Is it worth getting a lower-floor, pool-facing condo if higher-floor views are expensive?

The future of smart living starts at One Bernam: a mixed development located in the heart of the CBD.
PHOTO: One Bernam

When choosing a home, buyers usually look for a unit that’s north-south facing (to avoid rising and setting sun), higher floor/windy (which comes at a price premium) and a beautiful view.

Depending on the buyer profile, “beautiful view” is subjective, but a poem on a condo discussion site ten years ago sums up the common preferences best:

Sea view better than pool view,
Pool view better than no view.
No view better than rubbish bin view,
Any view better than neighbour view.

In Feng Shui terms, there’s a popular Chinese saying: Mountain governs People luck, and Water governs Wealth luck (山管人丁,水管财). In other words, when your balcony view faces water, say a lake, sea or pool – particularly in the north, east, south-east or south-west directions – feng shui experts believe it brings prosperity to the homeowner.

While higher floor views that face the sea or lake are popular and more expensive, there’s no guarantee that the adjacent land in front of your premium view may someday be redeveloped with another high-rise or marred by an inauspicious structure or event that’s not within your control.

The cheaper alternative is the pool view, especially on the second floor, because at that level, the apartment:
a) Offers an elevated and guaranteed view of the pool (ie. the alfresco resort feel)
b) Is far less expensive than the 1st floor (due to the extra patio) or higher floors with premium views

Whatever the choices, developers would have already applied a price premium if the unit faces a pool (usually between 1-3 per cent) compared to non-pool-facing units. The question then is, has this premium changed with resale demand?

If you’re an HDB upgrader who’s considering a relatively inexpensive 2nd-floor unit at a private or executive condominium, here’s a simple analysis comparing psf price changes between pool-facing and non-pool-facing condominium units on 2nd floors at different developments.

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The Santorini

Flanked by Tampines Avenue 10 and Tampines Street 86, The Santorini, a development by MCC Land, TOP ed in 2018 with 597 units.

Living up to its namesake, the condo’s design, particularly its pools, are based around the resort island theme of Greece’s Santorini.

To own a home with a verandah overlooking the tranquil pool would be ultra-special since we did mention The Santorini’s pool feature as one of the development’s key attractions.

As the development is less than four years old, there hasn’t been that many transactions of 2nd-floor units, but we managed to uncover a few.

Pool-facing 2nd-floor units at blocks 23, 25, 31, 33 and 35 have not had any resale transactions yet, but two 1-bedroom units at block 21 have.

Date of Transaction Block Pool-facing? Unit Size (square feet) Unit Type and number of bedrooms Price (psf) per cent increase in PSF
Oct 2021 21 Yes 463 1 bedroom $1,274.30 15.01 per cent
Apr 2014 21 Yes 463 1 bedroom $1,107.99
Oct 2021 21 No 528 1 bedroom $1,164.77 8.04 per cent
June 2014 21 No 528 1 bedroom $1,078.13
Data Source: URA, Realis and 99.co

The 463-sqft unit, which was bought at $513k or $1,108 psf in 2014, faces the 25-metre lap pool and aqua gym (labelled 10 and 17 in the site plan) in a north-westerly direction. It sold for $590k or $1,274 psf just recently in October 2021. That’s a 15.01 per cent appreciation since it was first sold.

Contrast that with the slightly larger 528-sqft 1-bedroom unit on the same block and floor, which does not face the lap pool. It was purchased for $569k, or $1,078 psf in June 2014. In October 2021, it sold for $615k, or $1,165 psf – an 8.04 per cent increase.

On a psf basis, the pool-facing unit appreciated in value at almost twice that of the non-pool-facing unit.

While we won’t know the exact circumstances behind each sale, such as the buyers’ and sellers’ profiles or preferences, or the interiors and actual balcony views of both apartments, the data seems to suggest that pool-facing units, at least for the 1-bedroom 2nd-floor ones, did well at The Santorini.

Prive

Another interesting development would be Prive, the executive condominium in District 19 (Punggol).

Completed in 2013, the 680-unit development has several pools – such as a 50-metre lap pool (labelled U on the site plan), a lagoon pool (K) and a children’s splash pool (P).

At block 35, two 2nd-floor units of 1,001 sq ft each (3 bedrooms) changed hands after their MOP in 2018.

While both the pool-facing and non-pool-facing apartments had different layouts (C3 and C2), they had the same floor area and the number of bedrooms.

