Oxford Dictionary defines amenity as a feature or service that makes a place pleasant, comfortable or easy to live in.
Property agents often use the buzzword “amenities” in their marketing pitch to make their listings more saleable.
Generally, the more amenities, the merrier. It also means paying a premium for the extra convenience of these amenities.
But what constitutes an amenity may differ significantly from one person to the next.
It’s possible that what you consider to be an amenity may be irrelevant or even a disamenity to another. For example, not everyone wants to live near a stretch of wine bars, where the noise level starts to soar past 9 pm.
In this article, I will delve into the specifics of what amenities truly mean and how you can identify the ones that count.
What are commonly referred to as amenities*, and are they really amenities?
The most common ones are:
- MRT stations
- Shopping mall
- Upcoming Master Plan developments
Besides these, we will look at hospitals that many people don’t agree on as an amenity or disamenity.
(*In other countries, people use the term ‘amenity’ and condo ‘facilities’ e.g. swimming pool, gym, etc interchangeably. In Singapore, however, amenities are commonly understood as external features that add value to a property)
MRT is often the first thing that everyone looks for, and it is generally true that the closer to an MRT station, the more a property will cost.
However, the proximity to an MRT station is not of universal value to all home buyers. One obvious example would be landed properties, which are typically far from MRT stations (the buyers want this form of exclusivity).
Even among condos, there are developments that are popular but not near MRT stations at all. For example, condos like The Waterside at Tanjong Rhu or the upcoming Normanton Park are not near an MRT station. And yet, these properties still attract their ample share of tenants and buyers.
Of course, when you are buying a property purely for investment, proximity to MRT stations can impact rentability and future value.
On the other hand, for pure home buyers who drive (or use Private Hire Vehicles) as a norm, an MRT station may not indeed be an amenity. Some may even be less willing to pay a premium for a property near an MRT station when they never use it.
There are also home owners who deliberately don’t want their condos being too close to MRT tracks because the sound of passing trains is a disturbance, especially in the late evening.
So while many home buyers may generally regard MRT stations as a plus point, you should consider your own favoured method of getting around. If you will be driving most, if not all, the time, then the MRT station is no longer critical. In that case, you should consider the relatively lower-priced condos in the same area, which are further from the MRT station.
For example, if you want to live in the Holland Village area, developments like Leedon Green are more competitively priced than Van Holland or One Holland Village Residences; it’s further from the Holland Village MRT, but that’s irrelevant if you don’t get around by train anyway.
Feel free to contact me about alternative developments in whichever area you’re looking in.
This is broadly regarded as an amenity since the shops are right at your doorstep or a stone’s throw away. However, this isn’t true for all home owners.
Almost without fail, having a major mall nearby or right below your condo means more crowds. The moment you step out at the ground floor, the roar and bustle of the public will greet you. Not everybody likes that.
Some prefer nature for its tranquillity more than the mall for its convenience. That might be one reason why Normanton Park and Kent Ridge Hill Residences are popular because they are right next to Kent Ridge Park.
If you drive, you also need to consider malls attract more people – the roads leading up to the area can be pretty congested. This is why even in major shopping areas like Orchard, some home buyers prefer to be a bit more out of the way (e.g. picking a development like The Nassim, instead of Scotts Square).
If you don’t like crowd, noise and potential traffic at all, a mall next door may be the last thing you want.
Developments like Dairy Farm Residences, or Hillview Rise, offer quick access to retail areas with just a few minutes’ drive, while being peacefully distant from them.
Obviously, it is nice to have eateries near to where you stay. Whenever you feel like having a bite or a cuppa, the convenience of eateries within easy reach is a big plus point.
However, when an agent tells you there is a lot of food nearby, do check it out what type of eateries they are. There’s a big difference between having lots of coffee shops an average meal costs $3.50 versus having a lot of upscale cafes where $3.50 won’t even buy you a cup of coffee.
Some of these “amenities” don’t always suit your palate or wallet.
Looks can be misleading, by the way! Heavily gentrified areas like Tiong Bahru, or Keong Saik Road, may look like old estates that mainly have coffee shops; but they are actually packed with pricier, higher-end cafes and restaurants.
Of course, the inverse is also true. If you’re a hardcore foodie and want your artisanal coffee, authentic Japanese cuisine, etc., then having food courts and coffeeshops nearby may not satisfy you.
