Executive condominium (EC) developers are again pulling out all the stops in the battle for buyers as competition intensifies in the second half of this year.
Developers of projects under this very popular public-private housing hybrid are no longer allowed to build gargantuan penthouse suites after unit-size restrictions were imposed in January.
The penthouses had been selling for sky-high prices.
But developers now aim to stand out from the crowd by offering ECs with features such as maisonette units, waterfront views, balcony entrances and even a "skypark" 50m above ground.
Of the seven EC projects slated for launch this year, five will go on sale some time over the next four months.
This means that of the 3,337 EC units in this year's supply, an expected 2,226 units will hit the market from now till October.
But EC supply next year is likely to plummet due to a 15-month rule on sales that was also imposed in January.
Under the rule, EC developers have to launch their projects for sale 15 months from the date of award of the sites or after the physical completion of foundation works, whichever is earlier.
Market watchers reckon that there will be no new EC launches for at least the first three quarters of next year and the number of new EC launches next year could be as little as two projects.
ECs are designed to cater to a "sandwiched class" of people who earn too much to qualify for a Housing Board flat but find private property prices too high.
Some first-time developers with solid track records in the luxury segment have also thrown their hats into the ring, lured by the lower total development costs for EC projects compared with private condominium projects.
The price developers pay for EC sites is lower than that for private residential plots because restrictions apply to EC resales during the first decade of occupation.
The new faces in the segment include boutique developers JBE Holdings and Sing Holdings, which are both better known for their high-end projects.
"We're very confident of the EC market... We know that EC buyers are getting more sophisticated," JBE Holdings director Patrick Lam told The Straits Times in an interview on Thursday at The Luxe at Handy Road, which JBE developed.
JBE's upcoming EC project is the 506-unit SkyPark Residences at Sembawang Drive, under a joint venture with construction firm Keong Hong. E-applications are likely to begin in September and bookings in October.
Mr Lam said the EC segment was a "good diversification" away from the luxury market and added that JBE's next project is also likely to be an EC.
JBE won the site for $211.9 million or $323.76 per sq ft (psf) per plot ratio (ppr) last December. The project's construction cost is likely to be just under $150 million, Mr Lam said.
Of that, $3 million to $5 million will be spent on a 1,250 sq m "skypark" straddling three towers about 50m above ground.
No official pricing has been released but market watchers say the price could be between $720 psf and $800 psf.
Both SkyPark Residences and the upcoming 373-unit WaterWoods in Punggol will also include five-bedroom maisonette units.
WaterWoods, next to the Flo Residence condo, is jointly developed by UE E&C and Sing Holdings. Sing Holdings won the site last December for $162.1 million or $351 psf ppr, nearly 9 per cent higher than the second-highest bid of $148.9 million lodged by JBE.
Sing Holdings chief executive Lee Sze Hao said the firm was using the same team working on its high-end projects for WaterWoods.
"This segment is, after all, least susceptible to market speculation, and all EC home owners will also eventually own just one property, which means they present relatively less credit risk... the EC market is one of the most stable housing segments," Mr Lee said.
Lush Acres, City Developments' 380-unit EC at Fernvale Close, was over-subscribed by about 1.6 times when it opened for e-applications last Saturday.
The next EC project to launch in upcoming months is Sea Horizon in Pasir Ris. E-applications are expected to start early next month.
Sea Horizon is Chinese developer Hao Yuan Investment's second EC project. Hao Yuan launched its first EC, Forestville in Woodlands, in June.
Its developer is touting "panoramic sea views" and units that come with french balconies and full-height windows.
"Sea Horizon is one of the rare few executive condominiums that boast a coastal location... We believe the close proximity to the coastline will be a big plus for many home buyers," a Hao Yuan spokesman said.
Unit sizes range from 71 sq m to 160 sq m. The project is expected to be priced below $1,000 psf.