Saturday, June 16, 2007

Harcourts Smith Brothers Voted #1 By Blacktown Public

Harcourts Smith Brothers Voted #1 By Blacktown Public
Fri, 15 Jun 2007

The Harcourts Smith Brothers office in Blacktown was announced last week as the winner of the Blacktown City Local Business Awards for Outstanding Real Estate Agency.

Director of Harcourts Smith Brothers, Jason Smith said he was honoured his office had received the award which he emphasised reflected his team’s commitment to consistent high standards from the initial front office greeting through to ongoing contact with past clients after helping them achieve their property goals. He also wanted to acknowledge and thank their vendors and buyers who they appreciated working with on a repeat basis and also the high level of referral business they received from their loyal clients.

Mr Smith said the criteria for the award started with a nomination from the public followed by a ‘secret shopper’ experience in which nominated businesses were assessed on various aspects including customer service, and concluded with an awards evening where the winners were announced.

While the office has been nominated in past years, this is the first time they have won. “We have a very well established team of just on 15 who really do go the extra mile with all those little things we often take for granted, but our clients really appreciate and point out when we survey them.”

With 12 years of real estate experience, Jason and his brother Mark Smith rebranded their successful Blacktown business to Harcourts just on a year ago. Already renowned for their commitment to leading edge systems, Jason Smith said, “rebranding to Harcourts really set us on the right track to move to the next level.” A strong believer in combining high levels of personal customer service with the latest technology, the office maintains high levels of client contact with weekly reports and updates using tools such as SMS messaging, and online buyer searches operating 24/7.

CEO of Harcourts New South Wales, Walter Nanni, said, “The Harcourts Smith Brothers team has been consistently successful in Harcourts’ Annual Awards so it comes as no surprise that they should be voted number one by the community where they work.”

Brewery site sold to Singapore developer

Brewery site sold to Singapore developer
Email Print Normal font Large font Catharine Munro Urban Affairs Editor
June 13, 2007

AdvertisementIN ONE gulp, a Singaporean developer has swallowed the biggest block of land in the inner city.

Stanley Quek yesterday announced he had paid $208 million for the 5.8-hectare Carlton & United Breweries site in Chippendale, predicting that in three to four years he would look back chuffed at his bargain.

After a wrangle between the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, and the state Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, in 2005 over building restrictions on the site, Dr Quek has permission to build 11 towers of apartments and office space.

"What we want is to create a village that people can work and play in," said Dr Quek, who is chief executive of Frasers Property.

Dr Quek said he was aiming to offer affordable real estate, having just completed the Lumiere apartments on the site of the old Regent Theatre in George Street, using the internationally acclaimed architect Norman Foster to fill in one of Sydney's oldest black holes.

"It's for people who want to live in Glebe but can't afford Glebe prices," Dr Quek said.

But the "village" will be in the context of Mr Sartor's height restrictions for 1666 apartments and 90,000 square metres of commercial and retail space. Dr Quek plans to build to the maximum height restriction of 110 metres for the buildings, which front Broadway opposite the towers of the University of Technology, Sydney. There will also be a park.

Cr Moore, from whom Mr Sartor took control of the planning for the site in 2005, the year the brewery closed, has criticised the restrictions for exceeding the 70- to 100-metre limit that the council wanted in the area.

Frasers Property will have to cough up the $208 million in just over two weeks to meet the demands of the brewer's owner, Fosters Group, which wants a settlement before the end of the financial year.

An attempt to sell the site failed when the developer Australand abandoned its option to buy it for $203 million in March 2005, after disagreeing with the City of Sydney about how densely it could build.

While plenty of office blocks have had a higher price tag, the CUB site is believed to be the most costly piece of land that will be developed from scratch.

Dr Quek promised to hold design competitions for about three of the 11 towers.

He is also obliged to retain 29 of the 33 buildings on the site, which are considered of heritage value.

Any plans will still be subject to development approval by the City of Sydney. Yesterday Cr Moore said she expected excellence in design and community consultation.

"These buildings are an important part of Sydney's history, and the character of Chippendale and together these buildings make up a very special heritage precinct," she said.

The site is also the subject of another court action over climate change. Matthew Drake-Brockman, an inner-city student, argues that the Department of Planning did not take climate change into account in developing the planning controls.

Dr Quek dismissed the threat of court action, saying ecologically sustainable standards would be observed, but he was vague on what features the building would have.

"We will make sure it is as green as possible," he said, citing solar panels and double glazing as two features that might be included in the site.

Govt keeping an eye on home prices

Govt keeping an eye on home prices
By Nur Dianah Suhaimi
PEOPLE panicking that they may have missed the boat in the surging property market had some reassurance from the Government yesterday.

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said the housing sector was being closely monitored to ensure there was sufficient supply and if demand went up, new housing sites would be released.

Asking Singaporeans not to panic, he said there was sufficient supply of housing in the next two to four years.

'Don't feel that you have missed the boat because there are quite a lot of boats coming along,' he said.

Home prices shot up by 10 per cent last year and are expected to rise by another 12 per cent this year.

Analysts see the Government's release of 15 new sites for development last Thursday as a move to cool down the market.

The release brings the total number of residential sites on sale in the second half of this year to 41. This is the largest number since 1997.

Asked about the land release, Mr Mah said that since the take-up rate for new buildings had been 'very strong' in the past year, the Government decided to release more development land.

But he also said that it was important that the Government struck a balance, as an oversupply or shortage was undesirable.

'It is very important for us to make sure that the prices do not overshoot or race ahead of the real growth in the economy.

'I think it is not sustainable in the long run and, of course, it is also not good for our competitiveness if prices and rentals go up too fast.'

The minister said there was also no danger that the heat from the private property market would filter down to HDB public housing.

Referring to the record sale prices fetched by two five-room HDB units last week, he said they were exceptional cases because of their good locations and views.

'The broader market is really quite steady. There is an increase but this increase is in line with the increase in the strength of the economy. I'm quite comfortable with the pricing in the broader market at the moment.'

He added that the sheer number and variety of HDB flats up for sale also helped to keep prices stable and there was no need for buyers to feel that they were being priced out of the market.

'If you can't buy an executive flat, buy a five-room. If you can't afford central area, go to the suburbs. If you can't afford Tampines, go to Woodlands or Yishun,' he said.

Asked why most of the residential sites released on Thursday are mostly in the suburbs, such as Bishan and Sembawang, Mr Mah said the central areas were not a worry as collective sales will release new developments in these areas.

While 'it's not the Government's job to add more supply in these areas', he said it was important for the Government to ensure there was sufficient supply of housing in the suburbs.

'I'm not talking about the multimillion-dollar apartments in the central area. I think those people can take care of themselves.'

Doyenne of the interior decorators

Doyenne of the interior decorators
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By Johnni Wong

The home of Datin Gaik Merican – founder of the Janine interior décorating and furnishing company – is more than a soothing blend of contemporary colours, textures and antiques.

With all the security features of the gated and guarded property, Gaik and her husband Datuk Malek regard their condominium home as a sanctuary.

A Chinese lattice-screen delineates the dinning room and lounge from the entrance hallway
The 315sq m (3,500sq ft) condominium home in Bukit Sri Persekutuan is decorated with bric-a-brac such as netsuke carvings and Nonyaware as well as family pictures that hold many precious memories for Gaik and her husband of 50 years.

Says Gaik: “We were looking for a new place for security reasons and we heard about this development of townhouses, bungalows and condominiums by IGB through Johan Kekal Sdn Bhd.

“We decided on purchasing a home here because this development is sited within so many acres of land. Also, the development site is on old Federal Hill.

Datin Gaik prides herself on being able to spot excellent works of art, like the Jolly Koh painting above her.
“We saw how the whole development was to be arranged. We were interested in a condominium unit as the buildings were not high-rise structures. Our block has only five floors.

“I stood on the hill and was told that this would be where my condominium home will be sited. We saw the plans and decided to sign up.

“We purchased one of those special units which have two balconies. Actually, the larger units were all sold. So, they took part of a 243sq m (2,700sq ft) unit and another part of a 225sq m (2,500sq ft) unit to create this 315sq m (3,500sq ft) unit.”

Although the Datin was reluctant to mention the purchase price, it is understood that the condominium units at Bukit Sri Persekutuan generally cost RM560 per square foot.

“We like the design of the show unit and the scale model of the whole development.”

Gaik advises that upholstered seats must be perfectly fitted, otherwise, even if you use good fabric, they won't look good
Apparently, within the 7.3 hectares (18 acres) of land, the development is limited to a total of 148 units of homes, comprising: *6 semi-detached houses *24 bungalows *38 townhouses *80 condominium units

With her background in interior design, Gaik was confident when she “read the plans” – of what she and her husband were getting from the developer.

“We love the panoramic views of the city, KLCC & Petronas Twin Towers, Lake Garden, Muzium Negara, the Hilton and Le Meridien hotels.

“There are only five units on my floor and the entrance foyer is very large. It is very quiet here. We have lived here for a little over a year as we were one of the earlier settlers.”

Gaik describes her interior as having a beige or straw-coloured scheme which goes well with her furniture collection
When Gaik moved into her condominium unit from her bungalow, her antique sideboards, console tables, marble-top dining table, chairs, screens, wood carvings, ceramics and chandeliers came with her.

“In the 60s, my husband was working in the Treasury and we only had Government-issued furniture to use. They weren’t very elegant.

“Most of my antique furniture was collected in the mid-60s and 70s. We often visited Malacca and whenever we saw nice things, we would buy them. But they were not expensive in those days. For instance, we found this set of Victorian style chairs when we were rummaging through the warehouse of a dealer.”

In decorating her own home, Gaik found that it wasn’t easy to source for good quality soft furnishing material such as wallpapers and upholstery fabrics.

