The property unicorn: 5 duplex apartments with lift access to both floors

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Many people like the idea of a duplex apartment (just like an HDB Maisonette). You often get separate living spaces so it’s more private, and sometimes you might even get a high ceiling in the living/dining area – which is always a unique feature to have in a home.

In my first article about my search for a new home , I identified duplex apartments as one of the ideal properties for a multi-generational family. Provided there are bedrooms on both floors (some duplexes have 100 per cent outside space on the second floor), the different family units can have their own personal spaces (and independence) yet still live close enough to make having meals together very convenient.

However, older people, such as my Mother, may not quite agree. After all, as people age, climbing the stairs becomes increasingly difficult, and older people may lose access to the upper floor resulting in them feeling like their living space has been effectively halved. Worse still if the bedrooms are only on the second floor, so it wouldn’t be very future proof if you are getting on in age.

Enter duplex apartments with lift access to both floors – the perfect solution, in my opinion!

There are two types of duplex apartments with lift access to both floors: those with internal private lifts and those with external lift lobbies. My preference (and the topic of this article) is the latter as duplexes with internal lifts are often super expensive. I had a property agent suggest Wallich Residence – I’m not sure about you, but that’s not quite within my budget!

For those flush with cash (we’re talking about in excess of $13 million here), other luxury residences that have duplexes/triplexes with lift access on all floors include Park Nova (the largest penthouse), South Beach Residences (penthouse), Meyer House (penthouse) and 15 Holland Hill (for once, a garden maisonette instead of a penthouse!), Cluny Park Residence, and Leedon Residence (5 bedroom unit and penthouse). So yes, certainly at the high end this is an easy enough find.

Moreover, duplex apartments with external lift lobbies on both floors can be converted into two dual-key units with one unit rented out in the future, if you find that you no longer need so much space. Unfortunately, such units are pretty much Property Unicorns: they are super rare.

I messaged over 10 property agents and none could suggest a single development with such a unit. Instead, they all tried to push me towards cluster houses, despite my non-interest. After trawling through hundreds of property listings, I was only able to find the following 5 developments which have duplex units with external lift lobbies on both floors:

1. Windermere (under $2 million)

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Windermere is an Executive Condominium in Choa Chu Kang that I reviewed some time ago and quite liked. In the taller tower blocks, there are two types of penthouse units, one of which has lift access to both floors. (The penthouse units are staggered in each block so, one unit occupies the 23rd and 24th floors, whilst the other occupies the 22nd and 23rd, giving the penthouse on the 22nd/23rd floors lift access to both levels.)

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

However, do note that Windermere is quite a few years into its 99-year lease, so proceed with caution if reselling or leaving a legacy for future generations is amongst your priorities. As I already did an in-depth review of Windermere, I won’t repeat myself here – instead, click on this link if you’d like to find out more.

2. The Luxurie (under $3 million)

The Luxurie is a 622-unit condo in Sengkang which has duplex penthouse lofts with lift access to both floors. Developed by Keppel Land and completed in 2015, the lease of The Luxurie starts from 2011, so you have a better buffer before lease decay sets in. Moreover, it is less than 5 minutes from Sengkang MRT and the mall Compass One, making it one of only three private projects under 300m from the MRT. (The other two are Compass Heights and La Fiesta.)

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

There are only eight penthouses in this condo, three of which are larger in size (over 2,700 sq ft). Each floor of the larger penthouse has outside space, bedrooms, and a family/living room, so they can almost be described as two separate condo units connected by a staircase – perfect for multi-generational families. The ceiling is also wonderfully high (almost 8m) making the units feel even more expansive than they already are.

Note: The main entrance on the upper floor opens into the roof terrace which then leads to the family/living room, so you will be exposed to the elements if you enter from the second floor on a rainy day. It may be a bit slippery for the elderly, although you could always ask the MCST for permission to build a roof cover over the area.

ALSO READ: House Tour: An inviting loft-style apartment with customised furniture

3. Pepys Hill (varied pricing)

We’ve now come to what used to be our top choice for a new home: Pepys Hill. When we visited this condo at the beginning of our house hunt, my Mom and I really, really liked it. Firstly, it’s a freehold condo in Pasir Panjang, and West Singapore is our home turf. (I have to admit I was also thinking “Great Southern Waterfront.”)

