Oxley remains on top of the game by staying nimble, embracing change

/ EdgeProp Singapore
August 7, 2020 6:00 AM SGT
The prolonged work from home experience is encouraging buyers to select larger three-bedroom premium units at projects like Affinity at Serangoon (Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore)
The Covid-19 pandemic has redefined the business reality for the residential property sector, which traditionally relies on grand project launches, bustling property viewings and face-to-face customer service to market the latest development to homebuyers.
Local developers like Oxley Holdings had to move quickly to adapt to the new normal and double down on digitalisation and the use of technology to continue to reach out to buyers. Oxley is now one of the leading local developers that is pathfinding the way for the industry to operate in a post-Covid world.
In addition, buyers have started shifting their preferences towards larger homes as businesses and companies settle into a new normal that is expected to see a significant proportion of the workforce continue to work from home.

More space at home for work

According to Eugene Lim, director of marketing and sales at Oxley Holdings, there has been an increase in the number of “serious” committed homebuyers since its projects' sales galleries were allowed to reopen on June 19. Buyers also prefer larger units because of extended work from home arrangements, he adds.
Riverfront Residences
Buyers are choosing larger homes to set up more comfortable home office spaces, says Oxley (Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Since June, the government has stated that work from home arrangements should remain the default option even after the “circuit breaker” period. The Ministry of Manpower has encouraged companies to allow employees who have been working from home to continue to do so, and only return to the workplace if it is unavoidable.
“Since showflats were allowed to reopen under strict social distancing requirements, we have observed that the majority of prospective buyers who booked showflat viewing appointments tend to be serious homebuyers," says Lim. "Many of them are visiting the ones they have shortlisted before making their decision.”
He adds that most buyers are looking for larger apartments, such as its three-bedroom premium unit types at projects like Affinity at Serangoon and Riverfront Residences. Typically, most home buyers would choose a standard three-bedroom unit which tends to come with a lower absolute price, the spokesman says.
The 1,472-unit Riverfront Residences has three-bedroom units of 872–1,087 sq ft, but its premium three-bedroom units are 1,066–1,292 sq ft. Meanwhile, the 1,052-unit Affinity at Serangoon features typical three-bedroom units of 850–1,012 sq ft, while its premium version is 1,076–1,249 sq ft.

Premium units in demand

Based on caveats lodged, a 1,152 sq ft, three-bedroom premium unit at Affinity at Serangoon was sold for $1.73 million ($1,501 psf) on July 4. At least 16 three-bedroom premium units have been sold this year, and half of these transactions at Affinity occurred in June and July.
Separately, a 1,292 sq ft, three-bedroom premium unit at Riverfront Residences was sold for $1.54 million ($1,195 psf) on July 15. At least 20 units of this type have been sold this year, fetching prices between $1.33 million ($1,197 psf) for a 1,108 sq ft unit to $1.54 million ($1,195 psf) for a 1,292 sq ft unit.
Lim adds that some buyers have even opted for townhouse units at Oxley’s Kent Ridge Hill Residences, a 99-year leasehold project on South Buona Vista Road which features 50 four- and five-bedroom strata houses of 1,830–2,067 sq ft.
Kent Ridge Hill Residences
A 2,067 sq ft townhouse at Kent Ridge Residences was sold for $3.1 million on July 12 this year. Another 1,927 sq ft strata house was also sold for $3.14 million ($1,629 psf) on July 8 (Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Notably, caveat data shows that a 2,067 sq ft townhouse was sold for $3.1 million ($1,500 psf) on July 12 this year. It is the third townhouse at Kent Ridge Residences to be sold this year. A 1,830 sq ft strata house was sold for $2.76 million ($1,508 psf) in February, and another 1,927 sq ft strata house went for $3.14 million ($1,629 psf) on July 8.
“It is clear that the extended work from home experience is influencing some buyers to choose homes with more space, in order to set up more comfortable home office spaces in their future homes,” says Lim.
The shifting buyer preference toward larger units comes at a relatively fortunate time in their sales timeline, he adds. Most of its ongoing residential projects were launched in 2018 and 2019, and most of the smaller units had already been snapped up.
More than 90% of its units at Riverfront Residences have already been sold two years after the project was launched, and close to 75% of the units at Affinity at Serangoon have been picked up. The developer also saw a surge in interest for units at Kent Ridge Residences since the circuit breaker period ended. About half of the units had been sold in January, but by the end of July the development was more than 65% sold. Oxley says that it has sold just over 80% of the total number of residential units available in its new residential projects in Singapore.

Digital strategies to navigate the new normal

The effects of the pandemic have redefined normal lives, from the wearing of masks outside to the size of group gatherings. Showflat capacity is also limited to just one person per 10 sqm of space, and developers and real estate agencies have largely turned to virtual tours to showcase their products.
affinity serangoon
Close to 75% of the units at Affinity at Serangoon have been sold while close to 80% of its total residential
inventory has been sold, says Oxley (Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Oxley was one of the first developers to ramp up production of virtual tours for its showflats just before the circuit breaker measures were implemented.
“We prioritised the production of our virtual tours for our mass-market developments including Riverfront Residences, Affinity at Serangoon, and Kent Ridge Hill Residences," says Lim. "This began three to four weeks before the circuit breaker measures were implemented, and it meant that we were not caught off guard or had to rush production."
He adds that virtual tours were gradually extended to cover the rest of their residential projects in Singapore.
However, the month long extension of the circuit breaker period until June 1 still came as an unpleasant surprise for Oxley and its sales and marketing teams. “We were more busy than usual during the circuit breaker period," notes Lim. "While working virtually makes work easier and our teams more productive, it was sometimes difficult to regulate the pace of work."
The developer also took the lull period to conduct webinar training for its respective project marketing teams, which ran from the second week of the circuit breaker period until the phased reopening in July. According to Lim, Oxley was one of the first developers to conduct this type of training in Singapore.
“We learnt that it is especially important to utilise technology to be as nimble as possible and respond to challenging situations. Our sales performance over the past few months shows how important it is to react quickly to continue engaging with buyers,” he adds. It also shows that it is still possible to effectively reach out to agents and homebuyers, despite only communication through virtual channels.
Oxley is therefore committed to utilising technology and digitalisation channels to improve its marketing outreach to clients, says Lim. This however, will not detract it from traditional sales methods such as physical showflats and personal service to homebuyers.
“Our company culture of open mindedness and willingness to try new ideas serves us well, and we are mindful that the formula that works yesterday may not work tomorrow. The past few months has shown that we have done well at being proactive to catch the market, while utilising technologies to be nimble,” Lim adds.
Looking ahead, the developer says that the latest new home sales figures for 2Q2020 show that the desire among local buyers to upgrade to private properties remains high, and projects that are priced sensitively will likely continue to sell well. While it is always on the lookout for new opportunities in Singapore and overseas, the company is expected to focus on clearing its current inventory for now.