This second and smaller lounge offers a more intimate space
In 1982, Gaik established her own interior decorating business when she opened Janine at the former Yow Chuan Plaza. Today, she has expanded her business with outlets at the Great Eastern Mall and Bangsar Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

“We enjoy quite good business. We now have the second generation of customers as the children of our first customers are coming back to us.”

Gaik describes her decorating style as “modern” classic with a “timeless” appeal. For instance, her company – which is now run by her daughter Karina – imports fabrics and wallpapers from famous UK labels such as Osborne & Little, Nina Campbell, Andrew Martin and Designers Guild. The Janine outlets also bring in elegant furniture from Spain and Indonesia.

Choice furnishings in this guest room include the exquisite Nina Campbell wallpaper

New life for old shophouses

New life for old shophouses
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Buying and renovating an old shophouse can be a huge undertaking if the new owner isn't prepared for the hidden costs involved.

Property developers often take the easy way out by "modernising" the unit with ill-conceived material such as aluminium window frames. Some even demolish entire rows of shophouses to build anew.

But for Penang-based conservation consultant Tan Yeow Wooi, it isn't all that difficult to sensitively renovate an old shophouse and adapt it to contemporary living. He has been involved in numerous shophouse renovations including his own office at China Street in Penang.

Tan graduated from Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University in architecture and now runs his own heritage research studio. He undertakes conservation and "adaptive re-use" renovation as well as restoration projects of heritage buildings.

After: Under the right guidance, any shophouse can be sensitively renovated or restored. Traditional Chinese air-vents, windows and front doors have transformed Tan's rented shophouse (3.4m by 25m) into an attractive building
"The restoration of heritage buildings requires attention to specific designs and processes. This is especially so for Chinese buildings such as shophouses from this region, which are distinctive and different from those in China," says Tan.

"The Chinese who settled in various parts of the world and South-East Asia brought along with them their religious beliefs, lifestyle practices and social organisations. The architecture of their built environment also came with them and became rooted in different phases in time. The architecture then evolved, became integrated or in some cases, eliminated, in the course of mingling with other communities in the social and geographical environment.

A picture of the shophouse before renovation
"By recognising and respecting their respective differences, we can not only help to preserve the cultural and architectural heritage, but also protect the richness and uniqueness of local townships or built environment."

To the uninitiated, "old" or "pre-War" shophouses generally refer to double-storey, brick buildings built before World War Two (1939-45). Usually linked in a row, such buildings were also built of timber. The ground floor was normally used as a shop while upstairs space was meant for dwelling.

Occasionally, some of these shophouses can be three-storey high. Depending on the period of its construction, some units - like those in Penang and Malacca - may have a fanciful façade embellished with plaster mouldings and ceramic shards depicting flora and fauna motifs.

Prices of pre-War double-storey shophouses range in price from around RM450,000 in George Town and Malacca to over RM1mil in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown area.

The white-washed walls, terra-cotta floor tiles as well as the restored airwell at the back have turned the once-dilapidated shophouse into a very attractive building. The wooden panels - sourced from elsewhere -- screen the staircase from view. Renovation costs came to over RM100,000

Consortia, Khazanah in talks on IDR projects

Consortia, Khazanah in talks on IDR projects
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PETALING JAYA: Several consortia, including one formed by up to six local tycoons, are currently in negotiation with Khazanah Nasional Bhd on development projects in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR).

Besides a local consortium, two foreign ones had also been formed – one each by investors from the Middle East and Western countries, said Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Malaysia president Tan Sri William Cheng.

However, he did not disclose the people behind the local consortium.

“The consortia are likely to develop land between 1,000 and 2,000 acres. They are likely to buy land from the private sector, state government or existing developers,” Cheng said.

He was speaking to reporters at the Golden Bull Award 2007 – The 5th Malaysia 100 Outstanding SMEs nationwide roadshow yesterday.

“I hope the projects will take off next year. Discussions will take about six months,” Cheng said, adding that there were many projects that could be developed in the IDR.

Nanyang Siang Pau chief executive officer Chong Choong Nam (left) presenting a souvenir to Tan Sri William Cheng after the Golden Bull Award 2007 roadshow. Looking on is Datuk Paul Leong Khee Seong
Sin Chew Daily in a June 10 report had quoted Cheng as saying the consortium formed by local Chinese businessmen would likely focus on developing hotels, hospitals, shopping malls and university campuses in the IDR.

The consortium would consider seeking the assistance of businessmen or groups from Hong Kong and Singapore with experience in similar developments, the report added.

Meanwhile, Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd executive chairman Datuk Paul Leong Khee Seong said a new category would be added to this year's award.

“The Golden Bull International Cooperation Honorary Award aims to recognise international organisations for their efforts and contributions in forging international cooperation with Malaysian small and medium enterprises, in particular the Golden Bull Award winners,” he said.

He added that entry requirement for nominees in the service sector had been revised to attract more participation. Nominees now only require a maximum annual turnover of RM10mil for all services and service-related businesses.

Flexible home loans

Flexible home loans
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Now that you have found the perfect housing estate to buy your home, shopping for a home loan will be the next task.
UNITED Overseas Bank (M) Bhd’s current home loan package deals are the UOB Flexi Mortgage Home Loan and the UOB iNTELLIGENT Home Loan.

Both offer up to 95% financing (inclusive of Mortgage Reducing Term Assurance), making that house you have been eyeing much more affordable.

The UOB Flexi Mortgage Home Loan is designed to help you save on interest and own your house sooner.

It works by letting you pay more to reduce your outstanding balance, which leads to less interest and a shorter loan tenure. Or, you can opt to service just the interest and pay the principal amount whenever you desire. In short, you have the flexibility to decide how much you want to save.

A unique feature of the UOB Flexi Mortgage Home Loan lies in the automatic conversion of your housing loan facility to an overdraft line once the outstanding balance reaches 70% of your property value. This means you get to enjoy an overdraft facility at term loan interest rate, which is lower.

As for the UOB iNTELLIGENT Home Loan package, it is structured to grow with your changing needs.

With the prepayment option, you have the choice to prepay an additional amount on top of your regular instalment, whether it is on a monthly, fortnightly, weekly or daily basis. By doing so, you effectively shorten your loan term and save on daily rest interest. So the more you pay, the more you save on interest.

Another interesting feature of both loan package deals is the flexibility of withdrawing your prepaid amount at any time you wish, which allows you access to extra cash for renovations or other needs.

Plus, UOB allows a longer loan period of up to 40 years or until the borrower reaches the age of 70, whichever is earlier. Thus, customers have the flexibility in deciding their loan tenure and ultimately the affordability of their home – stretch the tenure longer to enjoy lower instalments, or opt for higher instalments for a shorter tenure.

On top of that, there is no "moving cost" or processing fees such as stamp duty and legal fees to be charged.

One World Hotel opens on July 1

One World Hotel opens on July 1
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One World Hotel comes under the prestigious Deluxe Collection of WORLDHOTELS.
One World Hotel, Klang Valley's latest 5-star hotel, will open its doors on July 1.

The hotel property adjoins the 1 Utama shopping centre, which showcases 600 retail units, two cinema complexes and a 36-lane bowling alley.

One World Hotel comes under WORLDHOTELS, the leading Europe-based hotel group for independent hotels and regional hotel brands.

One World Hotel will be one of the Klang Valley's most sophisticated venues for conferences, theme parties, business meetings and weddings.
WORLDHOTELS Asia Pacific vice president Roland Jegge says in a statement that, "WORLDHOTELS is delighted to welcome into its Deluxe Collection, KL’s newest 5-star hotel, One World Hotel. This property is destined to become the market leader by setting new luxury benchmarks among all the hotels located in the Klang Valley. ”

According to the Press release issued by WORLDHOTELS' regional headquarters in Hong Kong, the hotel offers "a new dimension in service and quality standards, with 438 rooms in an atmosphere of urban residential comfort" and is touted to have "graciously warm and consistently efficient service".

The statement to adds that all rooms at the hotel are "elegantly furnished in contemporary decor and are equipped with a complete range of amenities including private bar, satellite TV, hair dryer, bath, personal safe, high-speed wireless broadband networks, tea and coffee- making facilities and much more".

The hotel management aims to target "both business and leisure travellers alike".

Facilities include a high-tech fitness centre, four tennis courts, an outdoor pool set with resort style landscaping, a luxurious spa, a 3,200sq m grand ballroom including foyer, two junior ballrooms and six meeting rooms. The hotel will be one of the Klang Valley's most sophisticated venues for conferences, theme parties, business meetings and weddings.

The hotel also offers a collection of restaurants including Cinnamon, that comes with a show-kitchen concept and garden terrace. It will serve local and international cuisine.

The Zuan Yuan restaurant will specialise in Cantonese cuisine while the Kura aims for inventive Japanese cuisine. The Pool Bar & Grill will have BBQ buffet-dinners every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Lake-front mansions get high marks

Lake-front mansions get high marks
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CYBERJAYA: With eco-friendly projects becoming more popular among buyers, it is not surprising that Setia Haruman Sdn Bhd has received warm response to its property developments, Perdana Lakeview East and Perdana Lakeview West.

Chief operating officer Lao Chok Keang said the take-up for the lake-fronting residences in Cyberjaya had been encouraging, with Perdana Lakeview East about 70% sold and Perdana Lakeview West 35% taken up.

Perdana Lakeview East offers 165 bungalow lots and linked garden terraces for a total gross development value of about RM130mil. The bungalow lots have areas ranging from 7,818 to 21,432 sq ft while prices are from RM619,888 to RM6.6mil.

The more exclusive Perdana Lakeview West offers 47 mansion lots on higher ground fronting Putrajaya Lake and Sri Saujana Bridge.

Lao Chok Keang
The mansion plots are price from RM106 to RM128 per sq ft or RM1.61mil to RM5.34mil per plot.

“Of the 47 mansion plots, 17 have been sold and construction is already taking place,” Lao said.