It is a known fact that many Singaporean parents are obsessed with sending their children to top-ranking primary schools.
The preferred school will determine the choice of housing location for these parents who want the best for their children.
The criteria for admission priority are in this order:
- Singapore Citizens (SC) living within 1km of the school.
- SCs living between 1km and 2km of the school.
- SCs living outside 2km of the school.
- Permanent Residents (PR) living within 1km of the school.
- PRs living between 1km and 2km of the school.
- PRs living outside 2km of the school.
Higher demand for condos that are within 1km of popular primary schools means higher price.
Proximity to choice schools might be a non-negotiable amenity for many home buyers but may not be for retirees or those with grown-up children. So why pay a higher price for an amenity that you do not need?
Upcoming Master Plan Developments
The URA Master Plan has a wealth of information on the future development plans of Singapore. It is a powerful tool for home buyers, property investors and developers.
The government has announced plans for several business hubs across the island. With the Master Plan, we can look at these hotspots at a micro-level and identify specific projects that the government has in their pipelines.
The plans are usually viewed positively, and most of them will bring more amenities, raise property value, etc.
But as we have learned above, amenities are subjective. The “upgrades” that are coming may not be the sort that you like.
For instance, consider the North Coast Innovation Corridor (NCIC) for Woodlands.
The NCIC, slated to be Singapore’s Northern Gateway, will bring many advanced manufacturing and research facilities to the Woodlands area. This is an improvement that will raise land and property values (e.g. more people working there also means more potential tenants).
However, not every single home owner may be happy about it. Some Woodlanders prefer it as it is now – a region of Singapore famous as a peaceful enclave, with its wide-open spaces. Their hope would be for that to be preserved even with the NCIC.
On a more localised scale, do consider how the surrounding areas are being zoned, and who may be moving in within a few years.
You may want to purchase a property specifically because it’s isolated and peaceful; in which case you’ll be disappointed if wine bars, clubs, tall commercial or industrial buildings, and a mall with a cinema spring up and wreck your quiet enclave.
What About Hospitals?
Some developments, such as The OLA EC, happen to be situated right across from hospitals.
An old school way of thinking holds that this is a dis-amenity. Apart from the taboos that some people have, they may feel there’s a risk of loud ambulance sirens that disturb the peace.
However, having a hospital nearby can also be an amenity to some home buyers, and may even be sought by landlords.
Consider if you have elderly family members who need – or may soon need – good access to healthcare. There might be a risk of potential mobility impairment (will they possibly need a wheelchair in future due to old age or deteriorating health conditions?). It can be very troublesome or costly for them to travel far to receive treatment.
Some investors also see hospitals as a plus. Many workers in our healthcare industry are foreigners – given the demanding shifts, the last thing these workers want is a long trip home.
Don’t take amenities at their word; walk around the neighbourhood as well after a viewing
Listing descriptions and advertisements use very generic language. You should always check that the advertised amenities are the sort that matters to you.
I suggest that, after you are done with any viewings, you visit the actual mall, eateries, etc., to make sure they’re of value to you. Also, do drive or walk to the nearby schools and MRT station to ensure that descriptions like “five minutes’ walk” or “10 minutes’ drive” are true to claims.
If you need further advice on what to look out for when buying a property, don’t hesitate to contact me for a non-obligatory discussion.
Danny Han is a licensed property agent since 2005.
As a kampong (village) boy growing up in Holland Village, he has so many fond memories. He grew up with pigsty (yuk!), cemetery, swamp and communal-living (with 10 families under one roof). His childhood games were gasing (spinning top), marbles, kites, spider-fighting and tree-climbing. An open-air cinema was his source of entertainments. 7th-month Hungry Ghost wayang (Chinese opera) and getai (concert) was a once-a-year event that brought the entire village together.
What Danny is passionate about is not just about showing clients properties around Holland Village, but also enjoys sharing anecdotes and nuggets of information that are part of his growing up years.
Danny is a foodie. During his free time, he enjoys going out with his wife, a retired academician, on a food hunt or just to enjoy a nice cup of latte. He also has some foodie kakis who mix work with food. They then share their gastronomic experiences through food blogs. So do watch out, because every time he shows you a property, he will tell you what are the best food nearby!
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