The Straits Times
Monday, Oct 22, 2012
The market for luxury homes may be languishing in the doldrums recently but at least one enclave has been holding its own.
The cluster of private homes near St Thomas Walk, off the Orchard Road shopping belt, has notched up decent price gains, property consultants said.
Mr Lee Sze Teck, Dennis Wee Group's senior manager of training, research and consultancy, said that the median price of new uncompleted homes in the area was $2,353 per sq ft (psf) as of the third quarter of the year.
That is a 25 per cent gain from that in the same quarter in 2009.
This translates to hefty prices for new projects. For instance, the upcoming 462-unit Twin Peaks was sold for a median price of $2,703 psf last month.
Price gains in the secondary market were even more substantial, with resale prices surging 46 per cent in about three years, narrowing the price gap between those and new homes.
As of the third quarter of the year, resale units in the area averaged $2,084 psf, up from $1,427 psf in the first quarter of 2009.
A similar trend emerged from Knight Frank research head Png Poh Soon's data. He noted the St Thomas area outperformed the high-end market - known as the core central region (CCR) - as a whole, with overall prices up 0.7 per cent from last year, against the CCR's 0.1 per cent rise.
But he pointed out that prices of new launches are rising at a slower pace, with just a 1.6 per cent gain this year, compared with 9.1 per cent last year.
"(This is) mainly due to subdued response in the high-end market following the additional buyer stamp duty implementation and prolonged uncertainties in the macro economy," he said.
High-end homes generally refer to those in the CCR, with a higher percentage of foreign buyers. Since the second last round of cooling measures last year, this group of buyers has had to fork out 10 per cent more for property purchases.
The St Thomas area sits behind Somerset MRT station and is home to residents living in more than 2,000 private flats.
Upcoming projects like Espada, Skyline 360 @ St Thomas Walk and The Boutiq will add more than 1,000 units in the next few years, Mr Lee said.
Interest in these has been healthy - more than half of the units have been sold - with investors likely making up the bulk of buyers, he added. This is partly because many of the upcoming projects have a high proportion of shoebox units, which typically refer to homes of about 500 sq ft and smaller.
But rents are highly variable. Data from the second quarter showed they ranged from just $3 to $6.30 psf monthly. This could reflect the wide age and size ranges of units, Mr Lee noted.
Investment potential is high for this area, given its proximity to the malls and other amenities in Orchard Road, Mr Png said.
Also, new homes here are cheaper than those in the nearby Orchard Boulevard and Anguilla areas, which can cost some $4,100 to $4,300 psf.
"The longer-term outlook of the area is still positive, given its prime location, which is increasingly limited in supply in the medium to long term," he added.
A property investor who wanted to be known only as Shaun said he bought a studio unit at Espada for $800,000 over a year ago. "The area is... close to town and River Valley. There's investment potential because expats will like to rent in this area," the 47-year-old businessman said.
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