The buoyant mood of the bungalow market in the second half of 2020 resulted in the sale of 31 bungalows in the Good Class Bungalow (GCB) areas and nine bungalows at Sentosa Cove. The sales momentum in first half of 2020 was much slower with 14 deals in the GCB areas and four at Sentosa Cove, largely attributable to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, the government imposed a two-month circuit breaker (7 April to 1 June) during which property viewing and face-to-face meetings among buyers, sellers and agents were disallowed.
Compared to 2019, the bungalow segment in 2020 outshone both in terms of sales volume and total transacted value. The total tally for GCB sales in 2020 is 45, higher than the 40 deals in 2019 and the corresponding transacted value of $1,053.84 mil is 35% higher than the $782.02 mil sealed in 2019. Similarly for Sentosa Cove, a total of 13 bungalows were sold in 2020, way above the four deals in 2019, and the total value of $195.66 mil is 135% higher than the $83.39 mil sealed in 2019.
Conversely, the luxury apartment segment did not fare as well as the bungalow segment due to both internal and external factors. Internally, there were relatively fewer new luxury projects launched in 2020 compared to 2019. Externally, the fallout due to the imposition of border controls and suspension of certain businesses during lockdown periods in several countries across the globe to curb the spread of the virus led to a significant drop in foreign investors in the Singapore luxury market.
In terms of sales volume, there were 144 transactions in H2 2020 compared to 189 transactions in H2 2019. For the whole year, the gap widened to 39% with 229 transactions in 2020 compared to 368 in 2019. This translates to a total value of $1.911 bn for the whole of 2020, which is 34% lower than the $3.238 bn sealed in 2019.
Good Class Bungalows (GCBs)
The government began the gradual opening of the economy in June and property viewing resumed from 19 June. The two-month lockdown has made bigger families realise the need for space and privacy as everyone was working from home and children were doing home-based learning. Older bungalows on large land plots were much sought after by investors who saw the value of space and were planning to redevelop new bungalows suited to their own use. Sellers on the other hand, were prepared to consider offers that were reasonable. Low interest rates coupled with high liquidity levels also contributed to the increased demand
Based on caveat data, 31 bungalows were sold in H2 2020. Including the 14 bungalows sold in H1, a total of 45 bungalows were sold for the year, the highest since 2012. This is very remarkable considering that the Singapore economy is in recession due to the pandemic. Records showed that the most expensive bungalow sold in the year was the $73 mil property located at Leedon Park. However, it was reported in the media that an old bungalow at Garlick Avenue on a sprawling land area of 101,550 sq ft was sold for $93 mil in September 2020. Members of the family from the Thye Hong group sold it to the family of billionaire Goh Cheng Liang. No caveat was lodged for this transaction.
The current sales momentum of the GCB market is likely to continue in 2021 as there are still bungalow seekers who are actively viewing. Some of them are new millionaires whose businesses benefitted from the current crisis, some are buying their first bungalow for occupation, and some are multi-asset owners who are buying for long term investment and/or legacy purposes.
Sentosa Cove Bungalows
There seemed to be a return of interest in the bungalows at Sentosa Cove in 2020 based on the 13 deals done compared to only four in 2019. The first four bungalows were sold in the January-February period while the last nine were sold between August and December, after property viewing restarted from 19 June onwards.
The most expensive Sentosa Cove bungalow sold in the year is on Pearl Island. Located on the south-western part of the island with a view of the waterway, the 6-bedroom bungalow has a land area of 12,486 sq ft and was sold for $25.38 mil in December. The next highest transaction of $24 mil went to an oceanfront bungalow at Cove Grove. It was sold by Fragrance Group boss Koh Wee Meng to an Indonesian who is a Singapore permanent resident (SPR).
On the whole, bungalow prices at Sentosa Cove have eased and are now about 20 per cent below the peak in 2010-2012. At current levels, buyers are finding it attractive to acquire a landed home in this district, which offers a unique, resort-island lifestyle. Moreover, Sentosa Cove is the only place in Singapore where a foreigner who is not a SPR may seek approval to buy a landed home for their own use.
Sentosa Cove could look forward to a potential target market from the global headquarters of British technology firm Dyson, which would open sometime after 2021. Located at St James Power Station which is just next to Sentosa Gateway and VivoCity shopping mall, Sentosa Cove would be an ideal location for the expatriate professionals working there.
While the pandemic turned out to be a boon for the bungalow market, it seemed to have a reverse impact on the luxury apartment market. The primary reason for the lower sales volume in 2020 compared to 2019 and 2018 was the fall in foreign investors, which could be attributed to travel curbs and economic uncertainties.
Foreign ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals remained key players in the Singapore luxury apartment market in 2020. Penthouses are typically bought by UHNW foreigners or SPRs who require larger properties with at least five bedrooms. This group of buyers are not eligible to buy landed properties on mainland Singapore. In October 2020, Alibaba Partnership member Yu Yongfu paid $26 mil for a duplex penthouse (6,372 sq ft) in Hilltops condominium and Indonesia-born tycoon and US citizen Leo Koguan forked out $62 mil for a triplex penthouse (21,108 sq ft) at Wallich Residence. This was also the most expensive luxury apartment sold in 2020.
The three luxury developments which registered the highest sales in H2 2020 were Nouvel 18 (14 units), The Avenir (14 units) and Boulevard 88 (9 units).
Based on the unit price per square foot, prices of luxury apartments have declined by around 11% year on year. One of the reasons for the lower number of new luxury homes sold in 2020 is due to the smaller supply of new projects. A second reason could be fewer high-value transactions in the year, such as 12 penthouses deals in 2020 compared to 17 in 2019.
With effect from October 2020, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has stopped providing the statistics on the residential status of homebuyers with respect to price range. As such, we are unable to determine the profile of luxury homebuyers i.e. those who bought properties in the Core Central Region (CCR) worth $5 mil and above. However, based on the residential status of homebuyers of all non-landed properties in the CCR, it does show that the number of foreign homebuyers in 2020 is the lowest in five years (2016-2020). Our analysis found that up to 31 December 2020, there were 333 foreign buyers, or 11% of the total number of transactions. Comparatively, in 2019, there were 474 foreign buyers, or 18% of the total number of transactions. Singaporean buyers on the other hand, saw a spike from 1,784 (66%) in 2019 to 2,164 (73%) in 2020.
The outlook for the overall residential market seems favourable as initial estimates for the Q4 2020 price index showed a 2.1% q-o-q increase, bringing a total rise of 2.2% in the price index for the whole year. With expectations of a brighter economy, easing of travel restrictions and continuing low interest rates in 2021, the residential market would be set for further growth.
For the luxury sector, sentiments remained upbeat as bungalow seekers continue their hunt. It is possible for 2021 to see a similar number of bungalow deals in both the GCB Areas and Sentosa Cove as in 2020. Luxury apartments might also see a modest rise in sales volume as border controls are relaxed. Prices of bungalows are expected to edge up gradually. As for luxury apartments, the market is in anticipation of a breakthrough in prices at the debut of ultra-luxury Eden at Draycott Park and Les Maisons Nassim at Nassim Road.