The Property Unicorn (Part 2): 6 Duplex Condo Units With Lift Access To Both Floors
- February 6, 2022
- 11 min read
In today’s endemic world, it seems that one of the key trends to emerge in Singapore is the Desperate Desire for more living space, something I myself am suffering from. Many of our most popular articles last year were all about spacious living, from a list of jumbo HDB units to a compilation of freehold condos with spacious units, etc. Similarly, it seems that my 1st article on duplex units with lift access to both floors resonated with readers and so I decided it would be helpful to share about other such condos – 1 of which is even a triplex!
To quickly recap the benefits of such units, they are:
- you get more privacy and independence for the different generations of a multi-generational family
- the ability to turn the flat into a dual-key unit and rent out 1 floor if/when the space is no longer needed (most developers charge a premium for dual-key units FYI)
Here are the 5 condos with dual-access duplexes that I managed to find, thanks to our kind readers, and listed in order of least to most expensive:
Hilbre28 (999-year leasehold from 1 Sep 1876, $1.88m)
Located in District 19, Hilbre28 is a 28 unit boutique condo built in 2017. For a small condo, it’s pretty decent in size. The plot is almost 22,000 sq ft – and I was surprised to see that it has a swimming pool, communal showers, jacuzzi, and gym. It is a 5-storey building in the middle of a mostly landed and private residential area and, as you can see from the URA Space map below, the surrounding plots all have a plot ratio of 1.4 so whilst you won’t get spectacular views here, they’re pretty decent for Singapore. Moreover, you won’t have to worry about towering blocks popping up next to you in the future and blocking your view and airflow. (Click here for a video of what the view from a duplex penthouse here is like.)
On the minus side, being in the middle of a private residential enclave means that it’s not the most convenient in terms of public transport or amenities. Kovan MRT is a 19-minute walk away and Serangoon MRT is 21 minutes (according to Google Maps) so woe is you if you don’t have a car and don’t like to take the bus! As for shops and the like, the only commercial units I can see within a 5 minutes walk are ones like Yio Chu Kong Dental Surgery, Song Kee Fishball Noodles, Shell & Esso petrol stations, some car shops, and Sync Cycle Indoor Cycling. (For those with their own vehicles, there will be no problem as it’s less than a 10-minute drive to Serangoon Nex.)
The penthouses here range in size – some are over 2,000 sq ft (and are triplexes). But at the time of writing, there was only one 1,410 sq ft duplex penthouse with lift access to both levels for sale. (If you’re wondering about the maintenance since there are so few units, it’s currently $350/month for this unit.) Do note that the staircase, double balconies, and double air-con ledges all eat up space, so you may be surprised by how little living space you end up with in such a unit.
Things to note:
- Some of the kitchens are galley style and have no external windows
- The 1,410 sq ft and 2,153 sq ft duplex/triplex penthouses have no helper’s room (it’s a bomb shelter) or helper’s toilet.
- The units have Northwest and Southeast sun (i.e. partial morning and afternoon sun)
The Glades (99-year leasehold, $3.08m)
Completed in 2016, this 726 unit condo by Keppel Land is in District 16 on New Upper Changi Road and has resort-style landscaping. In fact, some of its garden features somewhat resemble the Gardens by the Bay Supertrees. As befitting of a development of this size, there are several swimming pools (1 of which is Olympic sized), a mini-mart (although some Google reviews say that it is closed), and even a kids’ adventure water park. (Click here to see a video of the facilities.) Unfortunately for avid tennis players, there is only 1 court! Although today that’s become increasingly rare in newer developments.
The key selling point of The Glades is its location: it is very near to Tanah Merah MRT station so it’s super convenient for those who don’t have a car. However, note that Tanah Merah MRT is above ground and a friend who lives nearby tells me that she can hear the platform announcements from her flat EVERY day, so I’m guessing that this would be the case for some of the units at The Glades as well. Several Google reviews also griped about the incessant noise in the gardens and pool, as you can see below:
There is a unit for everyone here as the flats range from 1 to 4 bedders with different configurations for each flat type: for example, there are patio units, loft units, standard single-floor units, etc. Some of the 16 penthouses are duplexes that benefit from the lift going to both stories and they are actually very well-designed for multi-generational families as there are bedrooms, a family/ living room as well as outdoor space on both floors so each level is self-sufficient. I particularly like the large glass windows in the living room and stairwell, which ensure the units are nice and bright!
Currently, there is a 1,948 sq ft duplex unit for sale at $3.09 million. However, do keep in mind that the amount of living space in the duplex penthouse isn’t huge as the AC ledges on both floors are quite sizeable and the living room on the lower floor is double volume (so part of the floor area is a void space).
