Spike in interest in Bukit Timah condos near King Albert Park MRT station

/ The Edge Property |
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Older condominiums in the Bukit Timah neighbourhood of District 21, particularly Maplewoods and the adjacent Casa Esperanza on Bukit Timah Road as well as Mayfair Gardens on Rifle Range Road, just off Dunearn Road, are seeing renewed interest among buyers.
Traditionally sought-after for their proximity to good schools in the Bukit Timah area such as Methodist Girls’ School, Nanyang Primary School and Hwa Chong Institution, these condos are also becoming increasingly popular among homebuyers because they are located just 200 to 300m from the King Albert Park MRT station on the Downtown Line 2.
Maplewoods the prime beneficiary
The condo that has seen the biggest spike in transactions is Maplewoods on Bukit Timah Road. Developed by Wing Tai Holdings and completed 20 years ago, the freehold condo comprises 697 units in five 10-storey blocks amid a tropical resort setting.
Residents at the development had to put up with the construction of the Downtown Line 2, which began in July 2009. After enduring the inconvenience in terms of road congestion and noise for more than five years, they are now reaping the benefits of the condo’s proximity to the King Albert Park MRT station, which opened in December 2015.
The 697-unit Maplewoods has seen the most significant pickup in transactions with the opening of the King Albert Park MRT station on Downtown Line 2
The opening of the MRT station has drawn new buyers to Maplewoods, with transactions picking up significantly since last September. The most sought-after units were the threeand four-bedroom apartments ranging from 1,335 to 1,787 sq ft.
The two latest transactions in January reflect the trend. A 1,378 sq ft three-bedder on the second level changed hands for $1.96 million ($1,423 psf), according to a caveat lodged on Jan 23. And a 1,787 sq ft, four-bedroom unit on the fifth floor went for $2.4 million ($1,343 psf).
The highest psf prices achieved at Maplewoods were in 2013 and 2014 when a handful of units were sold at prices ranging from $1,503 to $1,573 psf, according to caveats lodged with URA Realis. At the bottom of the market in 2004 and 2005, prices at the development ranged from $482 to $564 psf.
An all-time low was seen in 2000 when a 1,787 sq ft four-bedder was sold for $678,000 ($379 psf). The buyer, however, benefited when the unit was sold for $1.15 million ($644 psf), close to double the purchase price, six yearslater, according to a caveat lodged in 2006.
Lower psf price, larger units
Besides the opening of the King Albert Park MRT station over a year ago, another reason Maplewoods is popular with potential buyers is because unit prices are lower than those in newer condos in the vicinity, says Damon Koh, marketing director at ERA Realty. For instance, at the newly completed 124-unit KAP Residences in King Albert Park, asking prices of units are from $1,800 to $1,900 psf currently.
Maplewoods is 20 years old and the units may look a bit dated, but they are larger than the average sizes of those in the newer developments, says ERA’s Koh. The condo’s lush landscaping and common facilities are well-maintained.
Similarly, residents at the neighbouring Casa Esperanza are also benefiting from having the King Albert Park MRT station at their doorstep. The boutique freehold condo project comprises 90 units in two 10-storey blocks. Developed by NT One Development, it was completed in 1992.
Unit sizes at Casa Esperanza are also larger than those at new developments today, with two-bedroom units between 1,152 and 1,378 sq ft and three-bedroom units between 1,841 and 2,024 sq ft. The latest transaction at the condo was for a 1,378 sq ft, two-bedder that fetched $1.78 million ($1,292 psf), according to a caveat lodged on Jan 20.
Prices at Casa Esperanza hit an all-time high of $2.9 million ($1,433 psf) when a 2,024 sq ft, three-bedroom unit on the seventh floor of one of the blocks was sold in May 2015.
MRT effect, en bloc potential
On the opposite side of Bukit Timah Road and separated by a canal is Dunearn Road. And located just off Dunearn Road is Mayfair Gardens on Rifle Range Road. Formerly known as Yu Li Yuan, the 99-year leasehold Mayfair Gardens was completed in 1985. It comprises 124 units in six 5-storey blocks. Typical of condos built 20 to 30 years ago, units are fairly large, with two-bedroom units between 1,076 and 1,130 sq ft, three-bedroom units between 1,550 and 1,776 sq ft and four-bedroom units between 1,787 and 2,153 sq ft.
The two most recent transactions at Mayfair Gardens were for a 2,153 sq ft, four-bedroom unit on the third level that changed hands for $1.51 million ($703 psf), according to a caveat lodged on Jan 24, and for a 1,087 sq ft, two-bedroom unit that was sold for $850,000 ($782 psf), based on a caveat lodged on Jan 23.
The 124-unit Mayfair Gardens has benefited from the opening of the King Albert Park MRT station and its en bloc potential
The psf price is a reflection of the age of the condo,which was completed 32 years ago. “These ageing condos tend to have maintenance issues, and the larger the unit, the higher the conservancy charges,” says Susie Mok, Savills Singapore’s senior director of investment sales. “Many of the original owners, who bought their units 30 years ago and are now retirees, are looking to exit and downsize.”
Given its location in District 21 and its site attributes, including a land area of 208,475 sq ft, Mok reckons Mayfair Gardens has en bloc potential. In fact, the owners attempted a collective sale in December 2009, with an asking price of $210 million, which translated into $857 psf per plot ratio. The price tag included a $40 million development charge and the cost of topping up the 99-year lease. Had the sale gone through, the owners would have stood to gain $1 million to $2.1 million each, depending on their unit sizes.
“Since the existing owners have already attempted a collective sale once, there is a good chance they will try again,” says Mok. However, those who purchased a unit at Mayfair Gardens recently may be in no hurry to exit the project via an en bloc sale as they would have to pay a seller’s stamp duty of 16%, 12%, 8% and 4% if they were to sell within the first to fourth year of purchasing their units, she notes.
Like Maplewoods and Casa Esperanza, Mayfair Gardens also benefits from its proximity to the King Albert Park MRT station. “Residents no longer need to drive to work as they can take the MRT,” says Mok. “Taking a train to the CBD is so much more convenient.”
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 765 (Feb 6, 2017) of The Edge Singapore

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