AUGUST and September are typically slow months for new property launches, due to the superstition surrounding the Hungry Ghost month.
But developers are not sitting idly by this year. Several launches are in the works for the last months of the year, and one of the big emerging trends appears to be strata-titled landed homes, or cluster housing projects.
Property firm CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), for one, identifies at least 21 such projects in the pipeline.
For the uninitiated, cluster homes look exactly like conventional landed homes. They are usually at least two storeys high and come in a variety of sizes, ranging from terrace houses to bungalows.
The main difference is that cluster homes come with strata titles, as do condominiums, rather than land titles.
In a cluster project, the land is shared by all the owners, explained Mr Li Hiaw Ho, an executive director of CBRE Research.
This has two main implications. First, cluster projects can be sold en bloc as long as the minimum required owner consensus is met. This means an 80 per cent agreement for projects more than 10 years old and 90 per cent for younger estates.
Second, owners of strata houses do not have the flexibility of tearing down and rebuilding their properties.
Owners of conventional landed homes, on the other hand, can make additions and alterations that affect the external appearance of the homes.
Generally, cluster housing projects tend to be more standardised in appearance than the usual landed houses.
Each unit is typically two to three storeys high, and most come with four to six bedrooms, attics or roof terraces, and basements, said Mr Li.
Parking spaces are also a plus in cluster projects, which usually include one or two basement carpark lots for each house.
The built-up area for each house ranges from about 2,500 sq ft for a terrace house to 3,500 to 4,000 sq ft for a detached house, added Mr Li.
The larger bungalows can go up to almost 6,000 sq ft, with roof terraces usually accounting for another 500 sq ft.
Cluster housing is not a new concept in Singapore, having first made an appearance in 1993. But these projects became more mainstream only from 2000 onwards, and have taken off in a big way just recently.
‘More customers are accepting the product now, so developers are also encouraged to build more of these houses,’ said Mr Ku Swee Yong, the director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.
He noted that Far East Organization’s Greenwood series of landed homes, one of the more popular landed housing projects in recent years, is planning to release its next phase in a cluster housing style.
Anecdotal evidence from property agents also seems to indicate that foreigners find it easier to get approval to buy strata landed homes than to buy conventional landed homes.
‘Cluster homes are strata-titled, so in such a development, there would be a good balance of voting share rights between foreigners and Singaporeans,’ said one agent. ‘Also, generally, the smaller the property, the easier it is to get approval if you are a foreigner.’
For the individual home buyer, there are several advantages to strata homes that conventional landed housing do not offer.
Among the greatest draws of cluster houses are the communal facilities and security features. Facilities often include at least one swimming pool, jacuzzis, a gym, a clubhouse and barbecue areas.
But these perks come at a cost: Strata home owners have to pay a monthly maintenance fee, much like condominium owners, to maintain these facilities.
Previous estimates by consultancy Colliers International have put these fees at $250 to more than $400 a month, depending on the size of the estate and the facilities available.
Apart from the maintenance cost, cluster homes and landed homes in the same location are usually similarly priced, said CBRE’s Mr Li. ‘The facilities provided in a cluster project will be a trade-off against the loss of the private enjoyment of land.’
For a home buyer who is trying to decide between strata and conventional landed homes, ‘it will ultimately boil down to a question of lifestyle’, said Mr Li.
While some home owners might prefer a landed home with large common areas and some facilities within the compound, others might want to have the land title to their landed property, he added.
Source: The Sunday Times 9 Sept 07