6 pointers on choosing the best units in a new condo launch

Buying a unit from a new condo launch is very different from buying a resale condo.

In the case of a new condo launch, you are spoilt with choices, from the sizes to the stacks, layouts, levels and pricing.

On the opening launch of a popular project, the choice units’ competition can be very stiff, so you must do some homework before the big day.

Just recently, Clavon sold 442 units on launch weekend, and Normanton Park got 632 units off the rack on the first day of launch. If you want to be one of those to get the best prices on launch day, you must really know what you want.

The good news is that, if you keep to a few general guidelines, you will often be able to identify which are the better units or which floor plans offer better value.

Here are the main factors to keep in mind, when comparing the different units:

  • Make sure the size and floor plan suit you
  • Understand what can or cannot be changed about the layout
  • Identify the facing of the unit
  • Check the surroundings of a particular stack (block)
  • Decide on the correct floor for your comfort
  • Compare the pricing of equivalent units

1. Make Sure The Size And Floor Plan Suit You

Before I get into discussions over floor plans, there is something important I need to point out: there is no inherently best size or floor plan. The “best” in this context varies based on your needs.

choosing the best size and floor plan
There's no inherently "better" floor plan, the best layout is determined by your needs

Dual-Key Unit

For example, a dual-key unit – in which a single unit is divided into two separate ‘apartments’ – each with its own entrance, bathroom and kitchen. It’s like you are buying ‘two’ apartments but treated as one, thus saving on ABSD. This is great for those who want to rent out one half. It’s also fantastic if you expect your in-laws to move in permanently, as both your families can share the same unit with a high degree of privacy.

However, it is not ideal if the unit is just for your family. You would be giving up living space for unnecessary functional space (e.g. two small kitchens can be less space-efficient, and less convenient, than a single larger kitchen).  The dual-key unit usually costs more on a per square foot basis, which may be an unnecessary expense.

Small or Big Unit?

The same goes for size. Whether a one-bedder, two-bedder, three-bedder, etc. is “best” depends entirely on your intent.

If your aim is to rent out the unit, two-bedders are an advisable choice (it can be easier to find tenants, if they can split the cost with a room-mate).

If you want to pursue high rental yields or if budget is a concern, you might pick a single-bedder, and focus on renting to single or couple working expatriates.

On the other hand, if you are buying your first home, you should think carefully before getting a one or two-bedder. If you decide to settle down and start a family, for instance, units of 600sf or under may be too much of a squeeze. That means you might have to move again when that time comes. You may want to forego that inconvenience and save up a little more to start with a three-bedder.

On the other hand, if budget is a concern, you can still start small and use it as a stepping stone for future upgrade when the need arises.

there is no inherently best size or floor plan. The "best" in this context varies based on your needs.

1 bedder best for rental yield
One-bedders are great for working expatriates and provide good rental yields; but do you have another property to live in if you decide to start a family?

Dumb-Bell Layout for Space-Efficiency

That said, there are a few key things to look for in the floor plan

Look for floor plans that don’t have wasteful, non-living spaces. These include long corridors or odd-shaped angles that are hard to convert into bedrooms, studies, etc. As a rule of thumb, look for floor plans with a dumb-bell configuration; this is when bedrooms flank a common living room, thus removing the need for corridors.

A dumb-bell configuration with the bedrooms flank a common living room, with no corridors leading to the rooms, making it very space-efficient

Is Two-Bedder With One Bathroom Liveable or Functional?

These days in new condo launches, the two-bedders would come with different layouts: with one bathroom and two bathrooms. Then there is also two-bedder plus study.

Most investors would opt for the two-bedder with one bathroom (compact) because it can be about $100,000 cheaper than the two bathrooms layout. It makes more sense when you work out the rental yield.

Many buyers cannot get over the idea of having only one bathroom, thinking that it is not very liveable or functional.

