City & Country: King of villas

Prices in China's red-hot property market have been skyrocketing in recent years. But Villa 99 in Shanghai is in a world of its own. With close to an acre in built-up, and sitting on 24 acres, the three-level residence is on the market for a whopping RMB1 billion, or RM470 million. Racheal Lee has the details.

'Second generation property king'

How much house would close to RM500 million get you in the Klang Valley, Malaysia’s prime real estate hub?

Seri Pilmoor, an exclusive 108-unit semi-detached and detached development coming up on 28-acre prime freehold land in Ara Damansara in Petaling Jaya, was launched recently by Sime Darby Property Bhd. Some RM469 million would buy you the entire project.

In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, at Bukit Ceylon, DNP Holdings Bhd has unveiled a 423-unit freehold serviced apartment project called Verticas Residensi. When fully sold, the project will rake in RM700 million. So, with RM500 million, one could probably buy 300-odd units in the project.

The RMB1 billion Villa 99, also known as The Bund ImpressionIn the older and heritage-rich part of KL, meanwhile, are pre-war shops with lot sizes ranging from
1,600 to 2,200 sq ft on Jalan Tun H S Lee, Lebuh Ampang and Jalan Hang Lekiu. Since these are on the market for RM1.8 million to RM2.2 million each, with RM500 million, you could end up owning 250 or so units.

Up north in Penang, one would need “only” RM400 million to be the proud owner of all 808 units (built-ups: 856 to 2,333 sq ft) in four blocks of the All Seasons Park Condo launched by Belleview Group in early December 2009.

How about in China, Shanghai in particular, where real estate is red hot? Prices have been chased up so high there is fear in certain quarters they are heading for a housing bubble, similar to that in the US.

A report early this year with statistics from Goldman Sachs showed that over the past six years, housing price hikes have outpaced income rises by 30% in Shanghai and 80% in Beijing. In Beijing, the cost of housing on a per sq m basis is as much as  a resident earns in seven months on average.

A river flows in front of The Bund Impression, which has a view of the famous Sheshan Basilica on the horizonTo cool the market, China on April 15 raised mortgage rates and down payment requirements. The official Xinhua news agency, citing the outcome of a meeting of the State Council, announced that the down payment on first homes of more than 963 sq ft will rise to 30% from 20%, while that for second homes rises to 50% from 40%. It was also reported that banks must set mortgage rates on second homes at a minimum of 1.1 times the central bank’s benchmark interest rate. Banks currently have flexibility in the rates they charge, depending on their assessment of credit risk.

Against this real estate backdrop, what can one buy with RM500 million in Shanghai? Try a villa in the Sheshan area, which is now on the market for a whopping RMB1 billion or RM470 million!

Investment holding company Shanghai Ledao Investment Co Ltd, through Shanghai Best Land Properties Ltd, has unveiled the completed super luxurious villa called Villa 99, named after its address in the Sunville residential development. The leasehold property, according to the media centre at Shanghai Municipal Government’s official website, was built by Shanghai Best Land Properties, a Singapore-funded entity.

Villa 99
What is so special about Villa 99 that it is worth almost half a billion ringgit? Dubbed “The Bund Impression” by its developer, the building boasts a massive built-up of close to an acre — about 43,413 sq ft to be exact. The 3-level building sits on a sprawling 24.85-acre tract (including the waterway).

The building design is inspired by the modern classical architecture of the exclusive and popular The Bund area in central Shanghai. One of Shanghai’s most famous tourist spots, the height of buildings in The Bund is restricted. There are 52 buildings of differing European architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco.

How big is 24 acres? An international football field is almost two acres in size, so Villa 99 takes up 12 football fields or so.

The villa is perched on gently undulating grounds, with a view of the famous Roman Catholic Sheshan Basilica on the horizon. It has an outdoor international tennis court and an indoor swimming pool.

Completed last year, the villa is said to have more than 20 rooms, which the owner can utilise for whatever purpose he wishes, from bedrooms to a study or anything else that takes his fancy.

The north-south orientation is a favourite with the Chinese; so Villa 99 has it. The property is built with natural super-thick granite, according to Shanghai Best Land deputy CEO Zhou Guo-ping. The main hall alone has a built-up of 18,945 sq ft.

“The main hall on the ground floor is decorated with two crystal chandeliers. There are 10 hand-carved pillars, each 12m in height. One thousand people worked for a year carving the pillars,” Zhou tells City & Country in an email.

Down in the basement is a boat-shaped multi-use hall. The developer says it can be used as an entertainment area, wine cellar, coffee bar, tea room, gym, his and hers closets and storage.

The basement has seven exits, and it leads into the e-nuo (elegant in Mandarin) swimming pool.

The granite slab-paved path leading to Villa 99Zhou says the indoor swimming pool has been rated a “top international private pool” as it has been built in strict accordance with international design and construction standards. It has a depth of 1.9m and is 25m long and 7.5m wide. At the base of the pool is a portrait of a woman, created from colourful ceramic tiles. The roof has what the developer describes as an automatic controlled ventilation system.

The sandstone feature wall would be hard to ignore. It is made from stone imported from France. This is not the only French feature of the house. Two De Dietrich automatic boilers to maintain the temperature of the pool were imported from France, too.

The exterior of the property is equally over the top. The 9,150 sq ft garden called “Tao Ran Plaza” has a path leading to it paved with 5,000 natural granite slabs, each 15cm thick.

Villa 8
Locals in Shanghai have dubbed Villa 99 the “Second Generation Property King” because of its price tag. Holding the title of the “First Generation Property King” is the 24-acre Villa 8, also located within the Sunville project. Villa 8 was sold, before its completion, for RMB130 million (RM61 million) in 2003 to an overseas Chinese businessman.

Compared with Villa 99, Villa 8 has a smaller built-up of 36,000 sq ft. According to news reports from Shanghai, the building’s value has risen to RMB300 million (RM145.5 million) since its completion in 2006.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 803, April 26-May 2, 2010

Looking for properties to buy or rent? With >150,000 exclusive listings, including undervalued properties, from vetted Pro Agents, you can now easily find the right property on Malaysia's leading property portal EdgeProp! You can also get free past transacted data and use our proprietary Edge Reference Price tool, to make an informed purchase.