If you live in a condominium or private apartment, you belong to a rarefied category – only 15.9 per cent of households in Singapore inhabit such domains. Of these, penthouses are especially rare since each building can have only one top floor unit. Even more coveted are the super penthouses that attract international billionaires.
According to List Sotheby’s International Realty (List SIR), super penthouses are defined as 10,000 sq ft or bigger and located in super tall buildings – 305m to 579m – usually only found in major global cities, and set record prices because of the spectacular views that come with them.
In June 2019, six of the 11 super penthouses around the world that were for sale at the time were found in – surprise, surprise! – Singapore, where Wallich Residence is the only property that starts at 180m above sea level and soars to 290m above sea level, crowning Tanjong Pagar Centre.
Shopping for a super penthouse? Here’s what property experts have to say.
Who are the typical penthouse and super penthouse buyers?
Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex Realty, notes: “Generally, super penthouses in Singapore are bought by ultra- high net worth (UHNW) foreigners. Investors buy penthouses as part of a trophy collection. It is more for social status and recognition.”
In the last year alone, PropNex sold four penthouses: two at Boulevard 88 for $28 million (5,683 sq ft) and $29.53 million (6,028 sq ft) and two (3,509 sq ft each) at Wallich Residence that went for $16.5 million and $17.5 million.
Dora Chng, general manager of GuocoLand’s residential division, says buyers of penthouses and super penthouses are not that different. “The decision to purchase boils down to whether they like the property and its location, and what it offers in terms of tangible offerings and intangibles such as exclusivity, privacy and prestige.”
In particular, she tells us that buyers of Wallich Residence, and not just the penthouses, are a specific group of UHNW individuals. “They are visionaries, professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners as well as C-suite executives and industry leaders at the forefront of their own professions, who command a difference in status and luxury living such as the prestige of residing in Singapore’s tallest building that is a world-class integrated development.”
Why does Singapore have so many super penthouses?
Chng credits this to our mature real estate market being open and globally-inclined. Developers like GuocoLand thus see the value of offering penthouses and super penthouses in their developments to raise the level of prestige for suitable properties.
Gafoor adds that Singapore is an attractive destination for the wealthy as well as UHNW buyers and investors from countries such as Indonesia, China and India, as well the US, UK and Europe. “The key considerations for most are safety, security and an attractive tax policy. The stable and resilient nature of the property scene in Singapore is a desirable feature.”
Why do buyers shell out such high prices for super penthouses – many with 99-year leases – instead of purchasing freehold landed properties?
“Super penthouses offer a whole other level of exclusivity, unbeatable views and, to a certain extent, bragging rights,” says Chng. Additional exclusive facilities and services include private pools and lifts, as well as concierge services. “Many have described living in a super penthouse larger than 9,999 sq ft to be like residing in a bungalow or villa in the sky. You get the best of both worlds: the space and luxury of a landed property, plus a view landed properties cannot offer.”
Another key reason is that foreign property buyers, who make up the bulk of super penthouse buyers, are not usually allowed to own land in Singapore unless they have special approval from the government. The only exception: the 99-year leasehold landed homes on Sentosa. “Hence, foreigners look towards condominiums that cater to their lifestyle,” explains Gafoor.
In addition, Chng points out that some of these foreign buyers already own several landed properties in other countries. “Thus, they enjoy living in a high-rise here.”
What luxury penthouses and super penthouses are currently on sale?
At press time, PropNex was marketing two luxury penthouses at Reflections at Keppel Bay ($8.4 million for 3,800 sq ft and $11 million for 4,919 sq ft); a 5,662 sq ft unit at Meyerhouse for $14.4million; four units (6,071 sq ft to 6,458 sq ft) at Nouvel 18 that are priced between $40 million and $43.75 million; and four units (6,566 sq ft to 8,697 sq ft) at Marina One Residence that are priced between $18.1 million and $21.7 million.
If you want to be neighbours with billionaire James Dyson, who purchased his $73.8 million super penthouse last year at Wallich Residence (see sidebar below), the last of four “regular” penthouses is still available. This comparably modest 3,509 sq ft unit has four bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms as well as wet and dry kitchens, and enjoys spectacular views throughout the unit. They will eventually include the future Greater Southern Waterfront. The price tag? Just $18.6 million.
If your taste runs a little north of that, consider the $68 million super penthouse at the award-winning Reflections at Keppel Bay. This 13,304 sq ft triplex boasts a living room shaped like the prow of a ship and includes $3 million worth of interiors and furnishings by Saporiti Italia. It’s smack in the middle of the Greater Southern Waterfront precinct and close to the Central Business District. It also offers views of Sentosa and Marina at Keppel Bay, plus a potentially prosperous unit number that should appeal to Asian tycoons as it includes the numbers 88.
GuocoLand’s latest residential development at Tan Quee Lan Street will also feature penthouses when it launches at the end of 2020.
Is it easy to rent out or resell penthouses?
According to Gafoor, “Typically, buyers are either purchasing one for personal use or waiting for the market to turn so they can sell it. So, very rarely will you see these penthouses on the rental market.”
Chng, on the other hand, feels that it is not difficult to rent out penthouses, especially in a city like Singapore. “Many HNW individuals have not yet decided which penthouse to invest in. As global citizens who travel extensively and live in different cities throughout the year, they still enjoy the lifestyle of living in a penthouse or super penthouse, and so would be happy to rent one.”
If you’re ready to start shopping for your penthouse, here’s Gafoor’s advice: “Be prepared to hold out as the market for such properties is extremely rare and limited. Also, it has to possess a strong unique selling proposition that’s not easily replicated in other developments to preserve the rarity factor.”