Behind the scenes of a record-breaking GCB deal at Cluny Hill

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - At 2 Cluny Hill, a house in the shape of a yacht is currently under construction. Even though it is another nine to 12 months before completion, the Good Class Bungalow (GCB) recently changed hands for $63.7 million or at a record $4,291 psf, although a caveat has yet to be lodged. (See: Good Class Bungalow at Jervois Hill on the market for $37.8 mil)
This latest price of $4,291 psf supersedes the $4,005 psf paid for a GCB at Nassim Road by Dr Shi Xu, founder of Singapore-listed Nanofilm Technologies, and his wife, Jin Xiao Qun at the end of March.
The buyer of the GCB at Cluny Hill is said to be a Singaporean entrepreneur in the tech sector who's in his early 30s. However, he wants to remain anonymous. “He was very specific about what he wanted to buy,” says Bruce Lye, managing partner of SRI, who brokered the sale. “He loves the surrounding greenery, and there are only a few locations that offer this. Other than the Cluny area, the other is the GCB area at Peirce Road, next to the Dempsey area.”
The artist’s impression of the Good Class Bungalow at 2 Cluny Hill (Picture: Wallflower Architecture + Design)
And the buyer also wanted something “brand new”, adds Lye. Having visited “a lot of places”, he had not found anything that met his requirements until he came upon 2 Cluny Hill. Lye approached the owners of the property on his behalf. “The owners were initially reluctant to sell as this was going to be their home,” relates Lye. “They said they had received many unsolicited offers and were prepared to wait. In fact, they had rejected an offer I had submitted previously on behalf of a Chinese client.”
However, the Singaporean buyer was serious in his intent. Finally, Lye arranged a dinner for the prospective buyer and sellers to meet. “Most people who approach us about buying the property will ask us about the specifications of the house but this client didn’t,” says Sebestian Soh, who spoke on behalf of his family, the sellers of the GCB at 2 Cluny Hill. “He came and listened to our story and he bought into our dream home.”
The dinner was followed by a phone call the next day during which the buyer requested for some minor tweaks to the house that were subsequently agreed upon. “We wouldn’t have sold if not for this very genuine buyer that appeared before us,” according to Soh. “We had no opening price and he just made an offer.” To show his sincerity in purchasing the property, the buyer even paid a 30% down payment of $19.1 million upfront.
Soh: We wouldn’t have sold if not for this very genuine buyer that appeared before us (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Good Class Bungalow: Maiden project under Meir Homes

Beyond a family home, 2 Cluny Hill was also Soh’s first project under his firm, Meir Homes. Soh is its founder and managing director. Founded in 2018, Meir Homes is positioned as a development advisory firm that caters to bungalow homeowners. “We want to offer them a whole suite of services according to their lifestyle, without them having to go through the hassle of dealing with the authorities, architects, project consultants and contractors,” says Soh.
He had been scouting around for his first project in 2018 when his family purchased the GCB at 2 Cluny Hill in September that year. Their intention was to redevelop the property as their future home.
Soh’s father had purchased the site given its location in the Cluny area and proximity to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which he said “rarely came on the market”. A property developer turned shophouse investor, Soh’s father, David Soh, had developed the existing family home, a three-storey detached house at Wiltshire Road, off Lucky Heights. He wanted a bigger home for the entire family: he and his wife, along with their six children, with Soh being the eldest.
The main entrance to the new GCB, which sits on a freehold land area of 14,844 sq ft with a built-up area of around 15,000 sq ft (Picture: Wallflower Architecture + Design)

‘The House of Botanics’

