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Review: Holland Residences

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Holland Residences

Need To Know
Location
Taman Warna
District 10
Land Tenure Freehold
Units 83 in 5 Storeys
Expected TOP Jun 30, 2013
Developers Allgreen Properties Limited
Facilities Multiple swimming pools, Half basketball court, Covered BBQ pit

Unit Types
1 Bedrooms 10 units, min 602 sqft
2 Bedrooms
20 units, min 957 sqft
3 Bedrooms 34 units, min 1,356 sqft
4 Bedrooms 2 units, min 1,872 sqft
Penthouses 17 units, min 1,614 sqft

Sales Info
Sales Open
Feb 2009
Average PSF $1,600 @ Jan 28, 2010

Everyone has heard of the age old mantra of “Location, location, location” when it comes to buying property, and Holland Residences fits all 3 of those stringent requirements. And sometimes thats all you need to know.

Holland Residences is nestled amidst the rustic terrace houses of Chip Bee Gardens on the edge of Tarman Warna. Its enviable location blends the best of both worlds with privacy from the hectic Holland V crowd with easy access to the main road (Holland Road) and the future MRT.

Location! Location! Location!

A 5 storey condo with 83 units, Holland Residences is well divided into 1 to 4 bedroom units along with lofts and penthouses. It interestingly follows the Multi-Generational Living (Studio + Loft) layout of the SkyVille@Dawson with 1st storey lofts with the small 1 bedroom units on the 2nd floor. The showflat features this loft unit with a Jacuzzi patio.

Souped up patio and jacuzzi rocks

All the 3 bedroom and above come with a private lift lobby, barring of course the 1st floor units. Most of units also come with 2 entrances, one from the kitchen to the service lobby and stairs. This layout is the norm for condos with private lift lobbies, as you might still need to walk if the elevator breaks. If you ask me it looks like a great place to stash unsightly stuff when you have visitors, i.e. during CNY.

Even despite the awesome location, the units do have its charm. The 3 bedroom loft has a decked up patio with a private jacuzzi that overlooks the condo’s many themed pools. Most of the units also have well-appointed balconies that also share the views. I’m usually against large balconies but here, they fit the outdoorsy green-garden feel of the locale. Also the inner layouts doesn’t look cramped.

No qualms with balconies here

There were some nice touches with the toilets too. The shower area is recessed slightly behind the sink which helps prevent splashing and also makes the toilet more spacious. I also love the glossy white lacquered kitchen cabinets and the built-in Miele fridge. I only noticed a small hiccup with the loft which is the master bedroom does not have a view into the living room, other than from the stairs.

Love the professional white facade

The Low-Down

I was there on the first day of sales, and the prices were already skyrocketing. For a 5 storey condo, the prices ranged over $100 psf from $1570 to $1680 for the units put out for sale, and the developers seem to be revising their prices upwards by the minute. There are some blocks which are not as desirable, in particular stacks 05/06 and 16/17 where you could look opposite into your neighbour’s house without those trusty binoculars.

Close encounters of the ... close kind

Facilities-wise there isn’t much. Beyond the watery landscape of swimming pools, there is only a jogging track and a 3-point basketball shooting area. I’m not even sure there’s the standard gym. And you have to pay loads for it. 3 bedroom units have monthly maintenance fees around $500 due to the limited no of units.

Conclusion

Holland Residences is definitely a buy for me. There’s not much wrong with it apart from the dollar amounts. It has a great location, rustic privacy with easy access to Holland Village and the MRT. Rental should not be a problem given how popular the nearby Chip Bee Gardens is with expats.

I personally prefer the smaller units (3 bedroom and below) namely because at the price of the penthouses, I much rather buy a landed property tear it down and rebuild it. The 3 bedrooms gives you the feel of a landed property but with the security and some of the facilities of a condo.

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Written by L

February 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Awesome Singapore Conservation House

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Saw this on Furniture Store Blog, featuring a conservation house right here in Singapore. If you are one of the lucky few who managed to secure this uniquely Singapore home, I suppose you would have the means to renovate it like this.

