Wednesday, 31 January 2007

"Date of Completion" & "Date of Vacant Possession" - Myth #6 on Obligations

This post was from an expat tenant staying in a condo that has been sold off in a collective sale:-

We live in a condo that has been sold enbloc, all the tenants have been given notice to vacate by end May 2006 - a large portion have moved already but the place is still about 40% full. The previous Management company have handed over the property to the redevelopers already. In the last week they have been doing soil-investigation work for the redevelopment of the property, which involved a lot of drilling and digging and generally very noisy and inconvenient for the current tenants. I am curious about what the law says. Is it legal for them to start the redevelopment process whilst there are tenants still in the building. - Patch, 30/1/07, ExpatSingapore Message Board.

Another tenant has expressed the same situation, whereby developers have entered the premises to begin drilling and working the grounds, and the condo maintenance crew are left to a skeleton crew (probably comprising one poor elderly person in charge of clearing the bins, cleaning the corridors, and being security guard at the same time). What's the law on this?

For tenants and owners who choose to stay after the Completion Date, there's nothing in the Statutes that protects you from poor grounds management and developers coming in; everything is defined in the Collective Sale Agreement (CSA) that is a binding contract between the owners and the developer. Let me spell out the typical schedule in the CSA first :-

The COMPLETION DATE (CD) – this is the date typically 3-4 mths after the Strata Title Board application approval. This is the legal completion date, when all owners can get their millions, if they choose to vacate by this date. If they do not, they have…

The DATE OF VACANT POSSESSION (DVP) – this is about 3-6 mths and varies between CSAs. Some may be longer, some shorter. But typically, if an owner does not vacate by the CD, a small % of their proceedings will be retained (eg 15%) and returned when they vacate the premises, before or on the DVP.

What about tenants? Well, again the CSA will define the conditions, but typically the landlord has the right to allow tenants to stay in the premises up to the DVP, and collect rent until then. Which means the landlord would have given you notice to vacate by a set date, cut short your contract etc, do whatever to evict you from the condo, or he will pay a severe penalty for delaying the DVP. Squatters not allowed. Owners are allowed to stay in the premises between the CD and the DVP, 'maintenance-fee free'. Why will be explained below.

There’s also a clause in the CSA that allows developers to come into the property to obtain planning permission for redevelopment (hence the drilling and ground work). This can be done at anytime after the CD.

The implication of the CSA clauses?

  • For owners, they don’t give a hoot after the CD because once they vacate the premises, they’ll get their millions.
  • For landlords, they too get their millions (minus a deposit) AND they continue to get rent UP TO the DVP.
  • Developers will come marching in, after the CD to begin processing the grounds.
  • Management committees (MC) will not care about the premises when they’ve already gotten their money (after or on the CD). After the CD, the MC will not be collecting any monthly maintenance fees from owners; the months between the CD and DVP is 'free' to all owners/landlords who choose to continue staying there. Which means they may leave a skeletal crew but are under no obligation to do so, since the legal date of ‘transfer’ is the CD and not the DVP. The MC is effectively dissolved after the CD.

  • SO to all involved in the en-bloc, when the lawyers and agents say that you have up to the Date of Vacant Possession to move out, think again. The months after completion will not be managed well, there will be almost no repairs, developers have the right to enter the premises to begin work. The quality of living will deteriorate so badly in the months that you will want to vacate as soon as you can.
  • My advice to TENANTS – take the landlord to task, and argue for a break in the contract so you can move out. The quality of living in your existing place will rapidly deteriorate. The landlord is reaping monthly rental on top of their sale proceedings, just by allowing you to stay in a rapidly abandoned building.
    • Hopefully any tenant who is aware of enbloc completion at their place will not sign for a stay beyond the CD, because the owners will have no responsibility to you (beyond the four walls of your unit) after that point.
  • My advice to OWNERS - think carefully about the schedule that your agents/solicitors have given to you, and defined in the CSA. Read your CSA carefully.
    • Let's say you have achieved 100% or are persuaded that it's in the best interest to sign the CSA to get 100% signatures, after all you have 3-4 mths to the CD after successful tender/STB approval and then 3-6 mths to DVP to vacate, that's still enough time for you to look for a new home etc. But after the CD, the management council and sales committee have no further obligation to you; only the solicitors who hold on to whatever deposits or act to penalise people who stay beyond the DVP. So, if there is no STB application, you have effectively 3-4 mths to find a new home and begin moving out.
    • If you achieved only 80% and need to go through STB approval, that's a wee bit better. You can use the time during the STB approval to begin looking for a new home (STB approval timeline about 6 mths). That gives you, from point of tender approval, 6 mths + 3-4 mths to completion.
    • You do NOT want to be staying in what is probably legally an abandoned condo after completion.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Apportionment of En-bloc Sale Proceeds - From ST Online Forum

I can anticipate the reply from the Strata Title Board - (a) apportionment decided by Sales Comm not them (b) fairest method of apportionment overall (c) will continue to monitor situation (d) too bad cos you can't bring this up during the STB hearings as it's not a legislated point of contention for en-bloc sales (because it is one of the approved methods of apportionment). Here's the forum letter for you to think about...

Jan 29, 2007
Apportionment of en-bloc sale proceeds: Clarification needed

The increasing popularity of en-bloc sales of existing condominiums is good for rejuvenation in providing newer and better housing. However, the recent legal case of the aggrieved Eng Lok mansion owner highlights the need for the authorities to provide a clear guideline for the 'Apportionment of En-bloc Sale Proceeds".

I am the owner of an apartment unit, where the Management Committee through the Sales Committee has appointed a sales agent to handle the proposed en-bloc sale of the condominium. The condominium consists of two tower blocks and one low-rise walk-up apartments of various sizes. However, according to the Strata Title Act, each unit owner is entitled to one unit share irrespective of the apartment floor area.

For whatever reasons, each apartment owner has been charged the same monthly maintenance fee and, during an upgrading exercise, charged an equal amount irrespective of the apartment unit size.

Under the proposed en-bloc sale, the small apartment unit owners felt they had the right to assume that the proceeds would be distributed equally, based on the fact that they have a one unit share and had paid equally for the monthly maintenance fee and upgrading charges.

The sales agent has proposed in the collective sale agreement (CSA) to apportion the sale proceeds by the 50:50 arbitrary ratio, that is, 50 per cent of the amount to be distributed equally and the rest to be apportioned according to the floor area ratio.

While on the surface this may appear fair, it remains arbitrary and, in this case, means that the unit rate of the small apartments is almost 25 per cent higher than the larger apartments. Yet we all know that the market value of an apartment is normally based on the built-in floor area of each apartment unit multiplied by the price-per-square-foot, although the latter may vary depending on location, condition, et cetera.

Even then, it does not make sense that there should be such a big disparity of the per-square-foot price for the various apartment sizes. While the small apartments may command a higher market price per square foot because of the 'affordability" factor, the recent trend in the choice district area favours larger apartment units. Neither does the sales record of this particular condo justify any premium rate for the small apartment units.

Could the Strata Title Board explain the purpose or intention of allocating one unit share to each apartment unit irrespective of size?

I believe the confusion in the Apportionment of En-bloc Sale Proceeds created by the 'One Unit Share" entitlement requires proper clarification from the relevant authorities.

Robert Oei Tjhing Bo

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Another Minority Cry - Money Isn't Everything

Beware the Pitfalls of Collective Sales
From Straits Times Forum Online
26 Jan 2007
By Sumiko Sakamoto (Ms)

My apartment has been sold collectively. The amount that I have been apportioned does not allow me to find a similar replacement.

Against my wish, I not only have to give up my home but am also forced to compromise significantly in terms of area size, location and environment of my new home.

Although collective sales are a neat way of rejuvenating old properties, it should not be done at the expense of owners having to 'downgrade' after that.

I am dismayed to find that the law only protects people from some measure of financial loss and not from more important tangible losses.

Some may see enbloc sales as a windfall, but it is not always the case if it doesn't provide an equivalent replacement.

In my case, the property did not fetch a high price as there was no change in plot ratio or favourable factors, such as a new MRT station, to increase the value of the area. So to attract the prospective buyer, the sale price had to be compromised.

In my 23-year-old condominium, many owners, for reasons of their own, have moved out, leaving their homes in the hands of tenants. To them, as long as the price struck out of a collective sale is more than if it were sold off individually, it is adequate. The sale price does not have to match that for a similar replacement as they have made a decision to live elsewhere anyway.

For those of us who cherish our present homes and have no desire to move, the matter is very different.

If we were to move out, we have to buy a new home. It is important for us that the apportionment of the sale is at least sufficient to acquire a home similar enough to maintain the same degree of quality of life.

