Sunday, March 15, 2009

Small flats, big sellers

Demand for smaller space leads developers to downsize units to as tiny as 300-plus sq ft
What do you call a space which can fit four hawker stalls?

In the case of a new property development called Kembangan Suites, the space is called a one-bedroom apartment.

It is all of 344 sq ft.

But small is now big.

On just the first day of a preview last week, the developer sold out 60 units of mostly one- and two-bedders ranging in size from 344 sq ft to 581 sq ft.

The smallest units were going for about $300,000.

Industry sources said demand is coming from local and foreign singles, young couples as well as cost-conscious buyers and investors.

Before that, Alexis
@ Alexandra sold all its 293 units, including 114 one-bedders (366 sq ft to 527 sq ft), with prices from $450,000.

Other new launches like Mount Sophia Suites in Sophia Road, Nova 88 in Bhamo Road and Zenith in Zion Road are offering studio apartments or one-bedders from 366 sq ft to 484 sq ft.

Crowds flocked to a preview on Friday of new condominium Domus in Irrawaddy Road. The smallest units there - one-bedders at 474 sq ft each - were going for more than $400,000.

Its developer, Lakeview Investments, said those were the most popular and all units released in the first phase had been sold.

'It's the size of a hotel room,' veteran designer Jay Ang said of the new 300-something sq ft homes.
'You have space only to sleep and eat. There's definitely no place to entertain,' noted the specialist in space planning and storage space customising.

But while there are no rules on how small apartments can go, designers and architects have to make concessions for standard dimensions, like how wide a door is, how long a bed is or how deep a wardrobe is.

Developers have quickly cottoned on to this demand for small spaces. Several have rejigged or are considering tweaking their designs and making space for smaller units.

Sing Holdings' project The Laurels in Cairnhill Road will go from its original 150 units of mostly three- and four-bedders to 290 units that include more one- and two-bedroom units.

UOL Group may also resize the units of its Green Meadows project in Upper Thomson to attract more cost-conscious buyers.

Alexis' developer, ECPrime, had done the same before the project's launch.

City Developments said studio apartments in centrally located projects had always been popular
because of the lure of city-living.

Studio apartments comprised almost 40 per cent of the offerings at its downtown project, The Sail @ Marina Bay, which was completed last year.

Carving up space for more units is one way a developer can achieve higher dollar per square foot value, said Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.

'Developers manage to sell such small units because they make it affordable in absolute terms,' he said.

But, property pundits said, when apartments continue to shrink and prices per square feet remain high, home-seekers may go back to buying HDB flats and those looking to rent may decide to go for HDB rooms instead.

The size of private one-bedroom units has halved from 10 years ago.

HDB flats have downsized too, from about 1,130 sq ft for a four-room in 1987 to 970 sq ft now.

Still, Singapore homes have not shrunk to the proportions of those in Hong Kong and Tokyo, where
apartments can be as tiny as 140 sq ft.

That is not to say that all buyers are happy with the slimming effect.

Finance executive Audrey Yap, 35, who is shopping for a bachelorette pad, said: 'I can't afford the bigger apartments but the studio apartments are ridiculously small and claustrophobic. I think I may have to settle for a resale HDB flat.'

Source: Straits Times, 15 Mar 2009

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