Psf, psf – are we too obsessed with numbers?

This might seem to be a drastically different stance from my last post on the dangers of being overly emotional when it comes to property investment, however, I come into contact with a broad spectrum of investors, buyers, sellers, and tenants in my line of work. My purpose is to provide a balanced commentary, and to help moderate potentially self-harming behaviours I come across.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, real estate, particularly residential property, is a very unique asset class. Even for brand new units direct from developers, units with exactly the same floor plan will have a slightly different view by virtue of the fact that 2 units cannot possibly occupy the exact same airspace, thus the views, elevation and orientation will be at least marginally if not drastically different.

I believe this is also why real estate contracts are one of the areas where specific performance can be ordered by the courts. I suppose it is recognised that sometimes monetary compensation simply cannot replace the enjoyment one obtains from owning a particular property.

If even homes with exactly the same layout can have nuances of difference, then is not rather artificial to compare homes on a per square foot basis? I can safely vouch by the sheer number of times I have people asking me, “what’s the floor size for this place, ah?”, that the average human being is unable to accurately gauge the floor area of a home. So why do we dwell so much upon this magic ratio of price to floor area?

I suppose it is difficult to quantify how pleasant or livable a space is in a strictly scientific manner. The pleasure one can potentially derive from a well-designed, ideally-located home is in fact priceless! But a good way to gauge the “homeliness” value of a property is how much a potential tenant is willing to pay to live in it. The irony is that transient tenants looking to stay in a home for a 2-3 year time line are, I think, a lot more focused on the value of a good home, whereas home buyers tend to get overly distracted by comparisons of numbers and ratios that may have little effect on the ultimate enjoyment of their homes.

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The “Good School” Effect

Singaporean parents are well-known for their singleminded determination to send their children to the best possible school they can – whether it means renting/buying a home within 1 kilometre of the preferred school, joining a clan or church, or performing random menial tasks like directing traffic, washing fish tanks or juggling chainsaws blindfolded.

Any local mother past her first trimester is likely to be able to tell you what the various Phases of the Primary One Registration Criteria involve, and that for schools with oversubscriptions at any particular Phase, priority is determined by the proximity of the child’s home to the school.

For popular schools like Nanyang Primary School and Raffles Girls Primary School, the available slots are usually fully taken up by Phase 2A. And yet even so, I still encounter many a parent looking to buy property “near SCGS/Nanyang/MGS/RGPS/etc” in the hopes that it might enhance their chances of scoring a spot for their child.


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Transformations: The Jurong Lake District

If you haven’t heard of the Jurong Lake District, you probably don’t know that there are exciting things afoot in this part of the woods. Jurong has been known to be the boondocks of Singapore, an industrial area with not much in the way of lifestyle and entertainment. Even with Jurong Point, one of the biggest heartland malls, that image hasn’t really changed much. Talk about Jurong, and most property investors will switch off, most Easties will give blank looks, and even self-professed Westies may give you dirty looks if you talk to them about Jurong. Yes, it’s really THAT unexciting, BUT all this is poised to change with the development of the new Lake District. In case you’re thinking that this is something new, the Jurong Lake District project has been mooted since the 1991 Concept Plan, but was only fleshed out in the 2008 Master Plan. So to bring you up to speed, here is a comprehensive guide to the transformation of boring old Jurong into the exciting new Jurong Lake District.

Let’s start by going to the official URA website:

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Hybrid property – Cluster Homes

I find that expats here often face the dilemma of wanting to live in a landed house just as they did back home, yet also desiring more social interaction and a sense of communal living to beat the loneliness of being alone in a foreign land. Cluster homes help bridge the gap – landed houses within a managed estate, with provision of shared facilities such as swimming pool and gymnasium. It also helps that they often rent at a much lower $ psf/mth than their condo apartment counterparts.

I had the opportunity to view a number of cluster house developments today while assisting a tenant client in securing a home in Singapore, so I thought I’d share my thoughts as well as client’s feedback on the projects we visited.


Radiance @ Bukit Timah – Artist Impression

Radiance @ Bukit Timah
We had to snake our way around narrow lanes dotted with parked cars to reach this estate, which I felt could pose quite an annoyance when you’re in a rush to get in or out. The 17 terrace units enclosed 3 sides of a small rectangular swimming pool decked in shades of sea-green, with a small gym room at the fourth side of the pool. Fairly convenient in the sense that you’re walking distance from the stretch of popular f&b outlets along the Chun Tin Road stretch right opposite Beauty World and Bukit Timah Shopping Centre (both rather sleepy old shopping centres), though those not inclined to hiking up slopey roads (yours truly) would definitely need a car to get around. My nature-loving client rather liked the tranquil corner unit facing away from the main road, with views of Bukit Timah Hill from the roof terrace. One thing we both found odd was how the place seems to already be showing signs of weathering despite being just two years old. Continue reading “Hybrid property – Cluster Homes”