The Watergardens at Canberra review: Affordable PSF entry but far from city

$PSF of non-landed private residential properties between all districts and district 27.

Our verdict

73 per cent

The Watergardens at Canberra represents an affordable entry for a new launch condo today. It is very much a family-friendly option as long as you can accept the further away location.

Our considerations

Unit efficiency

4/5

Great two bedroom layouts but average for others

Unit size

3.5/5

Smaller than average for an OCR project but lower quantum consequently

Quality of fittings

3.5/5

In line with mass market developments

Design

3.5/5

Nothing spectacular

Variety of facilities

3.5/5

Usual variety but no tennis court

Quality of facilities

4/5

Curated well but is otherwise standard

Surrounding amenities

3.5/5

Childcare within development and a couple of small malls within ~ one km

Developer

4.5/5

All three JV partners have solid track records locally

Transport links

4/5

MRT is three minutes away but is far down the North South Line

Driving accessibility

2/5

Far from the rest of Singapore

Price point

4/5

One of the cheapest launches around

Project: The Watergardens at Canberra
District: 27
Address: 27 – 57 Canberra Drive
Tenure: 99 Years from June 2020
No. of units: 448
Site area: 296,722 sqft
Developer: JV between UOL, Singapore Land and Kheng Leong Company
TOP: 2026
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

If the Canberra neighbourhood sounds both foreign yet familiar at the same time, you are probably not alone.

Canberra is situated between Yishun and Sembawang and despite its remote location, the area is actually steeped in history and ties to WWII given its naval and military structures.

Funnily enough (in spite of its long history) the Canberra MRT station was only opened in 2019, making this a rare addition to the North South Line (Singapore’s oldest MRT line).

There have since been several ECs (Provence Residence and Parc Canberra) and BTOs launched in recent years, thereby garnering more media publicity as well. So you could say the area is getting more exciting.

But, I’m not one to sugarcoat things unnecessarily – as the location is really not Watergardens’ strongest suit.

While it is in close proximity to Canberra MRT station, Watergardens is a distance away from any major expressway and creates a real hassle for those who drive and work in town.

That said, while I am personally not a fan of its location, I do see why this project would still be in consideration for many.

Being one of the cheapest new launch projects in Singapore, I expect there to be a good amount of interest as the two bedroom units are expected to start just above $900,000, which will be an affordable starter home for many young couples or BTO upgraders in the vicinity.

For context, the $900+k range can just get you a one bedroom unit at Parc Esta in Eunos (the last transaction in May 2021 for a 452 sqft unit was $927k).

The Watergardens at Canberra is also jointly developed by three renowned Singapore developers – UOL, Singapore Land, and Kheng Leong.

For the minority among us who don’t already know, these three developers are all closely linked to the Wee family of the UOB Group.

Their projects have often won acclaim for their landscaping and good quality homes – think Avenue South Residence, Meyer House, and Clavon among many others.

Therefore, I am expecting some good stuff here from them, even if this is probably one of the more budget-conscious projects.

Additionally, Canberra and the North are billed as the ‘future’ given the number of future plans for the area.

They include Bukit Canberra, an integrated sports and community hub set to be one of the largest in Singapore, the North Coast Innovation Corridor, and the North South Corridor, which is set to enhance transport connectivity from the North to town.

Therefore, do expect the standard agent pitch to be around the ‘first mover advantage’ in a relatively undeveloped area with growth potential in the future.

Enough said, let’s have a closer look at what The Watergardens at Canberra has to offer in terms of its site plan and show flat units.

The Watergardens at Canberra insider tour

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The entrance to The Watergardens at Canberra is along Canberra Drive, which is surrounded by a good mix of landed properties, condos, and HDB flats.

Just along the side gate entrance, you can see the mix of colours in the flora and landscaping – which is a pleasant touch. It’s something that I feel UOL is quite known for, and I’m happy to see that has continued here as well.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Upon turning in, you will be greeted by the guardhouse before you get to the Arrival Court.

It’s a simple drop-off area here, nothing too fancy but not much to complain about either. The minimum requirement for me is for it to be sheltered, which is the case right here.

There will be basement parking for residents with 448 residential lots, meaning a one to one ratio for buyers.

While it’s close to Canberra MRT, I do feel that it’s still important to have a one to one ratio to give an additional option to buyers who may feel the need to drive given the development’s far-flung location.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Let’s talk about the land size at The Watergardens at Canberra first. At a size of 296,719 square feet, it’s quite a good-sized plot of land – especially for 448 units.

Just to give you some context, this compares favourably to other mass-market developments in further away locations such as Dairy Farm Residences (460 units for 211,485 sq ft) and Midwood (564 units for 153,882 sq ft).

In short, fewer units on a bigger plot of land. But there is a trade-off because of the plot ratio.

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So because it is a low-rise development (5-storeys high), there will be 16 blocks spread throughout.

This means that you don’t really get expansive open spaces here, as the low-rise nature means that most of the land will be taken up by the residential blocks.

The bigger issue here, however, is that the blocks are set rather close to each other. I am personally not a fan of inward-facing blocks (and I can imagine most people wouldn’t be either).

So while it isn’t as dense, it also doesn’t feel as expansive as the numbers might suggest. The awkward irregular shape of the land doesn’t help its case either.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

To give you a clearer idea, the distance between blocks are as close as 6 m (between Stacks 27 and 57) and are about 14 m apart on average for the four rows of inward-facing blocks.

For context, the distance between blocks is 25 m, 18-25 m, 18-23 m for Forrett at Bukit Timah, Pasir Ris 8 and The Florence Residences respectively.

I consider Florence Residences one of the densest projects around and yet The Watergardens triumphs in terms of the lack of breathing space between blocks.

It’s definitely not great in my opinion as this would not only hinder the airflow into your unit but also compromise on the privacy afforded to your family.

So if privacy is an important consideration for you, you will have to choose the right stack (or look at other options).

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There is also an area called the recreation lawn – which is essentially an open walking path with gardens, a grill pavilion and a water hammock facility. It’s the biggest open space located within the development, and one that’s much needed.

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Like I spoke about above, there are 5 residential blocks that will be located on a narrow strip of land. One side of it will face Canberra Drive, while the other faces the landed homes at Sembawang Spring Estate.
 

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Since this project is called The Watergardens at Canberra, I’ll start with “The Waters” features before going on to “The Gardens”.

Water features/facilities wise would comprise two main pools – one 50 m lap pool with six metre width (about three pax lane) and one 33m lap pool.

For 448 units, this is definitely more than enough to cater to the needs of the residents. So on that front, this is one of the stronger points that The Watergardens at Canberra offers.

While the pool deck at the sides are pretty tight, I do like the effort gone into making sure the landscaping is lush enough such that it gives off a cosy effect.

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On both ends of the pool, you’d find the gym and the function room. So you do get quite good views as you workout at the gym.

What’s worth pointing out here is the function rooms will come wifi-enabled – which is great for today’s WFH environment.

For 448 units, I do feel that the social spaces here are pretty adequate. You get three function rooms varying from 31 to 35 sqm and two BBQ pavilions as well.

So depending on whether you’re more of an outdoor or indoor kind of person, you have options available for you.

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And as mentioned, on the other end are two function rooms along with a sculpture garden.

Special mention to one of the pavilions named the Sensory Gardens and Harvest Pavilion as well – as this will be a dedicated space for workshops and guided monthly hands-on training to grow your own organic produce at home.

It’s a cool feature, and one that I hope is implemented well.

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Besides the lap pools, I like that they have tried to make the children’s pools look functional and fun. Besides a children’s pool, kids will also have a water play slide to entertain themselves.

Around the 50m lap pool is also where you will find common features such as jacuzzi loungers and cabana decks for your enjoyment.

Interestingly, there are also water hammocks that are located away from any of the pool areas. Pretty cool but I wonder if people would actually head there just to use them.

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There are also a number of smaller pools such as the sun pool and rain pool located closer to the kid’s pool. I sometimes question the actual purpose of these smaller pools as I noticed that many are quite empty in the condos I have visited.

While it remains to be seen just how well-utilised these would be, it does provide for some very nice visuals for the units surrounding this area of the project.