He said sale of the mansion plots was by invitation only and Perdana Lakeview West had the potential to be as famous as Beverly Hills in Los Angeles.

All the physical infrastructure in both developments have been completed. The developer is currently undertaking beautification and value improvement works in Cyberjaya, especially for security and the enhancement of the ambience surrounding the area.

“One of the attractions of these homes is the breathtaking view of Putrajaya Lake. Residents will also get to enjoy Putrajaya's skyline,” Lao said.

He said Setia Haruman also offered a low-density development set against a backdrop of lush, tropical, eco-friendly environment, coupled with the latest information technology infrastructure and facilities such as the wireless city broadband network.

“The lush and comprehensive landscaping within a hi-tech infrastructure provides the ideal location for living. Besides, the well-planned city also boasts a good education hub with world-class institutions to promote a complete lifestyle,” he said.

“Cyberjaya is no longer only about office. It is now a 'happening' place. There is some event taking place almost every week and with the opening of the Community Clubhouse, buyers are now happy that there is life in the township after all,” Lao said.

Cyberjaya is accessible via several major highways, such as the North South Central Link Expressway, South Klang Valley Expressway, Damansara-Puchong Expressway and the 26km KL-Putrajaya/Cyberjaya Dedicated Highway, which is due for completion by year-end.

An artist’s impression of the Perdana Lakeview West project
Besides the two high-end projects, the company also plans for super link houses and condominiums in the coming years.

Setia Haruman is looking at building more affordable houses to accommodate Cyberjaya’s rising population.

New niche projects to rev up sales for UM Land

New niche projects to rev up sales for UM Land
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By Yeow Pooi Ling

Anthony Yap
KUALA LUMPUR: United Malayan Land Bhd (UM Land) sees future sales driven by its three new niche projects in the Klang Valley with a combined gross development value of over RM1bil, according to group chief executive officer Anthony Yap.

The three developments are located in Bangsar, Persiaran Raja Chulan and Jalan Mayang.

UM Land hoped to launch the Bangsar and Raja Chulan projects by year-end and the Mayang project next year, Yap told StarBiz.

For year ended Dec 31, 2006 (FY06), revenue grew over 90% to RM417mil from RM215mil in FY05.

For the new developments, UM Land would incorporate a safety design feature to comply with the US Zone 1 earthquake structural specifications, Yap said. The feature was first implemented at Suasana Sentral Loft.

Its current projects include three townships - Bandar Seri Alam and Taman Seri Austin (both in Johor Baru) and Bandar Seri Putra (in Bangi) - and niche projects Suasana Sentral Loft and Seri Bukit Ceylon.

As at end-March, unbilled sales amounted to some RM123mil. The take-up rate for its townships range from 68% to 94% while niche developments at Suasana Sentral Loft and Seri Bukit Ceylon could be considered fully sold as only two of 846 units were yet to be taken up, Yap said.

“We're uniquely placed as townships and niche developments give us a more balanced earnings,” he said.

Yap noted that townships took time to mature and capital would be tied up in the land. To unlock value, UM Land is working with other developers to expedite the growth of the townships. For example, it sold parcels of industrial land at Bandar Seri Alam.

“These developers are our non-competitors. It's a win-win situation for our partners and us,” Yap said.

The two Johor Baru townships, on undeveloped land totalling 2,000 acres, are located within the Iskandar Development Region.

Bandar Seri Alam would benefit directly from the improvements to the Pasir Gudang Highway and the East West Link, which would relieve the current congestion and reduce both the distance and travelling time from central Johor Baru, he added.

The police force had also chosen Bandar Seri Alam to house the Eastern District Regional Headquarters for Johor, Yap added.

Meanwhile, the magnetic train project from central Johor Baru to Tebrau City would pass through Taman Seri Austin, hence providing alternative mode of transport, he said.

Bandar Seri Putra in Bangi, on the other hand, is experiencing the ripple effects from rising property prices.

“For the price of a terrace house (in the Klang Valley) you can buy a semi-detached house in Bangi,” he said, adding that traffic congestion at the Sungai Besi exit had now eased with the opening of the SMART tunnel.

UM Land intends to focus on Kuala Lumpur, the Klang Valley and Johor as there are still ample opportunities.

There were areas seen as having a “silver lining” as they stood to benefit from the spill-over effects but had yet to realise their full potential, Yap said.

On the pricing of landbank, he said: “It's not important what the land price is. More important is how much you can sell it for.”

The Government's initiative to expedite the delivery system for the property sector would bode well for the industry, he said.

“Shorter delivery time means we can be spot-on in our expectations as the market can change within two to three years,” he said, adding that the recent pay hike for civil servants would be positive to the economy and the property sector.

While UM Land had yet to have a dividend policy, it strove to pay a dividend of at least 10 sen per share, Yap said. The company paid out 9 sen per share in the last financial year compared with 7.5 sen in FY05 and FY04.

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) director (investment advisory services) Tang Wei Leng, the woman who drove the brokering of over $3 billion worth

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) director (investment advisory services) Tang Wei Leng, the woman who drove the brokering of over $3 billion worth of investment sales for the firm in Singapore so far this year, is leaving the company after 12 years to join Wachovia group of the US.

She will be director, real estate capital markets, based in Singapore with duties covering the region, BT understands.

Wachovia Corporation is a huge diversified financial services group in the US. Its real estate arm, Wachovia Development Corporation, has been in the news here lately, teaming up with Singapore-listed property giant CapitaLand to bid for residential sites here.

The duo have bid unsuccessfully for 99-year leasehold condo plots in Bishan and at Dakota Crescent in the Mountbatten area, over the past two weeks.

However, Wachovia could soon be involved in its first Singapore residential project. CapitaLand said earlier this week that the two parties are in talks for a 50-50 joint venture to develop the freehold Char Yong Gardens site that CapitaLand has clinched for $420 million or a record unit land price of $1,788 psf per plot ratio.

‘We are sorry to miss Wei Leng’s services but she is leaving to join a property investment group and we can still work together,’ DTZ’s chief executive Ho Tian Lam said yesterday when contacted by BT. He did not confirm where Ms Tang is heading.

Her last day with DTZ is tomorrow, after serving a three-month notice period. Taking over her responsibilities as head of investment advisory services for both Singapore and South-east Asia is DTZ’s auction director Shaun Poh, who is also a director in the investment advisory services department and has been working on several of the deals the firm has brokered.

The firm’s investment advisory department also includes three associate directors - Magdeline Goh, Swee Shou Fern and Anthony Seah. ‘We are also looking for one or two more directors or associate directors to boost the investment sales team in anticipation of more business coming our way,’ Mr Ho said.

He noted the strong flow of investment monies into the Asia-Pacific region from investors in Europe, US, India and Middle East, all looking for real estate deals in Singapore, often as a springboard for venturing into the region.

An example would be UK-based Develica group’s Asia-Pacific fund, which recently bought 1 Finlayson Green in a DTZ brokered deal.

Mr Ho himself is chairman of an investment committee - comprising senior executive directors such as Edmund Tie, who is also the firm’s executive chairman, Yam Kah Heng, Low Fatt Onn and Heng Hua Thong - with a deep network of contacts in the property industry.

The over $3 billion of investment sales deals DTZ has brokered in Singapore since the start of the year include the collective sales of Leedon Heights ($835 million), Gillman Heights ($548 million), Elmira Heights ($279 million), Himiko Court in the Mount Sinai area ($336 million) and 1 Finlayson Green (just under $231 million).

Ms Tang, 38, holds a BSc Honours (second upper) in Estate Management from National University of Singapore as well as an MBA from Imperial College, UK. She was formerly collector of land revenue at the Land Office and was with Jones Lang Wootton from 1993 to 1995 before moving to DTZ. Ms Tang has three young daughters.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

Ascendas has launched a $500 million fund to invest in integrated real estate projects in India. It will take a 26 per cent stake in Ascendas India

Ascendas has launched a $500 million fund to invest in integrated real estate projects in India. It will take a 26 per cent stake in Ascendas India Development Trust (AIDT), which has a target asset size of $1 billion.

JTC Corp subsidiary Ascendas describes itself as a ‘business space solutions provider’ but the new fund could see it establish itself in other property sectors.In a statement yesterday, it said: ‘Specifically, Ascendas will develop the business space within these projects, while participation in residential, commercial, retail, hotels, recreation and other supporting uses will be through and with other parties.’

Ascendas recently announced a $270 million expansion plan for its International Tech Park Bangalore, which has a mixture of IT business, residential and retail space.Ascendas president and chief executive Chong Siak Ching said yesterday: ‘AIDT offers an opportunity for our fellow investors to tap the rapid growth of the Indian real estate sector, riding on India’s strong economic performance.’

Investors in AIDT include Bahrain-based Arcapita and ING Private Banking.Arcapita’s head of real estate investment Asim Zafar said: ‘We believe this collaboration will be the start of a strengthening relationship between Ascendas and Arcapita as we look at other opportunities in India and elsewhere.’

Two Indian IT park development projects announced earlier by Ascendas will be carried out through AIDT. A project in Nagpur is estimated to cost about US$235 million, and another in Pune is pegged around US$140 million.

Ascendas said previously that these two parks will take Indian assets above US$850 million. Its other IT parks are in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.AIDT will be headed by Ascendas’s newly appointed CEO of India funds Jonathan Yap. He will also manage Ascendas’s first private Indian real estate fund, Ascendas India IT Parks Trust, and other India funds in the pipeline.

On the possibility of new real estate investment trusts, he said: ‘Some of the possible exit options for AIDT include the sale of completed assets, the sale of the company owning the assets and tapping the public market for listing.‘

Some of these properties could eventually go into the Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust (A-Reit). The CEO of A-Reit manager Ascendas-MGM Funds Management, Tan Ser Ping, said: ‘We will evaluate in the future if such opportunities arise.’