But if you think about it, who would likely rent a small two-bedder? Likely a couple or a couple with a young child. For a couple with no children, the spare room is likely used as a guest room or study room. If used as a guest room, how often do you have an overseas guest? Many would choose to save $100 to $200 in monthly rent in exchange for an occasional minor inconvenience.  

A typical layout of 2-bedder compact unit layout with only 1 bathroom. It can translate to about $100,000 cheaper compared to a 2 bathrooms unit.
A 2-bedder with 2 bathrooms will probably get only about $100 to $200 more in rental compared to their 1 bathroom counterparts

Closed or Open Kitchen

Check if the kitchen is closed or open (one or two bedders tends to be open in new condo launches).

If you do a lot of heavy cooking that involves frying, baking, etc., an open kitchen may allow the smells to escape. It’s up to you whether that is okay.

open kitchen concept
Open kitchen concept like this is now very common in new condo launches, especially in one-bedders and two-bedders

Brightness of the Unit

Is there an excessive number of partitions or non-movable walls blocking the windows? This can make the unit quite dark, and run up the electricity bill a bit more.

2. Understand what can or can't be changed about the layout

Take note of which walls are load-bearing, and hence cannot be moved. The more of these walls there are, the less you can configure the unit’s interior later on.

PPVC Walls

As of late 2014, the government stipulated that developments of lands bought through Government Land Sales (GLS), developers must use Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) method. You CANNOT hack these PPVC walls.

You should also try to visualise how close the layout is to your overall vision – the less hacking needs to be done, the cheaper your renovations, and the sooner you can move in / rent out.

Ceiling Height

Second, take note of the floor to ceiling height. For example, Meyer Mansion has ceiling heights of up to four metres for some units, and six metres for the penthouses. Llyod 65, a boutique development in District 9, is also well known for its six-metre floor to ceiling heights.

A high ceiling can offer a lot more customisability – from an added level for storage, to actual mezzanine floors (subject to URA guidelines).

On the other hand, you might be paying for the ‘air space’ if the developer includes the double volume area in the gross floor area. So, while on paper the apartment looks spacious, but in reality, the liveable space is smaller than what you would have expected.

you might be paying for the 'air space' if the developer includes the double volume area in the gross floor area. So, while on paper the apartment looks spacious, but in reality, the liveable space is smaller than what you would have expected.

3. Identify The Facing Of The Unit

The orientation of the unit is indicated in the floor plan and site plan. In general:

  • North-South aligned homes get the least direct exposure to the sun, and tend to be cooler.
  • Conversely, East-West facing units get the most exposure to the sun, and tend to be hotter.
  • South-East facing units will catch the full force of the morning sun, but are less exposed later in the day.
  • Other directions tend to have moderate sun exposure throughout the day.
check orientation of the unit
Units with a North-South facing are the safest bet, as most Singaporeans want to escape the heat.

North-South facing is always the safest bet, as most Singaporeans long to escape the tropical heat. It can also help to lower your air-con bills. If your intent is resale gains, I will stick to this facing as it’s the most desirable overall.

For home owners, this is down to personal preference. For example, I know some home buyers who are happy to pick East – West facing units. These are sometimes priced lower (as the facing is less popular), but you can easily overcome the heat issue with thermal curtains.

4. Check The Surroundings of a Particular Stack (Block)

In general, pick a unit in a block that (1) is further from the main road, and (2) is not directly facing an MRT track.

One example is Parc Esta. This is a very conveniently located condo, right across the road from Eunos MRT station. However, the block that is closest to the MRT station is also close to the main road and hence subject to more traffic noise than a unit that’s a bit further in.

Be especially wary if the stack is directly facing an MRT track; for units on the wrong floor, the passing train can rattle the windows well into the night.

Those facing highways are the worst because the noise is 24/7.

Some blocks are also closer to the “heart” of the condo, in that they are closer to the main facilities. For example, in Costa Del Sol, block 76 is notably closer to the clubhouse, gym, and pool than others.

