Rivergate vs Starlight Suites: Why an older condo has appreciated 50% more

By Elizabeth Choong
/ EdgeProp Singapore |
The average price of older Rivergate is $765 psf higher than the younger Starlight Suites. (Picture: EdgeProp Singapore)
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Newer condominiums tend to attract higher prices than their older counterparts in the same neighbourhood. However, a curious phenomenon is observed for Rivergate and Starlight Suites. Rivergate is fetching a higher average price and has more profitable sale transactions than its younger neighbour.
In this article, we examine why buyers are willing to pay more for Rivergate than Starlight Suites.
Comparing both condominiums
Rivergate and Starlight Suites are located within a 500m radius of each other, as well as Great World MRT Station, Great World City, Singapore River, and River Valley Primary School. Other amenities within a 1km radius include Pearl's Hill City Park, Tiong Bahru Market, UE Square, Clarke Quay, and People's Park Complex.
One key difference between both condominiums is their age. Rivergate obtained a temporary occupation permit (TOP) in 2009 and is hence five years older than Starlight Suites (TOP in 2014).
Rivergate (295,020 sq ft) sits on a site that is more than twice the size of Starlight Suites (128,350 sq ft). Unsurprisingly, Rivergate is a larger development with 545 units compared to Starlight Suites with only 105 units.
Despite both condominiums being in prime District 9, Rivergate is in the Singapore River planning area while Starlight Suites is in the River Valley planning area.
Buying a new condo may not always be better
The average price (based on transactions in the last 12 months) for the older Rivergate ($2,764 psf) is higher than the younger Starlight Suites ($1,999 psf) by $765 psf. Moreover, the average price for Rivergate has grown 161% since its launch in 2005. In contrast, the average price for Starlight Suites dipped 3% since it launched in 2010.
It is also notable that the average price for Starlight Suites ($2,080 psf) when it launched in 2010 was higher than the average price for Rivergate ($1,902 psf) in the same year. However, the average price for Rivergate has outperformed Starlight Suites since 2017, despite Rivergate being five years older than Starlight Suites.
Starlight Suites has more unprofitable transactions
Rivergate has 46 profitable and no unprofitable transactions based on sales transactions during the last 36 months. On the other hand, Starlight Suites has only one profitable and 10 unprofitable transactions.
Additionally, Rivergate has the highest number of profitable sale transactions among freehold condominiums in District 9 over the same duration. Parc Emily along Mount Emily Road takes second position with 35 profitable and one unprofitable transaction. Martin Place Residences along Martin Place and Watermark Robertson Quay along Rodyk Street tie for third position with 30 profitable and no unprofitable transaction each.
The most profitable transaction for Rivergate that took place during the last 36 months was for a four-bedroom unit that earned a profit of $3.82 million. The sole profitable transaction for Starlight Suites in the last 36 months was for a one-bedroom unit that fetched a mere $10,000 in profits.
Despite having 10 unprofitable transactions, Starlight Suites is not among the top three most unprofitable freehold condominiums in District 9. Helios Residences along Cairnhill Circle takes the pole position with 23 unprofitable and one profitable transaction. Espada along St. Thomas Walk is second with 16 unprofitable and 16 profitable transactions. The Laurels along Cairnhill Road follows closely with 15 unprofitable and eight profitable transactions.
Based on sale transactions over the last 36 months, the sale that resulted in the largest loss for Starlight Suites was concluded in September last year. The owner of the one-bedroom unit suffered a loss of $210,000. Owners of Rivergate who sold their unit in the last 36 months did not suffer any losses.
It is also interesting to note that the top three most profitable transactions for Rivergate are for four-bedroom units while the single profitable transaction for Starlight Suites is for a one-bedder. It would seem that buyers prefer the larger units in Rivergate over their counterparts in Starlight Suites.
Residents of Rivergate enjoy direct access to the Singapore River
Rivergate faces the historical Singapore River so a number of units have an unblocked view of the river. However, the same cannot be said for Starlight Suites because the development is located further away from the river. (refer to Map 1).
Additionally, Rivergate has a side gate that leads directly to a short pathway that connects to the Singapore River, a restaurant and a mini-mart. While the Singapore River is also within walking distance of Starlight Suites, it is further away compared to Rivergate. Residents of both condominiums can walk along the banks of the Singapore River to Robertson Quay, Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and Raffles Place.
Rivergate the only condo with no height control along Singapore River due to its landmark status
Due to the historical significance of the Singapore River, URA has a set of design guidelines for developments along the river banks with building height controls for individual precincts to create a skyline that suits the character of each precinct. Lower-rise buildings are usually specified for developments along the river promenade to be compatible with the nearby low-rise conservation buildings.
According to a press release by CapitaLand in April 2005, Rivergate is the first residential development in Singapore to be accorded landmark status by URA because of its strategic location along the historical Singapore River and cutting-edge architectural design.
As such, the 43-story towers in Rivergate are much taller than the surrounding developments, which means better views of the river. Additionally, while the plot ratio remains the same, this allowed developer to free up land on the ground to include wider shared spaces and facilities (see below for further details).
Benefits from having an experience developer
Rivergate was developed by CapitaLand, an established developer with an extensive track record in property development. Some of their newer residential projects in the central area include CanningHill Piers along Clarke Quay (696 units) and One Pearl Bank along Pearl Bank (774 units).
