Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rising waters ≠ Falling prices

Along Meyer Road in Katong, five of the seven houses have high foundations, and driveways that slope up from the street. The renovations beat back the water that overflows from a nearby drain during heavy rains. This is what home owners have t...
Along Meyer Road in Katong, five of the seven houses have high foundations, and driveways that slope up from the street.

The renovations beat back the water that overflows from a nearby drain during heavy rains.

This is what home owners have to do as they live in a low-lying part of the island. These owners belong to an 'exclusive' club - they are on a PUB list of flood- prone areas in Singapore.

The national water agency recently updated this list. There are now 66 such areas, mostly in low-lying areas such as Bukit Timah and Jalan Besar.

But while some home owners have had to spend money making their homes more flood-resistant, they are unfazed by the possibility that being on that list will affect their property's value.

'If you like where you're living, then all of this does not matter,' said Mrs Judy Sim, 54, a pre-school teacher who lives in Langsat Road in Joo Chiat.

Almost all the residents The Sunday Times spoke to pointed out that the list covers areas all over Singapore.

'Surely property prices cannot be dropping islandwide,' said Mr Howard Ang, 36, a businessman who lives in Meng Suan Road in Upper Thomson. 'And if they are, then the effect is balanced out.'

Property agents say prices for landed properties such as semi-detached and detached houses have held steady through the floods.

Such properties are more likely to be affected by the floods than flats and condominiums, which often have void decks or carparks that bear the brunt of any flood.

They pointed out that the limited number of private properties means that prices are unlikely to fluctuate too much.

There are about 70,000 landed properties, which make up about 30 per cent of private homes here.

Mr Michael Chew, 29, an associate team director with agency PropNex, said: 'If you want to live in a landed home, you have fewer options to choose from.'

He added that many of the landed properties are in desirable districts such as Orchard Road and Bukit Timah. The prime locations are enough to override any negative effects of floods, he said.

He pointed to The Marq, a condominium on Paterson Hill near Orchard Road, which has had two major floods in the past year.

The condominium made the news last month when a four-bedroom apartment sold for $5,842 per sq ft, the highest recorded price for a residential unit in Singapore.

'It shows that location is still the top factor when it comes to buying homes here,' Mr Chew said.

Another thing: Residents said the list of flood-prone areas does not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground.

Only a few streets and junctions in an area may be flooded during heavy rain, despite the whole area being listed as flood-prone, they said.

Mr Ong Peng, a 62-year-old retiree who lives in Katong, said only the junction of Mountbatten Road and Jalan Seaview floods.

He said: 'I've lived here for more than 30 years and I've never been affected by floods before, although my street is listed as a flood-prone area.'

The residents also expressed confidence that home buyers would do their own checks and not be dissuaded by the list.

Mr Ong Meng Kit, 54, a marketing executive who lives in Coronation Road in Bukit Timah, said: 'When someone wants to purchase a piece of property, he will check with the current occupants and the neighbours on what to expect.

'It does not matter whether the area is on some list or not.'

Other residents believe that people who buy property would usually carry out renovation work before moving in.

They said new home owners in the low-lying areas could take that opportunity to elevate their houses to make them flood-proof.

Retiree Sally Chew, 66, who lives in Jalan Mat Jambol in Buona Vista, said: 'If you're going to sink your money into a private property, you might as well spend the extra bit of money for peace of mind.'

Miss Amelia Ding, associate marketing director with property agency GPS Alliance, said home sellers are unlikely to settle for less money because of the floods.

This, despite potential buyers using the floods as a reason to knock a few digits off the asking price.

'Sellers have told me, if people can afford to buy such high-end properties, they can afford to raise the houses by a few inches.'

Both residents and property agents said they would like the PUB to fine-tune the list.

Mr Edward Chng, 27, a communications manager who lives in Lorong Buangkok in Hougang, said the current list is too conservative.

'Most low-lying areas are included in it. What is important is for the agency to identify the areas that actually flood.

'And then it should do something about those places so that even that list is not necessary.'

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