Like CapitaLand’s CapitaMall Trust, which has a stake in CapitaRetail China Trust, A-Reit could take a stake in Ascendas’ property funds, though Mr Tan said: ‘There is no such plan at the moment.’

AIDT is constituted in Singapore as a private trust and has a term of eight years extendable by two years. It will be managed by Ascendas.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

Developer Keppel Land said yesterday it has entered into a US$146 million joint venture with a Vietnamese real estate company to develop a luxury cond

Developer Keppel Land said yesterday it has entered into a US$146 million joint venture with a Vietnamese real estate company to develop a luxury condominium on an 8.5 ha site fronting the Ca Cam River in Ho Chi Minh City.

The project is the third residential development KepLand has announced in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City this year.

After investment and government approvals have been obtained, KepLand will take a 75 per cent - amounting to US$33 million - of the JV company’s total registered capital of US$44 million. Vietnamese partner Tan Truong will hold the other 25 per cent.

The project will feature about 2,400 waterfront apartments on potential gross floor area of about 408,500 sq m, KepLand said. Construction is expected to start as soon as planning approval is granted, and the first phase is expected to be launched in 2008. The site, which enjoys 500 metres of river frontage, is 6.5 km away from Ho Chi Minh City’s central business district in a location is popular with the upper income locals and the expatriate community, KepLand said.

This latest JV forms two other recent partnerships formed by KepLand to develop prime residential sites in Ho Chi Minh City - The Estella, a 4.8 ha site in An Phu Ward and a 1.7 ha waterfront project fronting the Saigon River in Binh Thanh District. The company also recently said it has fully sold Villa Riviera, an exclusive 101-unit waterfront villa development.

‘Demand for quality homes in Vietnam is sustained by rising affluence among locals and further liberalisation of land laws,’ said Ang Wee Gee, KepLand’s director of regional investments. ‘We are confident that our development, with its premium quality and prime waterfront location, will be positively received by the upper-income market.’

Mr Ang added that KepLand continues to be on the lookout for select sites in Vietnam to develop products which will set the benchmark in the country.

The transaction is not expected to have any significant impact on the net tangible asset per share or earnings per share of KepLand for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2007, the company said.

KepLand’s shares fell 15 cents to close at $9.05 yesterday. The stock has climbed 31.2 per cent since the start of the year.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

Australian sales of newly built homes climbed to a one-year high in April, adding to signs of a rebound in the property market.

Australian sales of newly built homes climbed to a one-year high in April, adding to signs of a rebound in the property market.

Sales of new homes advanced 7.1 per cent from the previous month to 8,776, the Housing Industry Association said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Sales of detached houses climbed 7.2 per cent and apartment sales increased 6.5 per cent.

Jobs growth and rising incomes have stoked demand for housing, adding to signs of accelerating economic growth. The economy expanded at the fastest pace in more than three years in the first quarter, the unemployment rate fell to a 33-year low in May and home-building approvals surged in April.

‘The April bounceback in sales is certainly very encouraging,’ said Harley Dale, chief economist at the association in Canberra. ‘Still, we want to see further gains in May and June before saying this is the beginning of a sustained recovery in housing.’

The Housing Industry Association represents the nation’s building companies. The series is compiled from a sample of the largest 100 residential builders in Australia and provides a leading indicator of housing.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

US home foreclosures in May jumped 90 per cent from a year earlier, reflecting a poor spring housing market and foreshadowing even higher levels later

US home foreclosures in May jumped 90 per cent from a year earlier, reflecting a poor spring housing market and foreshadowing even higher levels later in 2007, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said on Tuesday.

The May foreclosures - a sum of default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions - totalled 176,137, up 19 per cent from April, the firm said in its May 2007 US Foreclosure Market Report.

The number of filings in May was the largest amount since RealtyTrac started tracking foreclosure activity in January 2005.

‘After a barely perceptible dip in April, foreclosure activity roared back with a vengeance in May,’ James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

‘Such strong activity in the midst of the typical spring buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year,’ said Mr Saccacio. ‘Certainly not every community nationwide is seeing an increase in foreclosures, but foreclosed properties are becoming more commonplace and adding to the downward pressure on home prices in many areas.’

RealtyTrac said there was a national foreclosure rate of one foreclosure filing for every 656 US households during May.

The default rates in the subprime segment of the US mortgage market, which caters to borrowers with poor credit histories, have jumped in recent months as the housing industry has slowed and prices have fallen.

More than two dozen lenders in the subprime mortgage sector have collapsed as rising defaults drove them out of business during a downturn in the housing market.

Market observers are keeping a watchful eye on the subprime crisis because it has triggered broader concerns that the fallout may spread to mainstream lenders and damage the economy.

Nevada, once one of the hottest real estate markets and a favourite among investors, led the nation in May with one foreclosure filing for every 166 households, which was the nation’s highest for the fifth month in a row and nearly four times the national average.

Nevada’s foreclosure activity, at 5,235 foreclosure filings during the month, rose 40 per cent from April and was nearly five times the number reported in May of 2006.

Colorado came in second with one foreclosure filing for every 290 households, which was 2.3 times the national average. Colorado’s foreclosure activity, at 6,231 foreclosure filings in May, rose 9 per cent from the previous month and was an increase of more than 50 per cent from May 2006.

The state’s foreclosure total was the eighth-highest among the states.California, the largest state, reported foreclosure activity increasing by 30 per cent from the previous month and more than 350 per cent from May 2006, which boosted the state’s foreclosure rate to the third highest in the country.

California documented one foreclosure filing for every 308 households, which as more than twice the the national average.

Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Indiana and Connecticut were some of the other states with foreclosures rates ranking among the nation’s 10 highest in May.

The cities with the nation’s top three metropolitan foreclosure rates were all located in California, and three other California cities also documented foreclosure rates among the top 10.

A 49 per cent increase in foreclosure activity ensured that Stockton, California, would register the nation’s highest metropolitan foreclosure rate at one filing for every 88 households, which was nearly 7.5 times the national a average.

Merced, California, documented the second highest metro foreclosure rate, one foreclosure filing for every 100 households, followed by Modesto, California, with one foreclosure filing for every 118 households. Other California metros in the top 10 were Riverside-San Bernardino at No 5, Vallejo-Fairfield at No 6, and Sacramento at No 7.

Las Vegas at No 4, Denver at No 7, Detroit and No 8, and Miami at No 10 were other top 10 cities.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s urban real estate investment unit and homebuilder Noteware Development bought 5.75 acres in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters

Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s urban real estate investment unit and homebuilder Noteware Development bought 5.75 acres in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point section for US$19 million and will build 338 condominiums there.

The property, a former Coca-Cola plant at 5800 Third St near Monster Park at Candlestick Point, will have about 291 market rate condos priced above US$500,000. The US$146 million project will also have 47 affordable units priced above US$200,000 and stores occupying 11,000 square feet, the companies said on Tuesday.

The project, situated along the new Third Street light rail line that connects the Bayview to downtown, comes amid efforts to provide mid-priced housing in one of the most expensive US real estate markets.

The median price for a single-family home in April in San Francisco was US$850,000, up 4.9 per cent from a year ago, and the median condominium price was US$782,000, up 1.2 per cent, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

‘We believe in building moderately priced, quality housing that working families can afford, and bringing much needed retail to diverse and vibrant neighbourhoods like the Bayview,’ Alicia Glen, managing director of Goldman Sachs’s Urban Investment Group, said in a statement.

The national median home price in March was US$215,300, according to the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors.

The first apartments will open next fall, Noteware spokesman Claude Everhart said. Houston-based Noteware, founded by former Maxxam Property Co real estate executive James Noteware, has completed a 66-unit condo project in Phoenix and is building a 356-unit project in Las Vegas and a 198-unit building in San Francisco, near Third Street, according to the company’s website.

The Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group funds real estate projects in emerging or transitional urban areas. Since 2001, it has invested over US$200 million.

The Third Street site was previously owned by Lennar Corp, the largest US homebuilder by revenue, and Levin Menzies & Associates, the statement said.

Lennar received approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last month to build a mixed-use complex nearby that includes a new stadium that could be home to the National Football League’s 49ers. The team is negotiating with Santa Clara, 44 miles south, to build a stadium in that city.

Citigroup Inc, the world’s biggest financial firm, is providing construction financing for the Goldman-Noteware project.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

Hilton Hotels Corp, the second largest US hotel company, said it plans to open 25 hotels with a total of 3,000 rooms in the UK in the next five years.

Hilton Hotels Corp, the second largest US hotel company, said it plans to open 25 hotels with a total of 3,000 rooms in the UK in the next five years.

The company signed a letter of understanding with closely held Somerston Hotels UK Ltd, which will franchise the Hampton by Hilton brand of economy hotels, Hilton said on Tuesday in a statement distributed by Business Wire.

Tuesday’s agreement is Hilton’s second announcement with a UK property owner in the last month following an agreement to develop 15 hotels with Shiva Hotels Ltd. Hilton is expanding overseas after its acquisition of UK-based Hilton Hotels plc last year gave it access to international markets.

Somerston Hotels UK Ltd currently owns and operates 34 UK hotels with more than 4,000 rooms.

Also on Tuesday, Hilton announced a partnership with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton to create or upgrade 135 spas offering luxury treatment in its upscale hotels.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

The Ministry of Law is conducting a second consultation process on the issue of collective property sales - following an earlier public consultation

The Ministry of Law is conducting a second consultation process on the issue of collective property sales - following an earlier public consultation completed in May.

Sources say that the second consultation process involves professionals involved in collective en bloc sales, including consultants and lawyers.

The Ministry of Law revealed earlier that it received suggestions from over 100 contributors during the period of the first consultation from April 2 to May 12, 2007.

Minister for Law, Prof S Jayakumar had earlier announced in March that it would propose amendments to the law on en bloc sales.