The very conservative conservation house exterior

And wait for it …

Legendary new world inside

Who says you can't have a pool in a shophouse

Fake books but awesome shelving

Who can forget the stone bath?

For more pictures check out the full post at the Furniture Store Blog.

Written by L

January 19, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Review: Miro

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Miro

Need To Know
Location
1 Lincoln Road
District 11
Land Tenure Freehold
Units 128 in 32 Storeys
Expected TOP Dec 31, 2014
Developers Far East Organization
Facilities Lap Pool, Spa & Massage, Indoor / Outdoor Gym, BBQ Deck, Landscaped Sky Terraces

Unit Types
1 Bedroom Lofts min 990 sqft
2 Bedroom Lofts
min 1,173 sqft
3 Bedroom Lofts min 1,614 sqft
4 Bedroom Lofts min 2,852 sqft
Penthouse 1 unit, min 5,877 sqft

Sales Info
Sales Open Aug 2008
Average PSF $1,650 @ Dec 1, 2009

With the launch of the first HDB lofts at Dawson (and hopefully more to come), I thought this should be the time to finally review Miro by Far East Organisation – One of my all-time favourite showflats.

Miro, Spanish for ‘To Look At‘ is a unique project in that all its units are lofts. You can expect 6 m high ceilings in the loft area, all glass from floor to ceiling and a layout that really maximises the space. I know I totally went gaga. The 2 and 3 bedroom showflats were gorgeous and while I don’t often agree with marketing speak, they did remind me of amazing Spanish apartments I had seen on Apartment Therapy.

I don’t have all the details of the units at the Miro. I walked in for the first time this August, a year after Miro was first previewed, by then most of the units up to the 20th floor have already been sold and Far East are hoarding the rest till TOP in 2014. And I don’t really want to go into that anyway, not when the lofts are just so impressive.

The Loft.

The 2 bedroom units are about 1,170 sqft with the 2nd bedroom on the lower loft and the master bedroom suite on the 2nd floor with a view overlooking the living and dining areas. The showflat featured neutral colours and a classy interior with a particularly clever touch: side lighting on the TV partition wall. I thought the partition that secludes the entrance to the master is really cool, and just gives this air of privacy to the upstairs living quarters. In one of the showflats, the door was made to look the same as the wallpaper, so it looked like the hidden entrance you I always wanted as a kid.

View From Above

The upstairs is all for you. And that’s a really nice idea. The upper floor is a little apartment of its own complete with walk-in closet and a balcony. And it is a good thing that it is private, because in an effort to make the space seem larger, the bath area is completely glass. This is a somewhat common feature of new Far East condos but is better laid out in Miro where the sunken shower is tucked in the corner of the master rather than awkwardly in the middle.

A Pity You Can’t See The Daring Bathroom

The Lowdown
I think the Miro lofts are fabulous and I am a big fan. But if you are looking to buy a loft here’s the most important thing you should know:

You PAY for the double volume space, i.e. the 2nd floor loft area above the living and dining room. In a 2 bedroom apartment, that is almost 12.5% of the overall floor area. Inclusive of the balconies and planters, that’s a loss of about 23% of the internal floor area. To put that space in perspective, at $1,650 psf, that comes up to $445,500 or almost the price of a 4 bedroom loft at the SkyTerrace @ Dawson.

A Very Sobering Thought

Conclusion
Considering the costs, lofts are designed for personal stays and not really wise investments. Developers building loft units have to cut down on non-usable space to make the unit more affordable to buyers, and I believe Far East has done a good job with this one. Also because it is priced at $1,650 psf, Miro is relatively cheaper than its neighbours in the Newton area. Unfortunately most of the units have already been sold. However I think you can get similar units at Cyan along Bukit Timah Road where the layout would be similar.

