Sunday, July 18, 2010

The appeal of designer condos

More developers are engaging world-class architects as buyers get more sophisticated

It is hard to miss the striking high-rise residential projects in central Singapore, some designed by internationally renowned architects.

In recent years, these internationally acclaimed names include German Ole Scheeren – who was behind The Interlace in the Alexandra Road area – and American Daniel Libeskind, who designed Reflections at Keppel Bay.

Equally famed Zaha Hadid is behind a huge condominium project on the former Farrer Court site, which has yet to be launched for sale.

Developers say it is crucial to differentiate their products in a challenging market where buyers are becoming more discerning.

Far East Organization, Singapore’s largest private developer, launched an ultra luxury brand called ‘Inessence’ last month.

Apart from allowing it to tap further into the rapidly growing wealth in the Asia-Pacific region, the developer said its move is a testament to Singapore’s strong foundations and transformation into a vibrant global city.

Mr Augustine Tan, chief executive officer, Singapore residential, Keppel Land, said: ‘With increasing globalisation, home buyers have also becoming increasingly sophisticated, so much so that owning a home is beyond the brick and mortar but involves the considerations of prestige, lifestyle and other value propositions associated with the development, such as designer architects.’

Property experts say that condos designed by world-renowned architects have a particular appeal to brand-conscious buyers.

Furthermore, these architects are believed to be able to design condos with superior layout and lifestyle concepts – for both the individual apartments and the overall development, said Colliers International’s director for research and advisory Tay Huey Ying.

Many of these designer condos are then able to command a pre- mium.

‘It’s one of the marketing tools for developers to help them achieve their price target,’ said ERA Asia-Pacific associate director Eugene Lim.

‘If I put a brand-name architect to a high-end project, I can push the price slightly higher. The pre- mium is possible because of the product differentiation.

‘People have to associate what they are paying for with what they are getting. It’s about selling an image, a lifestyle and status.’

The price premium, said Ms Tay, is, however, not guaranteed.

‘More often, they are differentiators that can help to move sales, particularly in a competitive market.’

Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak said buyers will be willing to pay a premium only if the property comes with other attributes – such as a desirable location and a sensible layout.

And developers do change the designs to fit the market if needed. Far East Organization, for instance, did away with an eye-catching design by Mr Scheeren for Scotts Tower as the market had changed significantly.

It had wanted to launch the project – which had only 67 large units – back in late 2007 but the high-end market had started to show signs of slowing.

It has since replaced the original design, featuring four suspended towers, with a creation by Mr Ben van Berkel of UNStudio.

Singapore can expect to see more designer condos, but they would not be flooding the market any time soon. They will remain in a class of their own.

‘Not all developers can afford to pay for the services of a world-renowned architect. Moreover, such architects may also be selective in the projects that they want to be a part of,’ said Ms Tay.

‘As such, it is unlikely that designer condos will be the norm one day, although such condos could grow in numbers, particularly in the higher-end segments.’

Source: Sunday Times, 18 Jul 2010

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