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UOL GROUP on Friday released the prices for its newest project, the 797-unit Botanique at Bartley in the city fringe.
Units will average "a shade below S$1,300 per square foot", which is "very realistic pricing", UOL's president (property) Liam Wee Sin stressed at a showflat viewing with reporters. Consultants agree that the price is reasonable.
The development only has one, two and three-bedders. More than 70 per cent of the units are priced below S$1 million, which led consultants to surmise that it is probably targeted at investors.
But Mr Liam said Botanique targets home buyers as well and the conspicuous absence of four and five-bedders was not a deliberate attempt to keep units affordable amid loan curbs.
"While we have kept units small, we make them very efficient and liveable . . . It wasn't a quantum mix that was preoccupying us that we didn't want four-bedroom. We think this kind of mix is more saleable . . . I didn't think, 'Wow this would end up S$1.8 million, so I better don't (include them).' I didn't have that in mind, but it's resultant; it wasn't a conscious effort," he said.
Botanique has a mix of 200 one-bedroom, 382 two-bedroom and 215 three-bedroom units. Quite a number of the two and three-bedders are flexi apartments which can be converted into dual-key units.
"Such dual-key apartment layout can cater to multi-generational families, or buyers who wish to rent out self-contained one-bedroom unit within a larger apartment to tenants," said Mr Liam.
Unit sizes for one-bedders range from 495 to 689 square feet. Prices range from S$598,000 to S$800,000.
Two-bedders range from 657 to 958 sq ft. Prices range from S$798,000 to S$1.05 million.
Three-bedders range from 926 to 1,356 sq ft and prices range from S$1.16 million to S$1.68 million.
UOL won this site with a bid of S$648 psf per plot ratio in January 2014.
The condominium is walking distance from Bartley MRT Station, near mainstream and international schools, and an MRT stop away from nex shopping mall. It is expected to be completed in 2019.
The showflats will be open for public viewing from Saturday for about two weeks. Units will be launched for sale in phases, starting early April. Mr Liam has not decided how many will be released in the first phase.
He believes there is underlying demand in the market, judging from "lukewarm" launches this year (Kingsford Waterbay, Sims Urban Oasis) that have since picked up in sales.
Only two known projects of similar scale - Northpark (920 units) and another one at Fernvale Road (about 700 units) - will be launched later this year; most others will be executive condominium launches, he noted.
Nicholas Mak, SLP International executive director, finds the launch price fair.
Nearby, Bartley Residences and Bartley Ridge were launched at S$1,260 psf and S$1,296 psf in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Mr Mak noted that development costs have increased since. "But at this price of close to S$1,300 psf, it could take about two years to sell all the 797 units in the current market condition."
Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield, agreed that the condo is "priced to sell".
But she flagged that there may be intense competition for tenants when it is completed, because Bartley Residences and Bartley Ridge will also be new completions and they will be ready ahead of Botanique.
"By the time Botanique is up, Bartley Residences and Bartley Ridge could have soaked up quite a lot of leasing demand," she said.
Asked if UOL has seen development margins thinning, Mr Liam said: "Margins are a little bit more compressed, but it also depends on the procurement cost of the land and the construction . . . The ability to do good procurement of the land and construction is a critical success factor before we can offer value back to the buyers."
He reiterated UOL's plans to tender for residential sites in good locations in Singapore. Its past projects such as Waterbank @ Dakota and Seventy Saint Patrick's had been well timed to coincide with announcements of new upcoming MRT stations in the vicinity.
Its unsold inventory includes eights units (out of 445) at Thomson Three, 259 units (out of 555) at Riverbank @ Fernvale, and 31 units (out of 186) at Seventy Saint Patrick's.
Asked about its remaining land bank at Prince Charles Crescent, acquired at S$820 psf per plot ratio last April, Mr Liam declined to reveal details, saying: "We're still kneading that one. But this one (Botanique) is in the oven, ready to be pulled out."