Secondly, it has only 32 units, making it extremely private (only two units per floor in the taller block!) Despite its small size, you still get facilities such as a pool and gym (but no security guard). Moreover, the PSF was quite affordable then so we wouldn’t have to compromise on space (under $1,000 psf – note that some units have large outside spaces, which not everyone is a fan of. Sadly, the only unit for sale at the time of writing is asking for $1,400+ psf, showing how high property prices have risen in just a year!)

There is also a back gate that leads to Pasir Panjang MRT and Food Centre (which is across the road and linked by an overhead bridge for easy access) and you’re only a 10-minute walk from the beautiful Hort Park. Lastly, I have good friends living next door at the Bijou. I find proximity to friends very important for a good social life, don’t you?

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The units at Pepys Hill are very unique and most have different floorplans: There is a shorter block of walk-up apartments and a taller block that has a lift. In the taller block, there are two units per floor, and many are duplexes with lift access to both floors (i.e. it’s not just the penthouses that are duplexes – this is good for people who don’t like penthouses, which some people find hot, noisy and difficult to sell.) On the higher floors, you even have a view of the sea!

So, why didn’t we buy a unit at Pepys Hill? Firstly, being a boutique development, you don’t often find units for sale, so we couldn’t find a unit for sale with a timeline that matched ours. (We have to sell our property before we can buy anything.)

Secondly, the condo next door (Flynn Park) is not only built very close to Pepys Hill, but it has also recently gone en-bloc. After the last two years of living in between two construction sites and hence developing gastric issues, I didn’t fancy living next to another en-bloc project. (Yes I know almost all of Singapore is a construction site these days, but since I know there’s going to be construction, I might as well avoid it.)

Lastly, and most importantly, Pepys Hill is built on a slope. Given the fact that the road next door (Jalan Mat Jambol) was listed as one of the most flood-prone areas by the PUB in 2020, slope creep is a huge concern of mine, especially since the condo is pushing the big 4-0 and is sort of built on (slanted) stilts.

Call me paranoid, but after the Surfside condo collapse, I’d rather be sure than sorry. As there are only 32 units, if any substantial structural work is required in the future, I’m concerned about how high my maintenance fee top-up would be.

Note: Pepys Hill regularly makes the “most likely to en-bloc” lists, but note that the taller block is currently 10 or so stories but the zoning is 1.4 (i.e. a new condo can only be 5-floors.)

4. Village Towers (currently going for $6.5 million)

Village Towers was recommended to me by a relative who is a seasoned property investor but, alas, I think she has an extremely skewed idea of our financial situation! Built in 1983, Village Towers is a freehold 46-unit freehold development located along Mount Sinai Rise (near Holland Village).

Despite the few units, it has a swimming pool, tennis court, squash court, and 24-hour security. (I shudder to think of the maintenance fees!) It’s also within walking distance to Ulu Pandan Park Connector which takes you to Dover MRT (15 minutes walk).

On the flip side, it is opposite Dover Forest, which will be developed into HDB flats, so the next few years may be pretty noisy and dusty. (The exact section of Dover Forest that is directly opposite Village Towers will be preserved so hopefully, that provides some sort of buffer.)

5. Jade Mansion (last sold for $4.38million in 2021)

Last but not least is the smallest development on this list, Jade Mansion, which is situated on 10 Leedon Road and very close to Holland Village MRT, and of course, very walkable to Holland Village itself.

Consisting of only 27 maisonettes of over 2,600 sq ft, this freehold condo was built in 1982 and has a tennis court and swimming pool. I love the double volume ceilings in the balcony, which can be accessed by both floors. It’s a very unique layout, and very flexible too for multi-generation living.

Floor 1
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Floor 1
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

However, prices have surged in the last few years. The second last transaction (for a similarly sized unit) was for $2.9 million in 2018, making that an almost 50 per cent increase in a mere three years! Moreover, the condo borders Holland Road which gets quite busy, so some units may suffer from traffic noise.

Note: Jade Residences is another favourite of the “most likely to en-bloc” lists but one property agent told me that the plot ratio has already been maximised (I have not confirmed this myself as there are currently no units for sale.)

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.