From shoebox apartments to GCBs

/ EdgeProp Singapore
June 23, 2018 7:45 AM SGT
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Melvin Poh of Fission Group may be better known as a developer of compact apartments popular in the post-global financial crisis era. These days, he is building luxury houses in the prime districts. He and joint-venture partner Pinnacle Assets have a Good Class Bungalow for sale.

Almost a decade ago, Melvin Poh — founder and managing director of Fission Group — and joint-venture partner Yi Kai Group made a name for themselves as developers of shoebox apartments. The project they were most famous for was the 293-unit Alexis at Alexandra. All the units were sold out within three days of their launch in early 2009. This project was followed by the 167-unit, freehold Robinson Suites in late 2010, where all but five penthouses were sold out in a matter of hours. The JV partners have also collaborated on a strata-titled light industrial development on Henderson Road called Apex@Henderson.
The Good Class Bungalow at 43 Belmont Road is on the market for $38 million (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Since then, Poh has refashioned Fission Group into a boutique developer of houses, specifically in the prime districts of 9, 10, 11 and 15. In a 50:50 JV with privately held developer Pinnacle Assets led by Victor Soh, Fission Group has developed more than 40 houses over the last two years, with a gross development value of more than $250 million. “We focused on houses in the prime districts over the last two years because we felt that there was a growing demand for such property,” says Poh. “Unlike apartments, which you can launch and sell off-plan, these high-value houses have to be completed first before they can be launched for sale so that buyers can appreciate the finished product.”
The JV partners recently sold a semi-detached house on Sian Tuan Avenue, off Hua Guan Avenue, in the Bukit Timah area, for $7.55 million. Late last year, they sold a semi-detached house at One Tree Hill in prime District 9 for an all-time-high price of $13.88 million ($3,086 psf).
The formal living and dining rooms overlook the swimming pool and the lawn (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Highest-value asset on the market
Now, the JV partners have their highest-value asset on the market — a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) at 43 Belmont Road with a price tag of $38 million. The property occupies a freehold site of 15,070 sq ft, which translates into a unit price of $2,522 psf.
Fssion Group and Pinnacle Assts purchased 45 Belmont Road, a 31,129 sq ft GCB plot, for $44.188 million ($1,420 psf) in 2015. They subsequently subdivided the site into two smaller plots: 43 Belmont Road, which was recently put on the market for sale; and 45 Belmont Road, which is currently under development and will be Soh’s new home.
The basement carpark can accommodate up to 20 cars (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
While the land area at 43 Belmont Road may be just 15,070 sq ft, the developer has created more space for the owner — the built-up area is 21,829 sq ft. This includes the basement garage that Poh reckons can comfortably accommodate up to 10 supercars, including four Rolls-Royce. “Tandem parking will allow the space to fit up to 20 cars,” he says. The basement level also has a chauffeur’s room, helpers’ room for up to four helpers, and a staircase leading directly to the wet kitchen.
Residents can enter the home from the basement, where a lift foyer and staircase lead to the upper levels of the house. The first level contains a formal living room and dining room, both overlooking the lawn and a 24m infinity swimming pool. There is also a steam/spa room that can be accessed from the swimming pool. Typical of most houses of this scale, there is a dry and wet kitchen as well as a space that can be turned into a wine cellar.
Uninterrupted view from the second level of 43 Belmont Road (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Room for flexibility
On the first level is an en suite guest room with a view of a Japanese garden. There are six en suite bedrooms in total. The other five are situated on the second level of the house. The master suite at one wing of the house comes with en suite master bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. The adjacent bedroom can be converted into additional wardrobe space, a study or even a child’s room.
Likewise, for a multi-generational family, the junior master suite and adjacent bedroom at the other wing on the second level can be converted into a self-contained apartment with its own sitting room and pantry. Both the master and junior master suites boast views of the swimming pool.
