Driven by the recent hype over the launch of Gem Residences, I decided to visit the sales gallery last Sunday.
It would be interesting to find out from the horse’s mouth the stories of the project. For examples,
1. 1,449 cheques were collected before the launch but only 360 buyers showed up on the launch day, with 51 percent of the 578 units (i.e. 295 units) sold.
2. The plan to give away cheques of S$7,500 or S$10,000 to offset the 5 percent booking fee was scrapped last minute and replaced with branded kitchen appliances.
3. The triple-key units with a kitchen in each of the 3 sub-units were not approved by the authority. They are now called the “Trios” (instead of Tri-key) with separate entrances but only one kitchen.
Disclaimer: I am not from the developer, marketing agent or any stakeholder of the project. As a fellow buyer or investor, I can be in a neutral position to share honestly what I see in this project from my own experience.
Where are the buyers?
It was just passed ten in the morning but the open carpark in front of the sales gallery was already full.
However, when I stepped inside the showflat, I could only see property agents from PropNex and ERA. Team leaders were conducting briefings for groups of agents in front of the project model. Most of the property agents were chitchatting at the discussion tables or hanging around at the sales gallery.
During my 1 ½-hour stay there, I could only see a handful of buyers. The ratio of buyers versus agents was about 1:15. Maybe interested buyers were still in bed on a Sunday morning.
A property agent was assigned to me. She said the project was more than 50 percent sold a week after the launch.
A gem in Toa Payoh?
The sales gallery and the actual site are at two different locations. The former is at 31 Lor 5 Toa Payoh Block 31 while the latter is at 2 Lor 6 Toa Payoh.
The project is positioned as a long-awaited rare new project in Toa Payoh. The Google map shows that the actual site of Gem Residences is at Braddell which is quite far from Toa Payoh Central. If you check with Google directions, the condo is 7 minutes’ walk from the Braddell MRT station.
If you try to locate Gem Residences in Streetdirectory.com, the actual site is near to a Chinese temple called Toa Payoh Seu Teck Sean Tong (大芭窑修德善堂).
The property agent claimed that this is a ‘quiet’ temple. But a check on its website proves the opposite. The temple offers free consultations and medication for the poor, conducts regular ritual ceremonies, houses ancestral tablets, and places ashes of the deceased in a columbarium.
On the other side of the Gem Residences is the Police Security Command which is the elite unit of handpicked police officers to protect the President, Ministers and VIP guests.
I have covered in my How to Buy Good Quality Properties Workshop the negative implications of staying too close to a religious place and a police station according to fengshui. Buyers should think about whether their family, potential tenants and future buyers will feel comfortable staying near these places.
Where is the wow factor?
The brochure of Gem residences is a ½-inch-thick book with 191 pages. It starts with valuable old photos of the Toa Payoh town and interviews with long-time residents. It is followed by another chapter about life in Toa Payoh – the transportation, school network, eateries and recreations – interwined with interviews and quotes from owners of hawkers, café owners and sports players. That leaves only less than half of the pages relevant to the project.
There are three developers behind Gem Residences: Gamuda Land, Evia Real Estate and Greatearth. Malaysian developer Gamuda Land has the experience of building country clubs. It is trying to infuse the concept of a privileged club to a condominium.
Facilities that are new to Singapore condominiums include EZ-Link enabled Resident’s Pass, pet pool, edible garden and parcel locker system.
For the first year after obtaining TOP, the developer will throw in the following extra perks for free for all the owners:
– Concierge, taxi and limo booking services;
– On-demand housekeeping, laundry, shopping, private chef and event planning;
– Travel booking, restaurant reservation, grocery shopping and food delivery services (with a service fee);
– Taxi booking and rental car services at $9 per hour;
– Weekly cooking, bakery, yoga, Aqua Zumba, swimming for children (only first month free) classes;
– Regular GP visits (with licensed doctors) and consultations at the condo; and
– 1-year membership of Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club (in Johor Bahru).
It is a brilliant idea to introduce the clubhouse and housekeeper concept in a condominium. However, owners have to take note of the following:
1. It is human nature to want to try new things, especially when they are free (or have been factored into the purchase price). If residents from half of the 578 units all book the same service at the same time, will the special service still be a gem or just a jam?
2. After the first year, the Resident Committee has to decide which services will continue because all of them will come with a price from now on.
3. The maintenance of every facility and employment of every club service come with a price. The costs are borne by the owners and landlords of all the units taken from the management fee and sinking fund, regardless whether they are actually using them or not.
How to pick the gems in Gem Residences?
Compared with other large-scale condo projects, Gem Residences is no doubt superior in design of its site in the following areas:
1. Instead of many blocks crowded in a small site area overlooking each other with not much privacy, there are only two blocks with comfortable distance in between.
2. All units are north-south facing in Sunstone Tower and Moonstone Tower.
3. The development promises lush greenery with different floral zoning growing 26 different types of flowers and plants.
4. The project is the tallest building in the area with 39 storeys. Higher floor units can have panoramic view of the city.
5. The units provide more usable space with full length windows (or what the developer called ‘curtain walls ‘) with no bay windows.
Gem Residences is surrounded by the main roads and the HDB blocks. The latter may not be a concern of many buyers given 73 percent of them have HDB addresses. But for privacy and tranquility, it is best to choose units facing inside.
The best units are 12, 13 and 14, followed by 1, 2 and 3 (expect some noise from the pool and playground). For unit 12 and 13, choose 8th floor and above to avoid blockage by the 6-storey carpark.
What about layout and pricing?
Although Gem Residences have allocated ample space for many facilities, the units are all very tiny.
1. 1-bedroom units are best-sellers but are obviously shoebox units under 500 sq ft. Even 2-bedroom units are only 570 sq ft in size.
2. The living hall of a 3-bedroom unit cannot fit in a dining set. The showflat of the 3-bedroom unit uses the balcony as the dining room. Also, expect to dry wet laundry next to the dining table in the same balcony.
3. There is no space to move around after putting a king size bed in the master bedrooms. Only the master bathrooms are spacious. (The property agent kept reminding me to take photos of the spacious master bathroom.)
4. There is no maid’s room. Developer explained in the brochure that residents can enjoy on-demand housekeeping and laundry services instead.
The average price of 319 sales transactions works out to be $1,426 psf. It is only 7 percent higher than nearby Trevista ($1,333 psf) which obtained its TOP 4 years ago. Two older projects Trellis Tower ($1,304 psf) and Oleander Tower ($1,026 psf) are nearer to Toa Payoh Central and offer better value for money.
What is the final verdict?
For a fair evaluation of new launch projects, I have devised a PCS (Property Club Singapore) Rating System based on 7 important criteria. Below is the PCS ratings of Gem Residences.