The further consultation comes at a time when more unhappy home owners are challenging plans for the collective sale of their homes.

The latest case involves owners of 32 units at Gillman Heights who have decided to contest the sale of their residential development, citing non-compliance with the Land Titles (Strata) Act (LTSA) as a reason for seeking Strata Titles Board (STB) mediation.

Mediation between the minority owners and the sales committee is being held today.

One issue that the minority owners want to raise is that they believe the sales committee did not comply with Section 84A of the LTSA when it sought only 80 per cent approval from Gillman Heights owners for the collective sale instead of 90 per cent, as required for buildings under 10 years old.

The lawyers for the sales committee, Lee & Lee, could not be reached for comment.

The owners are represented by solicitors, Tan Chin Hoe & Co.

Documents filed by the minority owners through their solicitor with the STB show that one of the points of contention is that even though Gillman Heights, a former HUDC estate, was completed in 1984, the process of privatisation began in 1995 but was completed only in 2002.

This was the year in which the Building Control Authority (BCA) issued the Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC) for the estate after work on additional facilities was completed.

The objection filed with the STB states that: ‘The authorised representatives of the sale committee failed to inform this Honourable Board that the latest TOP (temporary occupation permit) was issued for the clubhouse - built together with other facilities at the cost of close to $3,000,000 - of Gillman Heights was on 27 November 2002. The CSC was issued by BCA on 23 October 2002.’

The minority owners are also objecting to the collective sale on other grounds including the price paid for Gillman Heights ($548 million), the way this is being apportioned, and the conduct of the sales committee.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

The taxman is auctioning 8 Tong Watt Road, off River Valley Road, tomorrow to recover outstanding property taxes.

The taxman is auctioning 8 Tong Watt Road, off River Valley Road, tomorrow to recover outstanding property taxes. The 999-year leasehold, three-storey intermediate terrace house stands on a plot with a land area of about 2,751 sq ft.

The site is zoned for residential use with a 3.8 plot ratio (ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land area) within the River Valley Conservation Area.

Only the facade of the shophouses needs to be preserved while the rear portion could be redeveloped, a property consultant reckons.

BT understands that IRAS, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, has yet to provide the reserve price for the property but the indicative pricing is about $6 million-8 million.

According to a BT report in March this year, IRAS is owed $58,035 in tax arrears for 8 Tong Watt Road. The authority auctions off properties only as a last resort to recover property tax - after the owner repeatedly fails to pay or defaults on his payment, despite many reminders.

IRAS will return any balance on the sum received to the owner, after recovering outstanding tax, penalty payment, interest, and the cost of recovery.

The auction is to be conducted by Knight Frank at 2.30 pm at Empress Room, Carlton Hotel.

Another property that is being put up at the auction is a row of six restored conservation shophouses at Nos 252 to 262 South Bridge Road, near the junction with Temple Street. The indicative pricing for the freehold properties being sold by their owner, a local investment company, is about $20 million-22 million.

The six shophouses, which have two storeys with attics, have a total land area of nearly 8,500 sq ft and a floor area of around 16,600 sq ft. The units are currently leased to a total of 10 tenants, generating rental income of $41,000 per month. The leases come up for renewal at various times, ranging from the end of this month to late 2009. Knight Frank auctioneer Mary Sai reckons that the six shophouses could be converted into a boutique hotel with about 55 rooms, subject to approval from Urban Redevelopment Authority.

BT understands that No 20 Trengganu Street nearby was recently sold for $18 million to Asok Kumar of Royal Brothers group. The property has a remaining lease of about 65 years, with a total land area of about 10,450 sq ft and total lettable area of nearly 24,000 sq ft.

On June 29, Knight Frank is auctioning a freehold conservation bungalow at 781 Mountbatten Road. The indicative price is about $10 million. This is one of 15 large conservation bungalows along the road, according to Knight Frank. It has a land area of 20,222 sq ft and a floor area of 3,444 sq ft. The site is zoned for residential use. It is being offered on vacant possession by the administrator for the estate of a Teo family.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

The much awaited announcement by the Securities Industry Council (SIC) that the Singapore Code on Takeovers and Mergers will apply to Reits

The much awaited announcement by the Securities Industry Council (SIC) that the Singapore Code on Takeovers and Mergers will apply to Reits (real estate investment trusts) came late last week. This makes a consolidation in the Singapore Reit (S-Reit) sector easier, although there are unlikely to be many immediate mergers.

The run-up on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in the past year has eased the pressure on even the poorer-performing Reit managers. It would have been a different story had the takeover code been extended to Reits last year. Back then, some S-Reits were trading below their initial public offer issue price, putting pressure on those Reit managers seen as not delivering returns to unit holders, and making their Reits ripe for takeover by rival trusts. The stock market will inevitably quieten down at some stage, renewing the pressure on the weaker Reits.

Another point to note is that Reits are relatively new instruments to investors here. The first Singapore Reit, CapitaMall Trust, was floated just five years ago.

CapitaMall Trust is run by a strong management team that has delivered growth, which has helped enchant local investors with the idea of Reits as a class. Some new Reit issuers, even those with weaker growth stories and managements, have been able to ride on this positive sentiment.

As the S-Reit market matures, however, investors will become more discerning, with the smart money leaving some of the less well-run Reits. As the unit prices of such Reits fall, they will become more liable to takeover.

Potential Reit acquirers will have to be sure of improved results from a merged company, possibly by extracting greater value from the assets of the Reit they take over. If this does not happen, the merged Reit could itself be a takeover target.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) among S-Reits will become inevitable only when saturation point is reached and there are no further growth avenues for Reits other than acquiring rivals. That has been the case in markets like Australia.

As Goldman Sachs said in a note this week: ‘Singapore’s Reit market . . . is still relatively young and has abundant opportunities to acquire (properties) in Singapore and abroad . . . Singapore Reits, many with developer sponsors to provide a pipeline of acquisitions, are far from reaching a point where the potential to grow assets substantially can only be via M&As.’

The investment bank does not expect M&As to be a major theme in the S-Reit market over the next 12-18 months. Indeed, it expects more new Reit listings and secondary equity raisings to fund asset acquisitions to be the major theme for the rest of 2007 and in 2008.

In the longer term, though, Goldman Sachs does see consolidation as a major theme.

This could be in the form of bigger players making hostile raids on smaller players or Reits merging to bring about economies of scale. There may even be parties that could attempt to take public-listed Reits private. Goldman Sachs suggests that Reits with fragmented shareholdings - such as Suntec Reit or MacarthurCook Industrial Reit - could become potential takeover targets.

Market watchers reckon that one factor that could fuel M&A activity in the S-Reit sector, even in the short term, is the sheer liquidity being created by overseas investors keen to get their hands on a piece of the action in the Singapore real estate sector.

A consolidation of the S-Reit sector, when it takes place, could mean a higher quality of S-Reits. But even with mergers, new Reits will still be created. Many players are keen on floating Reits here, given the tax savings - Reits do not pay corporate tax at the vehicle level if they distribute all their income to unit holders. That has created a great financial incentive for property owners to put their assets into Reits.

This rule, and other Singapore Reit guidelines, are seen as making these property trusts among the most attractive in the world.

In either case - the merger of existing Reits or the creation of new ones - there will be handsome fees for the investment banks, in addition to the fees for the Reit managers themselves.

These factors provide fertile ground for breeding S-Reits of varying quality - but a consolidation leading to weaker Reits being acquired by stronger players will strengthen the S-Reit market.

Last Friday’s announcement sets the stage for that.

Source: The Business Times, 14 June 2007

After years of being the poor cousin in the private home sector, the mass market condominium is back with a vengeance.

After years of being the poor cousin in the private home sector, the mass market condominium is back with a vengeance.

It has been a long time coming with all the attention of developers seemingly on building pricey high-end homes in prime sites over the past couple of years.

But Thursday’s release of a slew of suburban sites - from Pasir Ris to Woodlands - should spark renewed interest by developers in the mass market sector, where prices are already rising.

The expected flow of new mass market housing should nip any looming supply crunch in the bud, property consultants said.

Colliers International director of investment sales Ho Eng Joo said the release of so much suburban land ‘is to prevent any surge in mass market prices’.

Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research, believes buyers will not have it all their own way. ‘Demand for suburban sites will be good because there has been a lack of affordable mass market launches in the past year.’

The strong response to and some relatively high bids for a recent tender for a suburban Dakota Crescent site show there is demand for non-prime plots.

Thursday’s release was part of a huge land sales programme for the second half of the year, with 20 residential sites, including those rolled over from the previous programme, up for grabs.

Some sites are on the confirmed list - that means they will be put up for sale at a scheduled date regardless of whether developers have shown interest.

The Government also sells sites on the market-friendly reserve list, which are put up for sale only after developers indicate interest.

There is a wide range of suburban sites - new hotspots like Tiong Bahru, central areas such as Ang Mo Kio and Bishan and outlying areas such as Woodlands.

Consultants said some of the reserve list sites are far more attractive than those on the confirmed list, and so those are likely to be triggered for sale.

The hottest site on the reserve list is the 0.89ha plot in Tiong Bahru, which can accommodate about 395 mid-tier homes.

Consultants said it was in a coveted location given that units at The Metropolitan next door sold well at an initial average price of $780 per sq ft (psf) with values rising further due to sub-sales.

A new condominium on the site could sell for as high as $1,000 psf, said consultants.

The large condominium sites in Bishan and Toa Payoh - which can accommodate about 535 units each - could probably fetch prices of $700 psf to $800 psf, they said.

A new condominium of about 555 units in Simon Road next to Kovan MRT Station could sell for $600 psf to $700 psf while the Boon Lay plot for about 685 units should attract good demand as well, they said.

‘The Boon Lay site could sell for about $600 psf. It is in between NUS and NTU and may see demand from expatriates working in the high-value industries in the west,’ said Savills Singapore director of marketing and business development Ku Swee Yong, referring to the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.