The walk-in wardrobe of the master suite (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The fifth en suite bedroom on the second level can be used as a family room or gym. From the second level, one can enjoy a view of the Leedon GCB estate and d’Leedon. “The view from the second level is unobstructed, as the GCBs across the road are in a valley,” notes Poh. To capitalise on the view, a roof garden has been created on the second level. Landscaping around the boundary of the house provides privacy for the owners. A lot of attention has been paid to the materials used for the house: The outdoor timber decking is made from Chengal wood; the exterior wall cladding uses travertine; and the bathrooms are full marble. The ceiling height is 3.2m.
The architect for the GCB at 43 Belmont Road is Tellus Architects and Design, which has made a name for itself in the design of conservation shophouses and luxury bungalows. K H Tan, managing director of Newsman Realty, is the appointed marketing agent for the property.
The master bathroom in the master suite (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Who’s buying?
To maintain their exclusivity, URA has gazetted GCBs to be in just 39 areas. The minimum land size is 1,400 sq m (15,070 sq ft). Any increase in GCBs can only be done through the subdivision of bigger plots.
The number of GCBs in Singapore is between 2,400 and 2,500 units today, estimates Poh. He reckons that if one were to just look at the most coveted addresses of Nassim Road, the Cluny area, Swettenham Road, and the Leedon and Belmont neighbourhood, the number is even more limited — “probably in the ballpark of 500 units”, he estimates.
The house at 14 and 14A Nassim Road was sold for $218 million or $2,774 psf ppr (Credit: CBRE)
On Nassim Road, GCBs on the market are old properties due for redevelopment. These have fetched record land prices. For instance, on June 13, Hong Kong-listed Shun Tak Holdings acquired a house at 14 and 14A Nassim Road for $218 million. The existing house at Nassim Road sits on a 66,452 sq ft freehold site with a plot ratio of 1.4. The site has been earmarked for redevelopment into a new “low-rise, ultra-luxurious residential project”, with a maximum gross floor area of 93,033 sq ft, according to Shun Tak in its announcement. Including development charge, the purchase price translates into $2,744 psf per plot ratio (ppr).
The psf price achieved for the Nassim Road site is the second highest in terms of land rate. The all-time high was the en bloc purchase of Park House on Orchard Boulevard for $375.5 million, or $2,910 psf. The buyer was also Shun Tak. Both deals were brokered by CBRE.
Newsman's Tan: There are many serious buyers in the market today. Besides local high net worth individuals, other interested buyers include those from China, Indonesia and Hong Kong
Besides Hong Kong buyers shopping for luxury property in Singapore’s prime districts, those from China and Indonesia are also on the hunt. “There are many serious buyers in the market today,” says Newsman’s Tan. GCBs are restricted property, however, and only Singapore citizens are eligible to purchase them.
Few new-build GCBs for sale
In the Belmont area, there has been no GCB transaction since 2015, based on caveats lodged with URA Realis. The last purchase was that of the 45 Belmont Road site by Pinnacle Assets and Fission Group.
Fission Group’s Poh reckons that there are fewer than a handful of new GCBs on the market today. Early this month, the newly completed GCB at 3 Jervois Hill, developed by George Lim, was sold at $41.2 million. The newly built house sits on a freehold site of 15,091 sq ft, translating into a record unit price of $2,729 psf for a GCB. The deal was brokered by Newsman’s Tan.
The GCB at 3 Jervois Hill was sold at $41.2 million or a record $2,729 psf (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The buyer of the GCB at 3 Jervois Hill is reportedly Alan Chong, founder and managing director of mechanical and engineering solutions provider Wah Loon Engineering. In April, Wah Loon sold an 80% stake — estimated to be worth $250 million — to a unit of French construction giant Vinci.
With the sale of 3 Jervois Hill, Poh reckons that there are now just two newly completed GCBs on the market, including 43 Belmont Road. Newsman’s Tan says he has received three offers for the property in just the past week. “I believe this house is likely to sell within the next two months,” he adds. “It’s well designed and well built and has a hilltop location. It also has a basement carparkfor 20 cars, which is quite rare.”