Oil tycoon shifts focus to real estate

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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July 26, 2019 9:00 AM SGT
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - American-turned-Singapore citizen, businessman and race-car driver Nasrat Muzayyin turns passion for property development into a business with the launch of his latest series of houses on Narooma Road
Three detached houses on Narooma Road in Dunearn Road, designed by acclaimed architectural firm K2LD Architects, were launched for sale in March this year. One of the houses was sold for $13.28 million last month; another is on the market for $13.9 million; and the third has a price tag of $14.2 million.
The developer of the trio is American-turned-Singapore citizen Nasrat Muzayyin. He may be developing houses in Singapore’s prime districts that command eight-digit prices today, but he remembers a time when he and five friends from school bought houses in Los Angeles for just US$15,000 to US$20,000 apiece. “They were real dumps,” he recalls. “We would do them up and flip them for US$40,000 to US$50,000. We were happy if we made US$20,000, and we would spend our money celebrating.”
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They were carefree 17- to 18-year-olds who flipped six to seven houses before entering university. “In the US, everything is do-it-yourself,” says Muzayyin. “So, we did everything – roofing, timber flooring, stonework, tiling and even plumbing. The only thing I didn’t do was electrical work because I was afraid of being electrocuted.”
Muzayyin graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Southern California and a Master of Science in Mechanical & Chemical Engineering from California State University. An avid sports car racer, Muzayyin is a regular participant in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia and Asian Le Mans Series. Married to a Singaporean, Muzayyin is also a father of three (two sons and a daughter).
His family has had a long history of acquiring and redeveloping or retrofitting mansions and luxury apartments across the US and Europe, primarily in posh neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, London and Geneva. “Oil and real estate have been part of my family’s DNA for three generations,” says Muzayyin.
When he moved to Singapore 28 years ago, Muzayyin continued the family tradition. He retrofitted luxury apartments and houses in the prime districts, including a sky villa at St Regis Residences and a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) in Dalvey Estate, where he lived for several years before reselling it. He even bought a commercial warehouse unit, which he converted into an art gallery to house his art collection, and added a cigar room and recreational area. He used it as a “weekend pad” and enjoyed the space for a number of years before he sold it.
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Muzayyin recently bought a conservation shophouse along Mohamed Sultan Road. He intends to restore the property, add a new rear extension and convert it into a mixed-use development with commercial and residential units. He also intends to relocate his office there when it is completed.

Diverse investment portfolio

He is CEO of family office Sebrina Holdings, which he established in Singapore in 1995. Sebrina Holdings has a diverse portfolio of investments, ranging from oil and gas, real estate, trade finance, to venture capital. Companies under Sebrina Holdings include Concord Energy, founded by Muzayyin in 1998 as a physical crude oil and petroleum products trading company that has since turned into an integrated asset-based energy company.
Investments by Sebrina Holdings in the oil and gas sector include upstream (oil exploration), downstream (refining and processing), storage facilities, shipping and trading assets in Fujairah and Southeast Asia, mainly Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Muzayyin is also the co-founder and director of Provenance Capital, as well as a director of Sebrina Holdings and of Amity Green Energy.
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However, the group is “refocusing its attention on real estate, especially in Singapore”, says Muzayyin.
The idea took shape when he was redeveloping a GCB on Astrid Hill as his own home. He had purchased the elevated 22,012 sq ft, freehold site in 2011 for $35 million. But it was only three years later that he redeveloped the GCB, which was completed in June 2015.
He engaged Ko Shiou Hee, director of K2LD Architects, to design his home. “We got along very well,” relates Muzayyin, “and it was through that experience that I knew Shiou Hee would easily grasp my vision for my future developments.”

Turnaround

Muzayyin also incorporated Lighthouse Developments in 2015 as a full-fledged property development company. “Lighthouse” was the name he had used for his shipping company 20 years ago. “But I loved the name so much I wanted to use it for this company,” he says. “It’s apt as it symbolises the shining light leading residents home to their properties.”
The first residential project that the duo undertook was of a more modest scale than Muzayyin’s GCB. It was a detached house on Namly Grove which sat on a freehold site of 8,407 sq ft. Muzayyin bought the site for $10 million ($1,190 psf) in January 2016 and Ko designed the property. The house is believed to have been sold for close to $19 million, which translates to about $2,300 psf, according to market sources. This has set a new record for the Namly area. Muzayyin declined to comment on the sale, citing client confidentiality.
The next project comprised the three houses at 13, 13A and 13B Narooma Road, completed three months ago. They are a redevelopment of an old detached house that sat on the 15,446 sq ft, freehold site that Muzayyin purchased for $22.24 million in October 2016.
“Our expectation was that things were going to turn around in the next year or two, and true enough, they did,” says Muzayyin.

