Record-breaking $1.4 million HDB costs too much? The alternatives may not be any better

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

If you haven’t heard by now, a 5-room HDB flat at Henderson just broke the record for the most expensive HDB ever transacted – at a stunning price of $1.4 million.

The unit is located in City Vue @ Henderson, an HDB development known for its striking view of the city, and convenient location. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that you have sheltered walkways all the way to the MRT station! It’s 1,216 square feet (113 sqm) in size, and situated on the 41st floor of the 48-storey block (it’s not even the highest floor). Given the lease only started in 2019, it is only 3 years old at this point.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

For those wondering how they managed to sell before the usual 5-year MOP, this was actually a replacement home for the 878 homes at Redhill Close that underwent the Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) back in 2011.

So unlike BTO units, the MOP criteria here is different. This would either be 7 years from the date of selection of the replacement flat, or 5 years from the date of occupation – whichever is earlier. Hence in the case of this particular purchase, if construction took 4 years, and they’ve stayed for 3, that would already fulfil the minimum criteria.

Now, while many people are struggling to comprehend why anyone would pay $1.4 million for an HDB flat at Henderson, the reality is that what people value in a home can be a very subjective thing. From scenic views to proximity to your parent’s home, to even just the typical convenience factor – it’s something that can’t always be justified by numbers.

Still, we thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what other options you have in Singapore at a $1.4 million price point.

Let’s start with the most obvious one – what can you get for $1.4 million in the same Bukit Merah planning area?

What 3-bedroom condo units can $1.4 Million get you in Bukit Merah

To keep things as fair as possible, we isolated it down to as many equivalent factors as possible. It has to be a development that was as new (or close to) as City Vue @ Henderson, and a 3-bedroom unit as well. We decided to forgo having to be on a high floor too, as we knew you wouldn’t be getting any equivalent results at that point. (If there was, we doubt anyone would be choosing the HDB unit instead).

Project Name Price Size (Sqft) $PSF Sale Date Address Tenure
Alex Residences $1,550,000 926 1,674 28-Jan-22 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #03 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Alex Residences $1,595,880 883 1,808 22-Oct-21 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #02 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Echelon $1,628,000 861 1,891 27-Aug-21 9 ALEXANDRA VIEW #02 99 yrs from 06/03/2012
Echelon $1,675,000 861 1,945 26-Jan-22 7 ALEXANDRA VIEW #10 99 yrs from 06/03/2012
Alex Residences $1,680,000 926 1,815 28-Feb-22 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #04 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Echelon $1,690,000 861 1,963 4-Aug-21 9 ALEXANDRA VIEW #07 99 yrs from 06/03/2012
Alex Residences $1,700,000 926 1,836 11-May-21 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #13 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Spottiswoode Suites $1,708,000 1087 1,571 27-Jul-21 16 SPOTTISWOODE PARK ROAD #05 Freehold
Alex Residences $1,728,000 926 1,867 9-Jul-21 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #18 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Alex Residences $1,735,000 926 1,874 15-Apr-21 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #16 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Echelon $1,750,000 1001 1,748 15-Oct-21 9 ALEXANDRA VIEW #18 99 yrs from 06/03/2012
Echelon $1,750,000 1001 1,748 25-Oct-21 9 ALEXANDRA VIEW #07 99 yrs from 06/03/2012
Alex Residences $1,770,000 926 1,912 24-Aug-21 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #19 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Alex Residences $1,795,000 926 1,939 22-Dec-21 28 ALEXANDRA VIEW #28 99 yrs from 18/03/2013
Source: URA. Transactions since April 2021.

Probably to no one’s surprise, if you are looking to live within the same area, there is nothing that you can find at that same price point.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The closest would be a compact 3-bedroom 926 square feet unit at Alex Residences (you know, that one with the magnificent 40th-floor rooftop infinity pool). But even then, it’s hardly the same comparison given this unit that was sold is located on the 3rd floor.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Still, at a price of $1.55 million, it’s a good 10per cent higher than the price of the Henderson flat. And it’s also worth noting here, that just a month later, a similar size unit just one floor up sold for $1.68 million – so that seemingly low resale price may just be a one-off.

What $1.4 Million can get you in Bukit Merah without any restrictions

What if we made it a little less strict? If you had that same budget but are set on staying in the same area (without the other restrictions), what options do you have?

