Singapore Leading in Urban Innovation

Singapore Leading in Urban Innovation - Anthony S. CaseySingapore, located on the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia, was recently named one of the principal cities leading the way in urban innovation. This is due to Singapore’s distinctiveness as a region that’s able to blossom and endure, despite limited resources. Some of the other metropolitan included on this list are Medellín, Colombia; Houston, Texas; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Singapore managed to find it’s way to the top of this list due to their ability to manage extremely limited resources. Despite setbacks, Singapore has been able to effectively promote education, maintain a government that’s reasonably free of corruption, and supports business. With very few resources to their name, Singapore has managed to be a financial, transport, and global commerce hub. The technology-ready island city-state frequently depends on the neighboring country Malaysia for its water, and imports nearly all of their food.  Also, approximately 30 percent of their population consist of non-permanent residents to stimulate the economy.

Singapore looks to the sea and sky to meet its water needs. Rainwater is treated to produce drinking water and water for flushing the toilet. Also, the two desalination plants can churn out 100 million gallons of water each day, using rainwater. There’s an ambitious wastewater reuse system in Singapore, which uses ultraviolet light as a disinfectant and advanced membrane filters. Though public water is sanitized to the point of it being safe for public consumption, it’s reserved for industry and air conditioning.

The bustling city is roughly the same size of New York City, and it’s considered to be “a city innovating under constraint.” More than other cities, Singapore was able to make significant use of limited space, and they’ve initiated “congestion pricing,” where drivers are charged when commuting into the business district during the bustling rush hour. Local government cap the number of vehicles that can be registered, and satellite devices track driving distances and adjusts tolls based on traffic. Motorists tend to pay quite a bit for commuting, but many have learned how to alleviate the financial burden of owning a car by doing their maintenance, utilizing carpooling services, and enrolling in gas station memberships.

Singapore’s ability to innovate has made the state attractive to tourists and real estate experts.

Manulife Prices Singapore IPO at the Top

Singapore is expecting the country’s biggest equity fundraising in nearly two years in retail investment.

Manulife US Real Estate Management Pte. Ltd. has started taking orders from retail investors for its US$470 million initial public offering.

Manulife US REIT said it will sell 566 million units, of which 169.54 million are being taken up by select investors.

 Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

Bigger is Better

In Singapore, bigger is better. Its buildings are getting higher and higher. People are moving to the city from all over the region and all over the world. Australians and Chinese are ready to support the city’s growth. And it’s growing, up and out, as the investment in real estate proves.

Singapore real estate investment trusts (REITs have grown into a $48 billion market since they first hit the ground running in 2002. In fact, they are the sixth-largest determining market capitalisation, according Bloomberg data. More than half of the 35 REITs listed in Singapore have a market capitalization of less than $1 billion, the data show. The city-state’s largest REIT, with assets of $5.6 billion, is the CapitaLand Mall Trust.

The trust has a market capitalization of S$730.5 million ($536 million). It focuses on industrial real estate assets. Read more about the gritty numbers on Bloomberg.

Last year, Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX: S68) launched a number of new stock market indices.

SGX S-REIT 20 Index, a market capitalisation-weighted index measures the performance of the twenty biggest, most influential, and most tradable REITs in Singapore’s stock market.

The index registered 5.2% in total returns from the start of 2016 to April 6th of 2016.

The REIT-focused index is diversified according to sector. The largest group are the Retail REITs.  These account for nearly 30% of the index. Thie big retailREITs to know are CapitaLand Mall Trust (SGX: C38U) and Mapletree Commercial Trust (SGX: N21U). Also, the index last year had a dividend yield of 7.2% with the highest yielding being CDL Hospitality Trust (SGX: J85) and Frasers Commercial Trust (SGX: ND8U).

Why is this important to acknowledge?

REITs matter. They need to be part of the overall system, as REITs that excluded from the broader index are significantly disadvantaged. Now that markets are bifurcating, many investors will only consider REITs included in indexes. For good reason. In Singapore, look out for these leaders!

 

Family-Friendly in a Modernized Joo Chiat

Joo Chiat Singapore

Singapore is a historic center bristling with a legacy of trade and commerce, marked with modern architectural feats at its central skyline. However, in the quaint town of Joo Chiat on the east coast, tradition reigns supreme.