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I couldn’t quite capture the Forest pool in its entirety, so the renders will do the job here.

What’s especially unique is the layered concept, which provides for a much more varied landscaping (along with the waters cascading down each level).

And with that comes the addition of the water play slide too – something which I always feel more developments should include (more so for those that have kid-friendly ambitions).

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But overall I do appreciate that this entire area is basically catered to kids – which is a very important target clientele of the project (namely families with children).

To be fair, it isn’t just completely for kids as you also have options in the form of a Music Room, Games Room and Karaoke Room.

Seems like there’s something for everyone here! You can always fall back on the Reading Corner or Meditation Pavilion for some quiet time when all else fails.

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Moving on to “The Gardens” and you will notice that UOL did try to make the entire project quite green. It’s not to the extent you see at Midtown Modern but they did try to make it a more subtle push towards greenery instead.

Nature-themed condos are definitely in vogue these days and I wonder if it has anything to do with the whole ESG push globally, be it from governments or corporations.

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In any case, it’s always a good thing to fill the project with more plants and trees – it’s good for your eyesight too according to doctors.

The developers have made good use of the outer rim of the project to essentially incorporate lawn spaces, gardens and the like.

And as mentioned at the beginning, from what I’ve seen from UOL projects so far, the vision is pretty much always consistent with reality.

For those who want a first-hand experience should visit Clement Canopy to get a better sense of what they are capable of.

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You get a jogging trail along the rim of the project but it does not form a full circle for those of you who are particular about it.

Among the larger and more interesting facilities here are the Swing Garden, Whimsical Play Garden, Pet’s Run and Outdoor Chess Garden.

You will notice that there are actually 25 facilities listed under “The Gardens” and I’m amazed at the variation of names they could think of for the various gardens and lawns that are almost identical to each other.

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Lastly, on to the social aspects of the project. As part of The Watergardens at Canberra, you will have a childcare centre within the development itself.

This will also be open to the public and there are 12 car park lots catered to them. For those concerned about security, those visiting the childcare would not be able to access the development – so no worries on that front.

Either way, this is a super useful facility for families with young children – and certainly a big selling point for families looking for their next home.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Last but not least, the design of The Watergardens at Canberra is quite typical of what you’d find in most mass-market developments.

There isn’t really any remarkable design features to point out – perhaps its really just the manicured landscape that makes the difference here.

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Overall, I do find that facilities are adequate for 448 units and in line with what the market is offering for a development of this size.

Of course, the most notable absentee would be a tennis court but that is understandable given how many mega launches such as Parc Esta and Treasure at Tampines only have 1 tennis court each. 

I do think some would find it a sore miss, however.

Enough about the facilities, let’s head straight to the showflat units!

The Watergardens at Canberra – 2 bedroom premium – type 2P2 (753 sqft) review

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

50 per cent of the apartments here at The Watergardens at Canberra are two bedroom units with the most compact ones starting from just 646 sq ft.

The development does not have any one bedroom units so the compact layouts (with just one bathroom) give owners the versatility of a two bedroom unit while keeping the final quantum low.

About half of the two bedroom units have the dumbbell layout, which I always find more space efficient for smaller units.

More impressively, all two bedroom units give you the possibility of enclosing your kitchen, with some layouts even offering you windows (impressive!)

At 753 sq ft, this is one of the larger two bedroom types at The Watergardens and is averagely sized for new launches. It comes with two bathrooms (some come with just one) and features a common corridor layout leading to the bedrooms.

Despite not having a dumbbell layout, I really like the overall layout of this unit.

It features a kitchen with windows (super plus points!) and flushed-in wardrobes in the bedrooms, an underrated feature that I really thought should be more prevalent among new launches.

Additionally, both bathrooms have windows and both bedrooms have full length windows (plus points again).

Combined together, I would say that this layout is really one of the most desirable I have seen among the new launches over the last few years.

All units come with porcelain tiles for the common areas and vinyl for the bedrooms.

Definitely not the most premium of materials but do remember that this is an OCR project with one of the lowest new launch psf around after all. The ceiling height is at 2.79 m, which is the market average.

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As you enter the unit, there is a small foyer area that I would ordinarily count as inefficient. However, if seen through another pair of lenses, this area gives you additional privacy and space for a bench and shoe cabinets.

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The kitchen is located just to the left of the entrance and I must really commend UOL for ensuring that all two bedroom units here (not just this layout) have the option of being enclosed.

This layout even has windows, which I find very impressive! That said, those who enjoy heavy cooking will lament the lack of gas hobs, which are typically not found in smaller units anyway.

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Instead, you get induction hobs as standard and the hood, oven, fridge and washer dryer from Electrolux.

It’s definitely an entry-level brand but I don’t think buyers in this segment are looking for luxury appliances from the likes of V-Zug or De Dietrich.

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You get the top and bottom cabinets built-in with laminate and melamine finish as standard. The quartz countertop spans across both sides of the kitchen, which I think is sufficient for a two bedroom unit.

This kitchen is of a good size for a 753 sqft unit and I think it has already outdone its peers with the windows and enclosed nature.
 

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Now on to the dining area and they have placed a four seater round table here with relative ease. I think the round shape coupled with the mirror by the wall has helped to make this space seem more spacious.

Nonetheless, I do think that four is just about the maximum you can fit in this space, whether you prefer it in round or rectangular form.

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Continuing on from the dining area is the living room and it’s averagely sized when compared to its new launch peers.

You have room for a three-seater couch, a small coffee table and a TV console here but that will be all you can fit in. With those in place, expect the walking space to be limited.

In fact, you will need to choose your couch carefully too because an overly bulky one will make the space narrower than it already is.

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To be fair, the couch shown here it’s quite a big and bulky one, and it’s difficult to even be creative with this space frankly and perhaps one of the reasons why more buyers are flocking to the resale market instead.

It’s nothing against The Watergardens at Canberra though, it’s more directed towards new launches in general – and just something that buyers have to recognise will be the trend moving forward.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Over on the balcony, it’s a good-sized space at 5.5 sqm. It’s not too big that it becomes wasted space and not too small that it’s impractical.

You can easily have a couple of high stools here just as they have done here to have your morning cuppa. The more regular, squarish shape definitely helps too.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

So now, let me touch on the biggest selling point of the unit (to me, at least).

For layouts with common corridors, it is standard practice to have the Master Bedroom door located at the end of the walkway. Instead, here, the two bedrooms have their doors directly facing each other.

This is for good reason as the built-in wardrobes are flushed in to maximise the squarishness of the rooms. I definitely wished that developers did this more as having a flushed wardrobe certainly makes the layout more usable.

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Starting with bedroom two, which is sized at 9.9 sqm. While this is slightly above average, it feels more spacious and larger than its peers with a similar size.

The room has no wasted space at all with the wardrobe hidden by the sides. More importantly without the wardrobe jutting out, you have a very regular layout to make the most efficient use of.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

They have done this room up as a study instead so it’s difficult to imagine how the space would look like as a bedroom. However, given my past experiences, it will easily fit a queen sized bed or a single bed with a table by the side.

I also like that both rooms in this layout have full-length windows, which is almost unheard of in two bedroom new launches these days! It’s a refreshing take indeed.

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As for the Common Bathroom, it is a tad smaller than average at 4.4 sqm. Its most attractive feature is undoubtedly the windows that allow for natural ventilation in the bathroom.

No cost-cutting for the WC too as the developers are providing a wall-mounted one by Geberit, which will also be the brand for the basin.

The mixer and the handheld shower, on the other hand, will be supplied by Grohe. Both Geberit and Grohe are reliable European brands that are found in many condo projects.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Over to the Master Bedroom, which is of a reasonable and good size for new launches. Combined with the Master Bathroom, it will make up 15.7 sqm of space.

You can see that despite its average size, the flushed wardrobes make this space seem way bigger than it! With a queen sized bed, there is still room for bedside tables and walking space in between.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Despite being located on the same side as the balcony, you will still get full-length windows, which is rare as the aircon ledge is usually placed in this area.

Instead, they have very intelligently placed the Master Bathroom between the balcony and the Master Bedroom, with the aircon ledge just outside the Master Bath.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The Master Bedroom wardrobe does come with a pull-out mirror, which will come in handy for getting ready in the mornings. It does take up some storage space – so I’ll leave you to decide if it is worth your while.

