Touring MacPherson Garden Estate: Possibly the cheapest freehold landed estate in Singapore (under $2.5 million)

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

MacPherson Garden Estate is a small cluster of landed houses whose claim to fame is being amongst the cheapest freehold landed enclaves in Singapore.

This is, of course, why I decided to hop over and tour the area and its surroundings. It has been rather popular recently, perhaps because of the Covid-19 fuelled property boom as well as the Paya Lebar regeneration project: Between June to November 2021 alone, there were 15 sales. To further whet your interest, here are some of the current for sale listings at MacPherson Garden Estate (at least at the time of writing):

If your budget can stretch upwards a little, there is also:

Note that, in comparison, the cheapest listing at Sennett estate, which is a mere 500m away, is already $3.999 million.

A house that has just been sold.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Accessible entry price for landed housing

Let’s start with what I liked about the estate. First, obviously, is the low quantum mentioned above. Let me put this in context: I scrolled through 90+ freehold/999-year leasehold landed properties online and there was only one non-MacPherson Garden Estate listing that was under $2.5 million (and not part of a cluster development/ shophouse at the time of writing).

Amenities a hop skip and a jump away

One of the most common complaints of people who live in landed houses is that there are no amenities. This is not the case for MacPherson Garden Estate, in my opinion. Firstly, eateries abound all around: you have the local hawker (Joo Seng Food Place), Vietnamese (Banh Mi Be Be- recommended by MissTamChiak), Thai (Aroy Mak Mookata), Halal (Julaiha Muslim), Western (Original Botak Jones), tze char (Xin Lai Lai) and more!

You’ll never have to cook if you live at MacPherson Garden Estate (or waste money on food delivery) with so many eateries a few minutes walk away.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

For groceries, Prime Supermarket is less than a 5 minutes wander away. Not quite an amenity, but certainly of interest to parents would be the three primary schools that are under 1km away, including the famous Cedar Primary.

Standing on the main road and looking into MacPherson Garden Estate.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
From the back of MacPherson Garden Estate, looking down the Linear Park, with the industrial areas on the left and the houses on the right- you can see what a nice wide “backyard” these houses have.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

There is also a small “linear park” that borders the estate – to be honest, it’s so small that I wouldn’t quite call it a park (it’s more like a lane!) but it does provide the houses which line it with a longer setback (i.e. better ventilation, more light and less of a blocked view). The park leads to a small outdoor gym that separates MacPherson Garden Estate from the Joo Seng HDB blocks – great for a spot of exercise after dinner!

The landed houses are separated from the HDB flats by an outdoor gym – I imagine these flats (executive maisonettes) must have nice unblocked views!
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
There’s also a huge drain in between the houses and the flats – a friend once told me that it’s not good to have a big drain near your house, but I can’t remember why exactly.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Although the houses directly opposite the HDB blocks don’t have an actual backyard, there is some empty land that they can use to hang their clothes or place their plants, which is a luxury for small landed houses – I know of people who live in landed houses and are so short on yard space that they hang their laundry to dry on their front gate!
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Unfortunately, if you don’t drive, the closest MRT is 15 minutes’ walk away – that would be Mattar MRT (and not MacPherson MRT interestingly enough!) There are, of course, bus routes as MacPherson Garden Estate is bounded by two main roads (MacPherson Road and Upper Aljunied Road).

PHOTO: Google 
PHOTO: Google 

There’s also no shopping centre in the vicinity. I’m ignoring MacPherson Mall due to its horrendous reviews shown above, but you could always walk over to Hock Siong for a spot of window shopping if you like vintage furniture.

Central location

The third plus point is MacPherson Garden Estate’s central location: it’s only slightly over a 10 minute drive into town. Moreover, it’s close to Paya Lebar Quarter, a $3.2 billion urban regeneration project that has helped drive up surrounding property prices.

On the flip side, let’s look at what I didn’t like about the area:

The devil is in the details: Check the PSF

Whilst the quantum makes MacPherson Garden Estate look “cheap” – under $2.5 million, less than a condo in central Singapore! Although if you look at the specifics, the price is slightly deceptive. The $2.399 million house I mentioned? Its PSF is $2,478.31 vs the $1,093.82psf of the Sennett Estate house. Yes, the PSF usually decreases as the property’s floor size increases, and one’s budget is obviously a major constraining factor.

ALSO READ: Freehold condo The Beaumont launched for collective sale

But a 126 per cent difference in PSF is something I’d need to consider very carefully before buying a property, especially if one is hoping to sell it for a profit in the future. Looking at the price trend chart, it seems that the PSF of MacPherson Garden Estate really started soaring a year or two ago.

Note: I’m not saying that a house at MacPherson Garden Estate is or isn’t a good investment! I’m just saying that when merely looking at the quantum, you don’t get the full picture.

Don’t forget to add in the cost of rebuilding: most of the plots here are very small and some are in “original condition”

This brings me to my second point: another reason for the low quantum is that many of the plots here are tiny. Their width is not even two times my arm span! (Yes, I was the crazy person standing outside the houses early in the morning measuring the dimensions.) Whilst there are several larger plots (usually corner terraces or semi-Ds) these aren’t exactly within everyone’s budget ( it’s $7.985 million ($1,996.25 PSF) for this Semi-D.)