We will already have to suffer from losses such as renovation costs, stamp duties, interest charges on our mortgages and other transaction costs. If our homes are sold below the replacement cost, the losses will be too huge to bear.

The pain is more acutely felt by those who have or are soon to be retired and are unable to obtain bank financing. As much as we do not want to downgrade against our wishes, we are loath to touch our precious savings just so we can maintain the present quality of life.

I would like to appeal to the public to beware the pitfalls of collective sales and hope all homeowners in a similar situation be mindful not to let go of their property unless they can find a suitable alternative. Be sure to sanction a sales committee that has the interests of the whole estate at heart.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Guerilla Tactics II - Quorum, EOGMs and Management Councils

This is a follow up to the post titled Guerilla Tactics. Was going through the Singapore Statutes (Yes, makes for fun reading), and found some interesting bits that have direct bearing on en-bloc sales, especially the START of it.

As I've pointed out before, the first point of contact between any marketing agent interested in offering their services to your development, is the management council. They typically then become the Sales Committee. But to do that, they have to be ratified in an Extraordinary General Meeting.

Did you know the regulations for EOGMs are set out in the Statutes? Look for the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act 2004, First Schedule. This is of course my understanding of the Statutes, and lawyers (of which I am not) are the best people to confirm this, but unless your management council (MC) or sales committee (SC) are comprised of lawyers, I doubt anyone keeps a close eye on these regulations. But here are some nice bits:-

  • A group of subsidiary proprietors (SPs) MUST submit a 'requisition' to the Management Council to initiate an EOGM. Now this has to be done formally in writing, to the MC's secretary.
  • This group of SPs must comprise at least 20% of the total share values of the development. This approximates to 20% of your total no of owners (Schedule 14(1)(a)). Now this is possible if the SC and friends can get together to create the requisition but say in a development of 100 units, you need about 20 people to initiate the EOGM. In reality, that is often not easy or they don't even bother with this.
  • Any business conducted in any general meeting (including the EOGM) must be held by the MC, not the SC. The SC can be there, but the chairperson of the MC must be present (or his/her proxy). So if an SC organises an EOGM (not an owner's meeting) which they need to ratify themselves, but the MC is not there, this is illegal.
  • The EOGM must be held 6 weeks after the requisition is received by the secretary. (Schedule 14(1)).
  • The EOGM needs a quorum or any business discussed there (including agreeing to begin the en-bloc sale, ratifying the SC etc) are not legal. The quorum is at least SPs who hold 30% of the aggregate share values of the development (Schedule 3(2)(a)). Again, this translates roughly to 30% of all owners must be at the EOGM. We're not talking cousins, friends, curious bystanders, girlfriends etc, but 30% of the share holders of the development.
In effect, any EOGM that does not conform to the above would be illegal. Which means any SCs that are ratified at EOGMs, any voting to agree to sell the development, all these are illegal if the procedures above are not only adhered to, but carefully logged down. How many EOGMs have you been to, where attendance is taken, names/ICs/share values noted, to gather the 30% requirement?

I've heard of cases where SCs formed by themselves, created by self-interested owners, who then invite marketing agents to come to present to owners, without the say so of the development's MC. Unfortunately, under the current laws, this is allowed. This completely excludes the need of any pro-tem SC to discuss matters with the other owners; they can choose whichever agents and lawyers they like AND THEN conduct an owners' meeting or EOGM to let owners know this is what they've done, now thank them for their hard work. In fact, most agents will tell pro-tem SCs to do that - the less interaction with owners, the more effective the sale process can be, since less information to owners = less chance of issues or contention arising from the sale. That's why most owners complain of a lack of transparency.

But that doesn't mean that if any SC decides to hold an EOGM, they can bend the rules. There are rules to adhere to, and now you know something that can be used at the first EOGM, to make sure the SC cowboys don't come charging guns ablazing. This is Singapore - there's a long red tape to stick to, and by golly, if they are so eager to sell and sell, they need to do it properly! In triplicates! Like obedient citizens!

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The En-Bloc List of Developments Sold, Tendering, Ongoing, and Failed

There's been interest, ironically not by Singaporeans but by expats, on which developments are going en-bloc, simply because (a) they do not want to be hoodwinked by dodgy landlords or agents into a place to stay only to have to move out again if the en-bloc goes through (b) they do not want to stay near an en-bloc property because of noise levels. I guess this would apply to locals as well. So from the papers and from various sources, here's a list of..

  1. En-blocs that are confirmed - Sale has been secured, which means it can be anything from 6 mths to 1 year (but typically not exceeding 15 mths) before people get evicted. This is definitive and sourced from the papers.
  2. En-blocs that just tendered - Developments that have gained the 80% (or close to 80%) majority vote required, and have begun the tender or expression of interest (EOI) exercise. I've included dates so if you don't see this development in the 'confirmed' list in a mth's time, it means the tender was not successful (often not reported in papers). EOI usually indicates that the development has not reached the required 80% mark.
  3. En-blocs that are ongoing - Developments that have either begun talks, or have begun the collection of signatures for the Collective Sale Agreement, which means they have 1 year to collect 80% or the whole thing collapses. This is sometimes reported in the papers and can also be sourced from various internet forums, blogs etc or from marketing agents' presentations. Take this list with a pinch of salt. I'll indicate where they come from so you can gauge for yourselves.
  4. En-blocs that are confirmed unsuccessful - Reported as not achieving the reserve price.
I will update the list as I get more updates. Prices indicated for the confirmed list are their sale price, and for the tendered list prices are their asking or reserve prices. For the ongoing list, prices are asking/RP or what numbers have been discussed at owners' meetings or in their CSAs.

[List updated 22/10/07]

