Why Penthouses In Singapore Are Still Popular Among 'Crazy Rich Asians'
When it comes down to square footage, a bungalow in Singapore probably has more to offer, and comes with the association of prestige and exclusivity. However, aside from the buying restrictions that govern landed properties, especially Good Class Bungalows (GCB)—which require the buyers to be citizens—penthouses mark a few other boxes on the checklist of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals.
These UHNW—individuals who have US$30 million (approximately S$40.56 million) net worth inclusive of their primary residence—comprise overseas buyers from around the region who were previously investing outside Asia, and are now looking at making property purchases in Singapore.
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The novelty factor
Soaring high above exclusive condominium complexes, penthouses are located such that they offer the best views of the city. In Singapore, these would include views of the shimmering cityscape, lush canopies and the sea, or all of the above.
“In the new-normal where biophilic design is trending, and space and greenery are premium, freehold penthouses are an even more attractive prospect (to buyers),” says Terri Tan, design director of Designworx Interior Consultant, a local studio that has crafted numerous penthouses and luxurious homes in Singapore.
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A penthouse unit in Nassim Mansion by Designworx Interior Consultant, which looks to views of lush greenery. Image: Designworx Interior Consultant
A stunning staircase is among the design highlights of this penthouse unit in Nassim Mansion, which features interiors crafted by Designworx Interior Consultant. Image: Designworx Interior Consultant
The ability to view things from a different vantage point is a big part of the appeal of penthouses, says Angela Lim, principal designer of SuMisura, a local firm known for designing numerous show apartments and penthouses in Singapore. “The unblocked vista overlooking the city skyline is something the landed GCB will not be able to offer,” she shares. “The homeowner who finds solace in the view of the city’s skyline will not be wowed in the same way as a beautifully manicured garden on the ground.”
Complementing that is its generous proportions—units that are larger than 10,000sqft are often referred to as “super penthouses”. These sprawling apartments are also typically furnished with state-of-the-art appliances and finishes, lofty ceilings, and feature amenities that include a private rooftop pool, private lift access and concierge services, and more.
According to Dora Chng, general manager (residential) at property developer GuocoLand, the desirability factor of a penthouse stems from more than a coveted address. Rather, it’s the luxurious lifestyle associated with them. “Staying in a penthouse or super penthouse is akin to living in a villa in the sky,” she says. “So you get the best of both worlds—the space and luxury of landed property with a view that landed properties cannot offer.”
A rewarding investment
Staying in a penthouse or super penthouse is akin to living in a villa in the sky.— Dora Chng, general manager (residential) at property developer GuocoLand
While the allure of landed properties remains strong among Singaporeans and naturalised citizens who are in the market for multi-generational homes, penthouses continue to attract local and foreign UHNW investors who want to purchase the best-in-class residential property, says Nicholas Keong, head of residential international project marketing at Knight Frank Singapore.
“Given the limited development space on the island, penthouses are even rarer to come by, making them more highly sought after,” he adds. These include GuocoLand’s five-bedroom penthouse at Midtown Modern, which sold for $14.8 million in March this year.
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The work of Designworx Interior Consultant, this stylish penthouse unit in V on Shenton features modern Asian influences. Image: Designworx Interior Consultant
The work of Designworx Interior Consultant, this stylish penthouse unit in V on Shenton features modern Asian influences
The reduced prospect of new penthouse units has resulted in an uptick of interest in the older developments as well, “with approximately 15 transactions of penthouses above 3,000sqft completed between 1991 and 2016”, according to Victoria Garrett, head of residential at Knight Frank Asia-Pacific.
“These were sold between $4.3 to $18 million, with a 7,266sqft penthouse in St. Regis Residences Singapore topping the list,” says Garrett. “Penthouse prices are also soaring higher than before with Singapore's biggest penthouse, the Marina Bay Penthouse Collection, hitting the market at nearly $104m this year.” The resilience shown by Singapore’s economy has been attracting UHNW individuals to its shores, which makes the city-state attractive for family offices, she adds. To reiterate that fact, Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2021 indicated that the wealth of the UHNW segment in Singapore grew by 10.2 per cent from 2019 to last year despite the pandemic-led recession.
Keong agrees: “The surge in wealth also increases the appetite for penthouses and trophy asset residences in Singapore for both foreign as well as local home buyers.”
The surge in wealth also increases the appetite for penthouses and trophy asset residences in Singapore for both foreign as well as local home buyers.— Nicholas Keong, head of residential international project marketing at Knight Frank Singapore
When it comes to penthouses, the all-important criteria for UHNW individuals is size—that comes with a lifestyle—but also the quality of the living spaces, says Keong. Chng agrees: “In our experience with this category of penthouse buyers—entrepreneurs and C-suite executives—they desire a distinct type of luxury living.”
With their work and life being intimately intertwined for many members of the UHNW, spaces to entertain and interact with friends, family and business associates alike take precedence. This is because most penthouse buyers look at them as a place where they can live and less as just an investment; given their busy lifestyles, they are also looking to start enjoying the space right away.
It is for this reason, alongside other important criteria—which include location, number of rooms, price tag, facing, and unique features—realtors who are marketing penthouse units need to have a well-drawn interior space. That could be the final push factor for the homeowner to sign on the dotted line, says Lim.
“The expectations from the owners of penthouses are very different—this group of buyers does not expect to quibble on workmanship issues,” says the designer. “Despite being well-travelled and knowledgeable than most people, they still want to be surprised by clever detailing or want to be the first among their group of friends to have certain special features built into their space.”
Lim and her team at SuMisura have fulfiled quite a few unusual requests from owners to prove that point—from a putting green with a golf simulator machine, an aerial yoga space to even a Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired Red Room.
With the sky almost literally the limit and with Singapore having established itself as a safe haven for such investments in the high-life, interest in these luxury real estate assets is set to grow even more once the borders reopen.