As you can see, some houses are about just as wide as their gates.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Love the vintage details on this house – look at the tiles at the top!
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Another vintage house – this is the first yellow lamppost I’ve seen! (It looked very cheerful) Love how the estate has these quirky details.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
A paint job may not be uncalled for.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Houses on the left, restaurants and shops on the right. I love the convenience but would be concerned about pests. A friend who used to live near Adam Road Hawker Centre was always complaining about rats and his house wasn’t anywhere as close to the food stalls!
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

In addition, there are many houses in “original condition” (i.e. they’re old – the estate is estimated to have been built in 1970) and don’t make the best use of the land. The $2.28 million house for example, only has one storey so the internal floor area is 1, 000 sq ft – smaller than some HDB flats!

You can, of course, rebuild and maximise the plot ratio- which most people who purchase old landed properties do, but construction costs have surged thanks to Covid-19 so after adding in the $1-2 million required for rebuilding, your new house may not be as cheap as you thought it would be.

ALSO READ: Freehold doesn't always mean it's better: A case study of Jardin and Gardenvista

Even if you are lucky enough to find a house at MacPherson Garden Estate that doesn’t need any work done, bear in mind that you’ll have to live with the racket of your neighbours’ rebuilding and renovating for quite some time to come, at least till the entire area has been redeveloped.

Note: The $1-2 million figure for rebuilding was quoted to me by a property agent a few months back – you would need to consult a professional contractor to get a more accurate number. If you want to find out more about the costs of landed living, check this article out.

That balcony looks so relaxing! 
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Another house that has been modernised.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Old meets new

In our previous article featuring MacPherson Garden Estate three months ago, we predicted that “we don’t think it will be the cheapest freehold estate for much longer.” Indeed, the word that came to mind when I was touring the estate was “gentrification.”

Some of the houses are slightly run-down, as the commenter in our previous article pointed out, there are several houses undergoing renovation as well as others that have been beautifully rebuilt. I can see how this would be a lovely estate to live in, once all the redevelopment has been completed.

The photo makes the path look wider than it really is but, trust me, the cars are all back to back.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Parking problems

I drove around the estate several times, without being able to find a space to park. The cars were pretty much squeezed bumper to bumper along the not-very-wide roads, and I had to drive quite carefully to make sure I didn’t scrape any of them. (Ultimately, I drove over to the neighbouring industrial estate to park and walked back.)

This was no biggie for me as it was a 1-off and the sun was shining. However, it could be quite a headache for residents with cars.

Yes, there is a multi-storey car park at the neighbouring Joo Seng HDB estate but imagine driving back from the mall with bags of shopping, only to find it pouring with rain, and having to park a 5-minute walk from your house! (Quite a few of the houses don’t have enough front yard space to accommodate a car.)

Love the care the owner has put into this house, but see what I mean about parking? If that’s not the home owner’s car, I don’t think he’d (or she’d) be very pleased.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Another potential pain point is having disputes with neighbours: When people have visitors, you may find people parking in your “space” or, worse, in front of your house.

I may sound alarmist, but it’s not unheard of for such issues to lead to altercations between neighbours, which won’t make for very peaceful living. Moreover, as more “original condition” houses (often with elderly owners) sell to young families, there will probably be more and more car owners living here.

Industrial building nearby.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Surrounded by industrial buildings

MacPherson Garden Estate is bounded by two major roads, Joo Seng HDB estate and a large expanse of industrial buildings on the East. This may or may not be a negative point, depending on your preference as well as exactly what kind of businesses are your neighbours.

All in all, as you have read, MacPherson Garden Estate is a mixed bag for me. There’s a lot I like about it. The area has a certain charm to it. But a lot I’m hesitant about, as well, especially at these prices. I’ll certainly put the estate on my watchlist and, in the meantime, my house hunt continues!

Nice to see there’s community spirit, which isn’t as common in landed estates as in flats.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
A nice shaded place to sit if you’re tired of staying at home- a bonus for the homes here that are too small to have a garden!
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Summary

With all that said, here are my closing pointers on MacPherson Garden Estate:

Pros

Freehold

Low quantum

Central location: short drive to Orchard

Near to the Paya Lebar Quarter

Lots of eateries and a supermarket close-by

Three primary schools within 1km

Small linear park surrounding the estate: some houses benefit from the linear park and thus have a larger setback

Look at that traffic at 7am in the morning!
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Cons

– High PSF

– Small plot sizes

– Far from MRT

– Narrow roads: Parking is going to be an issue with potential disputes between residents

– Many houses require renovation: the popularity of the estate means that there’ll be on-going construction in the estate for quite some time to come

– The boundary roads are very busy. I was there at 7am-ish in the morning and there were plenty of cars on the road already, You can actually hear the traffic from the row of houses closest to the main road (Jalan Gembira) so my personal preference would be for the houses set further inside.

With the houses so narrow at Mac Pherson Garden Estate, the construction noise must be particularly piercing.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Neither good nor bad:

• Next to industrial estates

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.