He also reckons there could be some demand from expatriates for a new condominium in Woodlands, where the Singapore American School and the Singapore Sports School are also located.

Generally, though, consultants are less enthusiastic about the confirmed list sites in Elias Road, Choa Chu Kang Road and Woodlands. That is good news for home buyers who like those locations because it will mean lower bids and lower end-prices of possibly between $500 psf and $600 psf.


The expected flow of new mass market housing should nip any looming supply crunch in the bud, say property consultants.

Source: The Straits Times, 16 June 2007

Executive condominiums (ECs) could make a comeback

Executive condominiums (ECs) could make a comeback now that the Government has released a site for this hybrid type of housing for the first time since the last one was sold in 2004.

Property analysts say the move is a response to the widening gap in the prices of public and private housing.

These homes - which come with restrictions but are cheaper than full-fledged condos - were first introduced in the 1990s, when runaway prices put condos beyond the reach of HDB flat owners aspiring to private homes.

But a slide in private home prices caused the Government to hold off putting such sites on the market after 2004.

Now the price gap is growing again. For private property, prices rose 10.2 per cent last year and 4.6 per cent for the first quarter of this year; for resale HDB flats, they rose 1.8 per cent last year and 1.3 per cent for the first quarter.

The new EC site is a 2.27ha plot in Punggol Field that could provide 620 homes. If the site on the reserve list is eventually tendered out, it would be Singapore’s 24th EC. The last, La Casa in Woodlands, was launched by Far East Organization in 2005.

The HDB said, when contacted by The Straits Times yesterday, that the latest move was meant to widen the housing options in Punggol, and ‘replenish the supply of new EC units in the market so that the EC Housing Scheme will continue to remain a viable housing option’.

It said it would assess the response to the Punggol site, before deciding on the release of more EC sites. The site will be put up for tender only if a developer commits to bidding a minimum price acceptable to the Government.

Families buying EC units can earn no more than $10,000 a month, though they can use a government grant to buy the homes. They cannot sell their unit within the first five years, and foreigners cannot buy them until after 10 years.

Mr Lui Seng Fatt, the regional director and head of investments at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: ‘It’s quite timely for them to reactivate the scheme. They have to keep mass-market private homes affordable to first-time home buyers and those upgrading from HDB flats.’

Chesterton International director Colin Tan said: ‘The feedback I get from HDB flat dwellers, especially the professionals, is that they won’t upgrade because private property prices are going up fast.’

In fact, rising prices have in recent months generated growing interest in resale EC units, said Knight Frank’s head of consultancy and research, Mr Nicholas Mak. The question now is whether such units will attract the same kind of interest as another bridging housing scheme has also been introduced.

Private developers were recently allowed to design, build, price and sell public housing, resulting in a new breed of ‘condo-like’ flats. The first of these flats, The Premiere@Tampines by Sim Lian Land, won an overwhelming response when launched last year. The second site on Boon Keng Road has just been tendered out to a consortium.

Analysts contacted mostly felt there was room for both schemes, but noted that the location of this EC site itself might mute market response.

Mr Lui said Punggol, unlike Woodlands or Tampines, for example, was a new town with no established group of HDB upgraders to draw upon, so the pool of ready buyers for an EC there could be smaller.

If a tender is eventually conducted, he expects the site to fetch $150 to $170 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr), which would work out to a maximum of $124.6 million.

Mr Mak put his estimate at $180 to $200 psf ppr, or up to $146.6 million.

Source: The Straits Times, 16 June 2007

En bloc blues

En bloc blues are not a new phenomenon, property players say. But they are being sung louder now simply because they are being played on more channels.

Overnight millionaires. That is what the owners of Leedon Heights became when they sold their estate en bloc in April for at least $2.4 million each.

But while most of their neighbours are celebrating their windfalls, some 30 owners of the 341-unit estate in Farrer Road are pocketing their bumper payouts with mixed feelings.

Among the discontented is Mrs Margaret Ng, a former teacher in her fifties, who bought her apartment more than 20 years ago.

‘When you look at it, we made a lot of money,’ she said. ‘But it’s a roof over your head. You can’t just look at it in terms of profit.’

Her words are being echoed by a small but growing group of home owners whose estates have gone en bloc against their wishes.

And even as Singapore goes through the strongest wave of collective sales in history, an unprecedented groundswell of dissatisfaction is rising up around these deals.

The Strata Titles Board (STB), which governs collective sales, received 68 objections for 60 collective sale applications in the whole of last year.

This number has nearly doubled for this year even though it is only June. It has already jumped to 122 for only 47 approved sales so far this year.

For many of these unhappy en bloc sellers, property experts say, it is all about the money.

Even a million-dollar payout may not be enough at the rate property prices are rising in some areas.

A comparable replacement home costs more. And $1.5 million doesn’t seem right when the guy next door is getting $2 million just a couple of months later.

Then there are the cases where sellers do not even recover their original investment on the home, much less become instant millionaires.

Mr Bobby Ng and his parents, for instance, reaped $685,000 from their unit at Hong Leong Garden when the estate was sold in March.

But the 35-year-old sales manager says the unit cost them $690,000 to begin with.

‘If I can get at least $900,000 for my place, then it can be called en bloc,’ he said. ‘Now, it’s not en bloc at all.’

Mr Ng also worries that by the time he actually gets the cash in hand - a process that could take up to a year - home prices in this quickly rising market would have soared beyond his reach.

Overshadowing all this is his unhappiness about the way in which his parents were badgered into signing up for the collective sale.

‘Both my parents are hawkers and don’t have much education. The sales committee came down to talk to them when they were working at the busiest time and chased them to sign,’ he said.

‘We were not even given the full details until after we signed.’

Money no enough

Only 80 per cent of owners need to agree to an estate’s sale if it is aged 10 years or older - down from unanimous consent before 1999, when new rules were put in place to make it easier to go en bloc.

This means that, just in terms of numbers, more owners who do not want to sell their homes find they have no choice in the matter.

But why don’t they want to sell in the first place?

Property experts say that in the past, almost all owners were happy to go along with a collective sale.

But now, the main reason why they are objecting is because the property market is rising like there is no tomorrow - for the first time in a decade.

‘This time round, the market is taking a really steep uptrend, something that’s unprecedented in the history of the local property market,’ said Mr Steven Ming, director of investment sales at Savills Singapore.

Ironically, it is this very same property boom that is driving the current en bloc frenzy in the first place.

Since January, developers riding on the property upswing have forked out $7.59 billion for 57 estates, according to the latest figures by CB Richard Ellis.

This is only 5 per cent shy of the record $8 billion done in the whole of last year.

There are two key reasons why fast-rising prices are becoming a problem for sellers.

First, as more estates are snapped up at ever-rising prices, selling your home too early may mean a lower payout, as the owners of Horizon Tower discovered to their chagrin.

When they sold their development in January for $500 million, it was the biggest en bloc deal ever, netting most owners $2.3 million each.

But barely three months later, Grangeford Apartments next door - with mainly smaller units - went on the market at a price that would yield each unit owner at least $3 million.

Feeling shortchanged, a group of Horizon Towers owners tried to back out of their sale agreement, making headlines in the process.

‘Deep down, we…believe many owners may now be regretting this en bloc,’ they said in a letter to fellow residents.

‘We strongly feel that if we sell our units individually, we would achieve prices far better than what this en bloc has fetched us.’

The second problem with the property price hikes is that they have made it almost impossible for en bloc sellers to get a replacement home of the same size, in the same location, at the same price.

In fact, by the time a new development has replaced their old estate, almost none of the original sellers can afford to buy a unit in it.

Owners of Paterson Tower, for instance, received a cool $3.7 million each when the estate was sold last March.

But the new project that will replace it, The Marq, is likely to be priced so high that the smallest unit will reportedly cost at least $8.4 million.

And recent launches in the Paterson area, such as Paterson Residences, cost at least $3.2 million for apartments that are smaller.

This has forced some Paterson Tower owners to move to ‘more affordable’ areas like Thomson and the East Coast, said Dr Phang Sin Kat of law firm Phang & Co, which brokered the estate’s sale.

Home owners most likely to be affected by this problem live in developments that are fairly new, say under 15 years old, or with large units that are increasingly harder to find as old projects get torn down, added Mr Karamjit Singh, managing director of Credo Real Estate.

Sense of urgency

In this type of market, speed is everything and at a year to completion, the typical en bloc sale seems to plod along at snail’s pace.

At the ex-HUDC estate Gillman Heights in Alexandra Road, a reserve price for the project was fixed last February. But it took a whole year for the estate to be sold, at some 3 per cent above the reserve price.

In that time, home prices in the area had risen by up to 13 per cent for some properties, according to a group of unhappy minority owners who are now objecting to the sale.

Even after an estate is sold, it takes eight to 12 months before owners receive the payouts, said Mr Ming. In this time, the market ‘can leap by 15 to 20 per cent’.

‘The extra dollars they are getting are looking smaller and smaller by the day,’ he said. ‘That’s the main stinging reason owners are unhappy.’

Worsening the situation is a sense of urgency among home owners who suspect that the en bloc fever could be cooling.

This means that more estates are putting themselves up for sale ad being torn down.

With hundreds of units being pulled from the market each month, homes are in short supply in prime areas.

This leads to even higher rentals and home prices and further desperation among home owners to sell, sending the market into a upward spiral of sorts.

‘It’s a double whammy,’ said Credo’s Mr Singh. ‘New projects are not coming onstream as fast as needed to replace the supply.’

On the ground, the rush to go en bloc has led to more aggression in bringing about a sale, said Mr Phang.

‘In some cases, it has got to the point of harassment,’ he said.

‘Owners are getting a few calls a day and knocks on their doors even during Chinese New Year, asking them to sell. Of course this makes them unhappy.’