On the flip side, you may want to consider a block that is further from the pool and tennis court if you are going for a low floor (the noise from the parties will travel to your home). Those units facing the BBQ pits will not only get the noise and but also feel constantly hungry!

5. Decide On The Correct Floor For Your Comfort

It is true that higher floors are generally easier to sell; but it’s not true that they are always better for resale gains. That is because you would have paid a premium for a higher floor anyway (the higher you go, the more expensive the unit will be).

Investors usually go for the lower floor units because they are cheaper. When it comes to rental, the differentiation in rates for high and low floor units may not be that great.  

For home owners, the best unit is on a floor that suits your lifestyle. If you’re often ducking out to use the pool, or you hate long waits to get to the car park, then a ground floor unit can be great. There’s no waiting for a lift. Besides, the patio may appeal to you.

If your tenant profiles are likely to be expats, patio units are popular with them. On the flip side, ground floor units tend to be dark and not so well-ventilated.

If you prefer a sense of quiet or want a better view, then consider a high floor unit. But ask yourself, does the high floor units give you a better view to warrant the premium price? If you are looking into your neighbours or another building, then the higher price you pay is not justifiable.

If you are buying the premium pool-facing or waterfront units, opt for level 3 to 5 so that you can enjoy the pool and water view even while sitting in the living room or lying on your bed. Otherwise, you are paying a high price to stare into the sky!

Some home owners don’t care about the floor at all (e.g. you’re not the sort to drink coffee and stare at the view). In which case, you can save some money by going for the mid or lower floor units, as these are relatively cheaper.

Sometimes lower floor units offer you better view that higher floor units don't get to enjoy

6. Compare the pricing to equivalent units

As you’re picking between units in the same development, do compare prices on a per square foot basis. It’s possible for two units of the exact same size to have a different price, as one may be on a higher floor, in a more desirable stack, etc.

Sometimes, you might find a unit almost similar to the one you’re considering (e.g. just one block away), which has a much lower price tag. This is especially true in resale properties where individual sellers have different motives, and prices are not as uniform as from a developer.

Drop me a message, and I can help you get the information to make a fair price comparison.

Spotting the best unit is both an art and a science.

Top property investors may seem to have a “third sense” about which units are better; but this is really just an acumen developed over time.

Unfortunately, the average Singaporean is not likely to buy several dozen properties (although we can hope!), and may not have the same experience; so we follow guidelines such as the ones above.

However, I want to stress that these are not hard and fast rules. There are always exceptions in the property market.

Exceptions

For example, the Leven at One Holland Village Residences is a low-rise, three-storey block. In theory, the higher floor units in the Sereen tower block should be more desirable and expensive than these; but the 21 units at Leven are actually more expensive than their higher counterparts at Sereen in terms of $PSF.

leven one holland village residences
The Leven block in One Holland Village Residences are higher in $PSF compared to the Sereen tower block because of their unique concept
The Sereen high-rise units may offer a better view but some are cheaper than their low-rise counterparts at the Leven

The Reflections at Keppel Bay is another example. The low-rise waterfront villa blocks are more sought-after and higher in prices than the tower blocks. The differentiation boils down to lifestyle choices.

So do know the guidelines, but keep an open mind as exceptions will happen. If you have any questions about a particular unit, do ask me about it and I’ll get back to you!

Or you can book an appointment with me via the calendar below.

danny han virtual property wealth planning

Danny Han has been a licensed real estate agent since 2005. He also had five years of experience as a financial consultant. The insights and knowledge he shares in his blogs are the results of years of experience in helping many of his clients in their Property Wealth Planning.

Prior to becoming a real estate agent, Danny was a full-time church pastor (don’t be shocked!) for 23 years. Even now, he is still actively involved in church work and preaches regularly. He has also made six mission trips to Myanmar to-date.

Danny is a foodie, so during his spare time he would go with his kakis to try different “CNG” (cheap and good) food. (Be sure to check out his Holland food blog in this site).

Do feel free to drop him a Whatsapp message for a non-obligatory discussion if you are planning to grow your property wealth.

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