Monthly Archives: June 2015

In search of the inspiration behind DBSS 4 feet corridors – 25 Jun 2015

Posted on June 25th, 2015 in Local Property Market

DBSS 4 feet corridor

Following the revelation that 4 feet corridors are quite the norm in recent DBSS BTO flats, the team decided to search around for 4 feet corridors. As you can tell from the picture on the right, two persons can hardly walk past each other without slanting their bodies or squeezing through.

According to SCDF’s “Fire Safety Guidelines for HDB Estates”, a minimum clear escape passage of 1.2 m clearance is to be maintained from the parapet wall where the shoe rack is to be allowed. No objects are also to be placed along common corridors less than 1.2 m wide.

It is little surprise then that DBSS developers keep to the minimum requirement stipulated by SCDF in an attempt to do the bare minimum. We chanced upon another place that also measures 4 feet in corridor width. Just count the number of square tiles. That this particular washroom is severely flawed by design is plain to see. The moment 2 gentlemen are back to back against each other, no one can pass through to use the facilities at the rear of the corridor. Perhaps the designer assumes that everyone will behave and use the facilities at the rear first before moving to the front. We know this doesn’t always happen in real life.

Thankfully, should there be a fire, it will be easily put out since water of all nature is available a step away! That should meet SCDF’s fire safety objective.

As if to compensate for the narrow corridor, the DBSS developer for Pasir Ris One installed a makeshift pull up bar along the corridor so that residents can keep fit. Fitness will be a crucial factor to escape in the occurence of fire. It is such a hidden hush hush feature that it probably did not catch the attention of the units with direct access to this secret fitness station, tuck away in an attempt not to clog up the corridor.

The swell of unhappiness from buyers of the Pasir Ris One DBSS is opportunity for all developers to reflect on the quality of the projects that they deliver to their buyers. Yes, you may have met the minimum requirement as stated by the authorities. But does it mean that it is good enough for your buyers vis-a-vas the price they paid for your inventory? Don’t you owe them a sense of duty?

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HDB to raise income ceilings for BTO flats, ECs – Who wins / lose ? – 25 Jun 2015

Posted on June 25th, 2015 in Local Property Market

Who are winners losers in the HDB income ceiling change for EC

Executive condos (EC) developers struggling to move inventory are set to receive a lifeline as HDB will raise the income ceilings for BTO HDB flats and ECs sometime in August or September 2015.

From the official reasoning, this regulation update is in response to the increase in median monthly household income from S$7,037 in 2011 (when the income ceilings were last raised), to $8,292 in 2014. Assuming a 30 yrs loan based on a household income of $8,292 with no other debt obligation, a typical household buyer of an EC/BTO flat can take a loan of up to about $550,000 under the existing Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR)and Mortgage Service Ratio (MSR) framework. That is why in today’s market, the bulk of transactions is below $1 million as buyers can no longer qualify for huge loans, relying on cash and cpf to make up the difference. Many end up buying smaller units. Larger EC units are having a difficult time finding qualified and willing buyers.

With the income ceilings raised, larger EC units will more easily find buyers. We expect all currently unsold EC units, big and small, to benefit and this is a much needed lifeline to EC developers.  MND is signaling to EC developers, “Sorry folks, I’m not going to lift cooling measures anytime soon. In the meantime, here’s a larger pool of potential buyers for you. Our SG50 gift to you.”

In principle, we agree that no one should be denied a chance to apply for a HDB BTO flat/EC, regardless of income level as long as that HDB BTO flat/EC remains a principle home of stay.


Some preliminary thoughts on ECs as a result of the upcoming change

1)      Will EC developers start to raise prices? Yes, if they are confident that their units are priced competitively vis-a-vas the competition. No, if their focus is to clear their inventory as soon as they can. But they can hold off slashing their prices for now and adopt a wait and see approach.

2)      Will EC developers start building bigger units that comes with a bumped up price tag to cater to the new pool of qualified higher income earners? Possibly, though price must be managed for affordability. It doesn’t mean that just because one can pay a price, one would want to pay that price.