With two segments potentially objecting - those finding it hard to find replacement homes and greedy investors holding out for an even higher price - property experts say that more owners are likely to resist the entire collective sale proposition over the next one to two years.

‘In view of the increasing sale prices in the primary and secondary market, the number of dissenters would invariably increase,’ said Mr Ho Eng Joo, director of investment sales at property firm Colliers International.

More awareness

En bloc blues are not a new phenomenon, property players say. But they are being sung louder now simply because they are being played on more channels.

The discontented, more savvy than ever before, are taking their protests online, to the media, to property experts and even to their MPs.

Mr Jeremy Lake, executive director of investment properties at CB Richard Ellis, said: ‘The dissenters are just more vocal now and they are getting more media coverage which makes it seem like there are more of them.’

More minority owners are also hiring lawyers to protect their interests - despite the sometimes steep legal fees.

Dr Phang said he now receives ‘twice, three times more inquiries’ from owners objecting to an en bloc sale.

‘People are more aware of their rights now,’ he said. ‘They look up the procedures and statutes. Some even create blogs about en blocs.’

An extreme example is that of Mr Yeo Loo Keng and his wife, whose $660,000 proceeds from the sale of their Waterfront View home was not enough to top up their CPF accounts.

Although developer Frasers Centrepoint offered them a $200,000 settlement, they took their case to the High Court to ‘test the legal system’ and how it treated minority owners, said Mr Yeo’s brother Loo San.

They lost the case and now have to foot the legal costs, which could come up to $100,000, he added. But he said there are ‘no regrets about the decision’ because they learnt valuable lessons.

Another way in which the public is making its unhappiness felt is through feedback to the Government.

More than 100 people responded to a public consultation on changes to en bloc legislation held by the Ministry of Law in April and last month.

A ministry spokesman said: ‘The vast majority of the suggestions concerned matters on making the process more fair and transparent.’

The proposed changes include the addition of a second requirement for getting majority consent.

This means that approval has to come from owners controlling at least 80 per cent of the share values as well as the number of units in their estates.

Another change requires the collective sale committee to be formed only at an extraordinary general meeting arranged by the estate’s management corporation.

Now, such a committee can be formed ad hoc, something that unwilling sellers have complained about.

Some of them also want other issues addressed such as the conflict of interests between the management council and the sales committee.

Often, the members in both groupings are the same. When that happens, the possibility of intentionally allowing an estate to rot is very high as the sales committee’s priority is to sell it rather than to maintain it, said some home owners.

It is not known if this issue will be addressed, though the the ministry spokesman said: ‘We expect that many useful points will be incorporated into the final amendment Bill. We hope to finalise the changes by August or September.’

But what is clear is that the public debate over en bloc issues will continue to rage for a while.

And the time it takes the controversy to settle is starting to frustrate once-happy en bloc sellers.

Mr Ajay Kumar, 40, got a $2.3 million payout from the sale of his Horizon Towers home. Even though he is not happy that residents of the Grangeford Apartments next door got more for their collective sale, he is hoping the objecting home owners in his estate will come to an agreement soon.

‘There’s nothing more they can do at this point since the majority of owners have signed the sale agreement,’ he said.

‘Property prices are rising drastically, and we should just expedite the payments so at least residents don’t lose any further.’

Fast winding down

How, and when, will this madness all end?

Property experts say that en bloc fever may actually take a breather soon, within the next year.

‘I don’t see it as a continuous buying spree,’ said Mr Ming of Savills.

He explained that developers have already filled up their land banks and may want to launch some of these new projects first before acquiring more sites.

This means they may become more choosy about which sites to buy.

Another factor that may kick off the cooling-off process are the upcoming changes in en bloc legislation, which will tighten some of the rules in a sale.

Marketing agents also say it has become harder to push through a collective sale because owners’ expectations have gone up.

Mr Ming said: ‘The fact that we’re on the longest run in history means we may be already close to the end.’

Source: The Straits Times, 16 June 2007

In every en bloc soap opera, weird and wonderful characters emerge. Here are seven

Sell! Sell! say some. No! No! scream others. Hmmm, if the price is right… .

1 The Stayers

They’ve lived for decades in the same home. It’s where they’ve brought up their families or shared memories with deceased spouses. Money is not an issue - they simply refuse to move out. One widow was afraid her husband’s spirit would not be able to find her if she moved; others say they had no idea their home was being sold. One thing they have in common: really annoyed neighbours who want a quick sale.

2 The Sharks

They sniff out estates with ‘en bloc potential’, hoping to make a quick killing. Passive investors tend to ‘flip’ a unit even before the sale, but more active ones may insinuate themselves onto the sales committees to push through a deal. They’ve been called troublemakers and agitators by those resisting a sale, but other residents welcome their experience in en bloc sales.

3 The Bochap Investors

They are landlords, not residents. They’re bochap (couldn’t care less) for good reason. When their unit goes en bloc, they’re more than happy to cash out. If it doesn’t, they can still collect rent. The real losers: their tenants, who have to find a new place to stay in a quickly rising market.

4 The Activists

They are articulate, passionate, and well-informed. They distribute fliers, write letters to their MPs, and read up on property laws. They are the en bloc rebels of today with only one cause: to stop a sale from going through.

5 The Fence Sitters

They are the ones who sit on the fence, not knowing which side to gun for. Some are not keen to sell but they don’t want to hold up the sale either. Some just aren’t sure if selling is a good idea while others want to be the last one to sign.

6 The Troublemakers

They are hoping to get more than the rest either because they think their units are superior or because their circumstances are more pathetic. Their actions vary from dragging their feet on the signing of the agreement to bringing their cases to the Strata Titles Board. But do not be fooled: they are definitely pro-sale.

7 The Happy Sellers

Some have toiled their whole life to buy that one apartment which will net them an en bloc sale. Some are investors. An en bloc sale would bring them more quick money than they could have dreamed of. Needless to say, they are the first to say yes.

Source: The Straits Times, 16 June 2007

The anti-collective sale brigade

The anti-collective sale brigade is becoming more vocal and dissenters are making sure their objections are heard

In April this year, the Gan family made headlines in a big way. Unhappy with the collective sale of their Lincolnsvale condominium in the Newton area, they called up the press to complain that the transaction had gone through ‘without their knowledge’.

And subsequently, they said they were the only family left in a building with no lights in the corridor and had demolition workers for new neighbours.

The rest of Singapore watched, some in amusement, as the Gans - who have two teenage sons - declared they were staying put in the 23- year-old development that Sim Lian Land had bought in late 2005 and was now ready to demolish.

Would the Gans have to be physically thrown out with their belongings, kicking and screaming? Would they stand in front of the wrecking ball, daring it to strike?

It never came to that as the Gans were ordered by the court to move out last month.

From refusing to move out to rejecting millions in sales proceeds, the anti-collective sale brigade is becoming increasingly vocal, and they are making sure they are heard in more ways than one.

Apart from challenging the keen sellers at residents’ meetings, they also write to the media, the Government, their MPs and neighbours, and even post it on their blogs.

Property consultants have noticed that they are an increasingly knowledgeable bunch and getting more aggressive.

Some of these objectors take on the fight alone, others in a group. Some are open about their objections, some prefer to say no without giving away their identities.

On the whole, collective-sale dissenters tend to be older home owners who have worked for - and established - a comfortable lifestyle. Many are in the so-called upper middle class segment.

Beyond the practical issue of how much a replacement home will cost, these home owners are unhappy for a whole host of more intangible reasons.

Some talk about the loss of community when they are split up from neighbours they have known for years.

Others bemoan the loss of architectural heritage and environmental wastage when relatively young buildings are torn down and rebuilt.

These are the reasons why, somewhere in Ulu Pandan, a group that calls itself Save The Pine Grove is still hard at work even though a first attempt at a collective sale fell through earlier this year.

A new collective-sale initiative has since been launched and the activist group has already written to voice objections about the way it is done, lest it gets in the way of estate maintenance.

For their efforts, they have had one of their letters posted at one of the condominium’s lift lobbies, and on it a vaguely threatening scrawl: ‘A few ladies from the Save Pine Grove group - Please get out of Pine Grove.’

Another dissenter, 58-year old retiree Ms Brown (not her real name), puts the resistance down to ‘attachments’ that people have formed with each other and the area in which they live.

Ms Brown, who had bought her unit at The Claymore back in 1989 with the view of spending her retirement in Singapore, has written to the media to voice her unhappiness at the collective- sale bid at her estate.

‘It’s almost like the ‘villages’ of London where local communities have their own dry cleaners, restaurants, grocer and so on,’ she said.

‘Even though we are close to Orchard Road and its many shopping centres, we also patronise small local businesses nearby and have come to know the people who run and work in them. And they, us.’

Dr D, a 39-year-old academic who has lived half his life in Britain, agreed. His Singapore property was also recently sold en bloc.

‘It’ll mean re-establishing everything again. But my worry will be that in 10 years, we’ll need to move again.’

In a twist of irony, some home owners have bonded as they work towards warding off a collective sale, further deepening the feeling of community in their estates.

Madam Lee Woei Shiuan has held a few collective-sale discussions at her Hong Leong Garden Condominium apartment in the West Coast area.

Attendance, she said, is generally good. She serves her guests tea, but some bring fruits, cookies and even bottled mineral water for all the attendees.

‘We need to ‘unite’ the owners so that we can collectively resist the sale application at the Strata Titles Board when the time comes,’ said the accountant.

The Hong Leong Garden sale is pending the convening of an extraordinary general meeting before the sale application can be made to the Strata Titles Board. It was sold in March for $131.5 million, a sum some home owners there - who are upset with the entire sale process - now think is too low in today’s market.

Madam Lee then decided to talk to her MP about the issue and was surprised when six of her neighbours went along to lend her support.

In other estates, blogging has proved to be a secure yet possibly far-reaching option.