No ‘cookie-cutter houses’

From the outside, the three houses on Narooma Road look almost identical, with a similar brick façade, but the developer wanted each house to have a different layout to cater to different family preferences, says Ko.
“We didn’t want to develop cookie-cutter houses,” adds Muzayyin.
The façade walls of the houses are of bricks custom-made in the Netherlands and shipped to Singapore. According to K2LD’s Ko, the “crinkled texture” of the bricks was inspired by the brick facade of the Neus Museum in Berlin, which is designed by David Chipperfield Architects in collaboration with Julian Harrap.
Each house sits on a site area of about 5,100 sq ft with built-up area of around 8,000 sq ft. Within each house are five en suite bedrooms, a wet and dry kitchen, a helper’s room, storage rooms, a home lift, an outdoor deck and a 15m lap pool. As the site is elevated, the basement is at street level. This allows owners to drive their cars straight into the covered basement garage which is big enough for seven cars, says Ko.
The houses were designed such that views are unblocked from the third level, which soars above the rooftops of the neighbouring houses. From the back, the houses on Narooma Road overlook the greenery and the grounds of the Command House located at 17 Kheam Hock Road. Meanwhile, the view from the front is a picturesque view of Dunearn Estate.
The houses are fitted with top-end materials and appliances, such as travertine feature walls; Gaggenau kitchen appliances, Sub-Zero refrigerator and Bulthaup kitchen cabinetry; while the walk-in wardrobes are from the Italian brand Rimadesio. The bathrooms are of smartglass, which can be made opaque if one wants privacy. The houses will be sold with lighting, concealed air-conditioning and ceiling fans installed.

New Benchmark Prices

Last month, the house at 13A Narooma Road was sold for $13.28 million, which translates to $2,586 psf. The buyer is believed to be a German-turned-Singapore citizen. The price psf is said to set a new benchmark for the estate. “The house on Narooma Road ticked all the boxes,” says Bruce Lye, managing partner of SRI. “The site is elevated, which means views from the top level are unparalleled; the basement garage can fit about seven to eight cars, which is very important to car enthusiasts who want to protect their supercars from inclement weather; and of course, it is designed by the architectural firm, K2LD, famous for designing luxury bungalows.”
On the market now is 13 Narooma Road, which has a built-up area of about 7,582 sq ft and sits on a land area of 5,137 sq ft. It has a $13.9 million (about $2,700 psf) price tag. Meanwhile, the house at 13B Narooma Road, which has the biggest built-up area, is on the market for $14.2 million. The next development is a pair of semidetached houses at 79 Hua Guan Avenue. Muzayyin purchased the 7,998 sq ft, freehold site on July 5, 2018, the day before the property cooling measures were implemented. He paid $9.88 million ($1,236 psf) for the site. The semi-detached houses are also designed by K2LD and slated for completion in 2020.

Building homes for the next generation

While the cooling measures have certainly made life “very stressful for developers”, Muzayyin is undeterred. “I believe we must have passion for everything that we do – whether business, sports or personal pursuits,” he says. “That is what makes it a success.” He believes Singapore is a great place to live in. His friends in Europe seem to think so too.
“They tell me I’m lucky when they hear that I live in Singapore,” says Muzayyin. “They wish they could move here too. For young people, the grass is always greener elsewhere. But for people who’ve lived in many places, they realise that we’re fortunate in many ways. Property prices are still lower in Singapore than in New York and Hong Kong. More importantly, people feel safe here.”
He sees more people taking up permanent residence and citizenship in Singapore in order to buy a house, as landed residential property is restricted and foreign buyers are not eligible to purchase them. “For every person who is willing to pay up to $80 million for a penthouse, there are 100 others looking for a house,” reckons Muzayyin. “My belief is that we are building homes to be kept and handed down to the next generation.”
For Singapore landed property price trend, recent transactions, other project info, check out these projects' details page: St Regis Residences, Dalvey Estate, Mohamed Sultan Road, Astrid Hill, Namly Grove, and Narooma Road
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