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Finally to the Master Bathroom, you will get windows here too that can help to ventilate the entire space.

A wall-mounted water closet and basin will be supplied by Grohe while there will be an overhead shower (a cheaper option compared to a rain shower which needs to be built-in) and a mixer will be provided by Geberit.

The Watergardens at Canberra – 3 bedroom – type 3C2 (958 sqft) review

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The two bedroom show flat unit was pretty much a standout to me and let’s see if the three bedroom here can rival that accolade.

That said, the bar is definitely higher for three bedroom units for me as they tend to have more space to work with. I would say there’s nothing too spectacular about this layout – it is simple, squarish, and regular (take that positively, please).

At 958 sq ft, this is the second smallest three bedroom layout at The Watergardens with the inclusion of a study and home shelter being the main differences between this and the larger units.

There are also several different layouts with the same 958 sqft size.

All units come with porcelain tiles for the common areas and vinyl for the bedrooms. This is in line with what you would expect for an OCR project. The ceiling height is at 2.79 m, which is average as well.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As you enter the unit (in a similar fashion as the two bedroom unit) you are greeted immediately by the enclosed kitchen on the left.

The size is marginally longer and larger at 6.2 sqm when compared to the kitchen in the two bedroom show flat (5.6 sqm).

There’s no entranceway here to speak of, so less privacy for the occupants here.

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The kitchen is decently sized, and I don’t think you can have too many complaints for a three bedroom unit that is sized under 1,000 sq ft.

Besides that, it comes with pretty much the same features albeit with a slightly darker shade for the countertop and backsplash.

The plus point is definitely the presence of windows (and rather sizeable ones at that) to prevent remnant cooking smells from gathering and two sides of quartz countertop space to work with.

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All appliances come from Electrolux, a mass-market brand from Sweden and this includes the induction cooker hob, hood, oven, fridge, and washer dryer.

The aircon ledge will also be found just beside the kitchen and top and bottom cabinets will be provided.

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Rather disappointingly, all units including three and four bedroom ones do not come with open flame gas hobs.

I’m very surprised at the omission as the common practice has been to go with gas hobs for the larger 3 and 4 Bedroom units in recent years.

This means that ‘wok hei’ fans would be unable to do a personal rendition of the dishes at home given the lack of an open flame.

At the outset, I do find that the colour palette used for this show flat was lighter and gave the space a more spacious vibe, especially compared to the heavier woody tone used in the four bedroom unit (which you’d see later).

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The dining area for the two and three bedroom show units are similarly positioned but it is clear that this is slightly more spacious of the two.

That said, this is quite a squeeze overall despite the developers managing to fit six people with the help of a bench sitting at an L-shaped angle.

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You can see how precisely the table is positioned, so if you were to go with the usual chairs with a humanly possible sitting position, the table will infringe onto the walkways on both sides.

This tight space is nevertheless in line with most new launch units of this size.

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As for the living room, the width is slightly bigger than the one found in the two bedroom unit, which is not exactly great news.

You have room for a three-seater couch, a small coffee table, and a TV console here and that’s about all the space you have.

Having those in place would mean almost no room to walk between them but that’s the reality of new launches that many of us would already be familiar with! 

The TV ledge here is definitely not going to be adequate for most people so do take that slimness shown here into account.

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The balcony is a pretty functional space at 7.7 sqm and stretches to one of the common bedrooms (although the bedroom does eat into it a little).

It’s not big enough to actually host a dinner party out here but having an occasional meal or two as a couple would definitely be possible.

You can either opt to go for a small coffee table or a bar counter table with two chairs just as they have done here.

Clearly, even after doing that, there’s still space for a cushioned couch and a plant here so I’ll leave it to you to exercise some creativity here.

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Onto bedroom three, which at 8.7 sqm is the new launch benchmark. You will notice that the rooms here come with the ‘typical’ built-in wardrobes instead of the space-efficient ones I was referring to in the two bedroom show flat.

They have gone bed-free here to show the roominess (or lack thereof) of this bedroom but logically, with this size, you will fit a Queen sized bed nicely with no space for anything else.

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You could alternatively opt for a single bed with just about enough space for a small study table. Full-length windows (a small part peeks out to the balcony) will help to let sunlight in all day long.

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It is very much a similar story with bedroom two, which is the same size as bedroom three.

They have chosen to build in the single bed platform with an integrated study so this is an example of how the space would look for a typical children/youth’s room.

Alternatively, if you do not need a table, you can always go with a queen sized bed. You will get the same built-in sliding wardrobe as standard and full-length windows to let in natural light.

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It is a rather cosy set up though!

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As for the common bathroom, it is just about average at 4.7 sqm. Having windows is no doubt a great feature to have, as it prevents mould from forming as easily.

As for the wares and fittings, you get a wall-mounted water closet and basin from Geberit and a mixer and handheld shower from Grohe. These are both reliable European brands trusted by many in Singapore and around the world.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Next up, let’s take a look at the master bedroom. The first thing you’d notice is that there is a bit of a walkway before you get to see the bed proper.

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It’s quite a unique arrangement here as the bathroom entrance is located by the walkway instead.

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There is an accessories storage by the side of the wardrobe which complements this empty space well as it can be transformed into a small dresser.

There should be sufficient space for a king-sized bed if required although I reckon that if you want this space to be comfortable, the queen should be the max you should go.

That would leave you with some room for a dresser should you need one. The master bedroom and bathroom combined will make up 19.3 sqm of space – not bad at all.

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Finally on to the master bathroom. Similar to the common bath, you will get windows here that can help to air the space. Windows are always a great addition in my opinion.

A wall-mounted water closet and basin will be supplied by Grohe while there will be an overhead shower (a cheaper option compared to a rain shower which needs to be built-in) and mixer will be provided by Geberit.

The Watergardens at Canberra – 4 bedroom premium – type 4P1-PH (1,528 sqft) review

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There are two four-bedroom layouts at Watergardens at Canberra but both measure up at the same size – 1,302 sqft for floors 1 to 4 and 1,528 sqft for the top floor (5th floor).

This means that as is usually the case, you will be paying that extra void space – 226 sqft in this case.

I’m a fan of double volume ceilings because they tend to give off a more spacious and luxurious feel but the product execution is equally important.

At 1,302 sqft of actual usable space, it is definitely not the largest four bedroom unit in the market – in fact, its equally distant competitor in the East, Pasir Ris 8, has a three bedroom show flat at the exact same size.

For those in favour of a dumbbell layout, you do get a bit of that here, with the ensuite junior master bedroom located away from the other bedrooms.

The four bedroom units do not come with a private lift.

Not that it is unexpected at this price point, but just putting it out there and have porcelain tiles for the common areas and vinyl for the bedrooms. These are materials in line with its more affordable price.

Ceiling height is at 4.5 m for the top floor units and as mentioned above, the void space will be added to your unit size as well. Regular units will have a 2.8 m ceiling height.

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As you enter the unit, there is a foyer area preceding the dining and living areas.

This will lead you to the kitchen on the right and household shelter (aka storeroom in land-scarce Singapore) on the left. There’s no proper entranceway here, so privacy wise it is definitely compromised here.

I’ll start with the enclosed kitchen first.

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Even though the kitchen is enclosed and has two large panel windows at the end, it was disappointing to find out that even the four bedroom units do not have a gas hob – you will have to make do with induction ones instead.

In my mind, it was already pretty established in this generation of new launches that smaller units (one to two bedrooms) get induction hobs and larger ones get gas ones so I’m really curious as to why this was omitted here.

Perhaps a guess would be that this area and development is targeted at young families starting out with their first home or as an upgrade from their BTO and will not be cooking much.

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All appliances come from Electrolux, and include the induction cooker hob, hood, oven, fridge, and separate washer and dryer. The aircon ledge will also be found just beside the kitchen and top and bottom cabinets will be provided.

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As for the actual size of this enclosed kitchen, it is larger than its two and three bedroom show flat peers here, but not by a big margin really.

That’s probably a compromise you need to deal with as the developers had to fit four bedrooms into a unit of just 1,302 sqft.