What’s interesting is that both transactions happened at roughly the same period, which gives us some leeway to rule out extraneous factors like an economic crisis or cooling measures (actually, the 2018 ABSD cooling measure was introduced in July), but since this is an executive condominium, both units were probably resold to Singaporeans or PRs who weren’t as affected by the ABSD adjustments.

Date of Transaction Block Pool-facing? Unit Size (square feet) Unit Type and number of bedrooms Price (psf) per cent increase in PSF
Nov 2018 35 Yes 1001 C3, 3 bedrooms $959.04 37.06 per cent
Mar 2011 35 Yes 1001 C3, 3 bedrooms $699.70
Oct 2018 35 No 1001 C2, 3 bedrooms $931.07 33.45 per cent
June 2011 35 No 1001 C2, 3 bedrooms $697.70
Data Source: URA, Realis and 99.co

On a per square foot pricing basis, the pool-facing unit, which faces the lagoon pool in a south-westerly direction, saw a 37.06 per cent increase, compared to the non-pool-facing unit, which rose by 33.45 per cent.

We should point out that despite being a low-floor unit and facing a set of HDB blocks, the non-pool-facing unit had a relatively healthy appreciation in price.

Villa Marina

As the saying goes, not all pool views are created equal.

Located at 21 Jalan Sempadan (District 15 – Siglap), Villa Marina is a 432-unit on a 99-year lease. It was completed in 1999, making it the oldest development we’re looking at for this article.

It also means there have been several resale transactions of the 2nd-floor pool and non-pool units since then.

Villa Marina has an interesting layout. Design-wise, it’s been compared to a French villa, with pitched roofs, Georgian columns and French windows.

Its solitary swimming pool is one of its main feature attractions, located next to the clubhouse. As per the plan above, blocks 5, 6, 7, 11, 21, 22 and 23 flank the pool.

PHOTO: Google Maps

Most of the other blocks either face each other or look outward towards the Kampung Siglap mosque (between blocks 27 and 17), Indonesia school (blocks 3 and 1), Marine Parade road or neighbouring low-rise residences.

To the north, residents in blocks 4, 5, 6 and 7 overlook an empty tract of land, which is marked for future residential development with a gross plot ratio of 1.4.

Anyway, if you look at the photo below, pool-facing homeowners on the 2nd floor are separated by a lawn. This means that instead of a pool view, lower-floor residents may only be seeing a garden view from their windows.

If you’re living here, maybe you could tell us?

Date of Transaction Block Pool-facing? Unit Size (square feet) Unit Type and number of bedrooms Price (psf) per cent increase in PSF
Apr 2011 22 Yes 1130 C1, 2 bedrooms $792.93 29.99 per cent
Apr 1998 22 Yes 1130 C1, 2 bedrooms $610.00
Apr 2011 16 No 1130 C1, 2 bedrooms $790.27 33.94 per cent
July 1998 16 No 1130 C1, 2 bedrooms $590.00
Sept 2011 21 Yes 1249 B2, 3 bedrooms $895.12 62.73 per cent
July 1998 21 Yes 1249 B2, 3 bedrooms $550.04
Aug 2011 1 No 1249 B2, 3 bedrooms $864.69 78.23 per cent
Oct 1998 1 No 1249 B2, 3 bedrooms $485.16
Data Source: URA, Realis and 99.co

Anyway, based on the four different transactions above, it seems that between 1998 and 2011, both (presumably) pool-facing 2nd-floor units at blocks 21 and 22 had lower psf price appreciations compared to their non-pool-facing units.

For instance, the 2-bedroom unit at block 22 saw its psf price rose by almost 30 per cent, but the same-sized unit at block 16 increased by 33.94 per cent over roughly the same period.

Similarly, the 3-bedroom unit at block 21, which is next to the pool, had a price appreciation of 62.73 per cent, but its non-pool-facing counterpart at block 1 (which faces the Sekolah Indonesia building) fared better with 78.23 per cent.

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One possible reason is the normalisation of the psf price at the time, regardless of whether they’re near the pool or not. While the non-pool-facing units were initially sold at a lower price than the pool-facing units in 1998, no one really saw the need for a pool-facing premium in 2011.

Another reason could be the fact that Villa Marina only had one pool, so the crowd and noise level around the adjacent blocks could be higher.

So if you’re a home-buyer keen on getting a condo unit but do not want to pay more for a higher floor, there may be some potential value in getting a lower floor that faces (or offers a view) of the pool.

Just make sure it faces the right kind of swimming pool and if you’re into feng shui, the right direction.

This article was first published in 99.co.