The sale of luxury homes is moving at a pace not seen since a decade or so ago.
With 53 bungalow deals in the Good Class Bungalow (GCB) Areas in H1 2021, it has exceeded the 46 deals done in the whole of 2020. The last record high was 67 bungalows sold in GCB Areas in H1 2010. That year – as the Singapore economy rode on the Asian recovery from the Global Financial Crisis – a total of 120 bungalows were sold.
The bungalow market at Sentosa Cove also saw a lively momentum with 10 deals in H1 2021, just three short of the 12 bungalows sold in the whole of 2020. The last record high took place in H2 2012 when 17 bungalow deals were sealed. That year, a total of 24 bungalows were sold.
As for luxury apartments in the Core Central Region (CCR), 245 units were sold in H1 2021, more than the 237 units sold in the whole of 2020. A comparison of half-yearly sales volume shows that the H1 2021 volume is second only to the 247 luxury apartments sold in H1 2011. 2011 was also the year when a record high of 406 luxury apartments were sold.
Besides stock market gains and low interest rates, another key attributing factors to the rise in luxury home sales is the number of affluent families who are working from home. Covid-19 has catalysed a rethinking of where we live, why we live there, and where we work, and how we work. These families are looking for larger homes to carve out ample office space and study space – especially when adults and school-going children are spending more time at home.
Using the price per square foot as a guide to where prices are heading, it can be seen that the prices committed in H1 2021 were higher than those in H2 2020 and H1 2020. Across the three luxury segments, prices have risen by around 10% from end-2020. with due regard to factors like location, land area, built-up or strata area, view, height, frontage, terrain, age, architectural design and quality of finishes, rising affluence and positive market sentiments have driven prices up.
GOOD CLASS BUNGALOWS (GCBS)
In 2020, while Singapore was experiencing an economic recession, the bungalow segment surprised the market when it outperformed 2019 with a higher sales volume and a higher investment quantum. The sales momentum continued in 2021, leading to a sterling performance of 53 deals done in the first half of the year. The transaction value of $1.489 bn was 36% above the $1.091 bn for the 46 deals in 2020. The higher value could be attributed to the sale of new-builds and bungalows on large tracts of land in excess of 25,000 sq ft.
A bungalow at Nassim Road was sold at $128.8 mil in March reflecting a remarkable land rate of $4,005 psf. However, it was not the most expensive GCB ever sold when compared to two other reported deals with no caveat lodged: the highest price quantum of $230 mil went to an 84,544 sq ft bungalow at Nassim Road in July 2019, while the highest per square foot rate of $4,291 was clinched by a new GCB under construction at Cluny Hill in May 2021 at the amount of $63.8 mil. All three properties are located within walking distance to Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Such purchases are at the apex of residential real estate and are limited to a small pool of ultra-high-net-worth (UNHW) investors who can afford such quantum.
The profile of recent buyers include successful locals from trading, finance, tech & pharmaceutical industry and younger entrepreneurs, namely those in the 30s and early 40s age group. We also observed some new naturalised citizens buying their first family home. Foreigners are not allowed to buy GCBs in Singapore.
SENTOSA COVE BUNGALOWS
Bungalow transactions at the Sentosa Cove gathered pace in H1 2021 with 10 deals amounting to a total value of $190.69 mil. Compared with the same period in 2020, there were only four deals done in H1 2020 partly because a “circuit-breaker” was imposed to control the spread of Covid-19 virus, which lasted from April to early June. Following that, from July 2020 onwards, viewing activity picked up leading to nine successful deals in H2 2020. These affluent buyers realised the value of having more living space and a safe environment. Sentosa Cove provides a unique waterfront lifestyle and beautifully landscaped surrounds within a gated community. Moreover, at the average price of $19 mil each, the bungalows at Sentosa Cove were more attractive than GCBs which averaged at $28 mil each.
