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3,500 vied for 714 condo-like flats in Boon Keng, but only 460 sold

The Straits Times March 25, 2008

THOUSANDS of applications poured in for a condo-like Housing Board project in January – but as of last week, less than two-thirds of the flats had been taken up.

About a third of the 714 units – or about 250 units – in City View @ Boon Keng remained unsold, said HSR Property Group, which is marketing the project.

These flats will be offered to the public, probably via walk-in selection.

The number of leftover units came as a surprise to market watchers, given that 3,500 applicants had vied for them.

This works out to five would-be buyers for each flat at City View, the second public housing project to be built by a private developer.

It boasts condo-like features such as timber floors, built-in wardrobes and air-conditioning.

All the applicants were given a chance to book the flats they wanted, said HSR project director Kellie Liew.

The selection process stretched over 20 days and ended last Thursday, with more than 3,000 potential deals falling through.

Developer Hoi Hup Sunway sold about 460 units, including six of the top-priced five-room units at $727,000 each, said Ms Liew.

But she added that some buyers backed out of their purchases due to the weakening property market, while others did not meet the required criteria to buy the flats.

‘We’ve been having a series of not-too-positive news about the market, so that could have affected the sentiment of the buyers,’ she said.

‘Also, some applicants were over-qualified, with combined monthly incomes of more than $8,000, so they were not eligible for the flats.’

Hoi Hup declined to comment.

Market watchers suggested that the relatively high prices for the City View units could also have proved a deterrent at crunch time.

The three-room flats were priced between $349,000 and $394,000, double the price tag of similar flats in the vicinity.

Five-room flats went for up to $727,000, which experts said was close to condominium prices.

‘Some people may have jumped on the bandwagon because of the hype, but when it was time to pick up a unit, they felt it was actually too expensive,’ said Mr Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of property agency PropNex.

‘In today’s market, there are many 99-year leasehold properties with full condo facilities that are going for less than $600 per sq ft, so some buyers may have thought twice.’

But Mr Chris Koh, director of Dennis Wee Properties, believes the remaining units could be snapped up quickly.

‘Fundamentals are still strong,’ he said. ‘We don’t see property prices sliding at all.’

He added that the situation could mirror that of The Premiere @ Tampines, the first developer-built public housing project.

The Premiere drew almost 6,000 applications for its 616 units when it was launched in 2006, but fewer than 500 units were sold when the booking process was over.

When the remaining flats were released to the public, long queues formed and would not disperse despite a downpour.

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