Confirmed En-blocs
1 Balmoral (or One Balmoral) - Balmoral Road - 25/3/07 BT $1188ppr
18 Shelford Road - Shelford Road - 10/4/07 BT
2-50 Bishopsgate - Bishopsgate - 17/4/07 BT $1544ppr
Airview Tower - St Thomas Walk - 3/4/07 BT $1037ppr
Amberville - Katong - 19/7/06 BT
Anderson 18 - Ardmore - 6/3/07 BT $1650ppr
Angullia Mansion - 13/3/06 BT
Ardmore Point - Angullia Park - 10/06 BT $1369ppr
Balestier Court - Thomson Rd - 26/3/07 CNA $490ppr
Balmoral View - 17/8/06 BT $733ppr
Bellerive - Bukit Timah Road - 7/12/06 ST
Beverly Mai - Tomlinson Rd - 27/4/06 BT $1184ppr
Bouganville Maisonette Apts - Joo Chiat - 23/11/06
Bright Building - Thomson Rd - 26/3/07 CNA $490ppr
Cairnhill Circle - Cairnhill Rd - 1/6/06 BT
Cairnhill Gardens - Cairnhill - 20/4/06 BT
Casa Nassau - Upper East Coast Road - 28/7/07 SGX $45.4million
Casa Rosita - Bukit Timah Road - 6/4/06 ST
Century Ville - 1/12/06 BT
Char Yong Gardens - Cairnhill - 13/6/07 BT $1788ppr [???-130u, $2200-$2300]
Charlton Garden - Charlton Lane - 10/4/07 BT $315ppr
Chez Bright Apartments - St Thomas Walk - 8/3/06 BT
Clemenceau Court - Cavanagh Road - 10/4/07 BT $899ppr
Comfort Mansion - 1/4/06 BT
Concorde Residences - Thomson Road - 26/3/07 CNA $490ppr
Devonshire Lodge - Devonshire Road - ??/3/07 Caveat Lodged with URA $35.68m ($1137psf)
Dragon Court Condo - Holland Road - 25/8/06 ST
Dragon Garden Court 1 - Sixth Avenue - 7/8/07 BT $1160ppr
Duchess Court - Bukit Timah Road - 4/5/06 BT
Dynasty Garden Court 1 - Sixth Avenue - 4/8/07 SGX $80million
East Coast Ville - East Coast - 10/10/06 BT $437ppr
Eden Spring - Balmoral Rd - 10/4/07 BT $1004ppr
Elmira Heights - Newton - 20/4/07 BT $990ppr [126-170u, $1400-$1500]
Emerald Mansion - 19/10/06 BT $931ppr
Emerald Mansion - Cairnhill - 28/09/07 BT $1888ppr [??-55,$2400] (Flipped)
Eng Lok Mansion - Botanic Gdns - 3/3/06 BT $1218ppr [64-46u, $2000]
Eng Tai Mansion - St Thomas Walk - 14/11/06 BT
Fairways Condominium - Telok Blangah - 17/5/07 BT $785ppr [??-250, $1200]
Far East Mansion - River Valley - 1/12/06 BT
Farrer Court - Farrer Road - 28/6/07 BT $783ppr [618-1500u, $1300]
Finland Gardens - Siglap - 8/12/06 BT
Flamingo Valley - Siglap - 7/2/07 BT $415ppr
Furama Tower - Leonie Hill Rd - 18/7/06 BT
Futura - Leonie Hill Rd - 25/10/06 BT
Gillman Heights - Depot Road - 6/2/07 CNA $363ppr
Gilstead View - 22/5/07 BT $1070ppr [??-75,$1600]
Goodluck View - Toh Tuck Road - 22/6/07 BT $460ppr [48-115u,??]
Grange Court - Grange Road - 16/8/07 BT $1706 [??-50u, $2500]
Grange Tower - Leonie Hill Rd - 8/9/06 BT
Grangeford Apartments - Leonie Hill - 3/8/07 BT $1820ppr (Original $2016ppr RP) [193-??,??]
Green Meadows Condominium - Upper Thomson - 13/3/07 BT $400ppr
Habitat One - Ardmore Park - 18/7/06 BT
Haig Gardens - Katong - 12/9/06 BT
Heiwa Court - East Coast - 22/2/07 BT $388ppr
Hillcourt Apartments - Cairnhill Road - 22/3/07 Press Release $361.0mill
Hilltop Apartments - Cairnhill Rd - 21/4/06 BT
Hilton Towers - Leonie Hill - 29/4/06
Himiko Court - Mt Sinai Rd - 2/5/07 SGX $821ppr
Holland Crest - Holland Hill - 9/3/07 BT $880ppr
Holland Hill Mansion - Holland Hill - 29/11/06 BT $750ppr
Hong Leong Garden - West Coast - 8/3/07 BT $363ppr
Hup Cheong Mansions - St Thomas Rd - 11/6/07 BT [??-75u.
Kai Sheng Court - Mar Thoma Rd - 4/5/07 CondoSingapore SGX
Killiney Apartments - Killeney Road - 25/4/07 BT $1022ppr [44-75u, ?]
Kim Yam Mansion - River Valley Rd - 26/1/06 BT
Le Marque - 1/12/06 BT
Leedon Heights - Farrer Rd - 28/4/07 BT $1062ppr [314-384u, $1800-2000ppr]
Les Jardins de Hollande - Holland Rd - 12/06 URA caveat $633(Approx) [11-??,??]
Lewis Court - Lewis Road - 16/5/07 CondoSingapore
Lincoln Lodge - Newton Road - 22/6/07 BT $1449ppr [98-120, $2000]
Lock Cho Apartments - 1/4/06 BT
Lucky Tower - Grange Rd - 1/12/06 BT
Margate Mansion - Meyer Road - 31/8/07 BT $882ppr [??-48u, $1330]
Mayer Mansion - Devonshire Rd - 22/8/07 BT $42m [10-30u,??]
Minton Rise - Lor Ah Soo - 16/1/07 BT
Mount Sophia Apartment - Sophia Road - 15/2/07 BT $564ppr
Nassim Park - Nassim Road - 31/8/06 ST
Nathan Ville - River Valley - 6/3/07 BT $880ppr
Newton Meadows - Newton - 4/5/06 BT
No 3 Balmoral Road - Balmoral Road - 5/07 BT $1400ppr
Nob Hill Condominium - Ewe Boon Road - 29/5/07 BT $1100ppr [18-65u,??]
Oakswood Heights - Spottiswoode Park Rd - 8/6/07 BT $740ppr [??,$1150]
Ocean Apartments - East Coast Road - 5/4/07 BT $481ppr
Orange Grove Condo - Orange Grove Road - 23/9/06 ST
Pacific Court - Pasir Panjang Hill - 8/3/06 BT
Palm Beach Garden - Upper East Coast Road - 26/3/07 BT $500ppr
Paterson Tower - 20/3/06 BT
Peck Hay Mansion Cairnhill - 10/7/06 BT
Pender Court - West Coast Highway - 6/7/07 BT $782ppr [48-80, $1200]
Phoenix Mansion - 7/05 BT
Pin Tjoe Court - Ardmore Park - 22/09/06 BT
Pinetree Condominium - Balmoral Rd - 27/4/06 ST
Regent Garden - West Coast Rd - 26/4/07 CondoSingapore
Rose Garden - 19/8/06 BT
Sea Breeze Apartments - Joo Chiat - 23/1/07 BT
Sheridan Court - East Coast Road - 5/4/07 BT $483ppr
Skyline Angullia - Angullia Park - 19/8/06 BT
Sophia Court - Mt Sophia - 9/12/06 ST
Spottiswoode Apartment - Spottiswoode Park Rd - 5/4/07 $732ppr
St Martins Lodge - St Martins Rd - 31/8/06 BT
St Patrick's View - St Patrick's Road - 22/5/07 BT $682ppr [??-100u, $1000]
St Thomas Court - St Thomas Walk - (12/9/07 ST)
Tampines Court - 28/3/07 BT $260ppr
The Albany - Thomsom Rd - 7/2/07 CNA
The Ardmore - Ardmore Park - 17/6/07 CNA $2338ppr [24-33u, $3000]
The Esquire - Mt Elizabeth - 21/2/06 BT
The Parisian - Angullia Park - 27/12/06 BT $1735ppr
The Vermont - Cairnhill - 20/4/06 BT
The Villa Margeux - 1/12/06 BT
Thomson Mansion - Thomson Rd - 26/3/07 CNA $657ppr
Tulip Garden - Farrer Rd - 29/5/07 BT $1018ppr (original RP $1250) [164-316u, $1500]
Venus Mansion - 11/4/06 ST
Waterfall Gardens - Farrer Road - 9/2/06 BT $550ppr [$1500-$1600]
Waterfront View - Bedok - 25/5/06 ST
Westpeak Condominium - West Coast Walk - 29/4/06 BT