3)      Private developers will be at a disadvantage now that some of their customers can now qualify for comparatively cheaper ECs. Oops.

4)      Will EC pricing inch up towards private development prices or private developments’ pricing inch down towards EC pricing?

5)      Will the median income households be muscled out of the smaller units by larger income households? Will there be rules to ensure that larger income household are restricted to larger units only? The devil is in the details.


We are more concerned on the impact of BTO pricing and unit allocation now that higher income households can join in the fray. Already new BTOs are consistently oversubscribed.

1)      Will lower and  median income households miss out on their units because of competing applications by larger income household?

2)      Will HDB build more flats or more rigorously divert qualified buyers who are out-balloted to balance flats (either repossessed or unsold flats from previous BTO launches) that number about a couple of thousands.

3)      Will HDB BTO flats pricing start to increase even though they are priced at a discount from prevailing market price, there.

There are a lot of details that must be ironed out. As a former smart regulation advocate in the government, I hope the officers in charge think through every possible scenario and come up with a fair, sensible implementation. Policies are easy. As mentioned before, the devil is in the details and the policies’ implementation. The overwelming unhappiness over the quality  of recent DBSS flats is a reminder that regulators must keep their eye on the ball, have the ability to see far ahead and anticipate problems down the road.

As of now, ECs developers will be cheering at this upcoming rule change. Private developers will have to continue their price discounts.

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Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats woes – 22 Jun 2015

Posted on June 22nd, 2015 in Local Property Market

Sandwiched between HDB flats and Executive Condos, (Design, Build and Sell Scheme) DBSS flats which are priced higher than HDB BTO flats and built by private developers, are no longer relevant as a stepping stone for HDB upgraders and hence HDB suspended the scheme in 2011.

Besides being made irrelevant, recently completed DBSS projects have made headlines for the wrong reasons.

For the Trivelis DBSS in Clementi, nearly 500 Trivelis residents faced various problems with the development, such as shattered shower glass panels and narrow common corridors that are prone to flooding. Some owners found problems with their units such as defective stove knobs, rusty dish racks and poor quality laminate flooring. Some units also differ from the showflats. The show flats did not show sanitary pipes in the service yard in the showflat but such pipes were eventually placed there.

Buyers of the Parkland Residences DBSS in Upper Serangoon also had their fair share of grief from defects arising mainly from design flaws and poor workmanship, compromising the level of liveability and security. When it pours, some residents would run to their units after getting out of the lift to avoid being drenched, as the common corridor provides little shelter.

Pasir Ris One, the latest DBSS project to be delivered is already making the rounds on facebook as a drab prison with narrow corridors. Hopefully, their buyers will have less grief than those who collected their keys for the Trivelis.

Having been alerted, we just had to make a trip down to Pasir Ris One. We’ll keep this post short and let the pictures speak for themselves. Feel free to share this post! It’s hard to say if Pasir Ris One buyers have been shortchanged for the corridors were definitely not part of their buying consideration. A buyer would naturally assume that the exterior works and specifications would be of an acceptable standard. Unfortunately, unlike finishes that can be replaced with better quality ones, there is nothing that can be rectified for the corridors. Maybe brighter colours for the grilles instead of prison grey for the window and door grilles?

Pasir Ris One 1

Pasir Ris One 2

Pasir Ris One 3

Pasir Ris One 4

Pasir Ris One 5

Pasir Ris One 6

Pasir Ris One 7

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A Little Pressure Brings Out the Best in High Park Residences – 20 Jun 2015

Posted on June 20th, 2015 in Local Property Market

High Park With Homer
Most will agree that a little pressure brings out the best in people. This might also apply to the developer behind High Park Residences, located just behind the famous Jalan Kayu eatery stretch, next to Thanggam LRT station and a 5 minutes walk from Seletar Mall where Shaw Cineplex is located.

A cooled property market appears to have brought out the best in High Park Residences’ developer, CEL Development. We studied the specifications, floor plans and site layout of the project and are pleased that CEL Development has addressed the common gripes of most purchasers these days.