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And while there is a yard area as shown on the floor plan, the actual area provided is actually just the walkway to the store and WC areas.

So in actuality, the washer and dryer is part of the kitchen instead which isn’t the most ideal from a usability perspective – especially for a family-focused four bedroom unit.

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As one would expect from a four bedroom unit, there will be a WC in the kitchen, which comes in handy if you have a helper or need to do some washing up of dirtier items.

There is also a store, which comes with windows for added ventilation.

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It is displayed as a helper’s room here, which is fine since you do have a home shelter to use as storage space (a big bonus!).

The home shelter is located just by your entrance and is definitely a must-have for bigger units – well it’s a must-have for all units in my opinion, but space is a luxury in Singapore as we all are very aware of.

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Just by the home shelter, you do get a couple of built-in cabinets for shoes or general storage.

You will almost certainly need more shoe cabinets for a unit of this size and you will have the option of doing so along the entrance foyer or that little nook just outside your home shelter.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Over at the dining area, you will actually find what they have called a dry kitchen area. While I am more used to seeing at least a kitchen island for a dry kitchen, this one here feels more like a pantry area instead.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

That said, I like this mini-pantry kind of concept as it comes in handy for those who enjoy having friends over, especially for a drink or two.

It also helps that you get a wine chiller here from the developer! There are also more storage cabinets here for practical purposes.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As for the actual dining area, they have managed to fit six comfortably in this space.

I would have preferred for the dining and living areas to be laid out in parallel as it would give more frontage towards the balcony and consequently, more ventilation and light too.

However, that’s not the case here but at least you do have the mini-pantry area close by.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

At this juncture, I also wanted to highlight the 4.5m high ceiling height. It definitely helps to make this entire area feel grander and more spacious.

Perhaps that is also due in part to the lighting and interior design, which helps to mask the fact that the living and dining areas aren’t actually big for a four bedroom unit.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

But the high ceiling here definitely goes a long way in making the unit feel bigger than its actual size on paper.

I think that becomes more obvious when you come to the actual living room area.

Because this side-by-side living-dining layout is more typical for smaller two to three bedroom units, you can see that the space for the couch and TV is on the smaller side for a four bedroom unit.

Sure, you can still have a three seater couch here but the distance from the couch to where you would ordinarily place a TV console would be pretty close.

They have done away with a TV console here and even hacked down the wall to have display shelves as part of the ID treatment here so the actual area is considered compact for a four bedroom unit.

There’s definitely a lot of things here done to ensure the space looks more spacious (mirrors on the walls and ceilings) so perhaps these are some of the things to consider for your own design in the future.

 

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As for the balcony, at 8.3 sqm, it appears comfortable in terms of its size. However, it takes on a long, rectangular shape where the length outshines its width.

It stretches from the living room to one of the common bedrooms but the actual width makes this space impractical to accommodate a proper dining area.

That said, you can still do it up with a bar counter of sorts, as they have done here and you can fit a few friends sitting around just chatting about life.

They also have the pre-approved balcony screens fitted here for those who might be considering installing them in the future.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Now onto the bedrooms.

I’ll start with the junior master bedroom, which is placed away from the other bedrooms.

It’s located just beside the living room and that’s something which some don’t like about dumbbell layouts – they are more space-efficient but have arguably less privacy.

On the flip side, it is better for multi-generational living – as this bedroom is located away from the other bedrooms. You’ll just have to pick your poison here.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

In any case, at 13.1 sqm for both the bedroom and its ensuite bathroom, this junior master bedroom feels no different space-wise from a regular bedroom save for the ensuite bathroom. T

his means that you will be able to fit a queen size bed but with little room to spare, just as you see in the show flat here.

At least you get full-length windows here, which will help let more light in and make the place feel less claustrophobic. 

Storage comes by way of the typical two-panel wardrobe – which doesn’t need much more elaboration at this point.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As for the ensuite junior bathroom, it comes with the standard bells and whistles you find in the other bathrooms here.

It has branded fittings in the form of mixers, basin, WC, and showerhead from the likes of Grohe and Geberit, which are used pretty extensively in new launches.

For those looking for windows here, you will be disappointed as you will need to rely on mechanical ventilation to ventilate this space.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Moving on to bedroom four, which is the bedroom closest to the living room. It is sized at 8.5 sqm, which is the same size as the other common bedroom. They have done up this room more as a study, with the wall hacked down as well.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The good thing about this room is its direct access to the balcony, which will definitely allow a lot more wind to come through. If you do require a larger living room, bringing down the connecting wall might be an option here as well.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Otherwise, as a standard bedroom, you can fit a queen size bed but you will likely do better with a Single bed and a study table instead. Built-in full-length wardrobes come standard as expected.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As for bedroom three, it is similarly sized at 8.5 sqm, which is in line with the market norm. In this room, they have done up a platform bed to create a separation of space and still managed to fit a small built-in study table as well.

Personally, for parents with school-going children, this is the more ideal setup compared to having a queen sized bed, which will take up most of the room.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The usual will be provided here as well – full-length windows and a two-panel wardrobe.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Bathroom three will be shared among bedroom three and four, as well as your visiting guests.

At 4.2 sqm, it is on the smaller to average in terms of bathroom sizes. Mirrors and built-in storage spaces come standard, as with a host of good quality fittings here from Grohe and Geberit.

Among those are the mixer taps, wall-hung WC, basin, and shower. Unfortunately, you will still not have windows here so ventilation wise it just isn’t as ideal.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Finally, the ‘star’ of the house – the master bedroom. Combined with the ensuite bathroom, it is 19.5 sqm large.

There is a bit of an entrance foyer to give the room more privacy before you can see the bed properly – which is certainly an important factor.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

At the corner of the full-length wardrobe is an accessories storage space. UOL definitely aren’t the only ones in the market doing this, but it is always a good initiative nevertheless.

That said, this wardrobe will still be rather insufficient when it comes to storage for most people.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Having a queen bed here is definitely possible and you will even get space to place a dresser. The only issue is that with a dresser there, there is nowhere to actually properly access the wardrobe space.

And frankly, there’s no real solution to this as this is already the largest unit on offer.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As for the master bathroom, it is the only bathroom in this show unit to have windows.

The delight! A wall-mounted water closet and basin will be supplied by Grohe while there will be an overhead shower (a cheaper option compared to a rain shower which needs to be built-in) and mixer will be provided by Geberit.

The Watergardens at Canberra location review

For those relying on public transport, the upside is that you will be within walking distance from Canberra MRT on the North South Line.

You should be able to get there comfortably within five minutes via the park connector and the distance is just 350m from the condo.

From there, you will be able to get to Bishan (17 mins), Orchard (29 mins) and City Hall (36 mins) without having to change trains at all.

That’s definitely faster than how long you would take if you drove during peak hours.

On the other hand, for drivers, The Watergardens at Canberra’s location really isn’t ideal. Considering how my last review was on a similarly far-flung development (albeit in the East) – Pasir Ris 8, I was hoping that the time taken for the drive times would be reduced or at least stay the same.

Amazingly, and not in a positive way, the drive times are even more incredible than Pasir Ris 8.

Of course, these timings are taken as of the peak hour time of 830am on a weekday and is calculated as an average of the predicted timing given.

Personally, my trip down to the show flat was at noontime from the CBD and it took me 35 mins, which is really no joke considering how small Singapore is.

It’s really less about the peak hours but more about its accessibility. The major expressways are all about a 10-minute drive away, which is not helpful since Canberra isn’t already central, to begin with.

I am also doubtful if the upcoming North South Corridor (NSC), which will be built to ease congestion on the CTE, will help to significantly reduce drive times.