If you are dreaming of a loft and can only afford a HDB, well good news to you! The SkyTerrace @ Dawson offers 65 loft units but the sheer number of applications means that the odds are stacked against you. As Han Solo says, “Never tell me the odds” so apply by 28th December at HDB and may the Force be with you. 

Written by L

December 21, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Understanding Bay Windows and Planter Boxes

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This post is the first of a series of learning articles about the property market in Singapore that we as discerning homeowners should all know. In this article I will try to explain what the terms “bay window” and “planter” are in a unit layout and how they relate to the gross floor area of property .

What is a Bay Window (BW)?
A bay window refers to the projection from a room that holds a set of windows. The projection is often in the form of a rectangular ledge or alcove. We commonly call it a window seat.

Updated Bay Window - Thanks H88.com.sg!

What is a Planter (PL)?
A planter refers to the sunken area outside a room or balcony that is meant to house potted or unpotted plants. Otherwise known as a hole.

A Planter Box - Courtesy of http://www.expatchoice.com

What is Gross Floor Area (GFA) ?
According to URA, Gross Floor Area with respect to a residential unit is the total area of the covered floor space measured between from the centre of the walls (not the edge of the walls), excluding exempted areas.

Before 1 Jan 2009, the exempted areas were:

  • Bay Windows
  • Planter Boxes
  • Air-con Ledges

On 7 July 2009, URA announced changes to the GFA guidelines for bay windows and planter boxes. The ruling effectively removed Bay Windows and Planter Boxes from the exempted list which took effect from 1 Jan 2009.

Background on the URA ruling
Bay windows were originally exempted from the GFA as they were seen as raised window ledges rather than part of the floor space.

Planter boxes too were intended for residents to add greenery and relief to their homes and as such were exempted from the GFA.

For property developers these loopholes meant that they could incorporate bay windows and planter boxes to their projects at no additional development charge and could in fact charge you the home buyer for the space. As such there has been a proliferation of projects whose architecture is specifically designed around bay windows and planter boxes.

An Example of Developer Taking Advantage of the GFA Loophole

The above example of a 2 bedroom apartment shows that an outstanding 23.6% of the unit GFA is made up of bay windows and planters (even the kitchen has it)! If we include the air-con ledge into the calculations, the owner pays for 100% of the unit but only effectively get 73.4% of the usable space.

However this is an extreme example. On average, bay windows and planters take up only about 10% of a residential unit GFA. Regulations on bay windows have been relaxed such that the minimum height of the ledge is now lowered to 0.5m, which makes the ledge more usable. Some owners have also decked up the planter boxes thereby extending the space of their balconies or living rooms, however this is considered a breach of the GFA.

A Decked Up Planter Box

Why did URA change the GFA guidelines?
Basically there are 3 reasons,

  • Developers abusing the GFA and specifically designing properties around bay windows and planter boxes.
  • Homeowners decking up the planters, thereby defeating the purpose of the GFA exemption, which was to add to the greenery.
  • Extensive use of bay windows leads to higher heat transfer into buildings and increase the need for air-conditioning to cool the building. i.e. making the building less green.

How does URA’s new ruling affect me as a home owner?
By closing up the loophole, developers who have submitted their development plans after 1 Jan 2009 will have to pay development charges for bay windows and planters. In other words, they have less incentive to include these features as part of the design, which is to your benefit.

Do note that for some properties launched even now, the old GFA regulations may still apply as the developers might have submitted and got their Provisional Permit (PP) before the deadline.

So can I deck up my planter box or breakdown my bay window ledge?
I can safely say that for new properties (submitted after 1 Jan 2009), bay windows and planter boxes are part of the GFA, which means since you (and the developer) paid for it you can do whatever you want with it. You may deck up the planter boxes or breakdown the bay window ledge if its possible (there might be hidden piping or cabling). Do check with a reputable contractor or renovator what options you have available.

For approved developments with bay windows and planters exempted from the GFA, URA states that ‘these approved spaces will remain as GFA exempted until the buildings are redeveloped’.

