UOL Group’s projects see good sales despite Covid-19

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - UOL Group has notched up many achievements this year. In the residential market, the mainboard-listed property developer achieved 70% sales at Clavon on its opening weekend in December, and claimed the top spot as the best-selling project of 2020 in terms of number of units.
The Tre Ver, a 729-unit development launched in August 2018, had been fully sold by November 2020. The developer’s other projects on the market also clocked strong sales momentum in 2020, which is commendable considering the digital pivot and industry disruptions brought on by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic this year.

Pandemic impact

For Jesline Goh, UOL Group chief investment and asset officer, the evolving situation in the property sector this year means that she has had to constantly monitor the market and adapt to government policies accordingly. “For the residential market, I think the biggest challenge has been the pandemic’s impact on the construction industry and on construction timelines,” she says.
The pandemic situation in Singapore came to a head during the “circuit breaker” period from April 7 to June 1. This halted work at most construction sites, and showflats had to be closed and physical viewings disallowed, bringing much of the residential property market to a standstill.
Widespread virus transmission in foreign worker dormitories prevented a full resumption of construction works, and heightened health and safety measures capped the number of workers allowed on sites. “There has been a lot of ‘firefighting’ in this regard and [at the time] we did not know what to expect. Thus, our teams on the ground and our construction partners needed to watch the situation very closely,” says Goh.
Goh: Singapore’s residential market should remain stable in 2021, but economic uncertainty and construction delays continue to loom over the market. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
In May, the government responded to industry-wide concerns and announced a six-month extension to the project completion period (PCP) for residential, commercial, and industrial development projects. This was further extended by another six months in October.
Developers of residential projects were also given a six-month extension on the sales period and the remission period for the additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD).
While the overall situation in the dormitories and construction industry has largely stabilised, UOL expects some construction delays for a few of its residential projects in Singapore, says Goh. Together with its contractors, the group is exploring ways to catch up with its original construction timelines. Projects that are currently under construction are Clavon, the 1,074-unit Avenue South Residence, the 56-unit Meyer House and The Tre Ver. The 139-unit Amber45 was completed recently.
The Tre Ver, a 729-unit development launched in August 2018, had been fully sold by November 2020. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
On the technology front, the pandemic has accelerated the overall transformation of the real estate industry and forced many players to reinvent their sale and outreach efforts, says Goh. For UOL, this has translated into a full digital pivot in terms of digital marketing, webinars and virtual property roadshows.
“We need to be adaptive, and digital is the way forward [for the real estate industry]. This is a journey all of us [in the industry] were already embarking on, but the Covid-19 pandemic focused our efforts to implement it successfully on a larger scale,” she says.
Goh admits that the relatively short runway for the digital pivot this year has been challenging for developers and some buyers. “It is not easy because property is something that you still need to touch and feel; it is something buyers should experience on top of viewing a virtual showflat. This experience is not easy to replicate, so buyers need to put in the effort to visit the showroom and view the showflat,” she says.

Next-gen homes

In addition to the digital impact, the pandemic has caused home buyers to place more emphasis on wellness, sustainability and design flexibility when considering new residential projects on the market, says Goh.
“We have always believed in creating products that provide a sustainable and healthy lifestyle for our homeowners and residents. That is the anchor in our home design considerations,” she says.
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This approach is reflected in UOL’s latest development, Clavon, a 99-year leasehold condominium on Clementi Avenue 1 that was launched for sale on Dec 12.
Clavon moved 70% of its total units in the development over its opening sales weekend on Dec 12. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
According to Goh, while the project was still under preview, most prospective buyers cited the flexible unit layout and spacious landscape on the site as appealing to them. “We spent a lot of effort during the design process to efficiently introduce elements such as air ventilation and natural light into homes. We know that people are choosing to spend more time at home, and we are committed to designing a comfortable home for any lifestyle,” she says.
Examples of the built-in flexibility include a study-niche beside the master bedroom in one-bedroom units, as well as a slightly wider dining area that can double as a home office space in two-bedroom units. Three-bedroom units feature a flexi-use room that could be used as a study or workout area.
The design for Clavon draws inspiration from previous UOL projects, The Tre Ver and Principal Garden, which feature a spacious terraced site with greenery and landscaping. “We are continuously committed to adopting and integrating greenery and nature into our home design. We also incorporate certain aspects of sustainability into our projects,” says Goh.
Space flexibility is a key design consideration at Clavon, with its two-bedroom units have a wider dining area that doubles as home office space. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
For example, for Clavon, the decision was made to have a basement carpark which frees up space above ground. At least 80% of the site features landscaping and facilities, including a ground-floor infinity pool and a clubhouse with a shared workspace and a gym.
Clavon is jointly developed by UOL Group and its subsidiary, United Industrial Corp (UIC). Clavon sold about 442 units out of a total of 640 units at the launch weekend, fetching an average price of $1,640 psf. Demand was seen across all unit types, including the three-, four- and five-bedroom units.