Nearest MRT: Canberra MRT (350m, three to five mins walk)

Public transport

Bus station Buses serviced Distance from condo (& est. walking time)
Canberra Stn stop ID: 58549 117, 169, 883, 883B, 883M 350m, five mins
Opp Canberra Stn stop ID: 58541 117, 169, 883, 883M 450m, six mins

Amenities

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Schools

School Distance from condo (& est. walking time)
Yishun Primary School 1.2km, 15 mins
Ahmad Ibraham Primary School 1.4km, 18 mins
Ahmad Ibraham Secondary School 750m, nine mins
Yishun Secondary School 1.8km, 23 mins

Retail outlets

Mall Distance from condo (& est. walking time)
Canberra Plaza 800m, nine mins
Sembawang Shopping Centre 1km, 12 mins
Sun Plaza 1.9km, 24 mins
Northpoint City 1.5km, 19 mins

Private transport

Key destinations Distance from condo (average time at peak hour (0830) drive time)
CBD (Raffles Place) 24.3 km, 38 mins
Orchard Road 21.9 km, 37 mins
Suntec City 22.7 km, 34 mins
Changi Airport 25.2 km, 34 mins
Tuas Port (by 2040) 41.8 km, 55 mins
Paya Lebar Quarters/Airbase (by 2030) 21.2 km, 34 mins
Mediapolis (and surroundings) 30.2 km, 42 mins
Mapletree Business City 29.5 km, 50 mins
Tuas Checkpoint 31.7 km, 42 mins
Woodlands Checkpoint 11.6 km, 34 mins
Jurong Cluster (JCube) 25.2 km, 41 mins
Woodlands Cluster (Causeway Point) 6.8 km, 24 mins
HarbourFront Cluster (Vivo City) 27.2 km, 42 mins
Punggol Cluster (Waterway Point) 12 km, 34 mins

Immediate road exits: One – Canberra Drive, which is not exactly close to any major expressway. It will take about 10 minutes via Yishun Avenue 7 before you are able to get onto CTE, SLE or TPE.

The developer team

Developer

The three JV developers are related to the Wee family of UOB Group, arguably one of Singapore’s most successful families. Besides their banking interests, they are also evidently active in the property market and have developed a solid reputation here as well.

UOL started life in 1963 as Faber Union Ltd before UOB acquired a controlling stake in 1973, renaming the company United Overseas Land in 1975. In 2018, Singapore Land became a subsidiary of UOL Group.

UOL is a publicly listed company on the SGX with over $20b in assets under management. Their core businesses are in property development, property investments, and hotel operations.

On the property development front, they have been active since the 1970s with iconic projects such as Cairnhill Plaza and Orchard Bel-Air.

More recently, they have been involved in a spate of new launches including Clavon, Avenue South Residence and Meyerhouse.

Kheng Leong was founded in 1949 as an international commodity and spice trading company. They eventually evolved into an investment holding company with property interests and came to be owned by the Wee family.

Over the years, they have been involved in a wide spectrum of developments – ranging from ultra-luxurious ones (Nassim Park Residences) to mass market projects such as The Topiary and Double Bay Residences.

More recently, their new launches include Avenue South Residence and Meyerhouse, and 15 Holland Hill.

Architect

Hong Kong-based P&T Group is one of the oldest architectural firms in the world, having been founded in 1868.

They found early success in their Shanghai-style buildings for Chartered Bank, Bank of China, and HSBC back in the early 1900s.

Over in Singapore, they were responsible for the MacDonald House (1949) and Bank of China Building (1953).

These days, their designs are no longer as eye-catching as before but they are still very active in the Singapore condo market. Their recent projects include Forrett at Bukit Timah, The M, Stirling Residences, and Parc Clematis.

Unit mix

PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Unit type Size No. of units Share value Est maintenance
Two-bedroom compact 646 – 678 sqft 80 Six $360
Two-bedroom premium 721 – 753 sqft 119 Six $360
Two bedroom+ study 797 sqft 20 Six $360
Three-bedroom compact 904 – 958 sqft 94 Six $360
Three-bedroom + study 1,012 sqft 10 Six $360
Three-bedroom premium + study 1,109 sqft 65 Seven $420
Four-bedroom 1,302 sqft 60 Seven $420

While it may have been tempting for the developers to offer one Bedroom units, which tend to get snapped up quickly because of their lower quantum, I’m glad that the UOL consortium decided to only offer two, three, and four bedroom unit types.

For all the growth plans in the North, Canberra is no RCR or CCR by any measure. Hence, unless you are a North-side lover, demand for one bedroom units either for rental or own stay is likely to be subdued.

What they have done instead, is to offer compact two bedroom units starting from 646 sqft and have almost 50 per cent of units be two bedroom types.

This helps to keep the quantum one of the lowest in town and yet offers the practicality of a two bedroom unit.

Three bedroom and four bedroom sizes are average for the new launch market although having just reviewed Pasir Ris 8, I must say the sizes in that far East project was really generous.

For context, their largest three bedroom was 1,302 sqft, the exact same size as the four bedroom here.

On the topic of maintenance, it is higher than what you’d typically see for mass-market developments so do take that into account in your calculations.

Stack analysis

Development site plan

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Best stacks

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Blocks 39, 43-57 have either North or South facing, hence avoiding the afternoon West sun. On the other hand, the other blocks will either have a North-East or South-West facing, which means that you will get some morning or afternoon sun.

In terms of units with the best views, I think blocks 27 – 35 and 41 with a South West facing are the best bet.

They front towards the small landed estate of Sembawang Springs, which means you get a good amount of unblocked views on the higher floors.

However, they are also South West facing and although unblocked, you will get afternoon sun entering the unit, which may not be ideal for some.

The North-South facing blocks are generally internal facing so blocks will get views of the pool, lawn, and your other neighbours in the opposite blocks.

As for stacks with the best layouts, these are my personal preferences.

For two bedroom units, I think they are all efficiently laid out and comes down to whether you need a second bathroom or a study. In particular, I like 2P1-2P3 and 2PS1-2PS2 for their enclosed kitchen with windows in the bathrooms.

For three bedroom units, I like 3PS3, one of the largest units on offer as there is a dumbbell layout that gives privacy to the occupant of bedroom three.

However, the downside would be its distance from the common bathroom. The other 3 Bedroom layouts are regular with a common corridor so they work just fine as well.

For four bedroom units, I’m going with 4P1, which once again offers a dumbbell layout as well as the ensuite junior master bedroom away from the master bedroom.

Afternoon west sun analysis

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Given the north-south nature of the stacks, most stacks here receive some form of afternoon sun towards the end of the year. Blocks 41, 27-35 receive the most given it is angled more towards the west than the other blocks.

Least afternoon sun

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Those wanting to avoid the afternoon sun should consider all the north-facing and north east-facing stacks.

Price review

If you are considering The Watergardens at Canberra, you will undoubtedly compare it against its neighbouring developments. So here is how it stacks up!

Development Units Psf TOP Tenure Price gap
The Watergardens at Canberra 448 $1,400 est 2026 99 Years
Provence Residence EC 413 $1,153 2026 99 Years 21 per cent
Parc Canberra EC 495 $1,096 2023 99 Years 28 per cent
The Brownstone EC 638 $981 2022 99 Years 43 per cent
The Visionaire EC 632 $999 2018 99 Years 40 per cent
1 Canberra EC 665 $913 2015 99 Years 53 per cent
Eight Courtyards 656 $1,007 2014 99 Years 39 per cent
The Nautical 435 $1,025 2016 99 Years 37 per cent

The price comparison table for The Watergardens at Canberra is slightly unique because all of its new launch/yet to TOP peers are Executive Condos.

Among the projects that have yet to TOP, The Brownstone is closest to Canberra MRT, followed by The Watergardens at Canberra, Parc Canberra, and Provence Residence.

I would use Parc Central Residences EC vs Treasure at Tampines as a quick comparison. Their average psf difference as of today (mid July 2021) is ~ 20 per cent.

However, Parc Central EC is not within walking distance to a MRT station (~25 mins) while Treasure is within an eight-minute walk to Simei MRT.

On simple analysis, one would expect the difference to be smaller for The Watergardens as compared to the new ECs as they are all within walking distance to Canberra MRT.

Instead, if we assume an average of $1,400 psf for The Watergardens, the difference will be 21 per cent and 28 per cent.

I do feel that is an oversimplified indicator that The Watergardens at Canberra is slightly overpriced even compared to its new launch peers.

That said, ECs have limitations of their own which potential buyers may not be able to circumvent. For example, ECs typically require a family nucleus and a monthly income of less than $16,000.

Moreover, there is a Minimum Occupancy Period of five years and the development will only be fully privatised after 10 years.

The plot right beside The Watergardens is expected to launch soon as The Commodore by boutique developer JBE Holdings.