Project Name Price Area (Sqft) $PSF Date Address Tenure
Principal Garden $1,399,999 764 $1,832 10-Jun-21 99 PRINCE CHARLES CRESCENT #05 99 yrs from 21/07/2014
The Foresta @ Mount Faber $1,400,000 872 $1,606 5-Oct-21 106 WISHART ROAD #05 Freehold
Principal Garden $1,410,000 764 $1,845 10-Sep-21 99 PRINCE CHARLES CRESCENT #08 99 yrs from 21/07/2014
The Foresta @ Mount Faber $1,450,000 786 $1,845 18-May-21 102 WISHART ROAD #03 Freehold
Principal Garden $1,450,000 807 $1,796 11-Jun-21 93 PRINCE CHARLES CRESCENT #07 99 yrs from 21/07/2014
Principal Garden $1,478,000 764 $1,934 19-Nov-21 97 PRINCE CHARLES CRESCENT #13 99 yrs from 21/07/2014
The Foresta @ Mount Faber $1,490,000 829 $1,798 2-Jul-21 102 WISHART ROAD #02 Freehold
Principal Garden $1,490,000 764 $1,950 11-Jan-22 97 PRINCE CHARLES CRESCENT #09 99 yrs from 21/07/2014
Source: URA. Transactions since April 2021.

Again, it’s quite slim pickings here.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The closest would be a 2 bedroom 764 square foot unit at Principal Garden that comes in at a hair under $1.4 million. Although we must point out that this was transacted in June 2021, and prices have moved a fair bit since then (a similar-sized unit sold for $1.49 million in January 2022).

As much as we love Principal Garden for its wonderful landscaping and many different swimming pools to choose from, it’s really not the same comparison here. This unit also unfortunately will be facing the future Alexandra BTO blocks, so it’s not going to enjoy the same current open views.

Next, what if we were to look at the same location, with the requirement of a similar-sized 3 bedroom, but no restrictions on age?

What $1.4 million can get you with no restrictions on age

Project Name Price Area (Sqft) $PSF Sale Date Address Tenure
Spottiswoode Park $950,000 1,270 $748 23-Dec-21 105 SPOTTISWOODE PARK ROAD #13 99 yrs from 01/08/1976
Spottiswoode Park $1,000,000 1,270 $787 20-Sep-21 107 SPOTTISWOODE PARK ROAD #15 99 yrs from 01/08/1976
Spottiswoode Park $1,093,000 1,313 $832 25-Mar-22 107 SPOTTISWOODE PARK ROAD #15 85 yrs from 01/08/1990
The Pearl @ Mount Faber $1,430,000 1,292 $1,107 18-Nov-21 1 MOUNT FABER ROAD #01 99 yrs from 03/12/2002
Emerald Park $1,450,000 1,130 $1,283 30-Jul-21 6 INDUS ROAD #03 99 yrs from 01/09/1991
Tanglin View $1,470,000 1,152 $1,276 27-Apr-21 150 PRINCE CHARLES CRESCENT #02 99 yrs from 17/05/1997
Reflections At Keppel Bay $1,480,000 1,012 $1,463 4-Jun-21 23 KEPPEL BAY VIEW #03 99 yrs from 15/03/2006
Source: URA. Transactions from April 2021.

This time, you do have some choices to compare with, namely Spottiswoode Park, Emerald Park and Tanglin View (although they will be slightly above budget).

The first is a 5-room private apartment at Spottiswoode Park. It’s quite an interesting property as Blocks 101, 102 , 105, 107 here are considered private, while Blocks 103, 104 , 106 ,109, 110 are classified under HDB instead. 

If you look at the transaction data, you’d see that the HDB units are actually going for $200,000 – $300,000 cheaper when on the outside and inside they are basically the same!

So yes, you can get an equivalent sized unit at a cheaper price, just that it’s much, much older.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Emerald Park is a 99-year leasehold development that was completed in 1993, so yes, it is significantly older. With just 280 units though, it isn’t quite as dense as City Vue @ Henderson, and enjoys a slightly less busy location. You are also quite close to Tiong Bahru (you can cut through the HDB blocks at Havelock, and the upcoming Havelock MRT station will be a short walk away.