Local buying support

UOL’s other residential projects on the market have also seen respectable sales momentum this year. For example, its 1,074-unit Avenue South Residence is more than 56% sold as of end-November 2020 —15 months after it was initially launched for sale in September 2019.
Avenue South Residence is a 99-year leasehold development jointly developed by UOL, UIC and Kheng Leong Co in a 50:30:20 partnership. The development comprises twin 56-storey residential towers, and is located on Silat Avenue — at the foot of the future Greater Southern Waterfront redevelopment area.
Units in the project are categorised into three collections to meet the varying needs of homeowners and investors. The already sold-out Heritage Collection comprises 86 units in five conserved blocks, the Horizon Collection comprises units from the first to 36th floors in both towers, and the Peak Collection comprises units on the 37th to 56th floors.
Avenue South Residence - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Since its launch in September 2019, the 1,074-unit Avenue South Residence has sold 56% of its total number of units, mostly to local owner-occupiers. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Sales momentum at Avenue South Residence this year was not dampened, despite the fewer numbers of foreign buyers coming into Singapore as a result of international travel restrictions due to the pandemic, says Goh.
She adds that Avenue South Residence is attracting “a steady stream of buyers”, and demand continues to be underpinned by Singaporean home buyers. About 98% of the units sold so far in the Horizon Collection, and close to 90% of the units sold in the Peak Collection, have been snapped up by local buyers.
According to UOL, more than 85% of the one- and two-bedroom units in the Horizon Collection have been sold, as have 70% of the available three-bedroom units. The developer expects demand for the remaining four-bedroom units in this collection to pick up as the project reaches completion. “The sales progress at Horizon Collection is respectable, given the time since we launched the project and considering that this is a mega-sized development with over 1,000 units,” says Goh.
UOL has sold 114 of the 378 units available in the Peak Collection at Avenue South Residence. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
In the Peak Collection, the developer has released 140 unit out of the 378 units in the collection for sale. By end-November, 114 units have been sold. The units in the Peak Collection are priced from $2,250 psf.
“Compared to the sales in the Horizon Collection, we have been able to sell more four-bedroom units in the Peak Collection to date, and most buyers are owner-occupiers. This buyer segment tends to be more willing to pay relatively higher prices for a high floor unit with better views, as well as high-end fixtures and fittings,” says Goh.

Upcoming Canberra Drive project

The property developer is not resting on its laurels despite its track record this year, and its residential project teams are already onto their next project. This will be a 296,717 sq ft, residential site on Canberra Drive that was awarded to United Venture Development in March this year. The company is a joint venture by UOL, UIC and Kheng Leong.
The winning bid of $270.2 million for the government land sale site works out to a land rate of $650 psf per plot ratio. UOL intends to develop a collection of five-storey residential blocks on the site to accommodate up to 450 apartments.
“Some of the reasons why we were attracted to the site are the natural beauty that surrounds it, and it is also served by several neighbourhood parks and park connectors,” says Goh. One half of the site also faces a quiet landed neighbourhood. “Other additional attractive attributes include its proximity to Canberra MRT Station on the North-South Line, which we see as giving a potential uplift to the property value of the area,” she adds.
All this is coupled with the fact that the government is developing the neighbouring Canberra HDB town, including the opening of the Canberra Plaza neighbourhood centre to serve residents in the area, Goh says.
UOL says it hopes to preview the as-yet-unnamed Canberra Drive project in 1H2021. The development will capitalise on the natural undulating terrain in its design and make use of the large site area to introduce resort-style facilities.
“There will be an abundance of resort-like facilities in this development that will appeal to homeowners and upgraders searching for a new home in this particular micro-market. We believe there is a very strong demand from upgraders in this area,” says Goh.

Uncertainty still looms in 2021

Pinpointing strong micro-markets and tapping the underserved demand for new private homes in those areas has been a successful strategy for UOL over the past few years. With Clavon, it moved to double down its presence in the Clementi area following its sell-out performance at neighbouring Clement Canopy, and its Avenue South Residence capitalises on the future growth potential arising from the Greater Southern Waterfront regeneration.
Despite the challenging economic environment brought about by the pandemic, Goh says that overall buyer sentiment in the Singapore property market has been encouraging. She attributes the relatively healthy market fundamentals to steady price movements as a result of the government’s property cooling measures. A prolonged low interest rate environment has also encouraged genuine home buyers to commit to property purchases this year, she says.
But the greatest boost in private new home sales this year came from the “massive” HDB upgrader market as more HDB homes reach their minimum occupation period (MOP), she says. In addition, property developers have largely adopted a sensitive pricing strategy that ensures a relatively steady sales momentum, and this has helped the private residential market to stay buoyant in 2020, says Goh.
The HDB upgrader market boosted demand for new private residential developments this year, on top of low interest rates and attractive pricing strategies by developers. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Looking ahead, she expects the looming economic uncertainty to push people to prefer the relative long-term safety of property investment over more volatile investment assets. She also sees that the risk of more construction delays will continue to cast uncertainty in 2021.
“Relatively low interest rates are likely to persist next year, coupled with a huge upgrader market in Singapore. So, we think that the residential market here should remain stable in 2021,” says Goh. “But some segments will likely perform better than others, such as the Outside Central Region where upgrader demand is high.”
This plays well into UOL’s strategy for its residential developments, creating value for homeowners and crafting the right products with strong design attributes, backed up with attractive pricing, says Goh. She adds: “As a result of our track record, we have created a strong following for our products and this is something we will definitely leverage and grow to become a better developer and company.”
For price trends, recent transactions, other project info, check out these projects' research page: Clavon, The Tre Ver, Avenue South Residence, Meyer House, Amber 45, Principal Garden, Clement Canopy

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