In other words you do so at your own risk. I know for a fact that HDB Renovation Guidelines prevents changing the use of the planter box. So if you are planning to go ahead with them, please double check with your management office and renovator whether these works are allowed.

Written by L

December 12, 2009 at 8:48 am

Review: Lincoln Suites

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Lincoln Suites

Need To Know
Location Khiang Guan Avenue
District 11
Land Tenure Freehold
Units 175 in 30 Storeys
Expected TOP Dec 31, 2014
Developers Koh Brothers Development, Lian Beng Realty
Heeton Homes, Kim Seng Heng Realty
Facilities 50m lap pool, Sky Gym, Outdoor Gym, 2 Sky Terraces, Theme Dining Areas

Unit Types
Studios 44 units, min 463 sqft
1 Bedrooms 22 units, min 527 sqft
2 Bedrooms 42 units, min 1,033 sqft
3 Bedrooms 42 units, min 1,098 sqft
4 Bedrooms 22 units, min 1,798 sqft
Penthouses 3 units, min 3,703 sqft

Sales Info
Sales Open Oct 2009
Average PSF $1,800 @ Dec 9, 2009

Like 100 Trees at Hong Leong Gardens, Lincoln Suites is located at the still inhabited site of Lincoln Lodge. This prime property was purchased by a consortium of contractors and developers 2 years ago in a massive collective sale. Lincoln Suites’ awaited launch had been delayed till now as rising property prices has finally made its development viable. Phase 1 was launched in late Oct at $1,680 psf.

The L in Lincoln Suites really stands for location; and for the luxury condo, it is both a blessing and its curse. Located right behind Goldhill Plaza and United Square, Lincoln Suites shares both the convenience of a mall-condo and the Novena MRT, as well as the disadvantages of the accompanying crowds. However, unlike The Trillium and Tribeca (near Great World City), Lincoln Suites does not have the benefit of distance, and its lofty heights are much in danger of overcrowding, this time by the malls’ office towers.

Looking at the 15th storey site photos, this is immediately obvious – Lincoln Suites’ right tower looks right into the 28 storey Goldhill Plaza offices in front and Newton Gems behind. That is unfortunate for the majority of the owners in that tower. Due to the allocation of units across the 2 towers, the left tower favours the larger 3 and 4 bedroom units which all have private lifts and pretty much unblocked views i.e. the “Atas” tower. In contrast, the right tower houses studios to compact 3 bedrooms, which are saddled with blocked views, both front and back.

The "Atas" And The Blocked

The really cool feature about Lincoln Suites is the sky gym. It hangs defiantly in the face of gravity between the 2 towers on the 24th floor. Want to know the really cool SCARY part? The floor of the glass bubble is partially SEE THROUGH. As I stood in the showflat’s sky gym, I have to say that its very unsettling to be seemingly standing on air. My friend S who is deathly afraid of heights refused to even come to the sky gym on the 2nd floor of the showflat with me.

Really though, the developers have tried very hard with this one. The condo is overloaded with facilities. In the 2 sky terraces, there is the usual 50m lap pool and a host of water features. There are also unique themed dining areas – from Western Dining to Korean Teppanyaki rooms. There’s even a Japanese one I cannot pronounce. These are not restaurants but club rooms that residents can book to host their private parties. Think of it as a gourmet BBQ.

Robot-To-Yaki Dining?

However, the multitude of yoga corners, thermal spas, aroma therapeutic rooms, spa pool bar as well as the cool laundromat-cum-lounge does come at a cost. Monthly maintenance fees for a 3 bedroom apartment comes up to an exorbitant $500. In comparison, the fees for Trilight down the road are only between $300 to $400. It really comes down to what you are willing to pay for.

The showflat units are the 3 bedroom and studio which I think were well done up actually. The developers  appear all out to please with built-in fridge, high-end water features and stone finish bathrooms. There is also a rain shower and a Sonos multi-room music system where you can stream music wirelessly across all the rooms. That satisfied even the tech nerd in me.

