will invest US$200 million in a 24-hour entertainment and shopping complex, as well as a cellphone software development centre here.

His purchase of The Sail has netted the seller, Dr Sudhir Gupta, $6.6 million.

Dr Gupta, 50, is the New Delhi- born, Moscow-educated Singaporean businessman who made headlines when he bought the same unit in late 2005 for $8.8 million or $1,508 psf - then above the condo's average price of $1,080 psf.

Dr Gupta, who became a Singaporean in 1997, had also bought 21 other units at The Sail for an average price of $1,150 psf around that time.

He was born into a middle-class family in New Delhi but went on to start a tyre company in Moscow. He later acquired a Dutch tyre-maker and listed the merged entity in London in 2005.

Dr Modi, on the other hand, is the son of Mr Gujar Mal Modi, who founded one of India's largest industrial conglomerates, the Modi Group.

Dr Modi parted ways with his family in the early 1980s and, with the money from the split, started a series of joint ventures with global corporations, the first with Xerox.

'He is from Delhi city so he knows us for a long time,' said Dr Modi of Dr Gupta. Still, he bought his penthouse through a broker.

'I never use my personal relationship. He didn't know I bought it until later.'

Market watchers say the $15.463 million price tag is high given today's weak property market.

'This penthouse is unique as it's on a whole floor, offering a 360- degree view and on a very high 63rd floor,' said Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy, Mr Nicholas Mak, explaining its high price.

'But such transactions are rare and getting more so these days because the market has turned more cautious.'

There are many potential landlords at The Sail but few takers for now, market watchers said. Apart from possibly high asking rents, there is also construction work going on near the development.

Dr Modi now has 13 properties all over the world. Apart from the four here, the rest are in Bangalore, Beijing, Beverly Hills, Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, London, New Delhi, New York and Shenzhen.

On his latest buy here, he said: 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is a location I like very much...It's not something I bought to sell. I never sell my houses.'

A place for 24/7 entertainment

Having coughed up nearly $151/2 million for his penthouse at The Sail @ Marina Bay, Dr Bhupendra Kumar Modi will plonk down another $2 million to do it up.

That $2 million can buy six four-room HDB flats or a fairly posh condo unit.

The money will go into making it a 'high-tech' penthouse with special lights, a home theatre system and even a spot for musicians to jam.

One of the four bedrooms will be for Dr Modi's own use.

The rest of the apartment will be used for entertaining up to 100 guests, from breakfast to dinner to supper.

'I am converting it into a sort of 24/7 entertainment place,' Dr Modi told The Sunday Times.

'Singapore will be a 24/7 city, so will be my flat. If it's breakfast, we can have a party by the pool. If it's the afternoon, we can have a movie in the hall.

'At night, we can create a disco in some areas. It's a lifestyle place.'

Its splendid view, location and spaciousness - a total of 5,834 sq ft - are why he bought the unit.

'I like the layout for the purpose I want. It's not a family penthouse, it's more a single's pad,' he said.