The stronger sales volume since H2 2020 helped to support a gradual price increase. On a per square foot basis, the current $1,812 psf reflects a modest 7% increase from 2017 when the market bottomed out. Two notable deals in H1 2021 were the bungalows at Cove Drive and Ocean Drive which fetched $43.67 mil and $39.33 mil respectively. Being among the less than 10 sea-facing bungalows on Sentosa Cove with a land area exceeding 18,000 sq ft, it is no wonder that these two properties commanded a high premium.
Caveat data showed that there was a return of foreign and PR buyers to the Sentosa Cove bungalow market in 2020 and H1 2021, compared to 2019 and 2018. While a majority of these buyers were from China, there has been an increase in interest among those from Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Europe.
The luxury apartment market was clearly on a road to recovery in H1 2021 as sales volume and investment value surged 61% and 83% respectively from H2 2020. The two main factors contributing to this surge were the supply of new ultra-luxury projects and the return of foreign UHNW investors.
The most significant deal was the sale of the entire block of 20 units at the ultra-luxury Eden condominium, located at Draycott Park, for $293 mil or $4,827 psf in March 2021. The Tsai family of Taiwanese snack food giant Want Want China Holdings was the party who bought the development. The group chairman bought one unit while his son, who is a Singapore permanent resident, bought 19 units. At the newly launched Park Nova at Tomlinson Road, 14 of the 54 units were sold in the May-June period, with six units fetching above $5,000 psf. It was reported that most of the buyers were UHNW foreigners.
At least 12 penthouses in the CCR were known to be sold in H1 2021, more than the 10 penthouses sold in the whole of 2020. Notable ones include penthouses at Park Nova ($34.44 mil/ $5,838 psf). Hilltops ($33.5 mil/ $3,995 psf), Four Seasons Park ($19 mil/ $3,081 psf) and St Regis Residences ($18 mil/ $2,477 psf).
LUXURY APARTMENT MARKET
A further analysis of the caveats lodged showed 70 units fetching over $10 mil each. This was nearly three times the number sold in H2 2020 and also H1 2020. As well, the number of transactions in the $5-$10 mil price band in H1 2021 was significantly higher than both the first and second half of 2020.
Despite the prevailing travel restrictions, there were 72 purchases by foreigners in H1 2021, compared to 38 in H2 2020 and 29 in H1 2020. As for Permanent Residents (PRs), they numbered 64 in H1 2021, slightly lower than the 69 in H2 2020 but more than doubled the 29 in H1 2021. The rise in foreign buyers could be attributed to those who might have already been in Singapore throughout the pandemic outbreak. New foreign UHNW investors could have also come from newly formed family offices. According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), there was a total of 400 single family offices in Singapore as at end-2020, with banks testifying that the rate of growth in 2020 was at least three times the rate in 2019.
The top five foreign investors (including PRs) in H1 2021 were Chinese, Indonesians, Americans, Canadians and Malaysians.
PROFILE OF BUYERS OF LUXURY APARTMENTS IN CORE CENTRAL REGION
Covid 19 has brought an awareness to UHNWs of the fragility of life and the importance of family bond, so as to shift their priority to a more balanced approach to creating wealth, staying healthy and strengthening of family ties. Ultimately, one of the key purposes of wealth creation is to enhance the quality of life for the family. Covid-19 has brought this perspective closer to home. For the UHNWs who can choose where they want to live, resilience and quality of the healthcare system are now part of the equation too.
We expect the luxury residential segment to do well in H2 2021. Even if the total sales volume for the year is lower than the peak in 2010 and 2011, there is a strong possibility for the investment value of GCBs and luxury apartments to be higher than those years because their prices have risen by some 20% over the decade. Prices at Sentosa Cove tend to lag behind partly because of the leasehold tenure and partly because there has been no new supply to reprice the asset values there. Yet it is this limited supply and scarcity that makes Sentosa Cove unique and much sought after by investors.