Last August, at a VVIP preview of Orchard View held by listed luxury developer Wheelock Properties, Ng bought two apartments — one on the 25th floor and the other directly above it — for a total of S$16 million (about RM37 million).
Located in Angullia Park, off Paterson Road and Orchard Boulevard, and just a short walk from ION Orchard, Orchard View is right in the heart of prime Orchard Road. It is a boutique upscale development with just 30 apartments in a single 36-storey tower. All the units are 4-bedroom apartments of 2,530 sq ft.
“The uniqueness of Orchard View is that there’s only one unit per floor,” says Ng, who is the CEO of a listed company in the manufacturing industry. “I can turn my units into a duplex without incurring additional cost, because of the private lift lobby to every unit. Otherwise, in most condos, in order to create a duplex apartment from two typical units, I would have to sacrifice one or two bedrooms to build an internal staircase.”
For now, the Ng family is comfortably ensconced in their apartment at Wheelock’s Grange Residences that Ng purchased in early 2004 when it was launched.
More than 100% capital gains
The developer had sold some units at Grange Residences in private previews in 2002 and 2003, but it was only in early 2004 when the project was about to be completed that it held a proper launch, says executive director Tan Bee Kim. “Our average price was S$1,219 psf. In six years, the prices have moved up a lot, so the owners are very happy — many have made more than 100% in capital gains,” she adds.
The most recent transaction at Grange Residences, according to caveats lodged with URA Realis, was for an 11th-floor unit that was sold for S$7.45 million, or S$2,612 psf, in January. Rental rates have also been good, pegged at S$16,000 to S$18,000 a month currently.
Naturally, Ng is pleased with his purchase at Grange Residences, his very first property from Wheelock. “When I bought Grange Residences, we moved in just three weeks after I got the key,” he says. “All we had to do was put up the drapes and wallpaper. All the basic lightings were fitted. That’s what I like about Wheelock: They make sure everything works before they actually hand you the key.”
Since his first purchase, Ng, who is on the VVIP list of every private preview by Wheelock, has bought units in several other projects by the developer. In addition to his apartments at Grange Residences and Orchard View, his portfolio of Wheelock properties also includes an apartment at The Sea View on Amber Road in the East Coast and several units at Scotts Square on Scotts Road, next door to the Grand Hyatt. “I’m a long-term investor,” he says.
Ng has been investing in real estate in the last five or six years, and has also bought properties from other developers, but what he likes about Wheelock, he says, “is the brand”. “They always deliver a good product, and they are not the type who stint on the quality of appliances or the finishings.”
‘Fair pricing’ at an average of S$3,100 psf
It looks like the developer’s focus this year will be on the launch of Orchard View, where a second phase of private previews started on the weekend of May 8 and 9, with the opening of the show unit on the 24th floor of the tower. The official launch of the project will be in June, when it receives its TOP (temporary occupation permit). This is similar to its strategy in early 2004, when it launched Grange Residences on completion of the project.
According to Tan, the launch price will be at an average of S$3,300 psf. The preview price is at a 7% discount to the launch price, “so it’s at an average of around S$3,100 psf”, she says.
“For a new project in a very prime location, the pricing is fair,” says Joseph Tan, executive director of residential at CB Richard Ellis (CBRE). “If you look at projects around Orchard Road, they are all around S$3,000 psf.” Nearby, the 175-unit The Orchard Residences sitting on top of ION Orchard and jointly developed by CapitaLand and Sun Hung Kai Properties is also close to completion. The development has a mix of apartments, with typical units in the range of 1,800 to 2,800 sq ft, garden units of up to 6,500 sq ft and penthouses of 4,200 and 5,000 sq ft. Transaction prices in the secondary market in the first four months of the year have ranged from S$3,000 to S$3,600 psf.
To date, 20% of Orchard View has been sold. “Funnily, purchasers are mainly owner-occupiers,” says Wheelock’s Tan. “Based on the current profile of people who have bought from us, they travel quite frequently, so being in a central location helps.”
In terms of location, it’s just a short walking distance to all the major shopping malls and five-star hotels on Orchard Road, and Raffles Place is also a short drive away. There are also several access points from Angullia Park — from either Orchard Boulevard or Paterson Road, says Tan.
‘A group of loyal customers’
Jacqueline Wong, head of residential services at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), sees most buyers in the luxury segment looking for three and four-bedroom apartments of 2,500 to 3,000 sq ft.
While the luxury segment in Singapore has become more fragmented with the entry of new players, Wong considers Wheelock one of the “top three premium developers of quality projects”. The developments have a timeless design, and units have practical and functional layouts, she adds, which means little wastage of space while making furnishing much easier. “A cylindrical design may look very nice on the outside, but it’s quite hard to decorate,” says Wong.
Wheelock looks at design “from the inside out”, says its executive director. “Some designers will look at the design of the façade, and then they start to put the floor plans in. We focus on the internal space first, because that’s where the occupier of the future apartment is going to be spending the most time.”
The developer has a group of loyal customers, observes JLL’s Wong, who “tend to be in the Orchard area”.
Mr Ng obviously falls into this category. It’s still several weeks before he takes possession of his apartments at Orchard View, and the family has yet to vote on whether to move to the heart of Orchard Road. It’s a “pretty exciting proposition”, he admits, not to mention that they will be upsizing to eight bedrooms and a total floor space of more than 5,000 sq ft.
Cecilia Chow is City & Country editor at The Edge Singapore
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 807 , May 24-30, 2010
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