Tendered En-blocs
1 Hillcrest Road - 2/3/06 BT
145 Killiney Road (Old Mitre Hotel) - Killiney Road - 7/8/07 ST (Tender ends 12/9/07) $2000ppr RP
16-22A Pulasan Road - East Coast - 4/7/07 (Tender ends 20/7/07) $548ppr RP [??-36u, $1050]
257-271 East Coast Road - East Coast - 16/3/07 ST (Tender ends 5/4/07)
396-398 River Valley Road - River Valley - 8/3/07 ST (Tender ends 12/4/07) $700ppr RP
57-66 Zion Road - River Valley - 19/10/06
Adis Villa - Mt Sophia - 27/2/07 BT $890ppr RP
Astoria Apartments - Cairnhill Rise - 3/5/06 BT (No update since then)
Aura Park - Holland Road - 19/4/07 BT $1100ppr RP
Casa Novacrest - Cairnhill - 10/7/06 BT (Semi-en-bloc)
Cassia View - Guillemard Rd - 4/9/07 ST (Tender ends 12/9/07)
Cavanagh Gardens - Cavenagh Road - ST 20/10/07 (Tender ends 23/11/07) $2308ppr RP [??,??, PropNex]
Chancery Ville - Chancery Lane - 19/6/07 $1100ppr RP
Chateau Eliza - Mount Elizabeth - 10/10/07 ST (Tender ends 23/10/07) [37-??,??, Credo]
Chong Kim Apartments - Novena - 11/9/07 ST (Tender ends 19/9/07)
City Towers - Bukit Timah Road - 25/7/07 BT (Tender ends 29/8) $2100ppr RP [??-183u, $2870]
Culford Gardens - Upper East Coast Rd - 25/7/07 ST (EOI ends 6/8)
Curzon Lodge - Kampong Java Rd - 1/8/06 BT
Derbyshire Mansion - Thomson Rd - 27/7/06 BT (No update since then)
Diamond Tower - Balestier Rd - 5/10/07 ST (Tender ends 30/10/07) [??,??, First Tree]
Dorset Court - Dorset Road - 3/7/07 ST (Tender ends 12/7/07)
Duchess Crest - Bukit Timah - 16/5/07 BT (EOI 13/6/07) $750psf RP (48 units out of 251)
Elizabeth Heights - Carinhill - 26/5/07 BT (EOI 25/5/07) $2100ppr RP [90-136,?]
Elizabeth Towers - Mt Elizabeth - 18/10/07 ST (Tender ends 21/11/07) $2666ppr RP [80-101,$4000, Newman & Goh]
Gilstead Court - Newton - 1/6/06 BT
Goodrich Park - Simon Lane - 11/10/07 ST (Tender ends 30/10) [??,??, Mt Everest]
Grange Heights - Grange Rd - 6/3/07 CNA (EOI 29/3/07) $1700ppr RP
Hang Tat Garden - Balestier Rd - 19/10/06
Hertford Mansion - Bristol Rd - 4/10/07 (Tender ends 29/10/07) $744ppr RP [??-20, $1200, Colliers]
Holland Hill Lodge - Holland Hill - 4/10/07 ST (100% achieved, Tender ends 31/10/07) $1108ppr RP [??-??,$1600, Colliers]
Hong Thye House - Lor 39 Geylang - 9/10/07 BT (Tender ends 5/11/07) $489ppr RP [??,??, PropNex]
Hong Yun Court - Telok Kurau - 8/6/06 BT
Horizon View - Cairnhill Rd - 8/5/06 ST (Tender ended 8/6/06)
Jubilation Apartments - Akyab Road - 10/4/07 BT (Tender ends 3/5/07) $540ppr RP
Kovan Lodge - Kovan Road - 26/7/07 ST (Tender ends 16/8/07)
Landmark Tower - Chin Swee Road - 14/7/07 BT $1471ppr RP (Tender ends 14/8/07) [139-150u, ??]
Laurel Park - Serangoon Gdns - 24/2/07 BT (Tender ends 22/3/07)
Le Chateau - Cavanagh Rd - 1/8/06 BT
Maison Royale - Surrey Rd - 8/3/07 ST (EOI ends 12/4/07)
Meng Garden Apartment - Lloyd Road - 5/7/07 BT (EOI ends 7/8/07) $?? [27-??,??]
Mergui Court - See Norfolk Court
Mergui Lodge - See Norfolk Court
Mutual Court - Mar Thoma Rd - 27/4/06 BT
No 1 Robin Road - 20/4/06 BT
Norfolk Court/Mergui Lodge/Northern Mansion/Mergui Court/The Mergui - Mergui Road - 2/8/07 BT (EOI ends 3/9/07) $526ppr RP [88-??, $850]
Northern Mansion - See Norfolk Court
Novena Hill - Jln Novena - 20/10/07 ST (Tender ends 16/11/07) $1777ppr RP
Park West Condominium - Clementi - 26/7/07 BT (EOI) $780ppr RP
Peace Mansion - Sophia Rd - 28/3/07 BT (Tender ends 23/5/07)
Pearlbank Apartment - Outram Park - 7/8/07 ST (Tender ends 18/9/07) $1445ppr RP [280-500u,??]
Phoenix Court - St Thomas Walk - 8/6/06 BT (No update since then)
Pinetree Condominium - Balmoral Park - 12/9/07 ST (Tender ends 10/10/07) $2100ppr RP [??-70, $3100]
Portofino - Sarkies Road - 3/7/07 ST (Tender ends 1/8/07)
Promises Gardens - Jln Lim Tai See - 10/9/07 ST (Tender ends 25/9/07)
Rich East Garden - Upper East Coast Rd - 27/6/07 BT (Tender ends 31/7/07) $650ppr RP [40-83u, ??]
Riverwalk - Upp Circular Road - 4/7/07 ST (EOI ends 26/7/07) $1900ppr RP [118-??,??]
Royalville - Bukit Timah Road - 10/10/07 ST (Tender ends 9/11/07) $1305ppr RP [??,??, Credo]
Seletar Garden - Yio Chu Kang Road - 25/9/07 BT $733ppr RP [??-40,$750, PropNex]
Serene House - Farrer Rd - 19/4/07 Condo Forum (EOI ends 3/5/07) $924ppr RP
Spanish Village - Farrer Rd - 16/10/07 ST (Tender ends 13/11/07) $1700ppr RP [??,??, Savills]
Star Mansions - Surrey Rd - 8/3/07 ST (Tender ends 12/4/07)
Suffolk Apartments - Suffolk Road - 19/10/06 BT
Summer Apartments - River Valley Road - 28/9/07 ST (Tender ends 23/10/07) [??,??, JLL]
Tan Tong Meng Tower - Thomson Road - 17/7/07 BT (EOI ends 10/8/07) $1449ppr RP [35-118u, ??]
The Aspine - Balmoral Road - 20/9/07 BT (Tender ends 17/10/07) $1966ppr RP [35-??,$2500, Newman & Goh]
The Balmoral - Balmoral Park - 3/4/07 BT (EOI ends 9/5/07)
The Estoril - Holland Road - 16/10/07 ST (Tender ends 15/11/07) $1536ppr RP [40-75,$2050, CBRE]
The Hillpark - Dunearn/University Road - 23/7/07 CNA (EOI ends ??) $1416ppr RP
The Mergui - See Norfolk Court
The Riverwalk - Upp Circular Rd - 26/6/07 BT (EOI ends 26/7/07) $1900ppr RP
Toho Garden - Yio Chu Kang - 27/9/07 BT (Tender ends 19/10/07) $580ppr RP
Trendale Tower - Cairnhill Road - 17/5/07 BT (EOI ends 20/6/07) $2477 ppr RP [??-35, $3200]
Villa delle Rose - Holland Road - 18/10/07 BT (Tender ends ??) $1758ppr RP [104-208,??, CBRE]
Vista Park - South Buona Vista Rd - 3/10/07 ST (Tender ends 24/10/07) [??,??, Newman & Goh]
Watten Estate Condo - Dunearn Rd - 27/6/07 BT (EOI ends 20/7/07) $1297ppr RP [104-210u,??]
Welkin Mansion - River Valley Closer - 16/10/07 ST (Tender ends 9/11/07) [??,??, Savills]
Westwood Apartments - Orchard Boulevard - 16/10/07 ST (Tender ends 21/11/07) [??,??, Savills]
White House Park Apartments - Stevens Road - 8/6/08 BT
Vista Park - South Buona Vista - 27/9/07 BT (Tender ends 24/10/07) $680ppr RP

Ongoing En-blocs
8 to 10 Shelford Road - 13/6/07 Skyscraper Forum
Amber Lodge - Amber Rd - 18/6/06 BT
Amber Park - Amber Rd - 12/10/07 Expat Forum
Astrid Meadows - 17/5/07 ExpatForum
Bayshore Park - Bayshore Road - 16/6/07 CNA Forum
Bedok Court - Bedok South Avenue 3 - 11/7/07 DairyFarm Blog Comment
Beverly Hill - Grange Road - 25/5/07 Expat Forum
Botanic Gardens View - Botanic Gdns - 5/8/07 CSA Signing (50% achieved 2/10/07) $2300ppr RP
Brookvale Park - Friend & Expat Forum (~40% achieved so far - 15/3/07 Expat Forum)
Cairnhill Mansion - Cairnhill Rd - 8/5/06 ST
Chancery Court - Dunearn Rd - 25/9/07 CondoS $1150ppr RP
Chiltern Park Condominium - Serangoon - 8/5/07 ST
Clementi Park - Clementi - 29/12/07 ST
Dairy Farm Estate - Dairy Farm Road - 20/4/07 Friend
Dunearn Gardens - Dunearn Rd - 6/10/07 Condosingapore $2300ppr RP
Eastern Lagoon I & II - Upper East Coast Road - 25/7/07 ExpatForum
Faber Garden Condominium - Angklong Lane - 28/5/07 Blog comment
Fernwood Towers - Marine Parade Road - 10/7/07 ExpatForum
Hawaii Tower - Meyer Road - 12/7/07 BT
High Point - Mt Elizabeth - 25/5/07 Expat Forum
Holland Peak - Holland Hill - Chesterton
Holland Tower - Holland Heights - Friend $1000psf RP
Hollandia - Holland Rd - Agent Presentation
Jin Fu Apartments - Amber Rd - 18/6/06 BT
Kensington Park - Serangoon Garden - 15/8/07 Colleague
Lagoon View - Marine Parade Road - 11/7/07 ExpatForum
Laguna Park - Marine Parade Rd - 28/5/07 ExpatForum
Lakeview - 15/5/07 ST
Leonie Gardens - Leonie Hill - 15/6/07 Skyscraper Forum $1600 ppr RP
Mandarin Gardens - East Coast - 16/5/07 ExpatForum
Marine View Mansion - Marine Parade Road - 31/8/07 Colleague
Neptune Court - Marine Vista - 15/5/07 BT
Ocean Park - East Coast Road - 15/8/07 Colleague (Another Blog here)
Olina Lodge - Holland Hill - 4/6/07 ExpatForum
Orchid Apartments - Eng Neo Avenue - 18/02/07 ST
Pandan Valley - Ulu Pandan Rd - Owner-Occupier's Blog
Pastoral View - Bassein Rd - 15/6/07 ExpatForum
Pine Grove - Ulu Pandan - 4/10/07 New Paper $1.4bill RP [660-??,??, CBRE]
Ridgewood Condominium - Mt Sinai Rd - 17/5/07 ST $1.27bill RP
Riviera Point - Kim Yam Rd - 25/8/07 Skyscraper Forum
Sherwood Towers - Jln Anak Bukit - 13/9/07 PropertyHub
Shunfu Ville - Marymount Rd - 22/11/06 BT
Silver Tower Condo - Cairnhill Road - 31/8/06 ST
Sommerville Park - Farrer Road - Expat Forum
St Patrick's Garden - St Patrick's Road - Expat Forum
Tanglin Park - 17/5/07 ExpatForum
Teresa Ville - Lower Delta Road - 20/4/07 Friend
The Claymore - Claymore Hill - 12/2/07 BT $2030ppr RP
The Summit - Upper East Coast Rd - 2/6/07 Skyscraper Forum
The Wilshire - Agent Presentation

