Singapore's luxury property market is beginning to stir, especially at exclusive Sentosa Cove.
Despite reports of properties racking up million-dollar losses and plentiful vacant units, sales at the posh waterfront area are picking up.
So far this year, caveats have been lodged for seven bungalows at the prestigious address, totalling $102.7 million, CBRE data shows.
This marks a significant increase from last year, when only four caveats worth $64.5 million were lodged for the whole 12 months.
Buyers may be super wealthy, but they are still looking for value buys which they may not be able to get on the mainland, say analysts.
Last week, a six-bedroom bungalow in a 29-unit development at Sentosa Cove called Paradise Island, on a 7,350 sq ft plot, was put on auction via mortgagee sale by Colliers International - said to be the first bungalow sale of its kind at Sentosa Cove. While the auction attracted plenty of gawkers, there were no takers at the starting bid of $13 million.
Mr Lim Kien Kim, head of transaction services at Colliers International, said that a key challenge of selling Sentosa Cove landed properties at public auctions is that typical potential buyers are high-net- worth individuals who prefer to keep their identities private.
He said market conditions will determine whether the property will be sold soon, but added that he expects more transactions of Sentosa Cove landed properties this year as "prices have found a bottom".
Sentosa Cove may be the only place here where foreigners who are not permanent residents can buy landed property, but six of the seven buyers of Sentosa Cove bungalows so far this year were Singaporean.
Mr Steve Tay, vice-president (resale) at CBRE Realty Associates, said that since mid-2015, when prices of Sentosa Cove bungalows began to soften, local and permanent resident buyers have become more interested in the location.
"One of the main reasons for the return in interest is that the gap between buyers' and sellers' expectations has narrowed," he said.
"More than half of the deals done this year were purchased by locals who plan to stay in the homes, while also holding them as mid- to long-term investment properties. Singaporeans could be interested in Sentosa Cove because they see better value here as compared with the mainland."
Mr Tay said that most Sentosa Cove transactions since 2015 were for $10 million to $15 million. In that range, houses on the mainland may not offer the same attractive factors - of lifestyle and exclusivity - as those in Sentosa Cove, he added.
The most expensive bungalow sold this year was at Lakeshore View, another Sentosa Cove area. The house, on a 11,270 sq ft site, was reportedly purchased for $21.25 million by Japanese discount retail group Don Quijote founder Takao Yasuda.
There were also three bungalows sold in Cove Grove for between $14.5 million and $16.8 million, one of which had previously been owned by Ezra Holdings founder and chairman Lee Kian Soo.
It is not just landed property. Despite Knight Frank research that 16 of 30 sales in the 12 months to May incurred losses, Sentosa Cove condominium sales have picked up.
Ms Tricia Song, head of research at Colliers International, said that according to URA Realis data, 21 condo units have been sold this year. This outstrips the annual sales of between 24 and 26 units per year between 2013 and last year.
Colliers' Mr Lim said that despite some loss-making transactions, buyers are spotting value in such properties. He added: "As prices have corrected since, buyers perceive them to be at fair or even attractive values. There have been more transactions this year, and we expect the same for the rest of the year."