Things to note:
- The units facing away from the MRT should be less noisy and also have unblocked views as they face the landed enclave (The developer has cleverly situated the pool on the same size as the MRT so all the noise is kept to 1 side.)
- Like Hilbre28, the units have Northwest and Southeast sun (i.e. some morning and afternoon sun)
- There are several empty large plots of land with high plot ratios nearby so it’s likely that residents will be living with construction nearby for quite some time. (In fact, the empty plot across from The Glades received over 15 bids in 2020, and will be developed into a condo with commercial units.)
- There are also a number of existing condos in the area. I counted at least 7 around The Glade – so competition might be high if you ever want to rent out or sell your flat.
Meadows @ Peirce (Freehold, $3.1m)
Right next to Teachers Housing Estate and a stone’s throw from Peirce Reservoir is Meadows @ Peirce, a condo that was completed by UOL in 2012 and occupies a land of about 460,000 sq ft in size. I’ve had it on my watchlist for some time due to its tranquil location, the good things I’ve heard from friends who’ve visited it, and the fact that it’s one of the few newer, freehold developments which have a decent number of units (there are 479 units – not so many that you get lost in your own condo and not so few that you have to worry about your maintenance fees increasing exponentially as the condo ages. If you’re wondering, the maintenance is currently about $500-600 for a 4-bed penthouse here.)
Meadows @ Peirce consists of one tall block and several shorter, 5-storey blocks. The tall block is mainly smaller units and the duplex penthouses are mostly in the shorter blocks. Some of these penthouses have lifts going to both floors – however, note the floor plans here differ from unit to unit, so not many have such access! Currently, there is 1 dual-access duplex 2,239 sq ft penthouse for sale at $3.1million. Unfortunately, the upper floor is entirely outdoor space so there are no bedrooms on the 2nd level.
Fun fact: a penthouse at Meadows @ Peirce costs about the same amount as a freehold landed house at Teachers Housing Estate, so it depends on what kind of lifestyle you prefer! Personally, much as I loved Teachers Housing Estate, I would probably choose a penthouse here due to the fact that the sloping grounds of the landed houses could lead to humidity and ponding issues. Not fun.
Things to note:
- Some of the flats face the landed houses at Teacher’s Housing Estate whilst others face Lower Peirce Reservoir. (Teacher’s Housing Estate slopes downwards so the units at Meadows appear even higher than they actually are)
- There are quite a few empty plots of land in the area, 2 of which have already been released in the GLS last year, so more condos will be coming up soon (more noise + dust).
- A few comments (on Google and PropertyGuru)- albeit quite old ones- complain about the number of insects and mosquitoes which is probably due to the proximity of so much greenery. As a child, I lived near a forest, and we used to get weekly visits from snakes and monkeys, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you get wildlife in the condo too! In fact, a friend who lives in a condo nearby tells me wild boars are regularly sighted at her place.
- There is no tennis court, although the pools have gotten good reviews.
- For more information on the accessibility and amenities nearby, check out my tour of Teachers Housing Estate which is just next door.
Property StoriesTouring Teacher’s Housing Estate: The Cheapest And Most Spacious Freehold Landed Estate (D26)by TJ
Kensington Park Condo (999-year leasehold, none for sale at the time of writing but 2020 duplex (about 2,000 sq ft) sales were around $2m-$2.5m)
An informed reader left a comment to tell us that Kensington Park Condo, located in D19, has an entire block of duplex units with lift access to both floors, so now you know which development to keep your eye on if such a feature is high on your priority list! However, do note that the original floorplan for most of these units has all the bedrooms located on the upper floor, so extensive renovation may be required if you want to have bedrooms on both levels. Moreover, the floorplan indicates that the entrance on the upper floor of the duplex opens into a bedroom which is a little weird, but you can always repurpose it to be a common area instead! I like how the original staircases are spiral ones – they have character and are quite space-efficient! (To see what a duplex unit at Kensington Park Condo looks like, check out this video.)
Built in 1990 by Lum Chang, Kensington Park Condo has 316 units spread over 6 blocks, the highest of which is 19 stories tall. One side is facing a landed area, so those flats will have lovely views. Similar to The Glades, Kensington Park has many different types of units, ranging from townhouses to duplexes. Despite being an older development, the architecture is quite well-planned and there are windows in most of the kitchens and bathrooms.
An important point to highlight is that there was an en-bloc attempt in 2018 and 70% of owners agreed to a reserve price of $1.05 billion. (I like to take note of past en-bloc initiatives due to the high stamp duty levy if you sell your property within 3 years of buying it (this includes en-bloc sales). Moreover, if you’re buying with the intention to live there for a long time, en-bloc battles can be quite a nasty process that end up turning a nice condo into a dump.