The layouts were just alright with me though I did notice that the showflats were corners units and have 3 sides of views for the 3 bedroom and 2 sides for the studio. They are well positioned to have a lot of light but also have a frightful number of planters and balconies. I counted 3 planters and 2 balconies in the 3 bedroom setup, which leaves Bedroom 3 practically the size of a bathroom. The interior decorator had to quietly convert this into a walk-in closet. What owners can do is make use of the balcony size by covering up the planters, which can now accommodate table and chairs for an outdoor experience.

What You Can Do With A Giant Balcony - Idea #01

Now for the price. At $1,800 psf Lincoln Suites is pretty expensive even for the area. Trilight at $1,750 psf has arguably the better view and more privacy. Miro, also on Lincoln Road was going for $1,650 in Oct for its stunning loft units. Lincoln Suites however has positioned itself as a luxury project with versatile units from studios to duplexes, with each unit type available on almost all floors. To top it off, the facilities especially the outdoor dining options are mind-blowing.

Whatever your fancy, Lincoln Suites’ idealistic developers have somehow managed to stuff it in, and kudos to them. However you do have to pay for what you get, and you get alot with this condo.

Written by L

December 10, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Review: The Wharf

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The Wharf

Need To Know
Location 7 Tong Watt Road
District 9
Land Tenure Leasehold 999 Years
Units 186 in 23 Storeys
Expected TOP Mar 31, 2013
Developer CapitaLand Ltd
Facilities Gymnasium, Spa Pool, Lap Pool, Children’s Pool, Sky Terrace, BBQ Pit

Unit Types
2 Bedrooms 110 units, min 1,012 sqft
3 Bedrooms 54 units, min 1,313 sqft
4 Bedrooms 4 units, min 2,207 sqft
Penthouses 5 units, min 2,745 sqft
Conservation Houses 13 units, min 4,478 sqft

Sales Info
Sales Open
May 2009
Average PSF
$1,450 @ Nov 21, 2009

Additional
Enquiries 6737 2019 / 6826 6800
URL www.wharfresidence.com.sg

The Wharf certainly has one of the more difficult to find showflats. Its showflat is located at River Valley Close in a single story building with sepia glass doors depicting conservation houses.  I thought it was an art house and drove right by. That was sometime in June, and I wished I had seen it then, because The Wharf is awesome. At least the showflat was.

Developed by CapitaLand, The Wharf, despite the name is located not quite by the river but on a hill. It uniquely features 13 retrofitted shophouses and 186 units as part of its design heritage. The conservation shophouses have not been placed on the market yet and will likely go for a cool $8 mil each when the property is completed. Expensive, but its pretty cool to stay in a shophouse with condo facilities.

The Wharf’s take-up rate has been phenomenal with 85% units sold on just the opening day. CapitaLand’s reputation certainly helped though the condo’s view probably didn’t. The Wharf is sandwiched between the Waterford Residence and Robertson Edge in a congested stretch which also includes Vivace further down. The silver lining is that if you managed to scramble a unit above the 10th floor, you just might be able to see  the sky or possibly the river.

So what gives? I went there once. And then I went again with J just to show her how gorgeous the 2 bedroom showflat was. At 1,012 sq ft it’s spacious for a 2 bedroom, with no wasted space. Sure, you don’t have a balcony (a single planter box is all you get) but you don’t have to inch around the bed in the master bedroom and you can actually fit 2 people in the bathroom.

A 2 Bedroom - Who Would Have Thought

Also, in the showflat, the kitchen wall was broken down to open up the space. It’s a wonderful idea and every owner should follow suit. From the entrance, the combined kitchen / dining / living space is huge, aided by a fresh modern decor and a high ceiling.  I was thoroughly confused at first and had to go out to double check the floor area. The agent assured me it was indeed the 2 bedroom I had walked into.