A group of residents at Botanic Gardens View recently created a blog to gather views from dissenters.

‘Are you happy with the RP (reserve price)?’ asked one of the postings on the blog.

‘I urge you to think carefully before the agents do the song and dance and try to persuade you to sign the CSA…!’

But getting the strength in numbers to resist a collective sale is only the beginning.

The collective sale is a multi-step process with plenty of legal twists and turns along the way.

Dissenters may need expert help and lawyers do not come cheap. Over at Hong Leong Garden, unwilling sellers are pooling their own resources to pay for $60,000 in legal fees.

The initial fee for each unit comes out to $5,000, but should go down to $3,000 when more come on board.

‘We should fight for our rights to keep the roof over our heads,’ said Madam Lee.

But the potential cost of fobbing off a collective sale goes beyond simple dollars and cents.

Often, dissenters have to bear with threats and unpleasant surprises. There have been stories of cars being scratched and verbal abuse being hurled publicly at dissenters. This is why most dissenters prefer to speak only on condition of anonymity.

In the end, the dissenters say the sacrifice is worth it.

‘You cannot find such designs like Habitat One anymore,’ said home owner Vicky, referring to well-known architect Moshe Safdie’s classic project in Ardmore Park that was sold en bloc last year.

‘Cairnhill Heights is also unusual. It’s painted in metallic silver and has a retro science fiction feel to it,’ she said.

‘We won’t have an architectural heritage if we don’t have such interesting buildings around.’

Asked another home owner: ‘What signal is being sent to developers if buildings can be torn down after 10 years?’

‘Developers know that they need not build a condominium to be sustainable over 30 years if most are going to be demolished in 10.’

If you want to sell

1. Hold owners’ meetings to form a sales committee and choose a marketing agent and lawyer.

2. Decide the reserve price and sales distribution method.

3. Draft and circulate a collective sale agreement for residents to sign. Marketing agents may start looking for a buyer at this time.

4. Get a valuation report for the estate, which must not be more than three months old when the application to sell en bloc is made to the Strata Titles Board (STB).

5. Advertise the proposed sale in the local newspapers in the four official languages.

6. Fill out an STB application form for the sale and serve a notice of this application to all owners.

7. Minority owners can file objections, if any, with the STB within 21 days of the notice being served.

Don’t want to sell?

1. Attend the owners’ meetings on the proposed sale to get as much information as possible.

2. Owners with mixed feelings can volunteer to join the sales committee to understand the process. But if they do not support the sale, they should step down once the agreement is finalised.

3. Give feedback to the sales committee, marketing agents and lawyers during the drafting of the collective sale agreement.

4. If enough signatures have been collected to push through a deal and notice of the sale has been served, those opposed to it should file their objections with the STB. They may want to talk to a lawyer at this point.

5. Objectors should air their views at the STB mediation session.

6. Objectors should engage a lawyer to protect their interests if the mediation is unsuccessful.

Source: The Straits Times, 16 June 2007

They eat, sleep and dream en bloc transactions.

They eat, sleep and dream en bloc transactions. Mind you, they are not home owners hoping to get a chunky slice of the sizzling hot collective sale pie.

They are just the army of professionals - mostly conveyancing lawyers, property agents and real estate executives - who have been beavering away because of the collective sale mania sweeping through the island.

The fever has been good for them.

A property agent told The Straits Times that his business has doubled in the last year, thanks to the estimated 5,000 en bloc sellers looking for new homes.

Property firm Credo is currently brokering the $1.5 billion collective sale of the 618-unit Farrer Court.

If the sale goes through, the company stands to earn between $3 million and $22.5 million. Each Farrer Court home owner, meanwhile, is expected to get an average of $2.4 million from the deal.

A typical workday begins at 7am and lasts at least 14 hours - compared to 11 before the collective sale frenzy - for Mr Steven Ming, director of investment sales at property firm Savills Singapore.

The company handled the collective sales of Hillcourt Apartments and Silver Tower, both in Cairnhill Road, and is currently involved in the sale of Peace Centre in Dhoby Ghaut.

Married with a three-year-old daughter, he is kept busy the whole day. There are meetings with sellers to collect their signatures and answer their inquiries, developers to market the existing sites and advertising agencies to work on publicity campaigns.

He said that more than half the deals firmed up in the conference room are the result of working round the clock, starting from 3pm and extending up to 8am the following day.

Even his weekends can be spent dealing with work. He is not alone.

Mr Karamjit Singh, 36, executive director of Credo Real Estate, said: ‘Some days go by when I don’t get to see my kids.’

The father of three children, aged between three and nine, has been involved in collective sales since 1994.

Credo, which he established in 2002, has been involved in the sales of Eastern Mansion, Elizabeth Heights and Farrer Court.

Although everyone seems to be jumping into the collective-sale fray these days, agents working in teams of three to six can take three to 12 months to get the 80 per cent consensus for an estate with a few hundred units.

While they do house visits, Credo Real Estate also organises open houses where its managers station themselves at times that are convenient for owners - 7pm to 9pm on weekdays and 2pm to 5pm on weekends.

‘This is a less intrusive way, yet convenient for the owners,’ said Mr Singh.

Lawyers are brought in to advise owners on the legal aspects of the collective-sale process, and to handle paperwork.

Dr Phang Sin Kat, the principal of law firm Phang & Co, said lawyers ‘must show that there is due diligence and process’ in the collective-sale process.

They are also involved in the mediations between the sales committee, agents and developers.

Their days are just as hectic as real estate executives and agents.

Dr Phang said a conveyancing lawyer can sometimes handle the legal work of between 100 and 150 owners and mortgagees for any one sale.

Also reaping the benefits of collective sales are property agents.

Mr James Lee, 39, who runs his own realty firm said his business has doubled over the past year. He currently handles at least 20 transactions a month.

‘For every 10 of my clients who want to buy property, at least two or three are en bloc sellers. Some of them even pay cash,’ he added.

Not surprisingly, the agents and lawyers involved in collective sales told The Straits Times that their cellphones are switched on at all times of the day.

Ms Christina Sim, in her 40s and director of investment and capital markets at Cushman & Wakefield, said it is not unusual for her to get more than 20 calls a day.

She said: ‘I try to switch it off after 11pm.’

The majority of calls are from home owners who have agreed to sell but want a better price.

Mr Ho Eng Joo, Colliers International’s director of investment sales, said: ‘Every owner thinks his or her estate is the best.’

When it comes to the minority who do not want to sell, Mr Ming believes in being patient.

He said: ‘We provide a listening ear and a venue for them to vent their frustrations.’

Although he has been spared verbal abuse, he said angry callers are par for the course.

Source: The Straits Times, 16 June 2007

Their payout is not enough to buy similar-size units in same area due to rising prices

The reason:

Two weeks ago, retiree Albert Ng received $660,000 from the collective sale of his 1,700 sq ft Waterfront View apartment in Bedok.

However, the 65-year-old former port executive is not happy.

‘It’s a miserable price we are selling at, in a bullish market. You can never get the same thing for this price now,’ he said.

With his homemaker wife and daughter, he will downgrade to a 1,000 sq ft apartment in Katong, which costs over $450,000.

Mr Ng is not alone.

In a poll of 40 owners and tenants from properties that are up for collective sale, half of them said they would downgrade when they move out of their homes.

They live in estates such as Sophia Court in Dhoby Ghaut, Nathanville off River Valley Road, The Orange Grove off Orchard Road, Minton Rise in Hougang and Waterfront View in Bedok Reservoir Road.

Similarly, more than half surveyed said they would relocate further into the suburbs.

The main reason? Price.

Many living in the central area - Districts 9, 10 and 11 - said that rising property prices would make it impossible for them to afford a similar unit in the same area with their payouts.

The owner of a ground floor unit at The Orange Grove, who wanted to be known only as Ms Wang, said she would have to move to a more affordable area like Newton or Bukit Timah.

The housewife said her 2,360 sq ft apartment was acquired for more than $4 million. However, a new condo of that size in the Orange Grove area would cost more than $4.7 million in the current market.

She plans to spend two-thirds of the amount she received on a landed property in a cheaper area when she moves out in October.

Likewise, finance manager Kevin Smith, 37, who rents a 1,000 sq ft apartment for $3,000 a month at Nathanville, will be renting a condo in Serangoon. Nathanville was sold in March this year.

He said: ‘I can get a bigger place in Braddell or Serangoon for the same price.’

One in four polled is moving into HDB flats because of the higher prices in the bullish private property market.

A tenant at Sophia Court for three years, Ms Shweta Sharma, 30, will move to Toa Payoh where her office is.

The clinical application support engineer said: ‘Condos in Toa Payoh are very expensive, so I have to rent an HDB flat.’

Currently, she is paying $1,430 at Sophia Court, which was sold last December. Even so, she expects she will have to pay more - around $2,000 - for a three-bedroom apartment in Toa Payoh.

Mr Sharyl Sapa, who sold his Waterfront View maisonette for $660,000, will downgrade from his 1,700 sq ft home to a 1,200 sqft executive apartment in Tampines which costs $300,000 come November.

Many of the people polled - especially tenants - are also unhappy because they have to deal with the hassle of moving.

A 46-year-old tenant at The Orange Grove, who did not want to be named, said that this would be the second time in five years that she has to move because of a collective sale.

‘Something should be done. There is just a mad scramble to look for houses,’ said the housewife.

When The Orange Grove is demolished in October, she will move to a terrace house in Woodlands with a $6,700 lease, up from her current $5,000.

‘Owners are selling, developers are moving in, and everything is happening so fast. It’s not a gradual process - it’s just crazy,’ she said.

To avoid being forced to move after another collective sale, some are not taking any chances.

As Mrs Miharu Mckinney, 34, a housewife renting at Sophia Court, noted: ‘We are now looking for a place that is not older than five years.’

Source: The Straits Times, 16 June 2007