Gripe 1: The units are so close together, I can see the logo of my neighbour’s Polo Tee in the opposite block!

High Park Residences Counter: By combining 2 plots of land into a single plot, a larger plot of 366,000 sq feet was created, allowing the space between one block to the next adjacent block to go up to 74 m (243 feet)! All units will be bright and airy due to the generous space allowance between the 6 blocks. Due also to the large combined site, blocks are positioned for predominant north-south facing.


Gripe 2: The 2 bed-roomers come with only 1 toilet. This is very inconvenient either for own stay or for renting out.

High Park Residences Counter: The majority of 2 bed-roomers comes with 2 toilets!


Gripe 3: Maintenance fee is high these days!

High Park Residences Counter: With economies of scale from having 1,376 units, maintenance fees can be kept low. The fees are estimated to range from about $188 to $275 for condo units and $320 to $360 for strata houses.


Gripe 4: Not every condo project comes with one car park lot per unit.

High Park Residences Counter: One car park lot per unit is the default for all condo units in High Park Residences.


Gripe 5: It’s rare to see strata houses in condo developments these days.

High Park Residences Counter: The project will have 4 Bungalows and 10 Semi-Detached houses. And each will have 2 carpark lots!


Gripe 6: Condo amenities can be so crowded

High Park Residences Counter:  A large plot means amenities can be spread out to reduce overcrowding. 2 tennis courts and a half basketball court are one of many features provided for this project. There is also enough space for 8 shops and a childcare centre.


Gripe 7: When will we see prices of new launched private condos (Not ECs) below $1000 psf

High Park Residences Counter:  Although prices have not been firmed up, the average price is expected to be below $1000 psf.


That CEL Development took consumers’ feedback seriously is reflected in the specifications of this mega project. In a cooled property market that has developers struggling to sell more than 40% of total units in a project, this could make that significant difference in moving inventory. Booking starts on the 17th July and we’ll be visiting the showflat on the 4th July!


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Wake up Sembawang, sleepy hollow is over – 3 Jun 2015

Posted on June 2nd, 2015 in Local Property Market

Wake up Sembawang`

Smacked between its bigger neighbours, Woodlands (Popuation: 171,800 people) and Yishun (Population: 159,400 people), sleepy Sembawang only has 28,510 residents.

That is all set to change with upcoming residential developments in the pipeline. How serious is the government to house more people there? You have to look no further than the upcoming Canberra MRT station which will be built over the existing MRT line between Yishun MRT station and Sembawang MRT station. Not only will Canberra MRT station serve the industrial estate between Yishun and Sembawang, it will support the expansion of the population currently residing in Woodlands and Yishun.

As you can see from the picture below, a lot of land has been set aside for residential use. The authorities probably opine that there are enough mega malls nearby (think Northpoint, Northpark City and Causeway Point). Hence, under current land use planning, no land is reserved for a shopping mall near Canberra MRT Station.

Canberra Development 2

This means that Sembawang Shopping Centre which always seem to be in the wrong place (Shouldn’t it be where Sun Plaza is?) might soon stake its claim as the de facto mall for Canberra MRT Station. It could lobby the authorities to make the mall more accessible to Canberra MRT Station. Cutting a path through the landed enclave will however not sit too well with the residents there.

For those who think that Yishun and Woodlands are too crowded, Sembawang may be the sweet spot for you. With 2 MRT stations serving this estate, similar to how Khatib MRT station and Yishun MRT station serve Yishun, Sembawang will not be as ulu as before. And it will be a mighty long time before Sembawang’s population swell to the numbers of Woodlands or Yishun.

The design of the upcoming HDB flats (Eastlink One & Two) look pretty good and you have two Executive Condos (Skypark Residences and The Brownstone) to choose from. It’s clever of HDB to name the latest development in Canberra Eastlink One and Two. Naming it Northlink One and Two will just reinfoince the distant ulu impression of Sembawang!

Canberra HDB

Canberra Development site plan


The Brownstone


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