Saturday, April 10, 2010

Homes on high

THERE is only one way to go for residential properties in Singapore: up, up and up.

When it comes to building height, the five tallest private residential buildings – perhaps a better description would be ‘residential skyscrapers’ – are all taller than 100 metres. All were also completed within the last four years – a clear sign that property developers here are on a high. And while residential buildings are a common sight in land-scarce Singapore, this wave is interesting because it takes residential building heights in Singapore to a whole new level, placing them alongside commercial skyscrapers.

The mood appears to be an infectious one, with public housing developer HDB following suit with The Pinnacle@Duxton on Cantonment Road. With seven 50-storey blocks that include facilities like skybridges, the development offers a higher standard of living than previously seen in public housing.

At a grand height of 168m, The Pinnacle@Duxton (completed last December) holds the record for being the tallest public housing building in Singapore. It also comes in third place when the comparison takes into account private residential buildings.

Currently, the tallest of all residential skyscrapers in Singapore is one of the towers at The Sail @ Marina Bay, namely the Marina Bay Tower. At 245m, the 70-storey tower is just 35m shy of the three tallest commercial skyscrapers in Singapore: Republic Plaza, UOB Plaza One, and OUB Centre.

The second apartment building of The Sail, Central Park Tower, comes in at No 2 among local residential buildings with a height of 215m and 63 floors. Both buildings were completed in 2008.

The towering heights of The Sail’s two apartment blocks also put them on global building data provider’s list of the 100 tallest residential buildings in the world. The Singapore landmarks rub shoulders with the likes of the Q1 Tower in the Australian city of Gold Coast, the Millennium Tower in Dubai, and The Harbourside in Hong Kong.

The Q1 Tower is the tallest residential building in the world at 323m, while the Millennium Tower, ranked sixth, is 285m. The Harbourside stands at 251m, and is ranked 17th.

The Sail’s two towers are ranked 22nd and 47th, respectively.

Coming in under the two towers of The Sail and The Pinnacle@Duxton is Icon’s Tower 2. The tower on Gopeng Street in Tanjong Pagar is 163m and 46 storeys high. Completed in 2007, it stood as Singapore’s tallest residential building until The Sail came along in 2008.

Rounding up the list of the five tallest residential buildings in Singapore is Newton Suites. Sitting along Newton Road, the 120m tall project has 36 floors, and was completed in 2007.

But this list will soon see changes, with as many as three developments likely to be displaced – another indication that the trend is to go high. The upcoming Altez is set to be 250m tall – just five metres ahead of The Sail’s Marina Bay Tower – and 62 storeys high. To be located on Enggor Street near the Tanjong Pagar MRT station, the development will be completed in 2015.

Marina Bay Suites, too, is set to unseat developments that are currently on the list. Once completed in 2012, the development on Central Boulevard will be 240m tall and 55 storeys high. Over at Shenton Way, 76 Shenton will be 160m tall and 39 storeys high when completed in 2014.

Then there is Sky@Eleven on Thomson Lane, which when completed by this quarter will boast four towers, each 153m tall and 43 storeys high.

The height of these properties has contributed to high home prices at these developments, say property watchers here. Jones Lang LaSalle’s head of research for South-east Asia and Singapore, Chua Yang Liang, said that while height alone will not guarantee a premium in prices, ‘it is common understanding that the higher the units, the better the view and hence higher the price.’

According to data provided by Jones Lang LaSalle Research and URA retrieved on Wednesday, the median unit price for Marina Bay Tower at The Sail in the first quarter of this year was $2,301 per square foot. The highest unit price was $3,204 psf, while the lowest $1,800 psf. At Icon Tower 2, the median unit price was $1,600 psf, with the highest price at $1,925 psf and the lowest at $1,404 psf.

For the yet-to-be completed Altez, which saw its first launch in February, the median unit price was $1,832 psf, with the highest at $2,345 psf and the lowest at $1,675 psf. Over at Central Boulevard, the Marina Bay Suites fetched a median unit price of $2,500. The highest price it saw was $2,980 psf, while the lowest was $2,088 psf.

Dr Chua said that buyers are generally willing to pay more for a higher unit primarily for the view. Also, some are willing to pay a premium if a development is iconic or is often the defining residential development in the area, such as being a landmark or having been awarded a title like the tallest residential building in Asia, etc.

‘Such accolades appeal to some buyers who particularly enjoy the prestige that comes with such iconic buildings,’ says Dr Chua. ‘These landmark buildings appeal to these buyers for the same reason why branded residences have mushroomed in the Singapore residential market of late.

‘As economic affluence rises and buyers mature and become more discerning, creating an aura of prestige, of distinction from the crowd becomes increasingly important and appealing,’ he added.

For Peter Ow, Knight Frank’s managing director of residential services, an apartment on a high floor offers panoramic views and the sense of exclusivity to occupy the tallest level. ‘Residents will feel in sync with the trend that Singapore is increasingly going into the concept of vertical-city living,’ he said.

HDB, like developers in the private sector, is picking up on the trend. It is planning to roll out more of such skyscraper-style flats by ‘building taller buildings with higher intensities to optimise land use where feasible’, it said.

The current trend seems to suggest that the sky is, quite literally, the limit.

Source: Business Times, 10 Apr 2010

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