Cover The beach house of Meyer Mansion, a development by GuocoLand in Singapore

Fundamental shifts in how people live and work are shaping the way we choose our homes—here are the property trends to watch

“As an architect, you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown.” These are the words of eminent British architect Norman Foster. Albeit a general statement about architecture, it also resonates with the property world, which is redefining itself in the face of the “new normal”.

Many of the property trends we are seeing may be spillovers from last year, but with everything turned on its head—and looking to remain so—these shifts could evolve into criteria for the long term. Here, we take a closer look at the growing real estate trends in Singapore.  

See also: How The Singapore Property Market is Responding to Buyers’ Need For Personal Space

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More millennials are moving out of family homes

In the past year, we have spent more time at home due to telecommuting arrangements and other measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our family members have suddenly taken the place of our co-workers. While this may sound like perfect grounds for familial bonding, it has blurred the boundaries between work and leisure within our homes.

Jacqueline Wong, executive director of residential services at property management company Savills Singapore, says that this has set off the trend of adults who stay with their parents now wanting to purchase a studio or a one-bedroom apartment, or even lease a similar property for more privacy.

Even though some companies have started reopening their offices, the pandemic has changed the requirements of buyers for the long term, says Victoria Garrett, head of residential for Asia Pacific at real estate consultancy Knight Frank. “Besides carving out a part of the abode to create a home office, the impetus is on being able to enjoy activities in the same unit without experiencing an over-integration of work and family life. Pre-pandemic, this would be considered a luxury.”

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Increasing demand for landed properties

The change in requirements has also plunged many people into the buying market in search of larger homes so each member of the family can have the privacy they require. In land-scarce Singapore, where there is a shortage of large apartments in prime locations, this is steering buyers towards landed properties, says Wong.

“Generally many Singaporeans would prefer buying landed properties as a form of legacy. The configuration of the landed house is flexible as buyers can do additions and alterations to the property to suit their personal lifestyle.”

Alvina Teh, business development director of Brand New Land Group, which specialises in bespoke landed homes, sees the affordability factor changing as a younger generation of self-made Singaporeans have been entering the landed property market.

“Buyers used to compare landed home prices in terms of per square feet (PSF) for land area, now they look at landed home prices in terms of PSF for the built area as a comparison benchmark, reflecting the value buyers are placing on liveable space,” says Teh.

William Wong, CEO and founder of real estate company Realstar Premier Group, indicates that the rise in landed property transactions began in the second quarter of 2020, and the momentum has been building ever since. Low mortgage interest rates aside—1.5 per cent and below—healthy sales of mid- to high-end condominiums and penthouses have created a new pool of buyers looking to purchase landed properties, even Good Class Bungalows (GCB).

These occupy the top end of Singapore’s residential property market. “There is also a fear of missing out, as many are afraid that the prices of these properties may continue to go up, making it difficult for them to own one eventually,” he adds.

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Singapore as a safe haven for local and overseas buyers

Surprisingly, despite the economic repercussions brought about by Covid-19, housing prices have remained generally resilient across Asia-Pacific, owing to the uneven fiscal impact of the outbreak. People and companies that quickly adapted to the pandemic measures and embraced technology have thrived, observes Clive Chng, associate director of Redbrick Mortgage Advisory.

“Property prices have continued to rise, with 14 out of the 23 of the prime residential markets in Asia-Pacific having recorded price growth in 2020,” adds Garrett. “This has spurred some countries that have seen rapid price increases to take active measures to reduce the risk of asset bubbles within their residential markets.”

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In Singapore, “although the property market took a hit in the first two quarters of 2020, there has been evidence of a gradual increase in the private property price index across the board,” says Chng.

While the demographics of new buyers may not have changed drastically in the past year, more people are looking at newer launches. These include empty nesters downgrading from private homes to public housing, and younger homeowners moving into the private property market after completing their five-year minimum occupation period.

