Photo by: Pierre
Photo by: Pierre
July 12, 2021

Eugene Lin (Founder of TOP) has a guide on all the things you should know about executive condominiums (ECs) in Singapore; and his thoughts on the latest high-record bids for new EC sites.

Featured in 
Property Insights
 by 
Abel

What are Executive Condominiums?

For many years, ECs have been the perfect solution for those looking to live in luxurious apartments, yet are on a budget that doesn’t allow for much choice in private property.

Just like private condos, ECs often come with entire suites of enjoyable amenities—swimming pools, clubhouses, gyms, playgrounds; the list goes on.

They are also enclosed within a gated compound, with security officers and measures safely in place.

Though also built and sold by private developers, the land prices for ECs are subsidised by the government, leading to relatively lower prices.

There are even CPF Housing Grants you can apply for to help you with your EC purchase.

Together, these factors produce a perfect mix between public and private housing, making ECs generally a lot more affordable than your typical private condo.


Who is eligible for ECs?

To be eligible for an EC purchase, your monthly household income must be no more than $16,000 ($2,000 more than the previous EC income ceiling of $14,000 in September 2019).

The rest of the criteria are largely similar to other HDB offerings, such as citizenship and age requirements; nonetheless, the full set of conditions for executive condominium eligibility can be found here if needed.


Rising EC prices over the years

Average Prices of ECs in Singapore
Average Prices of ECs in Singapore

When ECs were first introduced in 1998, the average price was $520,000 per EC unit. In 2008, however, the market for ECs saw significant growth, and the average executive condo price has been on a generally upward trend since.

You would have had to pay an average of $628,000 for an EC unit back in 2008. Today, the average price stands at a whopping $1.08 million. In other words, the average EC price has effectively appreciated by 72% over the 13 years.


The Blockbuster-Winning Bid for New EC at Tengah Garden Walk

Surprising as the above figures may be, it is perhaps the EC launch of 2021 that will end up truly shaking the market once it goes on sale.


On 25th May 2021, Taurus Properties—a joint venture between City Developments Ltd and MCL Land—won the bid for the government residential site in the area of Tengah; specifically at Tengah Garden Walk, which lies about 1.1km away from Bukit Batok Town Centre and MRT station.


*The facilities, site plan, and residential floor plans for the Tengah Garden Walk EC are still currently being reviewed by the relevant authorities.


However, what is most interesting about the new EC at Tengah Garden Walk is that the winning bid from Taurus Properties came in at a whopping $400.32 million; in other words, $603.17 psf ppr.  


Let us quickly compare this to two other ECs in the vicinity that have acquired Temporary Occupation Permits (TOPs) in 2019 and 2018: Inz and Sol Acres.

Location of Tengah Garden Walk, Inz and Sol Acres
Location of Tengah Garden Walk, Inz and Sol Acres


Comparison between Tengah Garden Walk, Inz, and Sol Acres
Comparison between Tengah Garden Walk, Inz, and Sol Acres

The highest psf bids for Inz and Sol Acres were $295 and $375 respectively. Their units are now being sold at about $969 and $1,016 psf.


Taurus Properties’ bid for the land at Tengah Garden Walk is more than twice that of Inz and 60% higher than that of Sol Acres. The launch selling price of a 3-room apartment in the latter was $800,000, and its highest resale transaction is already at $1.1m today.

One can only imagine how much a unit at Tengah Garden Walk will eventually be valued at.

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EC Prices Moving Forward

Given the above, one may think that Taurus Properties’ bid is somewhat of an anomaly. This is not the case. CSC Land Group placed their bid at a close $400.20m ($599.99 psf), and the average bid for the land at Tengah Garden Walk was at $369.20m ($553.52 psf).


In other words, Taurus Properties is not alone; most, if not all, developers are now valuing land at a much higher price. We can thus reasonably expect that land bids will only continue to increase. Furthermore, with the present COVID measures, contractors now face an unprecedented rise in costs due to the lack of workers and the surging prices of raw materials.  


It is thus estimated that new EC launches will likely cross $1,200 psf in price, and that these prices will be resilient in their upward movement, and rise even higher in the coming years.


The Reasons Behind Rising Prices

But what is it that have driven developers to be willing to place such high bids for these EC projects? Are they seeing something that we are not yet privy too?


Well, not really. The facts and figures are there for all who are interested. In short, there are three main factors that are fuelling the generic rise in EC prices, and an additional one that has pushed the bids for Tengah Garden Walk even higher.

1. Jurong Innovation District
Let us first start with the specific. In the case of Tengah Garden Walk, it is likely that the bids were as high as they were due to the simple fact that the area will be under the Jurong Innovation District.

Innovation hubs have been known to give its neighbouring areas a boost in real estate prices, simply because the growth in employment opportunities in the area bring forth an increased demand in nearby houses for accessibility and convenience.

2. Rising HDB Prices
The undeniable upward trend of HDB prices is evident of how housing prices are set to continually increase over the years; the prices of ECs are no exception, especially seeing that they—like that of all other residential property—are inextricably linked to that of HDBs.  

3. Limited Supply of EC Land

Supply of ECs by Expected Year of Completion
Supply of ECs by Expected Year of Completion

There is relatively little supply of EC land in the market. Thus, whenever they are put up on tender, developers are likely to be more than excited to replenish their land bank with regards to that for ECs.

4. High Demand and Limited Supply of ECs
As evident from the above shown lack of supply for EC land, it is clear that EC units are also vastly low in supply. Pairing the low supply of ECs with its high demand due to improving market sentiment and rising resale prices fuelling families to upgrade beyond HDBs, a gross shortage emerges; one that is unlikely to be sufficiently met in the future with our decreasing land space, further fuelling the rise of EC prices countrywide.