Their purchase price is similar ($644 psf for The Commodore and $650 for The Watergardens) so it would be interesting to see how The Commodore will be priced.

I reckon it will be priced cheaper than The Watergardens given the less reputable name of the developer.

As for the other resale projects, they are a mixture of ECs that have yet to fully privatise and private condos.

The differential does look steep based on the numbers, but do remember that many of them are ECs that have stricter requirements on ownership.

For the private condos, I do think that the gap of 37-39 per cent is still in the acceptable range since The Watergardens at Canberra will be almost 10 years newer when it is completed.

But let’s go deeper into the comparison, including a look at D27 as a whole and comparing it to resale condos and the new ECs in the area.

I would not say that D27 and the Yishun planning area are the most exciting of places out there (in terms of growth, not happenings of course).

It’s definitely seen its share of appreciation, but like what I highlighted about D23 back in my review of Dairy Farm Residences, D27’s growth has so far been slower than the overall growth of the Singapore property market:

$PSF of non-landed private residential properties between all districts and district 27.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

I do think that this is set to change though, as the Woodlands Regional Centre takes shape, The Watergardens Canberra stands to benefit from this directly.

It would also stand to benefit from the North-South Corridor, though I’ll expound more on that in the appreciation analysis up next.

One of the attractive points about The Watergardens Canberra is its proximity to the MRT, and naturally, most people looking to buy in this area (especially HDB upgraders) would consider this connectivity to be important.

This allows them to channel cash that would have been used for a car down payment, as well as allowing them to meet the TDSR much more easily.

If we are looking strictly at this area, there are a handful of developments that are within a 10-minute walking distance to Canberra MRT highlighted below.

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

From a quick look, it seems that there are a lot of options for buyers to choose from here which could give some buyers of The Watergardens at Canberra the jitters.

But if you are looking to upgrade and stay in the north, you won’t just be considering the Canberra area. There’s still the Woodlands/Admiralty/Sembawang/Yishun/Khatib area.

And if you’re looking to stay near the MRT, here’s what your options look like (for non-landed private residences) in the respective areas:

Screengrab from URA OneMap. White building icons represent private condos, while brown buildings represent ECs.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Screengrab from URA OneMap. White building icons represent private condos, while brown buildings represent ECs.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Screengrab from URA OneMap. White building icons represent private condos, while brown buildings represent ECs.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Screengrab from URA OneMap. White building icons represent private condos, while brown buildings represent ECs.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Screengrab from URA OneMap. White building icons represent private condos, while brown buildings represent ECs.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes
Screengrab from URA OneMap. White building icons represent private condos, while brown buildings represent ECs.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

By looking at the number of developments around, it would seem that those upgrading in the north would not have a lot to choose from, with Canberra MRT offering the most number of private developments nearby.

As such, I do think that on a grander scale, this area does stand to get more attention. Now, on to the numbers.

Projects Tenure Completed One bedroom price Size range Two bedroom price Size range Three bedroom Price Size range Four bedroom Price Size range
1 Canberra 99 yrs from 30/01/2012 2015         $980,748 ($908 psf) 936 – 1539 sqft $1,472,907 ($810 psf) 1442 – 2422 sqft
Canberra Residences 99 yrs from 08/09/2010 2013 $601,667 ($939 psf) 614 – 700 sqft $815,000 ($889 psf) 850 – 990 sqft $1,149,278 ($864 psf) 1076 – 1528 sqft $1,495,000 ($778 psf) 1905 – 1938 sqft
D’Banyan 999 yrs from 26/03/1885 2005 $620,000 ($993 psf) 624 – 624 sqft $899,000 ($788 psf) 1119 – 1163 sqft        
Eight Courtyards 99 yrs from 20/09/2010 2014 $583,333 ($1,135 psf) 452 – 549 sqft $841,861 ($990 psf) 753 – 893 sqft $1,100,415 ($1,001 psf) 947 – 1378 sqft $1,530,000 ($974 psf) 1572 – 1572 sqft
Seletaris Freehold 2001     $1,020,450 ($869 psf) 1119 – 1206 sqft $1,205,750 ($875 psf) 1324 – 1572 sqft $1,576,500 ($878 psf) 1615 – 1981 sqft
The Brownstone 99 yrs from 28/04/2014 2017     $783,000 ($1,070 psf) 732 – 732 sqft $970,629 ($952 psf) 883 – 1130 sqft $1,190,000 ($1,079 psf) 1066 – 1141 sqft
The Nautical 99 yrs from 29/08/2011 2015 $559,667 ($1,219 psf) 441 – 570 sqft $806,700 ($1,049 psf) 764 – 786 sqft $1,085,523 ($936 psf) 883 – 1389 sqft $1,580,000 ($923 psf) 1711 – 1711 sqft
The Sensoria Freehold 2007     $934,500 ($880 psf) 1001 – 1098 sqft $1,324,500 ($898 psf) 1152 – 2282 sqft    
The Visionaire 99 yrs from 09/01/2015 2018     $755,000 ($1,047 psf) 721 – 721 sqft $955,667 ($1,000 psf) 850 – 1023 sqft    
Yishun Emerald 99 yrs from 16/02/1998 2002     $783,648 ($780 psf) 958 – 1033 sqft $925,143 ($767 psf) 1152 – 1432 sqft $968,105 ($728 psf) 1206 – 1410 sqft
Yishun Sapphire 99 yrs from 16/02/1998 2001     $735,629 ($741 psf) 958 – 1023 sqft $914,000 ($775 psf) 1152 – 1195 sqft $960,167 ($744 psf) 1206 – 1399 sqft

Source: URA, Squarefoot Research. Prices from August 2020 – July 2021.

As two and three bedroom units form the majority of units here, I will be looking at how prices for these units compare to surrounding projects.

As prices are not yet confirmed, I would also assume two-bedroom units to be priced at $1,450 psf and three-bedroom units at $1,400.

Here’s how the two-bedroom $PSF looks like compared to resale developments around:

PHOTO: Stackedhomes
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

At $1,450 psf, the two-bedroom unit at The Watergardens At Canberra would be trading at a 35 per cent premium over The Brownstone EC (99-year leasehold from 2014).

Compared to the average leasehold two-bedroom $PSF around, it would be a 55per cent premium.

Now at $1,400 psf, the premium that the three-bedroom units at The Watergardens At Canberra trade above the next most expensive development (Eight Courtyards) is 40 per cent.

35 per cent and 40 per cent premiums above the next most expensive development are quite wide.

Normally, I would expect about a 20-30 per cent premium over a similar leasehold development that’s about five-10 years older, so I am a little wary of the pricing here relative to resale projects around.

But $PSF is just one measure of price, how does the overall affordability stack up here?
 

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As you can see from the graph, the difference in the two-bedroom affordability is no longer as stark, but it is still the most expensive in the overall price.

But what’s also different here is that the next three developments (The Seletaris, The Sensoria and D’Banyan) are either freehold or 999-years.

It’s not the freehold status that got it up the list though, as its $PSF positioning falls behind its 99-year leasehold peers (see chart above).

All three developments have huge two-bedroom units above 1,000 sqft. Moreover, besides D’Banyan (which is a boutique development that is lacking in facilities), both Seletaris and The Sensoria are not within walking distance to the MRT:

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Google Maps isn’t the best at telling walking distances, so once the new HDB opposite Canberra MRT is done, walking time should be reduced to around 15 minutes since you could cut through it.

But if you count having to walk within the development as well, I would expect it to take more than 15 minutes overall.

As such, these freehold developments may not look too attractive to those who wish to upgrade and be close to the MRT.

The next most expensive leasehold development for a two-bedroom is Eight Courtyards.

Based on transactions from August 2020 – July 2021, sizes here range from 753 sqft – 893 sqft and trade at around $841,861 (on average). This is a discount of just 19.5 per cent – a far cry from the $PSF difference above.

Perhaps a fairer comparison would be to the newer The Visionaire, where the two-bedroom is also the same size as the one I am comparing with (721 sqft).

The Visionaire (Executive Condominium) traded on average at $755,000, and its lease start date is only five years earlier. This is a larger 28 per cent discount compared to The Watergardens At Canberra.

