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PROPERTY – Build dream homes on small govt plots

Infill sites to come back on market after over a decade – buyers likely to get cheap land in choice areas

THE idea of building a house on a former septic tank site might seem noxious to some.

But it could mean the chance to build your dream home on that rarest of commodities in Singapore – cheap land.

The Government will release smallish plots – likely to be big enough for just one home each – over the next few months, to meet the sizzling demand for land.

The fine print: The sites might previously have been used for public purposes, so they could have housed parks, gardens, sub-stations, or possibly even septic tanks.

Individual investors and small developers can build homes on these plots, known in the industry as ‘infill sites’. The sites usually have adjacent buildings on either side.

Such plots have not been put on the market in more than a decade, but the booming economy and high demand for land have convinced the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to resume sales, said its deputy director for land sales, Mr Teo Jing Kok.

Infill sites were introduced in 1990 to ease housing demand. By the time sales stopped in 1993, 20 plots had been snapped up at public tenders amid growing interest.

The lowest price paid for an infill site was $402,000, in 1991. The parcel of open space, near Braddell Road, was more than 9,000 sq ft, so the price worked out to less than $45 per sq ft (psf) of land area – relatively cheap even for those times.

Over the following two years, the popularity of these sites increased sharply. A 5,581 sq ft plot on Ceylon Road, off East Coast Road, drew a whopping 62 bids when it went on sale in 1993. The highest bid was $1.3 million, or just over $230 psf.

All the plots offered in the early 1990s were zoned for building homes, and most now host bungalows or other landed homes.

Several of the plots once housed septic tanks, some were empty spaces, while a site at Mount Sinai was a cul-de-sac.

Buyers in the past were mainly boutique property development firms or individuals who wanted to build their own homes, said the SLA.

The previous sales ‘showed that owners are free to create their own types of houses and are generally more satisfied with the outcome’, the agency told The Sunday Times.

‘They are able to exercise control in the interior and exterior designs, as well as the colours, resulting in their ‘dream home’.’

The first sites, sold in 1991, came with 999-year leases. The remaining sites in following years were 99-year leasehold. The upcoming plots are believed to be mainly leasehold as well.

The SLA said it has not finalised the sites to go on sale, but based on the plots offered in the past, they are likely to be in popular residential locations.

The parcels sold in 1991 were mostly in Upper Bukit Timah and Yio Chu Kang.

The year after, the Government released sites in Sixth Avenue and Namly Drive in Bukit Timah. In 1993, plots along Dunearn Road, the East Coast and Mount Sinai went on the market.

Consultants expect a good response for the upcoming sales, as long as the locations are desirable.

‘There is likely to be demand as many homebuyers are now seeking good landed homes and are willing to pay higher prices,’ said Mr Nicholas Mak, the director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.

Recent launches of 99-year leasehold cluster housing, such as MCL Land’s Hillcrest Villas and the latest phase of Far East Organization’s Greenwood project, have been well-received.

However, Mr Mak added that the Government might have to allay concerns from potential buyers about possible ‘leaks from a previous septic tank or remaining electromagnetic waves from a former substation’.

In response, the SLA gave reassurances that the sites it puts up for sale will be safe to build homes on. It said it will obtain the necessary clearances and conduct certified tests of the soil conditions for each site before allowing the site to be offered.

It will also outline the locations of any waterpipes or sewers within a sale site for the benefit of all bidders, the agency said.

As for likely pricing, Mr Mak said landed homes have risen roughly 2.5 times in price since 1990. If the prices of infill sites match this pace, a 10,000 sq ft plot could go for less than $1.5 million – a fairly good deal.

By comparison, each unit at Hillcrest Villas sold for $2.5 million to $3 million. Nearby, the strata bungalows at 8 @ Kings Road are going for about $5.5 million each for 2,000 sq ft of land area.


Source: The Sunday Times 14 Oct 07

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