Tanglin View is probably in a better spot if you are after convenience. You can quite easily walk to Redhill MRT station, and the Alexandra Park Connector is just behind. This means you can walk/cycle to CBD quite easily if that’s your thing. It was built by Far East Organization as well but is newer too as it was built in 2002.

Ultimately, the trade-off of these in terms of lease years remaining is significant enough that it’s not such a clear-cut decision if you have to choose between either. Unless the pull of being able to enjoy the facilities in a condo is so strong, it’s hard to declare a clear winner here.

Next, let’s open it up more. Let’s see what options there are with the same budget, 3 bedroom equivalent size, and age, but this time to the rest of Singapore.

What $1.4 million can get you in the rest of Singapore

Project Price Area (Sqft) $PSF Date Address Tenure
Belysa $1,400,000 1,421 $985 10-Feb-22 57 PASIR RIS DRIVE 1 #09 99 yrs from 24/01/2011
Hedges Park Condominium $1,400,000 1,346 $1,041 29-Oct-21 81 FLORA DRIVE #08 99 yrs from 28/07/2010
The Tampines Trilliant $1,400,000 1,378 $1,016 7-October-21 27 TAMPINES CENTRAL 7 #01 99 yrs from 13/07/2011
Heron Bay $1,400,000 1,389 $1,008 29-Sep-21 61 UPPER SERANGOON VIEW #14 99 yrs from 04/06/2012
Twin Waterfalls $1,400,000 1,507 $929 28-June-21 114 PUNGGOL WALK #01 99 yrs from 05/10/2011
Seastrand $1,400,000 1,302 $1,075 28-Oct-21 1 PASIR RIS LINK #09 99 yrs from 03/01/2011
A Treasure Trove $1,400,000 1,206 $1,161 4-Jun-21 68 PUNGGOL WALK #09 99 yrs from 09/03/2011
River Isles $1,400,000 1,227 $1,141 10-Aug-21 58 EDGEDALE PLAINS #13 99 yrs from 06/02/2012
Waterfront Isle $1,400,000 1,259 $1,112 14-Apr-21 736 BEDOK RESERVOIR ROAD #01 99 yrs from 26/11/2009
Riversound Residence $1,400,000 1,367 $1,024 7-Jul-21 1 SENGKANG EAST AVENUE #06 99 yrs from 26/08/2011
Sea Esta $1,400,000 1,378 $1,016 27-Jul-21 30 PASIR RIS LINK #01 99 yrs from 09/01/2012
Riversails $1,400,000 1,367 $1,024 16-Sep-21 6 UPPER SERANGOON CRESCENT #03 99 yrs from 07/12/2011
Stratum $1,400,000 1,399 $1,000 7-Sep-21 86 ELIAS ROAD #01 99 yrs from 11/07/2012
Stratum $1,400,000 1,399 $1,000 20-Jan-22 80 ELIAS ROAD #01 99 yrs from 11/07/2012
Citylife@Tampines $1,400,000 1,195 $1,172 29-Oct-21 53 TAMPINES CENTRAL 7 #11 99 yrs from 13/08/2012
Ecopolitan $1,400,000 1,216 $1,151 14-Mar-22 136 PUNGGOL WALK #05 99 yrs from 04/12/2012
Lush Acres $1,400,000 1,238 $1,131 30-Aug-21 3 FERNVALE CLOSE #15 99 yrs from 13/02/2013
Lush Acres $1,400,000 1,238 $1,131 16-Sep-21 3 FERNVALE CLOSE #06 99 yrs from 13/02/2013
The Topiary $1,400,000 1,238 $1,131 5-Jan-22 23 FERNVALE LANE #14 99 yrs from 03/07/2012
Skies Miltonia $1,400,000 1,313 $1,066 24-November-21 31 MILTONIA CLOSE #06 99 yrs from 20/02/2012
Sea Horizon $1,400,000 1,335 $1,049 23-Mar-22 15 PASIR RIS RISE #04 99 yrs from 25/02/2013
Waterbay $1,400,000 1,346 $1,041 3-June-21 47B EDGEFIELD PLAINS #13 99 yrs from 02/07/2012
Ecopolitan $1,400,000 1,367 $1,024 2-Sep-21 128 PUNGGOL WALK #14 99 yrs from 04/12/2012
Ecopolitan $1,400,000 1,367 $1,024 7-Sep-21 136 PUNGGOL WALK #12 99 yrs from 04/12/2012
Ecopolitan $1,400,000 1,367 $1,024 10-Sep-21 128 PUNGGOL WALK #11 99 yrs from 04/12/2012
The Topiary $1,400,000 1,389 $1,008 8-Sep-21 15 FERNVALE LANE #02 99 yrs from 03/07/2012
Forestville $1,400,000 1,399 $1,000 29-Oct-21 40 WOODLANDS DRIVE 16 #09 99 yrs from 06/08/2012
Forestville $1,400,000 1,399 $1,000 7-Feb-22 40 WOODLANDS DRIVE 16 #04 99 yrs from 06/08/2012
Lush Acres $1,400,000 1,485 $942 19-Aug-21 3 FERNVALE CLOSE #25 99 yrs from 13/02/2013
Sea Horizon $1,400,000 1,485 $942 22-October-21 19 PASIR RIS RISE #02 99 yrs from 25/02/2013
Forestville $1,400,000 1,496 $936 14-Apr-21 48 WOODLANDS DRIVE 16 #02 99 yrs from 06/08/2012
The Wisteria $1,400,000 1,173 $1,193 26-July-21 596 YISHUN RING ROAD #12 99 yrs from 27/04/2015
The Visionaire $1,400,000 1,313 $1,066 1-Mar-22 170 CANBERRA DRIVE #06 99 yrs from 09/01/2015
Source: URA. Transactions from April 2021.