This leads you to wonder: does it mean that the gap between ECs and condos here should close up over time (which naturally implies that returns from ECs would over time be better than private condos?)

Executive Condominiums do trade at a discount, and while the $PSF gap does close up over time, it hardly fully closes up. Here’s a $PSF comparison between 1 Canberra (EC) and Eight Courtyards (Private Condo):

The narrowing gap – from 17 per cent in 2012 to 10 per cent in 2021.
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As you can see, the $PSF between both developments has narrowed over the years.

The initial gap between both developments stood at 17 per cent when 1 Canberra was on the primary market, and is currently trading at just a 10 per cent discount.

A 17 per cent gap is certainly not a lot, especially since this is an EC which is subsidised. Buyers must have wondered just how much appreciation they can expect before the gap would narrow with private condos.

Yet 1 Canberra did really well, with 121 profitable transactions as of this writing, and zero unprofitable ones. Mind you, these buyers bought at the 2012/13 peak too:

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The fact that they could get over $200,000 profits from such a small quantum to begin with, and just a 17 per cent $PSF discount from Eight Courtyards in its first year of sale is startling.

What does this mean for The Watergardens At Canberra?

The pessimist in me is inclined to point out that a 40 per cent difference in $PSF is too big. Here’s a look at the $PSF over time for condos in this area:

Year 1 Canberra 

Canberra Residence

D'Banyan

Eight Courtyards

Seletaris

The Brownstone

The Nautical

The Sensoria

The Visionaire

Yishun Emerald

Yishun Sapphire
1999         $576            
2000         $590         $469 $512
2001         $578         $456 $465
2002         $517         $430 $438
2003     $509   $495         $435 $429
2004     $465   $454         $413 $431
2005     $436   $461         $409 $419
2006     $327   $449     $531   $407 $406
2007     $558   $499     $565   $443 $420
2008     $539   $517     $644   $486 $485
2009     $579   $528     $640   $498 $497
2010     $664   $612     $748   $598 $592
2011   $819 $988 $805 $692     $823   $680 $666
2012 $701 $787   $826 $749   $882 $836   $699 $703
2013 $717 $750   $866 $832   $845 $948   $766 $756
2014 $723 $1,028   $1,023 $725     $889   $748 $706
2015 $737 $1,024   $984 $711 $813 $1,173 $786   $734 $713
2016   $916 $719 $922 $710 $830 $1,059 $838 $810 $688 $728
2017   $886   $941 $725 $825 $967 $864 $815 $687 $698
2018 $842 $873 $850 $949 $793 $868 $979 $852 $943 $711 $730
2019 $872 $839   $961 $815   $969     $705 $729
2020 $881 $880 $773 $992 $860   $959 $836 $980 $722 $729
2021 $916 $888 $803 $1,017 $874 $1,017 $1,023 $943 $999 $770 $773

If we draw a parallel of new launches compared to resale developments, you could look at Canberra Residences and Eight Courtyards as a yardstick. At launch, it averaged around $805 – $819 psf. At that time, it was around the same price as the freehold The Sensoria. It was trading at a premium of the older (by 12 years) Yishun Emerald and Yishun Sapphire by around 21 per cent.

A 21per cent premium for being 12 years newer. Not bad at all.

If we consider $1,450 psf, $889 psf and $990 psf for a two-bedroom at The Watergardens At Canberra, Canberra Residences and Eight Courtyards, then we’re looking at a 63 per cent and 46 per cent difference respectively. And this is for being just 10 years newer.

Of course, the $PSF comparison isn’t 100 per cent fair, since Yishun Emerald and Yishun Sapphire have bigger unit sizes.

Moreover, The Watergardens At Canberra does not come with a tennis court unlike every other resale development nearby, and at five-storeys high, it cannot offer “expansive views” as part of its offering.

However, if we look at affordability, today The Watergardens At Canberra trades at just 19.5per cent more than Eight Courtyards, as mentioned earlier.

Now the optimist in me would like to say that given the hot property market we are in right now, this 19.5 per cent price gap (not $PSF gap) with Eight Courtyards is actually quite decent!

I do think that with such a gap, there’s a likelihood that buyers here would not make a killing, but likely close the gap with the resale developments around.

Should the market continue to move up, everyone would of course win (if you bought), but it’s my personal opinion that there is only that much more room for appreciation at $1,450 psf compared to resale projects around.

And we’ve done an article comparing resale versus new launch gains before which shows that “making more buying new launches” is not as common as you think .

But again, this could very easily change based on how fast the other areas actually increase in price when they hit the resale market.

Now let’s take a look at the new launch market here.

Of interest are the two new ECs in the area: Provence Residence and Parc Canberra.

In terms of facility offering, Parc Canberra has full-fledged facilities (pool + tennis court). Provence EC does not come with a tennis court, however, it does have half a basketball court.

This puts The Watergardens At Canberra at a slight disadvantage.

Moreover, these new Executive Condos are also within walking distance to Canberra MRT, and once it hits the resale market after the five year MOP, only foreigners would not be able to purchase it.

The financing requirements would be the same as any other resale condo as it follows the TDSR framework.

If you are a price sensitive buyer, would you rather go for a resale EC that’s 10 per cent cheaper overall, or a private condo that is more expensive? There’s no right or wrong here, as resale ECs continue to maintain about a five-10 per cent gap.

However, it being cheaper would mean that your unit in The Watergardens At Canberra would constantly be compared to the more affordable ECs around that are about the same age.

Do note, however, that Parc Canberra has only one two-bedroom unit type which comes with a study. It’s also the only unit with a two+S configuration, and it’s on the ground floor.

Provence Residence has no two-bedroom units.

This does bode well for those buying two-bedroom units at The Watergardens At Canberra as the bulk of the competition would come from people looking for at least three-bedroom configurations.

As such, three-room flat upgraders who are not interested in having more space would only have The Watergardens (and The Commodore later on) to look at in the vicinity, if they want something new.

So what do prices at these two ECs look like?

Project Three bedroom Four bedroom
Parc Canberra $1,047,824 ($1,105 psf) $1,279,970 ($1,081 psf)
Provence Residence $1,151,271 ($1,150 psf) $1,682,444 ($1,202 psf)
The Watergardens At Canberra $1,265,600 ($1,400 psf)* $1,822,800 ($1,400 psf)*

Source: Squarefoot Research. Based on all transactions so far. *Indicative pricing

Those of you with a keen eye would also notice that Provence Residence quantum for the three-bedroom is only nine per cent cheaper.

Do note that this is not too accurate, as prices were averaged across all bedroom sizes. Here’s a more accurate comparison with similar sizes:

Project Three bedroom Size
Parc Canberra $1,029,869 ($1,113 psf) 926 sqft
Provence Residence $1,082,731 ($1,170 psf) 926 sqft
The Watergardens At Canberra $1,265,600 ($1,400 psf)* 904 sqft

Source: Squarefoot Research. Based on the 926 sqft units transacted so far *Indicative pricing

Based on actual transactions for Parc Canberra and Provence Residence, both projects for this size traded at a 21 per cent and 16 per cent discount respectively (for the three-bedroom units) compared to The Watergardens at Canberra.

This difference is quite comparable to the earlier example of 1 Canberra versus Eight Courtyards, where 1 Canberra became really profitable.

If we go by the fact that ECs have a very good chance of being profitable after five years, then this serves as a good buffer for The Watergardens at Canberra.

Assuming EC buyers here make 15 per cent returns – prices of Parc Canberra and Provence Residence would rise to $1,280 and $1,346 psf, which is about nine per cent less than a private condominium.

This gap is certainly very acceptable, and is what we’re seeing in today’s market.

Here’s a look at the five-year and 10-year gains of ECs:

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

As you can see, 1 Canberra made a 25 per cent gain after five years, so my 15 per cent estimate is considered conservative, especially since we know that profitability is based on property cycles more than anything else.

I could also be wrong here if the fundamentals of EC versus Private Condo price relationship changes, but this is what we can go with for now as we use history as a guide.

Both Parc Canberra and Provence EC sales have also been strong, showing the demand at this price point and for the area too.

Provence EC has gotten 60 per cent sold in just three months so far, and Parc Canberra is almost sold out since it started sales in early 2020.