Things to note:
- Some of the low-rise block units here are walk-ups
- The condo seems to be pretty well-loved by its owners: despite having over 300 units, there was only 1 unit for sale (not a duplex) and 1 for rent at the time of writing (or maybe they are just holding out for the en-bloc!)
- As Kensington Park is near the French School (walking distance), there are a lot of French expats living here (some of the Google reviews are even written in French!)
- Like most old-school condos, besides the typical swimming pool, BBQ and tennis court, you also have a squash court.
- There is a place of worship and 2 Secondary Schools (Montfort and Serangoon Garden) next door so the nearest blocks may find it noisy.
Another lovely reader brought the duplex units at this condo to our attention. (Note I wasn’t able to personally confirm that they have lift access to both floors as there are no duplexes on the market right now – at the time of writing, there was only 1 regular unit for sale.) Built in 2003 by Soon Lan Realty, Boonview has a mere 120 residential units on a sizeable 10,186 sqm plot of land – if you regularly read up about property in Singapore, you probably know what’s coming next. Yes, just like Kensington Park, Boon View made an attempt to en-bloc in 2018 (but Propnex resigned as its collective sale agent due to the residents asking for too high a price.)
Boonview is situated along Marymount Terrace (D20), a 10 minutes walk from Marymount MRT (about 290m away), and is actually across the road from Thomson Garden Estate, which I toured last month and where one neighbour was kind enough to provide Santa hats for the whole neighbourhood!
Things to note:
- The units here have almost floor to ceiling windows so have amazing natural light
- Due to the low number of units, transactions at this condo aren’t as common – there was.only 1 sale in 2020 and none at all in 2018 and 2015.
- Jadescape condo, situated across the road, is currently being built. It is expected to TOP in Jan 2023 so construction (with all its bells and whistles of dust and noise) will be on-going for some time. One thing to highlight is that Jadescape is a 99-year leasehold development whilst Boonview is freehold so there may be a positive impact on prices.
- Parents would be interested to note that there are 3 primary schools within 1 km radius (Kuo Chuan Presbyterian, Guangyang Primary and Marymount Convent).
- Boonview is right next to the industrial area of Jalan Pemimpin (light and clean industries) which some people may not care for.
Echelon Condo (99-year leasehold from March 2012, $6.5m)
Yes, the price is on the high side, but this is also the largest duplex on our list at just over 4,000 sq ft. More than enough space for most families, I would say! Most of us (myself included) probably won’t be able to afford such a property so here’s a video for you to live vicariously.
There are actually 4 such penthouses at Echelon which is a 41-storey, 2-block condo with 509 units situated at Alexandra View (D3), so the location is pretty central too. Redhill MRT is only a few minute’s walk away and, if you prefer to cycle, the park connector across the road takes you to the CBD in under 20 minutes. (We have a full review of Echelon so click here for more information!)
Echelon was developed by Freshview Developments (CDL) and designed by Chan Soo Kian of SCDA, a famous local architectural firm, which could be why the flats have the best facing for Singapore (North-South: no morning or afternoon sun, and breezy). Given that its list of facilities features things such as a sculpture court and cocktail lounge, I’m guessing it’s meant to be quite a premium development. The premium units, such as this penthouse, even have home energy monitoring systems and you can track your energy consumption on your iPad: good for the environment and cost-effective!
After reading all this information about Echelon, I was pretty impressed. But then I read the reviews… Regardless of whether the reviews were on Google, PropertyGuru, or SingaporeExpats, they, unfortunately, all seemed to have negative things to say.
Other points to note:
- There is a NTUC within the condo so it’s really extremely convenient.
- There are 2 Primary Schools within a 1km radius: Gang Eng Seng and Alexandra Primary.
- On the flip side, the entry to the condo is a one lane road so it may get crowded. You won’t need a car what with the MRT being so close, but at this price point, it seems that most of the target market may have their own set of wheels. (The car park lot: unit ratio is 1:1 so it seems the developer has similar thoughts.) Moreover, the one lane road serves 2 other condos besides Echelon!
- The land size here is about the same as that of Boonview but there are almost 5x as many units!
- Keep in mind that the penthouse includes a void area of about 340 sq ft, although if you can fork out $6.5million, I don’t suppose you’d quibble about paying for a little airspace!
This article ended up being much longer than my usual, so thanks for sticking with me to the end! If you’ve made it so far, which of the developments on this list did you like best? Check back in next week, where I’ll be resuming my landed house tour – this time, we’ll be heading over to West Singapore, where it’s notoriously difficult to find an affordable property!