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All 281 units of The Hillford sold out on first day

SINGAPORE — Touted as the Republic’s first retirement resort, apartments at the 281-unit The Hillford sold out yesterday on its first day of sales due to overwhelming demand not only from senior citizens, but from investors shopping for shoebox apartments.

All 281 units of The Hillford sold out on first day
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SINGAPORE — Touted as the Republic’s first retirement resort, apartments at the 281-unit The Hillford sold out yesterday on its first day of sales due to overwhelming demand not only from senior citizens, but from investors shopping for shoebox apartments.

Buyers whom TODAY spoke to cited the attractiveness of owning a private apartment in a prime location at relatively low prices, as well as the novelty of the project.

Among the hundreds of property hunters who thronged the showroom yesterday was a sizeable number of prospective buyers in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Flight steward Darren Chua, 26, said he had initially planned to buy a unit for his parents, but was considering renting out the unit instead. “The quantum is relatively low for the location,” said Mr Chua, noting the potentially high rental yields.

Another buyer, who gave her name only as Ms Bakri, felt that the elderly-friendly features could be improved. The 55-year-old pointed out that, for instance, there were no grab bars in the toilets. She also felt that there should be age restrictions on ownership or occupancy — as is the case for retirement resorts or villages in other countries — so the development could live up to its billing.

The site for The Hillford was released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) with special conditions to “facilitate the development of a private retirement housing product”. Among other things, the “anti-shoebox rule” was lifted and there were no restrictions on the maximum number of units that could be built. Prices at The Hillford ranged from S$388,000 for a 398 sq ft one-bedroom unit to S$648,000 for a 657 sq feet two-bedroom dual-key unit. The developer could also use the 10 per cent bonus gross floor area to build services such as medical clinics and “communal living facilities”.

Responding to TODAY’s queries on the absence of age restrictions, a URA spokesperson said: “Since retirement is a lifestyle choice and people may choose to retire at different ages, we decided not to be too prescriptive.”

She said as retirement housing was a relatively new concept here, the authority saw merit in adopting a market-led approach to provide flexibility for the developer to determine the business model and development form for this pilot site.

“Prospective purchasers of units in this development should scrutinise the facilities and amenities provided within the development to see if they would meet their expectations and needs,” the spokesperson added.

The site in Jalan Jurong Kechil where The Hillford will be built was first released in 2008 for the development of a retirement community.

There had been no takers until 2012, after the site was released with special conditions, including a choice of 30-year, 45-year or 60-year lease options for developers.

World Class Land beat 22 rivals and clinched the tender with a S$73.8-million bid. Its CEO Koh Wee Seng described the response to the development as “spectacular”.

“While we are still collating the final figures, our observations show that a substantial proportion of buyers are over 50 years of age,” he said.

The 60-year leasehold development, shorter than the usual 99-year lease for private developments, offers amenities such as 24-hour concierge service, a full-time resort manager as well as clinics and restaurants. The units come with elderly-friendly features, including emergency alarm systems, non-slip floor finishes and wide corridors.

Property analysts said The Hillford could still live up to its name as a retirement resort, even though the units were not all snapped up by retirees. Century 21 Singapore CEO Ku Swee Yong pointed out that the investors could rent the units out to seniors.

He attributed the strong demand not only to how the project was pitched as a retirement resort, but also the attractiveness of shoebox units here.

The property analysts felt The Hillford’s strong showing could open the floodgates for retirement resorts.

Mr Chris Koh, Director of Chris International, said he would not be surprised if the Government launched more plots with a 60-year lease. “If you are buying for the purpose of investment and for rental returns, the tenant doesn’t really bother if it’s free-hold, a 99-year lease or, in this case, a 60-year lease.”

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