“During the circuit breaker period, buyers who wanted to move into a resale flat couldn’t view their units,” says Chng. “Hence, we saw a larger number of people purchasing new launches. However, the gap also caused resale prices to look more appealing to buyers who are dollar sensitive. This has made resale properties look more valuable on a square-foot basis—a case of greater demand leading to higher property prices.”

Increasing construction costs also have a role to play, says Wong of Realstar Premier Group. Retaining workers on site is challenging, while costs have gone up due to constraints in transportation and logistics.

But rising costs may have created more jobs, as people are moving away from the do-it-yourself path of renovating their homes. “Buyers are opting for reputable developers as they are able to control costs better with their strong network of consultants and contractors,” adds Teh.

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When viewed from a broader perspective, Singapore has always been the playground for affluent Asians for property investment, but Savills Singapore’s Wong observes that more buyers are purchasing property for their personal use, mainly because the country rated highly in its handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The pandemic has had the biggest role in shaping the divergence in buying preferences between Asia and the rest of the world,” says Garrett. “Singapore, China, Taiwan and New Zealand have been leaders in how they have handled the pandemic and set themselves for recovery, which has in turn increased buyers’ confidence.”

The pandemic has had the biggest role in shaping the divergence in buying preferences between Asia and the rest of the world.
Victoria Garrett, head of residential for Asia Pacific at Knight Frank

Despite the move towards a greener lifestyle and slower pace of life, people will continue to flock to cities, according to Iwan Sunito, group CEO of Crown Group Holdings, an Australian property developer. “Cities are very special places to be—they showcase such vibrant energy,” he says.

“It is ecologically and economically more sustainable to build density in urban areas. By focusing on building within population centres, planners can utilise existing infrastructure without the need to reinvest in outlining areas. Development in urban areas also creates more walkable cities, as the population does not need to rely on vehicles as much.”

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Growing demand for flexible spaces for work and play

What will perhaps take more precedence are the amenities that homeowners are placing at the top of their list, both within their abodes and shared facilities in the development. More buyers are looking for developments with amenities that can facilitate communal distancing—everything from hot-desking facilities to flexible entertainment pavilions.

Efficient apartment layouts which allow maximisation of space are in increasingly high demand. “The pandemic gave people the time to consider how much more they can personalise their home,” says Robert Brodeth, associate director for architecture at Ong&Ong. “Some issues have always been there, but they just hadn’t had the opportunity to address them.”

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The importance of home designs that boost your well being

These bespoke needs are veering towards promoting aspects of wellness and sustainable design. Kelvin Gan, design director of interior design firm KGID, has noticed a definitive focus on incorporating lifestyle spaces such as a home theatre, bar, gym or even a steam room. He also highlights a growing preference for the “Japandi” style—a trend that combines Japanese minimalism with Scandinavian elements.

“Homeowners are keen on furniture that is simple in form and made from high-quality natural materials. Furniture and decor pieces are chosen with love and attention, keeping functionality and organisation as key elements,” he says.

Although we witnessed an attempt to bring the outdoors in with houseplants last year, in 2021, “they are becoming more deliberate rather than temporary changes, requiring actual renovations”, says Brodeth.

Gan agrees: “Most people now focus extensively on designing their home office with the objective of bringing in greenery—some even redesign their balconies to function as a workspace.”

Developers such as GuocoLand have made such green amenities the key elements of their new launches. “One of GuocoLand’s signature features in designing residential developments is their extensive greenery and biophilic design, which provides residents with a holistic experience,” says Dora Chng, general manager (residential) at GuocoLand.

See also: 7 Home Design Ideas that Encourage You to Live Mindfully

As for landed homes, basement floors have become better utilised, according to Wong of Realstar Premier Group. “Gone are the days when basements were associated with storerooms. These days, buyers may even consider using them as family offices, galleries, entertainment areas and more.” There is also an increasing demand for solar panels at new landed-property developments.

As the pandemic situation is still unfolding, uncertainties continue to loom large on the horizon. Making our homes the ultimate sanctuary is the only thing within our control and looks to be the way forward in the foreseeable future.

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This story was first published in the June-July 2021 issue of Tatler Homes Singapore, now available on Magzter and newsstands.