Price, location still key factors for private home buyers: Market watchers

Getting world-renowned architects to design private housing projects may boost sales, but market watchers have said that pricing and locations remain key factors for buyers at large, especially in today’s lacklustre market.

The latest designer condominium to be completed in Singapore is Sky Habitat at Bishan Central, which had buyers collecting keys to their units in April this year. It is designed by Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, who is also the man behind Marina Bay Sands (MBS).

After working on MBS, which is one of Singapore’s most recognisable projects, Mr Safdie is adding to his plate Project Jewel, a new retail and lifestyle complex at Changi Airport. The internationally-acclaimed architect is no stranger to Singapore’s private housing scene as well, having designed Ardmore Park and The Edge on Cairnhill, both of which received Temporary Occupation Permits before 2005.

The 38-storey Sky Habitat by CapitaLand is his latest project.

Said Mr Eng Tiang Wah, vice president for Design Management (Residential) at CapitaLand Singapore: “From the visit by Moshe earlier, you could see that residents actually pop by and say, ‘Hey, that’s Moshe’. One quick-thinking resident got his brochure and even his autograph and shook his hand, so I think the recognition for these star architects is quite apparent.”

The 509-unit Sky Habitat is not the firm’s only project involving big designer names. d’Leedon, located at Farrer Road, had Zaha Hadid – the first female winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize – on board. It was also Ms Hadid’s first high-rise residential project in Singapore. This project was completed in October last year.

Market watchers said big developers are typically the ones hiring star architects as they have deeper pockets, but they could also have other reasons for wanting to add that star element.

Said Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director for Research & Consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants: “If you have a very prime location, very near to Orchard Road or Paterson Road for instance, that project may not really need top-end architects to design it because the main selling point is the location.

“At the same time, for a mass-market suburban condominium, the developer may also not hire a top-end architect because the buyers of such mass market condos are quite price sensitive and they just want value for money.”

Mr Mak added: “Most of the iconic architecture tends to be within the city fringe area and they may want to command a price higher than other competing projects within the neighbourhood.”

The 99-year leasehold Sky Habitat was launched at between S$1,650 and S$1,750 per square foot (psf) in April 2012, when the property market was still bullish. It was said to rival prices of condominiums in the city area then, although prices have since come down – in June 2014, median prices of sold units stood at about S$1,340 psf. But the project still has almost 140 units unsold, as at June this year.

As to whether CapitaLand will hire top designers for more of its projects, the developer was coy on the prospect, revealing only that it would have to study the “right potential” for the sites and the “value-add” to the projects.

Nevertheless, Mr Safdie said: “Like anywhere, there are opportunities. It takes a good client, a good architect – you never get a good project without a good client and the good client needs the good architect. And when there is good planning by the city, that is a winning combination.”

Commenting on Project Jewel, the lead architect for the project said it will be an “intense Downtown”, but” connected to nature”.

“I think what you should look forward to is a place where there are two co-existing environments – the market place (that is) intense, full of the excitement of shops, food and beverage and all that, and also a paradise garden, a place of fantasy and relaxation,” said Mr Safdie.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 12 Aug 2015