Unsuccessful En-blocs
Horizon Towers - Leonie Hill - 23/1/07 BT $820ppr (STB Dismissed Sale, Appeal Approved)
Marine Point Condominium - Marine Parade Road - 13/7/07 Expat Forum (only 36% agreed)
Pacific Mansion - River Valley - 25/6/07 ST $2400ppr RP [290-130,??] (Negotiation ongoing with Developer for lower RP 31/7/07 BT)
Pine Grove - Ulu Pandan Rd - 18/4/07 ST (only 50% achieved)
Rivershire - Leonie Hill - 26/6/07 BT (EOI 24/7/07) BT $2200ppr RP [74-88u,??] (2nd attempt; 1st $1500ppr) (Negotiation ongoing with Developer for lower RP - 31/7/07 BT)

[BT=Business Times, ST = Straits Times, CNA=ChannelNewsAsia, RP= Reserve or Asking Price, ppr=per square foot per plot ratio, EOI=Expression of Interest]
[Included new index: [XX1-XX2u, $YYY1-YYY2, Z]= XX1: Original no of units, XX2: Redeveloped no of units, $YYY1-YYY2: Range of breakeven cost for new units, Z: Name of Marketing Agent]

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Fight the Future - Communication Channels for the Minority

What can be done, for the minority owners? What happens if you're in the tail end of the inevitable steamroller called the en-bloc sale in your development, and you can't do anything about it.

Or can you?

There are communication channels, particularly to the newspapers and more importantly, to the government even the opposition, where you can voice your concerns about en-bloc sales. But why should the government care, you say.

Firstly, they should be concerned about the ethics of the whole process, especially since built into the conditions for rejecting an en-bloc sale, is the notion of 'good faith' and 'at arm's length'. The Select Committee's original recommendation to Parliament on 19th April 1999 on this matter points to the ethical imperative:

..the [Strata Title] Board will have power to refuse an order for sale only on the grounds that [1] the purchase price which a minority owner will receive is less than the price he paid for his unit, including all allowable deductions; [2] the purchase price a minority owner receives is not sufficient for him to discharge the encumbrances (ie mortgages and charges) on his unit; [3] the minority owner is forced to be part of a joint venture agreement with the developer; or [4] the sale is not in good faith and at arms length considering the factors that the Board will review a case (regardless of whether there is an objection) to see whether on the face of the application it is satisfied that the transaction is in good faith and at arms length, after taking into account the sale proceeds, method of distributing the sale proceeds and the relationship of the purchaser to any of the unit owners. It will also ensure that the sale and purchase agreement does not require a minority owner to be part of a joint venture agreement with the developer of the land

The last condition (4) refers to the ethics of the sale - the need for it to be done not only in good faith but at arm's length. You need to impress on the government that there are serious ethical issues with the way en-bloc sales are done now - Sales Committee's conflict of interest (Myth #2), ownership issue (Myth #3), arbitrariness of 10 year definition (Myth #5). There are also serious consequences of the aftermath of an unsuccessful en-bloc sale - place becoming rundown due to the SC/MC conflict of interest (Myth #2), enmity among neighbours if the SC lets known who are the minority.

Secondly, the government should be worried about the 20% or more minority group, MOST IF NOT ALL of which are (in all likelihood) Singaporean owners, people who do not wish to sell and do not wish to move from their home. An en-bloc sale can be traumatic to many of these minority owners, and it is likely to be manifested during election time (for those constituencies with elections!) in negative ways for the prevailing political party. Unhappiness with the government doing nothing about the en-bloc sale, not even reassessing it or putting restrictions on the sale to curb it, may well provide the impetus for citizens to vote less rationally.

It is ironic that the last person to ask about en-bloc sale was Mr Chiam See Tong in Nov 2006.

So what are the communication channels?

  1. Your Member of Parliament. Contact them via email or via Meet-The-People sessions. You can find your MP here. The list of constituencies is here. If enough people bring up this issue to them, even they'll get worried. Then again, you might be affecting their future potential en-bloc properties!
  2. Feedback Unit. They have a portal Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @Home (REACH.. doh) here.
  3. The opposition party who would love to bring up these issues in Parliament. Useful if you feel your MP has condos involved in en-blocs too (or is in a law firm that deals with en-blocs!). Chiam See Tong's party is here and there's Workers' Party too. No, seriously.
  4. Straits Times Forum here. The Today newspaper ran en-bloc forum letters for a while but the audience for Today is significantly different from the more mainstream ST.
Good luck and let's hope there will be change for a better future.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Myth #5 - Urban Renewal

NUS Geography professors Lily Kong and Brenda Yeoh have provided an apt definition of urban renewal or redevelopment:-

Urban redevelopment primarily has meant demolition of the old and construction of the new on the basis that such a program provides better employment and investment opportunities, improves living conditions, and leads to physical, social, and economic regeneration. Such an interpretation of urban redevelopment places values on 'efficient', 'rational' and 'pragmatic' use of limited land resources. .. Indeed, such an approach suggests that, in some places, urban planning becomes no more than a 'technical problem of clearance and construction' (Kong and Yeoh 2003: 46)*

They pointed out that "urban renewal generally has emphasised demolition and reconstruction rather than conservation and preservation" (2003: 78). This certainly applies to en-bloc sales, where developments are demolished and new buildings constructed, often offering either smaller units but larger quantities, or larger (and hence more expensive) units and smaller quantities (the boutique condominiums). The trend, particularly in the prime districts, is veering towards the latter. Look at Holland Hill Mansion which is going to be redeveloped into 2000 sqf units, larger than the average existing units in the area. With an estimated cost of $1500-$1800 psf, we're talking about $2.5 mill upwards per condo in the new Holland Hill development. Now how many people can afford that (or more specifically how many local citizens can do so)? The target group is obviously foreign investors who have the capital to purchase such luxury apartments.

But more worrying is the fact that a LOT of the en-bloc'ed developments are less than 20 years old. In fact, based on the en-bloc sales of 2005-2006**, the average age of the en-bloc developments, upon the first attempt at en-bloc, is about 12-15 years old.

This is not urban renewal. This is urban mutation.

This is possible courtesy of the rather arbitrary development age set by the government, of 10 years. Any development that wishes to en-bloc itself and is <> 10 yrs old, you need only achieve 80% consensus, which is what most en-blocs are aiming for nowadays. Note this is different from Selective En-bloc Restructuring Scheme which targets older HDB estates, approximately 30 odd years.

What are the consequences of this?

  • If you wish to continue staying in condos but can't afford landed properties, it would mean that you will be required to move from condo to condo, at least 3-4 times in your adult working life. Every condo is now waiting for that golden age of 10 yrs to begin the en-bloc process.
  • It means you'll have to undergo the hassle of house hunting, looking for suitable schools for your children, reestablishing social ties with the community, securing bank loans etc.
  • Given that if property market continues to be bullish, your windfall from the en-bloc sale will be able to secure you another unit NOT in the same district but further from the central parts of Singapore. This has implications for travel time and travel inconveniences.
  • You will need to encounter en-bloc madness and greedy neighbours 3-4 times.
  • It completely ridicules the notion of 'freehold' which is meant to be a property you hold for life. It makes no ownership difference if your property is 99 yrs or freehold, aside from some differences in land value.
  • Environmentally, there are huge wastage in the demolishing of all these buildings and developing new ones. Not all building materials can be recycled.
  • It means you will not recognise the place where you and your children grew up in.
Some argue that Singapore is so small, that moving around is not a problem especially considering how much profit one gains from multiple en-blocs. Yet it can cost you anything from 4-10 folds if you stay in the central districts as opposed to the outlying ones. There are issues of convenience, and yes, even prestige in staying in a small clearly demarcated part of Singapore.