EC vs Private Property

Seeing that ECs are, as mentioned, hybrids of public and private property, it is only natural for us to carefully compare it with its more absolute counterparts to better grasp and gauge its suitability for our specific individual needs.


However, the differences between ECs and HDBs are obvious, and need not be mentioned explicitly nor in detail save for its eventual privatisation (which we will talk about below). Instead, its proximity to private property in terms of its nature is what demands further and closer examination, and this section is written with exactly that in mind.  


The Pros of ECs

There are a total of five main benefits that ECs have over private property:


1. CPF Housing Grants
The access to CPF housing grants allows buyers to better finance their purchase of an EC, as opposed to having no governmental financial aid when purchasing private property.

2. Affordability and Value
The lower prices of ECs, along with the aforementioned access to CPF housing grants, help make ECs much more affordable than other private property offerings. EC units also tend to be bigger, and the added space at a lower price makes for great value.

3. Low Entry Prices with High Profit Margins
The relatively affordable entry prices entailed by ECs make them great investment vehicles as it allows for high profit margins.

4. Privatisation after the 11th year
ECs are privatised after the 11th year, meaning that you can sell your EC unit to not only local buyers but foreigners as well. Seeing that the option to sell to foreign buyers considerably opens up your market, EC units sold this way are often sold at generally high prices.

5. Payment Scheme Options
Purchasing an EC also allows you a wider range of payment options, in terms of access to a progressive or deferred scheme payment of 80% until the expiration of TOP.


The Cons of ECs

As the architectural features of ECs and private condominiums are largely similar, the cons of ECs are better examined in comparison to private property via their administrative and legal features. This is better done through a table of congruent comparison points; one such table has been constructed and is presented below for your viewing:

Comparison Table Between Executive Condos and Private Property
Comparison Table Between Executive Condos and Private Property

Do Rising EC Prices make Private Condos the Better Option?

It is important to remember that the rising EC prices should not solely be considered in an isolated bubble. In this regard, since 1999, both the prices of ECs and private condos have surged by approximately 250%, as depicted by the graph below.

Price Comparison between ECs and Private Condominiums
Price Comparison between ECs and Private Condominiums

Both ECs and private condos have seen a relative upward trend in their prices over the years. However, the average psf price for private condos have seen a slight dip of 2.7% from 2019, to $1,558 psf. ECs, on the other hand, saw a growth of 11% in the same two years, to $976 psf as of today.


Aside from prices, we must also examine the mentioned differences between ECs and private condos in Table 3; only by reviewing these differences can we get the full picture of whether an EC or a private condo is more suitable for our respective needs.


As a general rule of thumb, when deciding between an EC and a private condo, you should ask yourself what the main goal behind your intended purchase is; are you looking to buy said property as a forever-home for you and your family, or more so as an investment vehicle for profit before upgrading to a better apartment?


Purchasing as a Forever-Home

If you are looking to purchase a home to stay as a growing family, an EC is arguably the better option if you are eligible, due to its larger size and greater affordability.

Purchasing as an Investment or Transition Home

If you are looking to flip a faster profit and progress to a better apartment, a private condo is arguably the better option, due to EC regulations forbidding the renting out of entire units in the first 5 years until MOP. In other words, purchasing a private condo in this scenario will allow you to offset monthly mortgage payments with rental income, whereas purchasing an EC will not.

Are the Prices between ECs and Private Condos Narrowing?

Price Comparison between ECs and Private Condominiums
Price Difference between ECs and Private Condominiums

The largely erratic movement of the price gap can be attributed to privatisation periods, where the years in which more ECs become fully privatised are the same years where the price gaps are significantly narrowed.


As can also be seen, the gap between EC and private condo prices have narrowed since 2019, by approximately 20%. However, we must also recognize that—though narrowing—the price gap between ECs and private condos are still clearly significant, with private condos in 2021 being close to $600 psf more expensive than ECs.


Do ECs Still Yield High Profit Margins?

Most definitely. If you recall, the median resale price for an EC unit is $1.02m. If you are selling an EC you bought in 2008 (which is already after the aforementioned significant growth in prices), you would still yield a profit of $392,000, which is close to a 63% return on investment.


In other words, ECs still make for great investments due to their high resale capital appreciation post-privatisation.


Verdict

In spite of rising costs, the EC market is likely to remain a high growth segment throughout the next decade, given its popularity amongst home-buyers, home-upgraders, and investors alike.


Just like how they are hybrids between private and public housing, ECs seem to also be the perfect mix of being both a good housing option and having great investment viability, due to its low entry point and eventual privatisation.


Is It Too Late?

If you’re wondering if you’ve missed the boat with regards to purchasing an EC at a good time, there’s no need to worry—you still have a good shot at making a great purchase.

However, for interested buyers, professional advice dictates that you act fast and snag up the balance units as quickly as possible; today, there are only about 700 EC units left available.


If you’d like more information regarding available balance units, or simply would like some advice on which EC to choose, feel free to contact us; we’ll walk you through all the complexities behind your purchase.


***


So, do you think that ECs have the potential to gain an even higher profit margin in the long run? Let us know what you think, and share your thoughts and comments below!

Disclaimer: the numbers provided are based off available data at the time of publication, and may be subject to further revision. All information published in this article is for general education only, and should not be substituted for independent research or verification. It should also not be regarded as substitute for legal advice.

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