Here, the picturesque neighborhood is known for its diverse cuisine that follows strict traditional recipes (including hand-rolled spring rolls and the city’s oldest Peranakan restaurant), storing offering collectible wares, and shophouses awash in playful pastels; Joo Chiat is Singapore’s very first heritage town.

The New York Times recently reports one story of a family putting their own mark on one of these classic 1920’s Singapore shophouses.

With a child on the way, Michael and Katherin Puhaindran decided to settle into one of Joo Chiat’s highly-coveted 1920s shophouses. The architectural style is characterized by terra cotta roof tiles, French double-shuttered windows, and ornate garlands of sculpted plasterwork. The largely Chinese style was codified by Sir Stamford Raffles in the nation’s first town plan in the early 1840’s. Chinese settlers first brought the style to Singapore even earlier than that, making it the predominant architectural style throughout the rest of the region.

There once were streets similar the those of the community of Joo Chiat. However, they were destroyed in the second half of the twentieth century to make way for Singapore’s luxury high-rises and office buildings. According to Jane A. Peterson of the New York Times, over half of the seven thousand traditional Singapore homes are under some degree of conservation protection.

However, much like San Francisco’s Victorian rowhouses and NYC’s brownstones, these classic Singaporean homes are in high demand, but short supply. The Puhaindrans thought, why not? They embraced  the chance to buy one of these cherished homes when the opportunity arose

However, despite its architectural grandeur, the interior of the home did not suit the needs of an active, contemporary family.

The Puhaindrans found architectural remodeling professionals RT+Q. They designed a space that could retain the traditional style of the shophouse while overhauling the general flow of the space. By extending the back half of the property, they added space and made the the rooms more useful. The result was a new three-story structure that connected the house with an breezy, open courtyard. It’s a rectangular space that spans 72 feet deep with two additional floors and modern appliances.

To accommodate their lifestyle, the new space allows the family to host parties and most importantly, it provides their daughter with enough space to frolic.

The new design also provides an abundance of natural light, while keeping the bottom floors cool during the warm summer nights. Within the new back-half structure, elements such as closets and bathrooms are conveniently enclosed in filigree screens or glass enclosures.

The renovation costed the Puhaindrans $1.5 million Singapore dollars, but it has increased the home’s total cost to $4 million. This is certainly a well-spent investment for a modern rendition of a traditional treasure.

You can find this original post on AnthonySCasey.org. If you would like to read more on Singapore real estate, follow me on twitter @AnthonySCasey1.

Mumbai’s Luxurious Heights

south mumbai

South Mumbai

Mumbai is seeing a construction boom, as more and more high-rise skyscrapers begin to take shape in the city’s skyline. In fact, three of the world’s ten tallest residential towers currently being built are located in Mumbai. One project that is sure to capture the world’s attention is Omkar 1973, a supertall high rise residential complex that will house India’s elite. Managing director of Omkar Realtors & Developers Mr. Babulal Varma describes the complex as a “dream project” in one of the world’s most densely populated cities.

The complex will consist of three towers towering more than 900 feet high on the site of a former Mumbai slum. Demand seems to be quite high in a city that houses over 53,000 individuals per every square mile.

Mr. Varma spoke with the New York Times, “Everyone wants to get away from the crowd,” People want to get “away from the noise… away from the pollution.”

Omkar 1973 is designed for India’s wealthy elite, offering “sky villas,” a running track, a pet spa, and of course, an infinity pool. Homes in the complex are priced up to 3 billion rupees, ($44 million) for a 57,000-square-foot triplex. The higher you get in the complex, the higher the price.

Mumbai is the financial center of the world’s 9th largest economy by nominal GDP. Because India’s upper class elites are already accustomed to modern cities like New York and Singapore, the advantage of having comparable luxury buildings within the nation’s financial hub is quite appealing. The demand to pull away from the city’s dense crowds and noisy streets is high, making these apartments sure sells for real estate executives. As a testament of to their anticipated success, the world’s largest residential tower – World One – is actually being built in Mumbai. World One, which is scheduled to be completed in 2017, will stand at a towering 1,400 feet. According to the developer, three bedroom apartments in the building will start at a whopping 150 million Rupees ($2.23 million).

