Good Class Bungalows are the crème de la crème of properties—exclusive and with unrivalled prestige. Before buying one, here's what you need to know about the most sought after property in Singapore

Earlier this week, property developer OUE’s executive chairman Stephen Riady made headlines for buying a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) located in the Nassim Hill enclave for $95 million.

The acquisition was announced by OUE in a Singapore Exchange (SGX) regulatory filing on August 14.

OUE Reef Development, a wholly-owned subsidiary of OUE, entered a sale and purchase agreement with Dr Riady—who is on Singapore Tatler’s 300 list—for the 3,182 sqm plot at 26A Nassim Road as well as the property built on it.

The $95 million total consideration is 10.1 per cent higher than the average market value.

But Dr Riady’s most recent acquisition isn’t the most expensive in Singapore. Just last month, Wing Tai Holdings chairman Cheng Wai Keung sold his Nassim Road GCB—which features an in-ground swimming pool and a full-sized tennis court—for a record $230 million. It remains the single most expensive GCB to date.

In light of similar GCB transactions made over the years, here are some facts about the most prestigious type of residential property in Singapore:

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Above 39 gazetted GCB areas (Image: URA)

1. What exactly is a GCB?

For a GCB to actually be classed as one, it has to first meet the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) guidelines in which the property cannot be more than two-storeys high and a minimum plot size of 1,400 sqm. Additionally, the bungalow must be situated within the 39 areas gazetted by the URA.

On top of that, GCB owners are not allowed to build a property that is larger than 35 per cent of the plot area. There also has to be enough greenery in the surroundings.

Some GCBs are over a hundred years old, dating back to the colonial era. 

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Above GCB near the Botanic Gardens (Image: Cushman & Wakefield)

2. Where are they usually located?

GCBs are found within prime residential districts 10 and 11 and also 20, 21 and 23.

Real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank said the luxurious Belmont Park area and nearby Leedon Road are among Singapore's most popular GCB neighbourhoods.

In fact, a Belmont Road GCB was put up for sale for the second time (after it failed to sell at an auction in July) at a lower price. The freehold property was re-launched for sale at a lower asking price of $40.8 million. Some of the house’s features include a basketball court, covered car porch and an outdoor playground.

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Above GCB in Chatsworth Park. (Image: URA)

3. Who can purchase them?

Since the latter half of 2012, the Government implemented a rule that only Singapore citizens are eligible to purchase these homes. Foreigners or Permanent Residents who are interested in purchasing restricted residential properties, including GCBs, have to apply for approval with the Singapore Land Authority.

Last year, Kuok Hui Kwong, chairman of Shangri-La Asia and daughter of Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok, grabbed headlines for purchasing a bungalow in Belmont Road for $43.5 million. The property is about 15 years old, according to data released by URA Realis.

Other notable GCB buyers include the late Lim Kim San, who was Singapore's first Housing Board chairman, seasoned property investor George Lim and Yongnam Holdings CEO Seow Soon Yong. In July, the co-founder of AAC Technologies Ingrid Wu Chunyuan reportedly acquired a bungalow along Leedon Park for $31 million. Last year, Alibaba co-founder James Sheng was said to have purchased a bungalow on another stretch of Leedon Park for $50 million. Both Wu and Sheng are understood to have become Singapore citizens.

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Above 22A King Albert Park (Image: Google Maps)

4. How many are there in Singapore?

There are only about 2,800 GCBs located within Singapore’s 39 gazetted GCB areas, which explains why they are incredibly rare and deemed extremely prestigious in status. However, the properties with land plots that are below 15,069 sqft when the 39 GCB areas were gazetted in 1980 are still considered GCBs. 

The strict planning conditions stipulated by the URA are meant to preserve the exclusivity and low-rise character of GCBs.

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Above Image: Amazon

5. Facts and history

No one actually knows who coined the term “Good Class Bungalow” and where it was derived from.

In his book, Singapore Good Class Bungalow 1819-2015, Professor Robert Powell wrote that the exact origins of the words are unknown but that GCBs may be called that way to “differentiate them from smaller bungalow plots”.

The popularity of GCB does not seem to be fading. Back in 2017, the number and value of transactions in GCB areas rose to their highest levels in five years based on data released in January 2018.

Whether or not the GCB market eases this year is anyone’s guess. From the way large transactions were made in 2018 as well as the first half of this year, there’s no slowing down the well-heeled and high net worth individuals of Singapore when it comes to pursuing the most exquisite type of residence.

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