Property market hotting up in Asia


The world is becoming smaller and the rich are becoming richer, especially in Asia, where developers are increasingly finding that they need to differentiate their properties. As Ong Choon Fah of DTZ Debenham Tie Leung says, “After all, an apartment is an apartment.”

Builders in Singapore are trying to outdo one another with steps like hiring internationally known architects or interior designers, while still offering services that clients have come to expect, like access to concierge teams and membership in exclusive clubs or marinas.
One local developer, Far East Organisation, is marketing its distinctive properties under a new brand, Inessence, to highlight their exclusiveness and features like several private elevators for each apartment and separate garage floors for owners’ and visitors’ cars.
A recent report by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Capgemini showed that Asian wealth soared last year, overtaking Europe, as Asian equity and property values rebounded strongly from the global economic recession.

In 2009, the Asia-Pacific region included eight of the ten economies with the world’s greatest growth in high-net-worth individuals, led by Hong Kong, where numbers doubled, the report said. The other Asia-Pacific economies on the top 10 were India, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, in that order. Ong says Singapore has been successful at attracting international buyers by reinventing itself as a more culturally vibrant and fun place to live, enhanced by the recent opening of two new integrated resorts. The growth of Singapore as a financial and business center has also helped push up prices and demand.

Property prices post strong gains

In the first half of the year, Singapore’s economy expanded at a record 17.9 percent, prompting the government to forecast 13 to 15 percent growth in gross domestic product for 2010. Property prices have also posted strong gains. For example, second-quarter residential prices rose 5.3 percent over the previous quarter, after a 5.6 percent quarter on quarter rise in the first quarter, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said.

To attract luxury buyers, developers are going beyond bricks and mortar in their promotions and marketing. For example, in Sentosa Cove, some of the developments, like the Marina Collection, come with membership at a nearby yacht club.

Rebranding two Far East Organisation properties under the Inessence umbrella is a similar effort.

“The top-end luxury segment is growing and we believe this segment will always be there,” says Chia Boon Kuah, the Far East executive director and chief operating officer of its property sales division. “Even in hard times when the superwealthy reduce their risk appetite, Singapore, given its stability, is the place for them.”

One of the rebranded properties is Boulevard Vue, which Far East introduced in 2008.
It offered 26 apartments, each with living space of 4,500 square feet, or 418 square meters, and two penthouses co-designed by Takashi Sugimoto of the Japanese company Super Potato.  Construction on the properties, which are freehold, is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2013. Ten units have been sold, nine to Asian buyers, Chia said.

The 8,000-square-foot junior penthouse was sold in October for 32.4 million Singapore dollars, or about 4,000 dollars per square foot.

The selling price is equivalent to about $24 million, or $3,000 per square foot, or $32,300 per square meter.

The Alba, the other rebranded development, was designed by Bernardo Fort-Brescia of Arquitectonica. It has 48 homes, one penthouse and one 7,599-square-foot, three-story townhouse. Apartments start at 5.4 million dollars for the smallest, 1,862-square feet. Eighteen units have been sold, all to Asians.

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