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Is one-north Singapore's next real estate investment hotspot? Here's the important points buyers need to consider

Is one-north Singapore's next real estate investment hotspot? Here's the important points buyers need to consider
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

One-north has always occupied an odd position in the Singapore property market. On the one hand, most people acknowledge it as a hub area: with Fusionopolis, Biopolis, the JTC LaunchPad, etc. one-north draws big companies and start-ups in equal measure.

On the other hand, one-north has never quite matched the crowds associated with Jurong East, Paya Lebar, or even nearby Holland V. This is an area that's very much in flux, and has the capacity to either go big or die down. Here's what to consider before buying a property in the area:

1. More high-density housing could appear in one-north, very soon

We have seen rezoning by URA, to allow for higher-density housing around the one-north area. Some of these plans include mixed-use projects with commercial elements, and this will solve the perception of limited amenities in the area. This was announced on Oct 6 this year, with more details from URA forthcoming (keep an eye out in the coming months). 

For now, we know a few things for sure: there's a plot for a potentially 355-unit project near Media Circle, with commercial space on the first floor. Also nearby, close to Grab HQ, is another private or public project that could yield 250 to 310 units. 

What’s the significance of intensifying the land plots? 

Well, it's important, because it's a big turnaround from how one-north used to be positioned. Previously, residential developments here were often assumed to be for tenants; and even then it was assumed tenants' lifestyles would involve areas like nearby Holland V, rather than one-north itself. But adopting the new "live-work-play" approach means encouraging a bigger live-in population, and more localised amenities. 

One-north had a reputation for limited accommodation, back when one-north Residences, Rochester Residences, and the (still under construction) one-north Eden were the only major residential projects.

There is also Dover Parkview and Heritage View to consider, but these are much older developments that aren't direct comparisons. This saw many nearby co-living spaces and serviced apartments (Citadines, Lyf, Hmlet, etc.) benefitting from tenant demand here. 

One realtor, who has helped secure tenant leases nearby in the past year, told us that:

"My concern is my clients in Dover and Clementi might see some tenants being poached, because right now some (the tenants) are working in places ST Engineering, A*Star, P&G, or some SMEs at Ayer Rajah. If there's accommodation closer to their workplace, I guess we have to prepare that we might lose some.

Also, there are some international schools and such. The INSEAD campus is just next to Fusionopolis, so I think the students or staff would also prefer to live closer if they can."

The same realtor noted a potential downside for existing landlords in one-north, however, as the increased competition could cap further rental rate increases. 

"For a long time, the ball was in their court because tenants had very limited choices. I think once there's more housing options, the rental rates in one-north will stabilise to match those in other parts like Clementi."

2. Bigger demand for residential units than you might think

If you look at a map, you might handwave the idea of Normanton Park being close to one-north. It's a two-kilometre distance between this condo and Fusionopolis, where the one-north MRT station (CCL is located.)

However, from word on the ground, one-north is really quite accessible for Normanton Park residents. From the bus stop right outside, there are a number of services that take them to Fusionopolis in just a few stops. View a unit in Normanton Park, and the agent or seller will almost certainly point out the supermarket and other amenities at one-north.

(While it's hardly on par with the likes of Paya Lebar Square, Fusionopolis does have a supermarket, food court, pharmacy, and an eclectic mix of restaurants.)

This becomes significant when you consider the size of Normanton Park. At 1,862 units, this is one of the biggest residential projects next to Treasure at Tampines. So while one-north Residences and Rochester Residences are often seen as the main — or even only — major accommodations for the area, Normanton Park is a viable alternative.

Still, the strong demand for residential units in the area is evident. At first glance on a map, many buyers might see Normanton Park as somewhat inconveniently located — not close to an MRT and directly adjacent to a major highway.

Yet, even with the setback of a no-sale license, Normanton Park impressively sold all its 1,862 units with ease and time to spare.

This is further strengthened by the sales of Blossoms by the Park, which achieved an impressive 73 per cent sales figure despite coming immediately after the April cooling measures.

3. One-north is about school access as much as being a commercial hub

INSEAD and ESSEC are both within the one-north area, followed by Tanglin Trust, Dover Court, and United World College. This makes it a focal point for international students; but it goes even further: 

NUS, SIM, and SIT are all a short drive away from here. Singapore Polytechnic, located next to Dover MRT (EWL), is also just two train stops from one-north, while ACSI and ACJC are within enrolment distance. This could be one of the most convenient places to stay if you want your children close to school. 

As to why it isn't a raging hotspot yet, the answer is simply that — up till recently — there were limited housing options in one-north. Right now, most families that want proximity to NUS, SIM, and so forth settle for living in Clementi or Dover. But if we eventually have HDB flats in one-north, we can see a large chunk of demand being transferred over. 

But all of this is dependent on one-north being able to create an identity

Unlike nearby Holland V, the one-north area isn't grounded in any particular identity. Think about it: how often do you or your friends say "Let's go to one-north to hang out?"

It's not that there's "nothing" at one-north (there are some nice recreational spaces, family-friendly pubs, and even Timbre+ located here.) It's just that one-north still strikes many as being a generic office space; and competing as a recreational spot is even tougher when it's up against the likes of Holland V.

There has been the development of Rochester Commons, with a Grade A office tower, a hotel, and 12 heritage black-and-white bungalows. The jury is still out as to how successful this would ultimately be, as it does still seem to be a bit of an under-the-radar spot.

In this sense, one-north may face the same issues as Raffles Place: it's respected as a key hub, but all the life seems to drain right out during weekends or after office hours. If one-north can't develop the vital but intangible factor of identity, then no amount of money that URA throws at it may help.

One reader, who has worked at Mediapolis for over five years, had an interesting take:

"If they think that just having a bunch of creative companies like Lucasfilm and Ubisoft and Razer is enough to make one-north cool on its own, then this place is going to flop. 

But if they really make an effort to promote events, or give incentives and subsidies for live performances or e-games arenas and so on, I think this can be like a digital and geeky counterpart to Holland V. It could work."

So if we were to oversimplify a bit, the answer to "Will one-north become a real estate hotspot?" is simple. All the critical elements are in place except for two: 

  1. More homes in the area, and 
  2. Making more people want to spend their weekends there 

ALSO READ: Where to invest $1m (or less) in real estate in Singapore? We reveal the past decade's most profitable properties

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.

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