The new towers, including Omkar 1973 and World One, are symbols of so much more than India’s economic progression in the twenty-first century. A mumbai-based banker, Pavan Kaushal – who recently bought a four-bedroom apartment on the 22nd floor of World One –  commented on the meaning of buying one of these apartments. “You have people [here] who come from very well-to-do backgrounds and a high place professionally or business-wise, industry leaders, top doctors and lawyers, the crème de la crème of Bombay society. Anyone who lives in this building has, in a sense, arrived.”

Although it is markedly more expensive, time-consuming, and technically involved to build higher, the city’s shortage of available land has pushed developers to look to the skies. Despite height limits put into place decades ago, the country is becoming increasingly lenient to developers aiming higher. A sure sign of positive growth for the Indian economy.

Follow @AnthonySCasey1 on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest international real estate news and information.

The Strength of Singapore’s Real Estate Market

Singapore is a global city.  In a world tense with harrowing geopolitical tension and economic insecurity, it’s a great place to live. It’s not just a great place to live for one or two years while doing business, but it’s an ideal country to make a permanent home. This is something the country has learned as more people come looking at high-end real estate.

Despite the levying of duties intended to cool Singapore’s market, demand for luxury homes remains high. 

CNBC recently reported on this predicted growth. They spoke with Ong Chih Ching, executive chairman of KOP, in a recent article. She stated, “We are talking about 8 to 10 million [Singapore] dollar ($5.59 to 6.99 million) properties, so that’s a lot of money.”

This revenue leaves more than enough profit more than enough for renovation, according to Ong Chih Ching.

She estimates it will take Singapore another two or three years for the city to fully get on track with world markets. 

One company invested in luxury projects is the ten year old Singapore-based real estate and hospitality company KOP. Their portfolio of high-profile projects such as the Ritz Carlton Residences, Singapore’s Prudential Tower, Franklyn Hotels & Resorts, and Hamilton Scotts, to name a few.

Dubai Holdings was the major shareholder in KOP. When Ong made a management buyout of the 51 percent stake that the group held in KOP, she launched her visibility as one of the most powerful entrepreneurs in Asia.  She was even named one of 50 Power Business Women in Asia by Forbes in 2014.

With big dreams and the spirit to realize visions in real estate, Ong is a powerful leader in Singaporean real estate. Her next project is a colossal indoor winter resort in anticipated to open 2019 in Shanghai. With an estimated building cost of 3 billion yuan ($455.89 million), KOP is working with Chinese developers and city developers toward its completion. 

With KOP and Ong at the helm, luxury real estate in Asia is alive and well.

Big Hotel to Sell for $203m

Big-Hotel

A Hong Kong-based private equity group, Gaw Capital Partners (GCH), is slated to purchase the Singapore Big Hotel for $203 million. In the past, GCH has restored iconic hotels like the Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles and The Strand in Yangon.

CGH directors Kenneth Gaw, Alan Lee Kam Hung, and Lee Wei Hsiung have been in the midst of acquiring Big Hotel since mid September. The 16-story, 308-room hotel offers accommodations for a range of visitors categorized into “hipster,” “rainmaker,” “explorer,” and “lover.”

According to the Straight Times, hotel investment in the region remains steady with an emphasis on larger, more mature markets. Singapore’s market has slowly started to strengthen as the Singdollar appreciates in value. Moreover, the CGH group has a positive reputation when it comes to high growth results. Since 2005, Gaw Capital has raised equity of US $5.22 billion and currently controls US $10.61 billion in asset management.

Although quite a large project, GCH has also been reported to have purchased Seattle’s tallest tower, the Columbia Centre for approximately $700 million as well as Hong Kong’s flagship InterContinental Hotel for US $938 million. They are expected to close later this year.

Booming Business for Rooftops

urban_farming2

As available real estate space in Singapore rapidly declines, businesses and event organizers are looking for alternatives via rooftop rentals. From highly coveted Orchard Road and the Central Business District to Chinatown, wide open rooftop spaces are available for the taking. More office and commercial buildings are converting drab rooftop spaces into restaurants, event venues, and urban gardens. Since last year, People’s Park Complex, an open-air carpark, was deemed one of the best nightlife spots in the city. Lepark, the manager of the 63,000 sq ft venue has been dedicated to consistently organizing outdoor events at the unexpected location, hosting concerts, craft markets, film screenings, and a yoga festival. .

