From red-light area to red-hot property

From red-light area to red-hot property
Recent developments in Balestier include The Interweave (right) and Zhongsan Mall (left).

SINGAPORE - Balestier is shrugging off its unsavoury red-light reputation and luring buyers with some new projects.

A key move in the area's makeover was the refurbishing of the Sun Yat Sun Memorial Hall and the integrated hotel-park complex comprising Zhongshan Mall, Zhongshan Park, and the Days and Ramada hotels.

Ms Elaine Chow, head of research at HSR Property Consultants, said the neighbourhood's eclectic mix of land uses - food and beverage outlets, home fixture shops, religious sites and hotels - is an attraction.

Buyers, including expatriates on tight budgets forced out of the city centre, see Balestier as a handy substitute given its proximity to the centre of town but with prices below those for neighbouring Novena and Toa Payoh.

"Buying interest for homes in Balestier is very much focused on new projects, instead of completed homes," said Mr Ong Kah Seng, director of R'ST Research, who added that average prices of new homes hovered between $1,400 per sq ft (psf) and $1,530 psf for a unit smaller than 700 sq ft last year.

Prices in the Novena area were around $2,000 psf.

Mr Ong said: "Investors prefer the new, smaller apartments with lower price quantums, which can be easily rented out to young expatriates who are on limited housing allowances."

Recent residential developments include The Interweave, SkySuites 17 and One Dusun Residences.

Resale activity in Balestier has moderated lately with projects registering between one and three resale deals a quarter.

While this type of market movement is in line with the general slowdown islandwide, Mr Ong added that prices for resale homes have been rising in the past two years.

Last year, they rose by between 4 and 7 per cent following increases of between 5 and 10 per cent the previous year.

"Prices have held up well (despite the limited number of resale transactions), reflecting the fact that owners who are selling pushed for higher prices in the light of the long-term investment potential of Balestier," said Mr Ong.

HSR's Ms Chow said some units were able to achieve significant resale price increases.

She said a 14th-floor 904 sq ft unit at Domus in Irrawaddy Road sold for $1.42 million in January, or $1,570 psf. This is 58 per cent over its $889,100 price in May 2009.

Ms Chow also pointed to an 11th- storey unit at The Arte. It was originally bought for about $1.19 million in April 2009 and sold last month for $1.84 million, a capital appreciation of 53 per cent in four years.

She said the redevelopment of sites in Balestier will probably result in a gradual gentrification of the neighbourhood, a view also shared by Mr Ong.

He said the profiles of buyers in the area are increasingly becoming more diverse.

"Private home buyers are no longer just those in upper income brackets with stringent property requirements," he noted.

"There are buyers who are... flexible in their housing requirements so they will buy homes in older, upcoming or once-controversial neighbourhoods."

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