Rivergate has a more spacious site layout
The land area of Rivergate is more than twice that of Starlight Suites. As such, the units in Rivergate are spread across several towers, which makes the whole development feel more spacious. The landmark status accorded to Rivergate also meant taller buildings which freed up space on the ground.
Rivergate has a unique swimming pool that is shaped like a river winding through the whole development. Other facilities include a basketball court, gym, tennis courts, jacuzzi, BBQ pit, playground, wading pool, and function room. The numerous facilities and pockets of open space make the development ideal for families.
The smaller land area of Starlight Suites means that the units and facilities are packed within a single tower. The development only has the usual facilities commonly found in condominiums, such as a swimming pool, BBQ pit, wading pool, and playground. Starlight Suites does not have tennis courts or a basketball court, nor does it have pockets of open space like Rivergate.
Buyers, especially those with children, see the value of living in a larger development because there are more common facilities and open space for their children to play and interact with other children. Several recently launched large condominiums have proved to be very popular with buyers. Examples include the 638-unit Tembusu Grand which saw 53% of its units sold during launch, as well as the 386-unit The Botany at Dairy Farm that had a take-up rate of 48% during launch.
Buyers value usable space over privacy and unique features
Starlight Suites has one to four-bedroom units. Rivergate does not have any one-bedders but has two to four-bedroom units. Most (45.7%) of the units in Starlight Suites are 701 to 900 sq ft, but the bulk (36.9%) of the units in Rivergate are 1,401 to 1,600 sq ft.
The three-bedroom units in Rivergate are just over 1,500 sq ft, while the majority of such units in Starlight Suites are slightly larger at just over 1,600 sq ft. Despite the smaller size of the three-bedders in Rivergate, they actually have more usable space compared to their counterparts in Starlight Suites.
The three-bedders in Rivergate have regular square or rectangular rooms and two balconies that have a small planter box each. The unit has a simple layout with no wasted space or odd corners.
The three-bedroom units in Starlight Suites have a private pool, a bay window in all bedrooms and the master bathroom, a private lift lobby, and three planter boxes. While these features add to the privacy and aesthetics of the units, they also reduce usable space.
The three-bedroom units in Starlight Suites have a “dumbbell layout” with the living and dining areas flanked on one side by the master bedroom and kitchen and by the other two bedrooms and a study on the other side.
In contrast, all three bedrooms in Rivergate are clustered together on one side of the unit. The kitchen, living room, and dining area are clustered together on the other side of the unit. Parents of young children would prefer the layout of Rivergate because clustering the bedrooms together makes it easier for them to monitor their children at night.
Additionally, Starlight Suites has the master bedroom opening directly into the kitchen which some buyers might not like due to lingering food smells.
The two-bedroom units in Starlight Suites (1,076 sq ft) are slightly bigger than their counterparts in Rivergate (1,023 sq ft). However, the units in Starlight Suites have less usable space because there is a large balcony with a planter box, bay windows in all bedrooms, and a private lift lobby. The units in Starlight Suites also have a long corridor leading from the living and dining areas to the bedrooms, which provides privacy to the bedrooms but further reduces usable space.
On the flip side, the two-bedroom units in Rivergate have a very compact and functional layout with little wasted space. The units do not have any planter boxes, bay windows, or private lift lobbies.
Buyers who value their privacy and enjoy a daily swim will appreciate the private lift and pool in Starlight Suites. However, buyers with a growing family might prefer Rivergate because it offers more usable space.
Overall, Rivergate provides a more family-friendly environment. Parents who wish to enrol their children in the reputable River Valley Primary School are likely to choose Rivergate over Starlight Suites, despite Rivergate being further away from the school (307m) compared to Starlight Suites (149m).
Rivergate more popular with tenants
Investors might also prefer Rivergate because it is currently fetching a higher average monthly rent ($6.84 psf) compared to Starlight Suites ($6.08 psf) and condominiums in District 9 ($5.69 psf). While rents for both condominiums have consistently outperformed the overall average rent for condominiums in District 9, the average rent for Rivergate has outperformed that of Starlight Suites since 2019.
Moreover, the average rent for Rivergate has increased by 31% since 2014, which is a stronger growth compared to that of Starlight Suites (14%) and other condominiums in District 9 (23%).
Rivergate is popular with tenants with 38 rental transactions this year; accounting for 2.2% of all rental transactions for condominiums in District 9. Last year, Rivergate had 175 rental transactions or 2.1% of all rental transactions for all condominiums in the district.
Despite having a higher price than its neighbours, Rivergate might be the wiser choice for investors. As the current tight rental market eases this year due to a surge in new condominium completions, Rivergate’s appeal to tenants might make it easier to lease out.
In summary
Despite its age relative to Starlight Suites, Rivergate has a higher average price and more profitable sales transactions.
The larger land area of Rivergate allows for a more spacious site layout, featuring multiple towers and a unique swimming pool. In contrast, Starlight Suites has a single tower with fewer facilities.
Rivergate is also the first residential development in Singapore to be given landmark status by URA, thus allowing for taller buildings with better views of the Singapore River. Rivergate also benefits from having CapitaLand as the developer who is not just experienced but also has an extensive track record.
Rivergate has a more family-friendly environment with more common facilities and open space. Furthermore, its two to four-bedroom units provide more usable space compared to the one to four-bedroom units in Starlight Suites.
The better capital appreciation for Rivergate can be attributed to its strategic location, better views, numerous facilities, landmark status, experienced developer, and family-oriented design.

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