The Getai Group has been equally dedicated to co-organizing public activities and events and joined forces with Lepark and TAJ back in May to produce the Getai Ethnica music festival as part of the Singapore Heritage Festival. The event attracted approximately 3,000 people over two days. Getai Ethnica mixed the world jazz sounds of Qilin Group with the acoustic songwriting of the HubbaBubbas followed by a performance from TAJ. TAJ is a Singapore based instrumental jazz hip-hop band comprised of Timmy D, JR, and Audrey 10k.

Open-air rooftop venues were particularly popular throughout the summer. In July, a concert featuring YouTube sensation Us The Duo performed at “A Rooftop Affair.” It allowed people to experience Singapore city from a very different perspective. According to Edmund Chye, executive director of Chye Lee & Sons, “In space-starved Serangoon Garden and Singapore in general, it’s difficult to find a space where the community can come together to bond.”

In addition to entertainment, rooftops give consumers access to urban farms. Bjorn Low, co-founder of the urban farming company, Edible Garden, has been on a mission to provide the city with numerous rooftop urban farms. Since last October, he and his team have been able to turn a 3,300 sq m garden on top of Wheelock Place into a vegetable patch.

Although there are various rooftop spaces available, this isn’t a quick fix for the lack of space available in the city. Moreover, because space is limited, many rooftop bars are tiny and can feel claustrophobic. What’s most important is that Singapore real estate investors now have more options – and the people love it.

Relief for Singapore Real Estate Market?

Singapore Housing

Relief is possibly on the way for the Singapore private property market. This year, the industry struggled due to falling prices and a general lack of enthusiasm. Ever since the government stepped in and enforced limits on financing, the Singapore market has rapidly begun to fall behind. And although buyer disinterest continues, developers are hopeful that 2016 will be more prosperous.

In the first six months of the year, real estate services JLL estimates only 3,496 private residential unit sold, a 21 percent decrease compared to last year. The lack of sales has nose-dived prices. Property prices are projected to reach a total decline of 6 percent by year’s end. Developers typically shy away from giving discounts any more than 15 percent of the initial asking price even in such a difficult situation. Fortunately, the upcoming general election has generated buzz around the potential end of government cooling measures in the near future.

Since 2009, the Singapore Government has placed restrictions on the housing market aimed at foreign demand in an attempt to stabilize market prices. Singaporeans currently have to pay an Additional Buyers Stamp Duty of 7 percent on their second home, and 10 percent on the third. Management companies are in hopes that the September or October general election will work in the favor of Singaporeans, rolling back additional fees.

In the current state of affairs, sellers aren’t the only ones feeling pressure. Renters currently face a dilemma due to a strong demand-supply imbalance. While 26,000 housing units are expected to be completed by year’s end, last year’s peak demand only hit just above 15,000. This year isn’t projected to be much different. This makes it difficult for renters to raise their tenants rent, hoping to keep up with the competition. A slow decline in the expatriate population further skews the issue.

With the continuos decline in rent, sellers and renters can only hope for a turn-around in this fall’s general election.

Square Yards Acquires Singapore Luxe Real Estate

Square-YardsA couple of weeks ago, Singapore-based real estate firm, Luxe Real Estate was acquired by Square Yards. Square Yards is the top pan-India organized real estate advisory group, toting a strong presence in 20 cities and 5 countries around the world. With over 600 employees and counting, the acquisition of Luxe Real Estate firmly places Square Yards in the top 30 Singapore-based agencies by number of agents. With direct access to prime Singapore Real Estate, Square Yards intends to hold a dominant position in the International real state market. Data from the International Project Marketing division in Dubai suggests high demand from influential counties like the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Square Yards hopes to reach the same level of presence in Asia.

Prior to the acquisitions, Luxe Real Estate offered investment, marketing, sales and rental services for private luxury and properties on its own. It will now operate in conjunction with Square, providing expertise in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and China. The joining between Luxe and Square Yards appears to be favorable and both teams are looking forward to the merge. Each company provides and unique outlook and niche market, forming the ultimate package.

Luxe Real Estate was recently founded in 2014 by Calvin Chao, an individual with a particularly strong background in domestic and international luxury real estate. Square Yards was establish only a year before in 2013. The company will bring it’s 500 A grade developers to the Luxe team.

Over the next two quarters, Square Yards intends to expand it’s global reach into 20 additional markets.