As expected, at this price point and with the freedom of any location, you do have quite a big range to pick from. That said, it’s not so much a big range of locations as it is the range of condos, as you are restricted to mostly areas like Punggol, Tampines, and Pasir Ris. Some of these even have bigger unit sizes, so you do get more bang for your buck, in that sense.

At the end of the day though, that’s always going to be the tradeoff here. Should you stay in a central location, where you have to pay more for a smaller space? Or stay further away, where travel times are going to be longer but you can enjoy a bigger home?

Lastly, just as the last point to satisfy our curiosity, let’s look at what equivalent units you can get at a $1.4 million budget if staying on a high floor was your main concern. In this scenario, we picked units that were from at least 35 floors and up.

What $1.4 million can get you for equivalent high-floor units

Project Price Area (Sqft) $PSF Date Address Tenure
International Plaza $1,180,000 1,033 $1,142.00 23-Aug-21 10 ANSON ROAD #40 99 yrs from 02/06/1970
International Plaza $1,200,000 1,033 $1,161.00 12-May-21 10 ANSON ROAD #39 99 yrs from 02/06/1970
The Rochester Residences $1,260,000 1,023 $1,232.00 10-Dec-21 33 ROCHESTER DRIVE #35 99 yrs from 02/02/2005
Trevista $1,300,000 861 $1,510.00 5-May-21 21 LORONG 3 TOA PAYOH #35 99 yrs from 15/07/2008
Queens $1,300,000 915 $1,421.00 24-Sep-21 10 STIRLING ROAD #38 99 yrs from 16/02/1998
International Plaza $1,300,000 1,033 $1,258.00 24-Mar-22 10 ANSON ROAD #45 99 yrs from 02/06/1970
Stirling Residences $1,364,000 818 $1,667.00 24-Apr-21 21 STIRLING ROAD #40 99 yrs from 18/08/2017
Trevista $1,380,000 926 $1,491.00 22-Jun-21 21 LORONG 3 TOA PAYOH #36 99 yrs from 15/07/2008
Source: URA. Transactions from April 2021.

Unfortunately, if staying high up and having picturesque views are what you’d pay a premium for, there’s really no comparison at this price point if you are looking for a 3 bedroom unit.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The closest is a 2 bedroom 1,033 square feet at International Plaza. You do enjoy a fantastic location here, as you are right by Guoco Tower (and obviously, overshadowed by it). There are a ton of food options in the area, from the shophouses at Duxton to the ones at 100AM mall. The unit that was sold was on the 40th floor as well, so you should definitely be getting some decent views all around.

There’s really no right or wrong here

To be clear, this wasn’t to descend into a debate about whether a $1.4 million HDB or condo would be a better choice.

As the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

While it seems that everyone is supporting Johnny Depp at this point, there are also equal fanatic fans of Amber Heard that you may just be surprised about – it all depends on which side of the fence you are on.

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.