Executive condominiums drawing more buyers

For same price, they get bigger units, better facilities than some condos

Executive condominiums (ECs) have grown more popular with buyers in recent months as a price gap with mass-market condos widens.

The median price of a suburban 99-year leasehold condo unit climbed to $1,073 per sq ft (psf) in the first three months of this year, said property consultancy CBRE.

EC units were 30.6 per cent cheaper - with a median price of $745 psf in the same period.

The price gap between ECs and condos has widened significantly, from 18.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010, when the EC segment was relaunched. Then, the median price for an EC flat was $748 psf, while the median price for a suburban condo unit was $917 psf.

Median condo prices in the first quarter of this year have been driven up by higher prices at recent launches. All but one have posted average launch prices over $1,000 psf. For instance, Sennett Residence in Potong Pasir was launched at an average of $1,450 psf, and Urban Vista in Tanah Merah was launched at $1,400 psf to $1,550 psf on average last month.

The only one with an average launch price below $1,000 psf in the first quarter was D'Nest in Pasir Ris, which was launched last month at an average $920 psf.

Consultants and agents said the widening price gap has prompted more buyers to consider ECs over suburban private homes, adding that the fancy features in recent EC projects sweetened the deal.

"Buyers continue to see value in ECs," said CBRE executive director of residential services Joseph Tan. He said he expects the price gap between ECs and condos to remain at 20 to 25 per cent at least. He said demand for ECs from first-time buyers and extended families was likely to remain firm due to restrictions on ECs such as capping unit sizes at 1,722 sq ft and limiting the sale of dual-key units - with two separate entrances for privacy - to multi-generation families.

These restrictions were part of the seventh round of property market cooling measures which took effect in January.

Another factor boosting the popularity of ECs is that, for a given sum of money, buyers can get more floor space than in a mass market condo unit, Mr Tan said.

For instance, for $800,000, a buyer can get a 780 sq ft condo unit. The amount can buy an EC unit close to 1,100 sq ft, nearly the size of a five-room Housing Board flat, said Mr Tan.

Fancy facilities that several new projects boast are the icing on the cake, said property firm GPS Alliance chief executive Jeffrey Hong. Some ECs have features comparable to, or better than some condos, he added.

For instance, some ground-floor units at the Heron Bay EC in Upper Serangoon have private pools with Jacuzzis.

Mr Hong said the inclusion of such features has led buyers to "look at ECs more seriously" over the past three to six months.

A total of 569 EC units were sold from January to March, according to caveats lodged with the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The bulk of the new sales came from The Topiary in Fernvale, where 185 units went for between $600 psf and $809 psf in that period. Next was Waterbay in Punggol, where 100 units were sold for between $538 and $793 psf. Heron Bay also saw 91 units sold at $612 psf to $809 psf in January through March.

melissat@sph.com.sg