Overall, I would say that the pricing and demand of the 2 ECs nearby shines a positive light on The Watergardens At Canberra.

Now we come to the last part of the price review - supply in the area. The demand for condos would likely come from those upgrading from their HDBs, so let’s take a look at the HDB supply.

Disclaimer: This is by no means a detailed and thorough analysis, of supply in the area and is just meant to illustrate the possible demand from buyers around the area.

Demand changes each year, and I will be using history as a guide again which is by no means a guarantee of the future.

The Yishun, Woodlands and Sembawang estate has a total of 124,871 3/4/5/Executive dwelling units under HDB (sold, not rented).

This represents about 12.8 per cent of all dwelling units of these unit types in Singapore.

Now, how can we estimate the number of upgraders here?

In 2019 alone, there were about 19,479 units sold in the private market (all types of sale).

Of this, 7,891 had an HDB address, while 10,200 had a private residential address. 1,388 are not known.

This means that HDB buyers account for at least 41 per cent of private home buyers.

However, there is a greater proportion of HDB upgraders in D27 than in other districts:

Year HDB address Unknown Private address Total in D27 Proportion of HDB buyers
2015 1,125 92 340 1,557 72 per cent
2016 995 229 283 1,507 66 per cent
2017 1,334 463 389 2,186 61 per cent
2018 453 88 233 774 59 per cent
2019 248 13 144 405 61 per cent
2020 547 159 200 906 60 per cent
Average 784 174 265 1,223 63 per cent

Source: URA. HDB buyers make up 59 per cent - 72 per cent of all sales in D27, higher than the Singapore average.

Data from 2015 - 2020 shows that around 63 per cent of D27 buyers come from HDB (Upgrading).

About 784 units are sold each year on average in the district, there could be more or less, and this would also include those who reached their MOP from their BTO projects.

How many HDB upgraders can we expect around the time when The Watergardens At Canberra reaches its TOP in 2026?

Considering how it takes four-five years to build plus another five years to reach MOP, we’ll be interested to see those BTOs that have launched in 2015 - 2018.

Those in the north area are:

BTO projects Launch Expected MOP Estate Three-room Four-room Five-room Total
Eastlink I & II 2015 2024 Sembawang 255 383 638
East Delta 2016 2025 Sembawang 304 266 570
Eastcreek 2016 2025 Sembawang 116 350 176 642
Valley Spring 2016 2025 Yishun 100 308 408
Marsiling Grove 2017 2026 Woodlands 87 421 187 695
Woodlands Spring 2017 2026 Woodlands 72 100 172
Forest Spring 2017 2026 Yishun 85 251 100 436
EastGlen 2018 2027 Sembawang 83 131 96 310
Woodlands Glade 2018 2027 Woodlands 90 164 90 344
Casa Spring 2018 2027 Yishun 312 180 492
Melody Spring 2018 2027 Yishun 96 504 144 744
Yishun Glen 2018 2027 Yishun 168 490 308 966
Total       1152 3718 1547 6417

Assuming 15 per cent of those who bought their BTO in this area would want to upgrade in the area, we’re looking at about 963 households over the period of 2024 to 2027.

These ~1,000 HDB upgraders over three-four years look quite decent (around 300+ per year). To put things into perspective, August 2020 - July 2021 recorded just 295 resale transactions in the Canberra MRT vicinity.

This does not include demand from other HDBs in the D27 area.

While I do not have the total unit supply in these areas, The Watergardens At Canberra does stand out to be a new project that is near an MRT, so I would think that many upgraders would give it some serious consideration too (as well as The Commodore), among other developments.

Understandably, this is a crude way of measuring. 2019 numbers would be different from numbers in 2026 (TOP year), and more supply will come up, but this is just one measure of looking at things rather than second guessing the demand.

Finally, I must add that on top of the HDB upgraders in the area, the OCR has also gained quite a lot of traction as prices in other parts of Singapore become more and more expensive.

In this regard, developments like The Watergardens at Canberra look increasingly cheaper, and become more attractive over time, and we can likely see demand spilling over from other parts of Singapore as well.

Moreover, the improvement in infrastructure here (The North-South Corridor) plus the increasing decentralisation (Woodlands Regional Centre) does make a good case for The Watergardens At Canberra.

So overall, while the $PSF gap is wide compared to resale, I do believe that prices would hold steady.

I would not be expecting great capital appreciation in the short-term - particularly due to the new launch ECs with a much competitive pricing that poses as competition, but the new EC pricing goes in some way to act as a floor for this project.

Appreciation analysis

The North hasn’t been the most talked-about region in Singapore for obvious reasons (it’s far from all the action) but that’s about to change with several development plans announced by URA that will make Canberra a more liveable and desirable place to live, work and play.

1. North South Corridor (NSC)

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The NSC will connect the North to the City and help to ease the ever-crazy congestion on the CTE and arterial roads such as Thomson and Marymount Road.

At 21.5km, the NSC will feature dedicated bus lanes, cycling trunk routes, and pedestrian paths.

I wouldn’t call this a point that would directly lead to a capital appreciation for Watergardens at Canberra, but having less congestion and reducing drive times (especially considering its distant location) will go a long way in helping residents have a better overall experience.

2. North Coast Innovation Corridor (NCIC)

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

The NCIC will stretch from Woodlands and Sembawang to Seletar and Punggol Innovation Cluster and will be anchored by the Woodlands Regional Centre.

Woodlands is set to become a strategic economic zone in the North especially for companies with business links to Malaysia, with the Woodlands Regional Centre yielding some 700,000 sqm worth of commercial space.

Among the exciting features would be the Agri-Tech & Food Corridor, which will combine high-tech farming with R&D facilities.

Transport connectivity to our neighbours is supported by the Thomson-East Coast Line and rail services to Johor.

With more job opportunities in the North, the hope is that there will be greater demand for homes in the nearby areas such as Canberra too.

3. Bukit Canberra

PHOTO: Stackedhomes

Bukit Canberra will be a five-minute drive or 1.6km walk away from Watergardens. It will be an integrated sports and community hub or in other words, a modern community centre.

There will be good landscaping all around with a solid array of sporting facilities for the community.

This includes an eight-lap pool, indoor sports hall with 500 seats, gym, and fitness studios. There will also be a polyclinic, senior care centre, and a hawker centre housed in it.

For the history buffs, the most impressive part of Bukit Canberra to me is the Old Admiralty House, built in 1939 in Arts & Crafts architecture and formerly the residence of Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (ANZUK) forces.

What we like

  • Two sizeable swimming pools
  • Kids slide
  • Great two bedroom layouts
  • Enclosed kitchens

What we don’t like

  • Certain blocks are close to each other
  • No tennis court
  • No gas hobs for the bigger units

Our take

The Watergardens at Canberra offers buyers an opportunity to purchase a new private condo development at one of the lowest psfs around.

However, that point alone should really not be a reason for you to rush into purchasing this project.

Remember, you will have to be able to contend with Watergardens’ relatively inaccessible location and long driving distances from town and really believe in the growth story of the North.

My take is really that it could turn out both ways 10 years on - you will be lauded by friends and family for being the first mover when no one believed or the North’s growth plans do not materialise as smoothly as planned.

I view myself more as a traditionalist and do prefer to save up for a more central location.

That said, if the North has always been home for you, and you believe in the immense growth potential of the North region, then you might want to consider The Watergardens at Canberra or any of its surrounding condos.

What this means for you

You might like Watergardens at Canberra if you:

  • Believe in the North’s growth story:

    Many plans are in the pipeline to make the North a more exciting place for industry and leisure

  • Looking for a condo on a tight budget:

    One of the lowest psfs for a new launch means more affordable quantums

You may not like Watergardens at Canberra if you:

  • Privacy is a concern:

    Block to block distances are as little as 6m and average around 14m, which feels too close for comfort to me

  • Have a Masterchef streak in you:

    All units come with induction hobs, even the three and four bedroom ones. Those among us who need that open flame will be disappointed.

  • Detest long travelling times:

    Living in Canberra is no fun if you work in the CBD or in town as the MRT or Grab will both take you sometime to get to work. I’m inclined to pick the MRT as the faster option during peak hours.

End of Review

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.