Wall + Hammer = Bar

Going as low as $1,200 psf at one point, almost all the units have been sold, with only 2 units of the 4 bedrooms remaining. The showflat too is likely to be closed soon. All this didn’t stop the very enthusiastic agent from his sales pitch, smoothly moving from The Wharf to extoll the virtues of CapitaLand’s other project at The Interlace.  The showflat for The Interlace is yet to be completed, but all signs point to a very impressive setup.

Interested buyers of The Wharf will have to purchase from the sub-sale market and are likely to have to fork out above $1,400 psf for the units. Personally whether it is for investment or stay, $1,400 is not a bad price considering that Martin Place Residences is going at $1,800 psf. However with the surge of projects in the Robinson Quay area, overcrowding could become a problem for owners looking for a quiet evening drink by the river, as well depressing future capital appreciation of their properties.

Nonetheless, I for one have been impressed by CapitaLand’s direction in designing projects for people to actually live in. Quality of living is far more important than huddling in a tiny District 9 apartment. For that, The Wharf is certainly an example to be extolled.

Written by L

December 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

Review: The Tier

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The Tier

Need To Know
Location 28 Pegu Road
District 11
Land Tenure Freehold
Units 48 in 19 Storeys
Expected TOP Dec 31, 2014
Developer Kaiwatt Development Pte Ltd
Facilities Swimming Pool, Jacuzzi, Barbecue Pit, Gymnasium, Roof Garden/Observation Deck

Unit Types
1 Bedrooms 29 units, min 495 sqft
2 Bedrooms 17 units, min 538 sqft
Penthouses 2 units, min 990 sqft

Sales Info
Sales Open  Nov 2009
Average PSF
$1,200 @ Nov 28, 2009

The Tier, located off Balestier Road (past the famous Founder Bak Kut Teh), is a new property where looks can be a little deceiving. From the online marketing media I have seen, I had this image of luxury (i.e. sizable units) with furnishings expected of a fresh developer trying to establish its reputation in Singapore.

Impression set, J and I went forth.. and were surprised at the size of the units. The 1 and 2 bedrooms were both about the same size at below 550 sq ft, difference being  inconsequential extras like viewing deck or jacuzzi on top of the balcony. The show-flat, a 1 bedroom unit + study stood at 538 sq ft, which is about the size of  a 2 room HDB flat. Unfortunately for the Tier buyer, the HDB flat is usually without balcony and planter boxes, lending it a much larger liveable area.

Our particular gripe is the nano-scale kitchen. The developer’s choice in combining the kitchen/bar top/washing smack in the centre of the apartment left us shaking our heads, especially with the washing machine located right below the pull-out bar top. I suppose for residents who are very efficient (and not particular) about their washing and eating, it might not seem such a strange arrangement. For us, this would mean eating-out most of the time because it is just not appealing to huddle around the bar top trying to make oneself heard over the thudding of the washing machine.

Champagne and Wash

It should be clear by now, The Tier appears to comprise micro-units, of which I am not a big fan. Homes should be at least 700 sq ft to be comfortable for growing families. It is particularly painful to be living in cramped quarters when there are relatively larger a/c ledges and planter boxes right outside the units.

That said, The Tier does address space concerns with an economical layout; residents can choose to knock down the study to enlarge the master bedroom/living area. Furnishings are solid with clean lines and units are generally well-lit, though facing either the morning or afternoon sun. This is a factor that potential buyer should note, particualrly for the higher floors. Personally I would avoid the Type B units where the a/c ledge is almost a QUARTER the size of the master bedroom, with the unit directly facing the morning sun.

Tiny House Needs Huge Aircon

The Tier is targeted at investors and young couples. And at $1,200 psf it could represent an investment in a district that is quietly undergoing a renaissance.  With its small though stylish units, residents are almost expected to be eating out a lot (especially given the odd location of the washing machine), which is definitely not a problem in the Balestier area. Home-buyers looking to purchase units larger than 600 sq ft in the area however, might want to consider Vista Residences by Far East instead.

Written by L

December 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm