A first-time homebuyer's journey: 4 ECs with big units under $2 million

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

My search for a multi-generational home took an interesting turn last week, when I started considering Executive Condominiums (ECs), a property segment that I hadn’t even known existed prior to this house hunt!

In last week’s article, I listed out 13 EC developments that had under 400 units and larger units (over 1,900 sq ft in size) and, this week, I decided to narrow my search to developments amongst those 13 which currently have units over 2,000 sq ft listed for sale at under $2 million (at the time of writing, at least. Property moves fast in 2021!).

This narrowed my search to the following four Executive Condos:

  1. Heron Bay
  2. The Dew
  3. The Esparis
  4. Windermere

For those whose budget can stretch to over $2 million, I’ve compiled all the EC developments (with under 400 units) which currently have penthouse sale listings below (if you’re wondering why I’m only looking at penthouses, that’s because ECs are extremely popular with families which have young children, and not having an upstairs neighbour is the only way I can think of to avoid the pitter-patter of little feet above my head):

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Note: Some ECs charge additional fees if you require a car park space as well as for the usage of facilities, so do ask the agent before you buy!

For example, Windermere charges for the usage of the BBQ pit, whilst The Esparis imposes a fee for booking the tennis court.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

I must confess, I had a pretty fixed idea of these ECs in my mind before actually viewing any of the units.

After seeing dozens of YouTube videos and researching the properties online, I just knew that The Esparis would be amazing, followed by The Dew, and lastly Windermere.

After all, The Esparis has only 200+ units (it’s tiny for an EC), an unblocked view of the greenery of Sea Shell Park (for certain units) as well as an amazing amount of indoor/liveable space (in proportion to the total square footage) so how could it not be the best of the lot?

In fact, I was so sure about The Esparis that I had been planning to dedicate my next article to a full review of it! But I’ve learnt from this to not judge a book by its cover, as Windermere actually ended up being my favourite development.

The Esparis

The Esparis and I didn’t really get off to a good start.

I found the drive to The Esparis rather stressful, as there was a lot of construction and traffic, even over the weekend, which left me wondering how bad the traffic would be during peak hours (assuming we ever go back to working full-time from the office, that is).

Of course, this could have been a one off occurrence but I couldn’t help thinking It may be due to the construction of the Pasir Ris East MRT station, which is part of the Cross Island Line and set to open in 2030.

(So a mere eight to nine more years of construction then!).

In addition, The Esparis is set in quite a built-up area, with high rise buildings all around it, so despite being next to Sea Shell Park, it felt a bit claustrophobic (compared to other developments such as Windermere).

I was genuinely shocked when I found out that the plot size is approximately 150,000 sq ft as it felt like less than half that size.

PHOTO: Cliffmont Pte Ltd

A good driveway is a must in my book, and the turn in to The Esparis, though manageable, was a little tight – I can’t understand why the management didn’t just move the planter boxes out a bit to widen the turning!

Nonetheless, The Esparis has many plus points, as you can see by the very lengthy “What I like” section below.

ALSO READ: Ultimate list of 23 HDB executive maisonettes: Location, price, size, and are they worth buying?

What I like:

  • Several blocks face Sea Shell Park and thus have unblocked greenery views (namely, stacks 14, 15, 20, 21, 26 and 27). As Sea Shell Park is not a very famous park, you don’t have to worry about crowds gathering under your windows, staring into your unit and making lots of noise. Added bonus: the Sea Shell Park facing units do not get the west sun!
  • The duplex penthouse here has the most amount of indoor living space (in proportion to the total square footage) I have seen in an EC so far: there is only one balcony/ roof terrace (on the second floor) which is large enough to be functional (i.e. you can place a living or dining furniture set on it) but it’s not so big as to feel ridiculous. Moreover, the outdoor space is rectangular so you don’t lose any of the space to non-functional weird corners.
  • The bedrooms (en-suite) on the upper floor of the duplex penthouse are in a dumbbell layout, allowing for maximum privacy and the space in-between is large enough to be a study, another bedroom or a family room.
  • There’s a back gate that brings you directly to the bus stop. (However, as there is little set back between the blocks and the fence, the units at that end of the blocks would thus come with some road noise.)
    PHOTO: Stackedhomes
  • Very generous rectangular living-dining space: there’s even room for my six-seater dining table and piano!
  • A decent-sized yard for the laundry
  • Large windows (full length in some units), making for nice and bright units.
  • Windows in the stairwell, kitchen and bathroom, providing much needed ventilation.

The development has its very own Parcel Santa vending machine, facilitating online shopping (perhaps this should be listed under the Cons section as it would be bad for my wallet?)

PHOTO: Stackedhomes
  • A well-planned car park (other than the turn-in): unlike newer developments, there are visitor lots and these are separated into sections which are located in between the lobbies, so your guests won’t have to walk too far to get to you. (In some developments, all the visitor parking is lumped together in a god-forbidden section of the development, resulting in a long trek to the blocks.)
  • Like most government developments, amenities are close-by. There’s a Community Centre at the doorstep and a Giant supermarket about 150m away.

ALSO READ: 4 reasons why HDB upgraders prefer executive condos to private condos

PHOTO: Cliffmont Pte Ltd
  • A very thoughtful architect: the penthouses at The Esparis have lots of little details that make life much more convenient and pleasant such as a skylight over the entry foyer to provide natural light and angled windows under the bay windows that allow you to ventilate your flat when it rains without water coming into the flat! The height of the bay window (in the penthouse) also makes it perfect for a tea counter or shelf- in fact, I couldn’t even tell it was a bay window at first! (Note: I’ve also viewed a non-penthouse unit at The Esparis and the section under the bay window is just the regular solid wall i.e. not an angled window to allow air in.)

Meh points:

  • The Esparis is a relic from the beloved Singaporean era of bomb shelters and bay windows.
  • There are five to six units per block so it may be noisier. (Two lifts per block, each with 10 stories. The Dew and Windermere, in contrast, only have four units per block.)
  • There is only one car lane for both visitors and residents so there may be some congestion at the entrance, depending on the number of residents that drive.
  • It’s situated right next to a temple – I’ve never stayed next to one, but I’ve heard that living next to a place of worship can be, shall we say, less than serene? The other neighbours, as mentioned above, are high-rise (and close-by) making the grounds of the development feel much more cramped than they are in actuality.
  • Standard ceiling heights in the penthouse: most penthouses come with the bonus of higher-than-average ceilings (that is not counted towards your square footage unless it’s a double volume unit).

The grounds and facilities are showing their age: some painting work etc wouldn’t go amiss.

ALSO READ: EC vs resale flat: How much more can you end up paying?

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

All in all, I’d say the duplex penthouse at The Esparis is a very, very sensible flat with good bones that would be perfect for a family who wants to be based in the East and needs a lot of space. Unfortunately, given the heavy traffic and the fact that my Mother works in Jurong, I’m just not convinced that it’s the right place for us.

The Dew

From the East, we’re now headed across Singapore to the West of Singapore as The Dew is located in Bukit Batok. The Dew actually has even fewer units than The Esparis- in fact, it has the least number of units out of all the ECs.

PHOTO: Sim Lian (Bukit Batok EC) Pte Ltd

(There are only three ECs with under 300 units – The Dew, The Esparis and Nuovo.) Its 248 units are spread across two 16-story blocks on 122,773 sq ft of land, so some of the penthouse units get decent views.

What I like:

  • The Dew is the most exclusive and private EC, with the fewest units (only 248).
  • There’s a high ceiling in the living room, making it feel more expansive. (If, like me, you’re a sucker for the grand feel a high ceiling brings.
  • No lack of amenities: there’s a 24 hour Giant and NTUC within five minutes (and Sheng Shiong within 10 minutes).
  • You’re only two bus stops from Bukit Batok MRT (and West Mall)- I grew up in the West so this is a familiar area for me!
  • It’s also next to Ulu Pandan Park Connector which brings you all the way to Buona Vista.
  • There are large windows so the units are bright.
  • Windows in the kitchen and bathroom reduce the chance of mold- so far this has been the case in all the ECs I’ve checked out, unlike the fully private condos!

ALSO READ: Is an executive condo still worth it: An analysis of 53 ECs

Meh:

  • The Dew is situated right next to a Primary school. (Although this is probably a plus if you have kids of that age- I’m told that Keming Primary School is one of the Top 60 Primary Schools in Singapore and the best in Bukit Batok- to me, it means hearing Majulah Singapura every morning, five days of the week, which is not my idea of peace and quiet. (Noise travels upwards.))
  • The Dew penthouse has a ridiculous number of open terraces- I counted four! Whilst I like outdoor space, the fact that a 2,420 sq ft unit at The Esparis has four bedrooms (with a potential to build a fifth) whilst The Dew only has three bedrooms is very telling.
  • Moreover, all the units at The Dew are three-bedders, so it seems that the primary distinction between a “regular” unit and a penthouse unit at The Dew is that the penthouse has more outdoor space, a high ceiling and is a duplex. Whilst my article is looking at flats as a home (not an investment), this does ring some alarm bells in my head (in terms of resale implications).
  • In addition, whilst the numerous balconies are nice and rectangular in shape, the living-dining area looks more like an oddly-shaped Tetris block (Note: the 1862 sf penthouses have more efficient layouts with a rectangular living-dining area but no high ceiling.)
PHOTO: Sim Lian (Bukit Batok EC) Pte Ltd
  • There’s a bomb shelter but, thank heavens, no bay windows.

Whilst I didn’t manage to find a property to shortlist this week, I hope the reviews of The Dew and The Esparis will help you on your house hunt. 

ALSO READ: 4 government land sales sites worth paying attention to in 2021

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.