The GCB at Cluny Hill sits on a freehold land area of 14,844 sq ft with a built-up area of around 15,000 sq ft. The GCB was going to be their new family home. “The property was named ‘The House of Botanics’ out of respect for the environment and the fact that we are very fortunate to be located right opposite a Unesco heritage site,” says Soh.
The concept and design of the house were inspired by the Singapore Botanic Gardens, relates Robin Tan, principal architect of Wallflower Architecture + Design, the design architect for 2 Cluny Hill. Iconic structures within the Singapore Botanic Gardens that inspired Tan and influenced the design of the project were the Bandstand, an octagonal shaped gazebo built in 1930 where regimental bands used to perform and the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, where concerts are performed.
Design inspiration came from iconic structures at Singapore Botanic Gardens such as the Bandstand, an octagonal gazebo built in 1930 (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
In a way, the design of the property was also determined by the shape of the site, which is also elongated, notes Tan. That explains the shape of the house, which looks like a yacht from the side, he adds. Besides Wallflower Architecture, Soh also engaged Salad Dressing as the landscape architect for the project.
A lot of the materials used for the house, from stone selection, furniture and fittings, were imported, adds Tan. Doors, kitchen cabinets and wardrobes are from Italian company Cubo. Bathroom fittings are from the Italian brand Gessi, while kitchen appliances are top-end German brand, Gaggenau.
Soh estimates the total cost of construction and fitting out the GCB at Cluny Hill amounted to “about $15 million”. He attributes this to the fact that 80% of the materials, finishes and fittings were made in Italy, he says.
Tan: The design of the property was also determined by the shape of the site, which is also elongated and influenced by its location near the Singapore Botanic Gardens (Photo: Wallflower Architecture + Design)

‘Time is more important than money’

Costs have soared over time. Tan had co-founded Wallflower Architecture in 1999 together with Cecil Chee. “Back in 2000, my first GCB client paid $450 psf for her GCB site,” recalls Wallflower Architecture’s Tan. “It was after the Asian Financial Crisis: She paid about $5 million for the land and $2 million to build the new GCB, and that was $7 million in total. Today, you’re talking about close to $4,500 psf.”
That was another reason why the buyer was willing to pay a premium for the GCB at Cluny Hill, adds SRI’s Lye. “He knew it would cost a lot more and take at least another four years to complete the GCB if he were to buy an old GCB and redevelop it, especially in the current uncertainty with Covid-19,” he adds.
Construction of the GCB at Cluny Hill is now at the roof level, and the property was originally scheduled for completion by the end of 2021. But due to delays in construction due to Covid, it is likely to be completed sometime in 3Q2022.
Lye: For buyers today, time is more important than money. If they were to build a new GCB from scratch, it will take at least four years. And they don’t want to wait (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Buyers are now more willing to buy GCBs that are still under construction and pay a premium, notes Lye. “For them, time is more important than money,” he says. “If they were to build a new GCB from scratch, it would take at least four years. And they don’t want to wait.”
Sellers, on the other hand, are reluctant to sell their GCBs unless they can achieve a record price for the property in their neighbourhood, adds Lye. Anecdotally, the asking price of some of the older properties in the prime GCB locations is in the range of $4,000 to $4,500 psf, while brand new ones have reached $6,000 psf, according to Lye.

Bragging rights

“There’s also the scarcity factor: It’s very rare to find a GCB in the Cluny area, so close to the Singapore Botanic Gardens,” notes Lye. What’s more, the Cluny Hill area is quieter, relative to Cluny Park and Cluny Road, he adds.
The Good Class Bungalow at Cluny Park, which was featured in 2018 film The Crazy Rich Asians is located near 2 Cluny Hill
For further bragging rights, the GCB at 2 Cluny Hill is back-to-back with the GCB at Cluny Park that cameo-ed as "the Goh Mansion" in the 2018 movie, Crazy Rich Asians. When they first purchased the house, it was a source of amusement for the Sohs to see the tour buses drive past their home en route to "the Goh Mansion". The owner of the GCB at Cluny Park has since repainted the façade blue, but the gold fountain is still visible when the gates are opened.
“The GCB scene has certainly changed in the last two years,” says Wallflower’s Tan. “Given what’s happening around the world — the Covid pandemic, political and economic unrest, the ultra-rich are coming to Singapore, and the Cluny and Nassim areas have become ‘internationalised’.”
Meanwhile, the Sohs are hunting for a new family home. In light of the pandemic and the desire for more outdoor space, they would now need to find a bigger GCB. “We now need more outdoor space because of Covid,” he says.
Check out the latest listings near Cluny Hill, Peirce Road, Singapore Botanic Gardens

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