Some say it's better to demolish before escalating maintenance costs make living in the development untenable. Yet, does this not speak of the poor construction quality and building materials if they can't last 10-20 years? Most apartments in central districts in Western countries are easily 50 years or more, and are surprisingly well-maintained. A well-managed management committee would have been able to take into account potential upgrades to the development in addition to maintenance, but this is obviously not happening; why upgrade when you can demolish at a profit?

Urban mutation, because mutative processes occur at a highly accelerated rate, is what is happening here in Singapore, not urban renewal.

* Kong, L. and Yeoh, B.S.A. (2003). The politics of landscape in Singapore: Constructions of 'Nation'. New York: Syracuse University Press.
** Calculated based on en-blocs from 2005-2006, age of development drawn from various websites when possible, and average age at point of initial en-bloc is approximately 70% accurate.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Gone... Singapore's Early Condo

Sure it looks blocky and not as 'elegant' as the newer condos (which look suspiciously similar to one another nowadays), but Beverly Mai was unique in being one of the first condos in Singapore to incorporate maisonettes and shared facilities. It was featured in Singapore 1:1 City, an architectural exhibit which called it 'gardens in the sky' for its large units with fantastic views of the green cityscape.

Now it's gone, courtesy of the en-bloc madness.

Goodbye Beverly Mai. We'll miss you.

Other Minority Voices - From the Today Newspaper

For a few weeks, there were heated debates in the free Today newspaper about the en-bloc sales. I'm reprinting here those written by minority owners, including one that was co-written by me.

Today Newspaper Voices: 4th August 2006
It’s old, but a perfect home with a seaview to retire in
Letter from ROSE TAN

I REFER to the ongoing debate about en­bloc sales. Last Sunday, I finally found the perfect home for my retirement. It has a su­perb seaview and was renovated for about $200,000 only two years ago. The owner has migrated and was willing to part with every­thing that came with the house, and I was very happy to be able to walk into my new home with just my luggage.

While leaving the place after signing the option, I met my new neighbour-to-be. He smiled at me, welcomed me to the estate, and said: “We are going to vote for an en­bloc. You are so lucky.”

I gently told him that I’d bought the apartment after a long search and had no intention to vote in favour of an en-bloc sale. Imagine my shock when he turned hostile and shouted: “One million dollars, you don’t want ah. You are mad or what?”

Then he slammed his door on me.

The apartment may be an old, former HUDC estate. But it has superb sea view from the living room and all three bed­rooms. Why should I give up my right to a perfect retirement home, just because my neighbour who bought his flat 30 years ago wants to cash out?

I know I, too, stand to gain some $300,000 from going en-bloc, but not every­thing can be measured in terms of money. Why must I be forced to side with them or face hostility? My friends told me that if I do not agree to the sale, I will be sub­jecting myself to a lot of pain and trauma. I told her I would not succumb, no matter what happens.

Today Newspaper Voices: 4th August 2006
Don’t let crass materialism win over sentimental value
Letter from IVY SOH

I THINK it is time for the Government to put an end to all en-bloc sales.

I am an elderly homeowner who feels traumatised by the threat of an en­bloc sale by those in my neighbourhood who can only think in terms of dollars and cents.

About a year ago, after living for 40 years in a semi-de­tached bungalow, I fi­nally found my pres­ent apartment to settle in. This had been preceded by much heart-wrench­ing to leave my old house, time and effort spent in house-hunting, the stress and labour of packing and unpacking, the diffi­culty of obtaining bank loans, and so on.

Please sympathise with the plight of the elderly with no home of family or friends to fall back on. As the years go by, there will be more of such elderly folk in Singapore. Must we lose the rights of private home­owners and be bullied into selling against our wishes?

Why should crass materialism win the fight over those who value their homes, their sentimental attachments, the com­fort and ease of familiarity of environment, the convenience of location and so on?

As the fever of en-bloc sales increases, more competition will be created for new abodes. And when a new home is finally lo­cated, what is there to prevent yet anoth­er en-bloc sale arising?

Today Newspaper iSay: 7th August 2006

MY FAMILY and I are unwittingly caught in the maelstrom of collective sale fever, which may force us to leave our home for the sake of lining the pockets of a few filibustering speculators, estate agents and developers.

For in reality, the owner-occupiers of this property will gain nothing more than a temporary financial benefit until the re­ality of relocation becomes apparent.

There is much speculation over my estate’s en-bloc valu­ation. Some have convinced themselves that this property, in its fourth decade, is worth a king’s ransom. Selling it would mean being able to pay for that dreamt-of landed property or freehold apartment, a new car, an extended overseas holiday, even financial security for life.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, after the estate agent has been paid, CPF returned to the respective accounts, money spent on lawyers’ fees, stamp duties, removal costs, rental for an interim property and the price differential on a newer property that probably still requires renovation. And the financial burden of a new mortgage, higher month­ly maintenance fees, the inconvenience of relocation, perhaps separation from family and friends, will soon take their toll. For my age group, it may mean a further mortgage possi­bly on a restricted term, age restrictions on the use of CPF, ad­ditional expense servicing the new loan — if I am lucky enough to find a suitable alternative in this area.

Since the concept of an en-bloc sale was first mooted, the residents of this estate has split into two distinct camps: Those for and those against, the former being more vo­ciferous.

I have seen colleagues and friends ar­guing over those “last few” incorrectly com­pleted voting forms, to garner a sufficient majority to proceed.

I have sat at poorly-attended annual general meetings (AGMs), enduring cat­calls and verbal abuse because I had the temerity to object. I have seen the en-bloc motion defeated at an Emergency General Meeting, only for it to be resubmitted for further consideration a few months later.

I have seen attempts to rewrite resolutions during AGMs, con­trary to the basic tenets and principles of the constitution, to gar­ner sufficient votes to proceed, and the subsequent formation of an en-bloc committee biased towards the sale. Even on the mere premise of a sale, I have seen residents rejecting management committee resolutions for essential maintenance as “unnecessary”.

Ironically, what has never been mooted is a poll of the res­idents to actually see whether most are willing to proceed. It is unfortunate that the law allows collective sales on the basis of an 80-per-cent acceptance. But I do believe that the original in­tention was to allow only true “residents” to make this decision. Unfortunately, many of the sites suitable for an en-bloc pro­posal are being hijacked by speculators, financial institutions and, in some cases, estate agencies themselves — all of which have a vested interest in making a quick profit from their investment.

We are constantly fed wrong information and rumour, namely, that our east coast location is of such value due to its proximity to the new Integrated Resort, that the revised plot ratio of double the existing one will guarantee huge returns. Or that if we do not all agree to the sale, the Government will surely gazette the land for compulsory purchase.

I was fortunate to gain a seat on the en-bloc committee, pri­marily to represent the interests of those residents who were objecting, confused or undecided. I had to endure a crude at­tempt to co-opt “advisers” comprising mainly of academics, engineers and laypersons with little experience in multimillion -dollar contractual negotiations but who are focused on finding suitable real estate agencies that might be able to speculate on the final remuneration.

I have been questioned by committee members for insist­ing that residents be given details of real estate agents who do not wish to participate on the basis of collective sale suitabili­ty, or difficulties in lease renewal.

There is a long way to go before the en-bloc sale is con­cluded, if such a sale takes place at all. Transactions of adjoin­ing apartments are brisk as prices rise on the expectation of a sale. But, significantly, prices of surrounding estates are also in­creasing. Has this anything to do with the speculation that 750 residents will soon be looking for alternatives in this locality?

We read so much about Singaporeans who emigrate, oth­ers who question the true meaning of being a Singaporean, and comments on instilling in our young a sense of rootedness.

Yet, here I am having to tell my four children who have lived here all their lives, that they will have to leave this neigh­bourhood, as well as friends and close family for the sake of a few dollars. What chance is there for their future?

The rules on en-bloc sales should be changed. Non-residents and obvious speculators should be excluded from the decision­making process. It should be the core residents who make the decision to move, not dollar-motivated speculators who care about neither our community nor the long-term consequences of their dealings.

Today Newspaper Voices: 10 August 2006
Think en-bloc upgrading, not sale
Letter from DAVID HO

I would like to question the law’s rather arbitrary definition of “old estates” being set at 10 years. This sets an estate to have an equivalent lifespan as a car (with its 10-year COE expiry).

A well-maintained estate can easily last in excess of 30 years. Yet, most estates that were sold en-bloc in the past two years averaged 15 years, which not only negates the notion of “freehold” (or even 99-year lease), but is also an environmental waste.

