How to find the biggest condos for your budget

16 Nov 2021

Tips to get a larger space when buying a Condominium in Singapore

Due to most buyers in 2021 being upgraders, there’s been a strong preference for larger condo units. It’s unsurprising then, that most homeowners expect their new home to be just as big – if not bigger – than their former HDB flat. Unfortunately, a bigger unit often means a higher quantum; and given how fast private homes have appreciated over the decade, the price gap can be hard to bridge.

In this article, I’ll look at how you can maximise your budget, to get a bigger condominium in Singapore:

How can you get a bigger home, at a manageable price?

  • Search by quantum, instead of price per square foot
  • Consider resale over new launch condos
  • Start looking in the OCR districts
  • Check for actual living space in the floor plans
  • Ground floor units are sometimes bigger
  • If you don’t need common facilities, you can even consider apartments

1. Search by quantum, instead of price per square foot

A common mistake among new home buyers is to only look at price per square foot (psf). This is certainly one way to search for a larger home; however, there is something important you must note. A bigger property tends to have a lower price psf, whereas a smaller unit will have a higher psf. For example, consider these transactions at Pasir Ris 8:

Date Unit size Price PSF Transacted price
2 Oct 2021 527 sq. ft. $1,858 $980,000
2 Oct 2021 1,313 sq. ft. $1,818 $2.388 million
1 Oct 2021 1,615 sq. ft. $1,703 $2.75 million

Notice that the smaller units have a higher price psf; but the transacted price is ultimately lower.

So while you want a lower price psf (as it means a larger unit), you may find that searching based solely on price psf, produces unrealistic results. I would suggest you filter your search by a combination of unit sizes, as well as quantum. Price psf will be useful later on, when trying to find the best value between highly similar units.

2. Consider resale over new launch condo

When it comes to sheer size, resale condominium in Singapore have a distinct edge over newer counterparts. Condos built from 2000 onward tend to be significantly smaller, compared to those from previous decades.

As an example, consider Bayshore Park, which was built in 1986. A two-bedroom unit in this condo is between 936 to 1,130 sq. ft. For comparison, an entire 4-room flat today is around 970 sq. ft., while a 5-room flat is around 1,100 sq. ft.

The three-bedders in Bayshore Park can be as big as 1,687 sq. ft., while still transacting at around $1.85 million. By new launch standards, a unit of this size, at this quantum, is practically unheard of.

As an example, consider that in a new launch such as Pasir Ris 8, a 517 sq.ft. unit can transact at $945,000. In Pasir Ris 8, a unit of around 1,539 sq. ft., still smaller than Bayshore Park’s three-bedders, recently transacted at $2.768 million.

Of course, there are other factors you need to consider when buying resale. You also need to take into consideration the remaining lease, and the state of maintenance; but generally speaking, if size is your main concern, you’re more likely to find it in a resale condo.

3. Start looking in the OCR district

As of end-Semptember 2021, units of at least 1,000 sq. ft. averaged $1,279 psf in the Outside of Central Region (OCR). By contrast, units in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) averaged $1,645 psf, while units in the Core Central Region (CCR) averaged $2,324 psf.

If we go by average quantum, 1,000+ sq. ft. units in the OCR average around $1.729 million. This is somewhat manageable, for those who are upgrading from an HDB or smaller condo. Conversely, units of this size average $2.3 million to $4.2 million in the RCR and CCR respectively; a quantum that is probably too high for most Singaporeans; even those with a property to upgrade from.

For reference, districts in the OCR are 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28.

4. Check for actual living space in the floor plan

When trying to get the biggest space for your budget, go for efficient floor plans. This means avoiding units with the following:

  • Large air-con ledges
  • Wasted planter boxes, or big balconies
  • “Empty air”, or void strata space, which is measured vertically (normally you only find this in very high ceiling units, where the ceiling is over four metres. Standard floor-to-ceiling height in Singapore is 2.6 metres).
  • Long corridors or walkways
  • Antechambers (these are small rooms at the entrance, just before you enter the main unit; often useless except for shoe racks and umbrella stands).

You may also want to check if any of the walls are load-bearing. As load-bearing walls cannot be moved, they could result in inflexible configurations, which give you less living space.

One type of configuration to avoid, if you want to get the most space possible, is dual-key units. While these are great for specialised purposes (e.g., you want to rent half the unit), dual-key units tend to sacrifice living space for functional space. For example, they need to have an extra toilet and kitchen area, for the separate sub-unit.

Dual-key units also tend to have a higher price psf, thus reducing the maximum space you can afford.

5. Ground floor units are sometimes bigger

This is not true in every condo, but it’s worth considering:

In most developments, ground floor units tend to be cheaper and bigger. Some ground floor units also include a patio, which can extend further into the common areas. It’s also a bit easier to haggle down the price for a ground floor unit than a top floor unit; and the price difference can mean a bit more living space.

However, not every home owner considers the patio space to be useful living space. In addition, ground floor units do tend to be noisier, and the view may not be as great (although some units do have a good pool view).

6. If you don’t need common facilities, you can even consider apartments

Setting aside the technical definitions, the term “apartment” often refers to strata titled properties without common facilities, or without full suite condo facilities. People’s Park Complex, for instance, is one of the most famous apartment options.

(I am not using the strict technical definition of apartments, as it would be needlessly confusing for this article. For example, integrated developments are always technically apartments, despite having full suite condo facilities).

Besides this, there are many older walk-up apartments. These units tend to be just one to four storeys, and don’t include lifts.

The main draw of these properties is lower cost – on a pure price psf basis, they can be as much as 20 per cent cheaper than a full suite condo. There’s also the bonus that, without common facilities, maintenance fees become very low; in some cases, as low as $100 a month (excluding parking).

The downside is that apartments tend to be very old, and in advanced states of lease decay. The walk-up apartments are also not suited to older homeowners, as the stairs can be a hazard. Also, because of how old these units are, information is hard to come by; there may be little or no transaction data over the years, making the price quite volatile.

Nonetheless, for no-frills home owners who just want space, these options may be feasible.

While home prices are high in 2021, the Singapore private property market is wide with many options

There are often deals to be found, and exceptions even within the same development. If you need help looking for a larger home, let me know and I can help with your search. There may be options that don’t appear on portals or websites. You can also follow me on RonChongProperty.sg, for the latest updates as the situation unfolds.

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