Because of this arbitrary limit, it is not uncommon for estate management com­mittees to wind down repairs, upgrades or maintenance in preparation for an en-bloc sale past the estate’s 10th anniversary.

Furthermore, there is a need to dis­tinguish between upgrading (which occurs mostly for public housing but rarely for pri­vate housing) and redevelopment (which is mostly for private housing) — that is, to va­cate, demolish and develop new estates. I doubt most owners who disagree with en-bloc sales would have problems if their properties were upgraded rather than re­developed. Yet this is not happening, and I must ask why this is the case.

The land-scarce argument in this situ­ation does not hold water simply because only two per cent of land is privately owned. It would make more sense to redevelop (not upgrade) public housing to increase de­velopment intensity. I would imagine such a move would be very unfavourable to HDB owners if they have to move every 10 to 15 years.

I stay in a 14-year-old estate, current­ly undergoing en-bloc along with seven other estates in the vicinity, in all of which I have not seen any major building works in the past four years.

In the en-bloc sales committee (of which many members were in the management committee), 75 per cent are investors who do not reside in the premises and have other concurrent en-bloc sales. To these investors, the notion of home is not set in the estate I stay in, and yet they are given the right to dictate to those who see the place as home.

Current en-bloc regulations do not dis­tinguish between home-owners who are res­ident and those who are not, and this is gross­ly unfair.

The analogy would be investors/non-res­idents as foreigners who are given voting rights to dictate how we as residents (citizens) choose to live in our country, our home.

Mechanisms should be in place to en­courage upgrading of private estates rather than redevelopment; to disempower in­vestors and non-residents from managing an estate — much less attempt to sell what many consider their homes; and to create disincentives for serial en-bloc-ers (such as a capital gains tax for selling a recently­purchased flat).

Today Newspaper Voices: 10th August 2006
Might as well set 30-year leases for all properties
Letter from VALERIE ONG

What is the security of buying into free­hold properties when we cannot stop our beautiful homes from being demolished in the name of en-bloc sales?

If indeed one believes that building projects should be destroyed and rebuilt every so often for the sake of nation-build­ing, then perhaps all properties sold hence­forth should bear only 30-year leases.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Gone... Singapore's Spaceship

I used to enjoy viewing this building everytime we went into Orchard Road, when I was a kid. I always thought it looked like a spaceship (like the Eagle spacecraft from Space 1999!). Its unique shape, it's sensual curves, stirred the imagination of the possibilities of building forms. It's supposedly the most photographed building of the 1970s, and now of course, it'll be gone.

Yes, it was en-bloc'd.

Goodbye Futura. We'll miss you.

Other Minority Voices - From the Straits Times

If readers think I'm alone in this madness, here are some Straits Times Forum postings from owners who are suffering from this en-bloc fever, and wish it was otherwise. No analysis, just letting their words speak their pain.

Straits Times Forum: 11th March 2006
Hit by en bloc
sale fever? Not this sad home owner
By Marie Tan (Mdm)

I REFER to the report, 'En bloc fever grips home owners' (ST, March 8). Sales of entire property developments or estates are indeed the rage now.

Many an owner of apartment dwellings, whether in small developments or in larger but older estates, is eager to band together with fellow owners to sell the entire property as collective sales fetch an estimated 30-50 per cent more than what individual apartments would fetch on the open market.

An entire development can be put up for collective sale when 80 per cent (90 per cent for developments less than 10 years old) of the home owners agree.

Yet not everyone within the majority may have been willing to sell, to begin with. Often, it is a few prime-movers, who have much personal interest at stake, who drive the process. They work hard at every turn, in overt or covert ways, to convince other individuals so that the mandatory figure can be reached. At times, the not-so-overt ways employed is questionable.

Collective-sale efforts generate a lot of awkwardness and tension, if not outright divisiveness and animosity among neighbours, what with the second-guessing and suspicion - which side are you on?

But should we not ask the question: are we wasting resources with all this selling and buying of large-scale properties?

Another issue to consider is the notion of 'home'. In all the excitement and rush - even panic - to launch collective-sale bids, the clear message that comes across is that the value of a 'home' is largely the monetary returns it can yield. Never mind that a home is a sanctuary for one to touch base with self and family, a retreat after a long and often hard day at work or at school.

Perhaps not every home owner attaches the same value to the property he owns. Some may own multiple properties so the secondary ones are dispensable.

But for other home owners, the property they live in is where many significant life events have taken place - marriages begun, children raised, values taught and learnt, routines established and habits formed. For this group of home owners, a collective-sale effort is both pressurising and unnerving.

There are rounds and rounds of talks, reasoning, negotiation. Sometimes there will be misunderstandings and, at times, intrigues. These all create undue pressure and an unpleasant atmosphere.

What is also unnerving is that the home that is a sanctuary can never be viewed in the same way again because a huge question mark hangs over its continued existence.

I am one such home owner, caught unwittingly in others' feverish pursuit of the en bloc sale of our property.

Perhaps I attach too much emotion to my earthly home. It is not a fancy or swanky apartment by any standard but it is a cosy nest, a nice-enough space for my family to live in and enjoy amid lots of clutter and chatter.

It is a place which I am proud to call my home, its value to me is far more than the amount that the agent keen to market my development promises me.

Unfortunately, today I find it hard to enjoy the real value of my home when others insist on putting a monetary value to it.

Perhaps it is time to have a reality check on en bloc sales.

Straits Times Forum: 3rd April 2006
En bloc sale deprives some people of the homes they love dearly
By Dr Rosemary Khoo Ghim Choo

When we buy a house, we expect to live in it for as long as we want. No one can sell our house for us without our permission.

So I thought when my husband and I bought our modest apartment 30 years ago. We could have moved out and cashed in on the property boom of the 1980s and 1990s, but we never did because we loved our apartment with its airy layout and glorious sea view.

My husband is no more but memories of happy times abound, reinforced by neighbours who knew us as a couple when he was alive, creating a wealth beyond measure.

Now my treasured space may be taken away from me, sold without my permission through an en bloc sale.

At a recent rowdy AGM, the lure of the en bloc carrot even persuaded the majority to put off repainting and urgent repairs to the flats.

Many of the original, now elderly, residents could only look on helplessly as resolutions were passed to appoint an estate agent, thus beginning the en bloc process all over again even though the motion was defeated barely weeks ago.

Never mind if the Ministry of Finance owns the land on which the apartments are built, never mind if there is no strata title.

Something is very wrong indeed when other people can sell our abode without our permission, when "serial en blocers" can buy up units and then press for an en bloc sale; when a resolution can be revived just weeks after it was defeated; and when the peace of the residents is disrupted and buildings are allowed to go into disrepair, all because of the lure of riches which may never materialise.

Meanwhile, the residents live in limbo unable to decide on renovation work in their own apartments.

I urge the relevant authorities to take a closer look at the whole en bloc sale process if we value the harmony of life in these private residential estates.

Straits Times Forum: 7th September 2006
Address concerns of the elderly in estates going for sale en bloc
By Chong Oi Peng (Miss)

WHEN apartment owners in my estate received an open invitation to volunteer as members of the pro tem sale committee for selling the estate en bloc, I took it up as I felt my interest and those of my friends should be represented.

However, I was told that unless a person is for the sale of the estate, he cannot sit on the committee. This would mean that only people who are pro-sale can dictate what can or cannot be done during the process.

The views of the rest need not be considered regardless of the fact that they are also owners of apartments in the estate and had paid the same maintenance fees for the estate's upkeep for many years.

The authorities should look into how the concerns of the elderly and retirees living in such estates can be addressed.

For the young and mobile, moving from one estate to another is no big deal, but for the old, the infirm and the retirees, just the thought of moving is traumatic.

Such exercises should be confined to estates that are really beyond repair or those which need to make way for redevelopment.

Straits Times News: 26th March 2006 [Not a Forum post, but an interesting one nevertheless]
En Block; For some residents, there is more to home than just the windfall from a collective sale, even if that means blocking their neighbours' bid to sell
By Sarah Ng, Straits Times

THESE days, 72-year-old Madam Mavis Lee postpones her morning walk until her neighbours have left for work, so that she does not have to worry whether they will interrogate her, or just ignore her completely.

She is neither a criminal nor a bad neighbour, just one of several home owners in her Adam Road estate who rejected a collective sale proposal. And many of her neighbours are upset about it.

'They used to smile and said 'hello' when we met, but now they just stare right through me. Sometimes, they would ask why I'm so stubborn and what's the point of holding on. It's very stressful,' said Madam Lee.

With the promise of windfall sales sparking a new wave of 'en bloc' fever, stories like hers are being played out across the island.

Housewife Marie Tan, for example, loved her apartment in Bukit Timah so much that she wrote to The Straits Times Forum page earlier this month, lamenting that collective sale bids often create tension in her estate between those who agree to sell and those who do not.

Like Madam Lee, 35-year-old Madam Tan does not want to sell. She has lived in her freehold three-bedroom apartment with her husband and three children for eight years.

'Those who wanted to sell have been civilised enough to not do anything negative to those who didn't, but the whole community is split and there is a certain tension in the air,' she said. 'You belong either to the yes or no group. There's a lot of second-guessing and awkwardness.'

In fact, all five home owners The Sunday Times spoke to asked for their estates not to be named to avoid bad blood with their neighbours.

For an entire development to be put up for collective sale, 80 per cent of home owners must agree. If the estate is less than 10 years old, that number is increased to 90 per cent.

It is not difficult to see why there has been a renewed surge in collective sale proposals in the past year, after a downturn in 2000.

Earlier this month, the freehold Eng Lok Mansion in Napier Road was sold en bloc and each of the 64 owners there will receive $2.16 million, about twice the market value.

Last weekend, Paterson Tower was sold for $266 million, with the owners of each apartment to receive $3.7 million.

Owners of apartments in collective sales typically pocket between 30 and 50 per cent more than what their properties are worth individually on the open market.

The buyers are usually developers, who tear down the existing properties and replace them with new estates with more units and communal facilities like swimming pools.

But to the five home owners interviewed, the notion of home is more important than the prospect of pocketing up to $900,000 for an apartment that may have cost $500,000.

Madam Tan said: 'It is our first home after marriage, a place where I became wife and then mother to my three children. Their first steps and their first words all happened in this humble but cosy nest.'

Madam Lee, a widow, is afraid of having to start afresh. 'I can't imagine moving to a new estate at my age. I'll have to find out things like where to buy groceries and what bus to take to visit my grandchildren,' she said.

Said businessman H.C. Lim, 43, who lives in East Coast with his family of five: 'My apartment is more than a home. It is from my late parents and it reminds me of their love.'

Sentimental ties play a big part in residents' decisions to reject collective sales, said Mr Jeremy Lake, executive director, investment properties, at property consultant CB Richard Ellis. The property's location and the fear of not being able to find a comparable home in the area are other important factors, he said. Of course, Mr Lim, Madam Tan and Madam Lee would have no choice but to move if 80 per cent of the owners agreed to the sale of their estates.

According to Mr Karamjit Singh, executive director of collective sale specialist Credo Real Estate, there are several grounds for objection - like if the process to sell the estate en bloc was not carried out according to guidelines or the collective sale proceeds were not enough to pay off existing housing loans - but sentimental attachment is not one of them.

For now, home owners opposing collective sales can only hope neighbours see beyond the dollars and cents of their property.

Said Madam Lee: 'Part of a person's identity is tied to the neighbourhood he lives in. How I wish the rest could see that.'

'It is our first home after marriage, a place where I became wife and then mother to my three children. Their first steps and their first words all happened in this humble but cosy nest.' -- HOUSEWIFE MARIE TAN on why her private apartment is not for sale

Myth #4 - Maximising Land Use

I've read the forum postings in both the Straits Times and the Today newspapers that advocated en-bloc sales. The strongest argument for it, aside from that of financial profit (which cannot be seen as an argument as it is politically incorrect), is that of maximising land use.

Well. If such SPs are so socially concerned about the future of Singapore's land use, then logically, in the name of maximising land use...

  • Botanic Gardens ought to be en-bloc'ed, its living residents evicted out of where it is currently located, preferably into Tuas, and the entire land area there redeveloped into private properties or foreign embassies. It is, after all, a waste of prime land*.
  • The Istana is located in prime commercial land as well. Perhaps it too should be enbloc'ed and the President evicted to Tuas. Beside the Botanic Gardens so that tourists can visit both at the same time, and enjoy the scenic factories. We can build an Integrated Resort right on the Istana property. Talk about maximising land use.
  • Religious buildings in prime land - that's a waste of space too. Let's enbloc the St Andrews Cathedral and the Armenian Church, demolish them and build mini casinos in their place.
  • Now what is that wasted empty space in the middle of the city? Oh yes, the Padang. Enbloc, destroy and rebuild in the name of maximising land use!
  • Since 85% of residential properties in Singapore are public housing flats, with the remainder private housing (the only ones allowed to undergo en-bloc), for maximal land use it would make sense to aggressively redevelop public estates on a 10 year cycle (like private en-blocs, which have an 'age requirement' of 10 yrs). Let's see how the heartland voters would feel if they were subjected to 10 year cyclical evictions.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the argument of maximising land use would imply the above redevelopments as rational choices. Yet, we don't move the Padang, the Istana, the Botanic Gardens. Why? Because of historical reasons? Because of attachment to place?

Aren't these the very same reasons that minority owners who are against enblocs wish to argue for sometimes? So why the double standard of saying that private properties should be demolished to maximise land, and yet remain silent on these other places?

The hypocrisy of greed. Tsk.

* Acknowledging another blogger who suggested this idea and I read it a long while back :) From

Monday, 8 January 2007

Myth #3 - Ownership and Equal Rights

Let's begin with a test of your knowledge on election knowledge. Let's say you're the People's Action Party (PAP) and it's General Election Year. You are an MP in a single-seat constituency and that constituency comprises of 50% Singaporeans and 50% Permanent Residents and Foreigners. Does the law allow permanent residents and foreigners to vote during the General Election?

No. Only Singaporean citizens can vote during the General Election.

Why is it that only citizens have voting rights? According to an article in Electoral Studies (2001), Blais et al* pointed out that 48 out of 63 countries (democracies) have included a clause that limits voting to citizens only. The restriction is based on the notion of community membership and having a personal stake at the votes :

"Before being allowed to vote, one should be fully integrated in the society he or she lives in. Recently arrived immigrants may be presumed to be less familiar with the issues.. Some find shocking that recent immigrants .. might prevent the majority of citizens of long standing from getting what they want" (Blais et al 2001: 52).

I draw the analogy between voting rights for General Election and voting rights for Collective Sale because both have to be seen in terms of community membership and the personal stakes involved, rather than just purely financial stakes. By 'personal stakes' I mean those subsidiary proprietors (SPs) who own a unit in the property, and have been staying there for a substantial amount of time (eg 6 years or more). For these SPs, which I call 'owners', they have formed social attachments to the place - they are familiar with the surroundings, enjoy the various conveniences in the area, have formed social networks with neighbours, with retailers etc, have children who go to school in the area etc. They have a substantial personal stake in the collective sale because if they move, they lose all these social attachments. For them, 'home' is not just a financial value, a profit from the en-bloc sale (although to some it can be that); to owners 'home' is a place they find sustenance in familiarity and where they find a sense of community - a nurturing of their social being. A person who moves too often very quickly loses any sense of attachment to place; 'home' becomes an empty void, just an address to reside in until the next move.

Investors, the other group of SPs, intent on selling their units for a profit, call this 'sentimentality'. They cannot understand why people would NOT want to sell for a large profit, and yes, it is very likely that if their own home (not the invested unit) could be sold for a tidy profit, they'd upheave and move elsewhere. No attachment, no social sense, no obligation to anyone but themselves and their profit margins. The investors are similar to non-citizens, people who have decided not to take up citizenship and create attachment to the place.

And yet, these non-citizen investors have the same equal rights to decide the fate of the property as the "citizens of long standing" owners.

There is a fatal flaw in the definition of ownership in en-bloc sales. Any collective property should be seen as a 'mini democracy', one where more voting rights should be accorded to those with community membership and personal stakes, and less voting rights to those who have no vested interest in the 'mini democracy' except for financial ones. If the future of societies should be decided only by those who are actively involved in it (citizens/owners), why should this be any different?

Why should your property be dictated by people who hold no sense of attachment to the place beyond the financial?

Obviously if all owners decided to vote for the en-bloc sale to proceed, that is only fair and one cannot find fault with that. But more often than not, some owners are the minority, who do not wish to sell, and yet are often drowned out by greedy people (be it owners and/or investors).

Owners, SPs who have stayed in the property for more than 6 years, should have double the voting rights, compared to SPs who have stayed for less than 6 years. Those who stayed there long, should decide what to do with the place, not newcomers who care not for the place at all.

* Blais, A, Massicotte, L. and Yoshinaka, A. (2001), Deciding who has the right to vote: A comparative analysis of election laws. Electoral Studies, Vol 20, pp. 41-62.