Property Stories A First-Time Homebuyer’s Journey: My Personal Review Of Windermere EC
- August 26, 2021
- 13 min read
As someone wiser than me once said, first impressions can be deceptive, and my viewings at The Esparis and Windermere Executive Condominium (EC) developments last week all but confirmed this. Given The Esparis’ location next to Seashell Park (and hence its possession of truly unblocked greenery views), a massive amount of indoor living space, relatively low quantum, and few units, I’d thought that The Esparis would be the EC for me. (I did a full review of The Esparis last week so do give it a read if you’re looking for affordable units of over 2000 sq ft in the East.) Surprisingly, The Esparis didn’t even make it to my shortlist whilst Windermere did – and I had thought I would like Windermere the least!
The grounds and surroundings
Buying a property is as much about emotion as it is about logic. Some properties just put you off the moment you see them (for me, The Esparis falls under this category) whilst others you like instantly. I’d never spent much time in Choa Chu Kang before but, driving to Windermere, I immediately had a good feeling about it.
It felt bright and spacious: the roads are wide and although there are several high-rise developments around Windermere, you don’t feel hemmed in. I guess it’s because although Windermere is located in the Choa Chua Kang District, its closest MRT is actually Yew Tee. I’ve always thought of Yew Tee as, well (no offence to anyone living in Yew Tee), a little ulu, and the area around Windermere is indeed relatively (in the Singaporean context) undeveloped: you can see low-rise buildings and large open spaces around Windermere. This makes for much more comfortable living as the lack of blockage makes even the ground floor very breezy.
Driving into the development, I had a good impression of the car park as it is open to the park connector: instead of walls, a fence separates you from the Pang Sua Park Connector, which is accessible via a back gate in the car park and would bring you all the way to Hillion Mall, Bukit Panjang Plaza and Junction 10. As if this didn’t bring in enough natural light and ventilation to the car park, there are also skylights overhead! I wasn’t able to confirm the exact number of car park lots, but the car park is pretty big and, judging from the number of empty lots, you wouldn’t have to worry about parking space. (It is possible to rent additional lots if you are fortunate enough to have more than 1 car.)
The entrance to the lift lobby was a slight letdown – most condos have double glass doors at the car park lobbies but Windermere has a single wooden door which reminds me of an old shopping mall (such as Far East). To be honest, the doors are so lackluster that I initially thought they led to fire escapes and not the lift lobbies! (Once inside, it looks very much like any old condo lift lobby.) I could see a similar lack of attention given to aesthetics all over the development.
The array of facilities here is relatively standard: swimming pool, basketball court, tennis court, children’s play area, BBQ pit, etc. I did see a sauna in the communal bathrooms, which is less common, and the gym overlooks the pool, giving you a view as you run (or lift weights). Although on the small side, the gym has a high ceiling and glass walls, so you don’t feel enclosed. (It was not at full capacity when I visited- actually, none of the facilities were in use and I viewed the property on a Saturday afternoon, which you’d assume to be peak usage time.) Besides the clubhouse, Windermere also has function rooms, so you won’t have to fight to book the communal areas.
The tennis court and basketball court are located next to the car park and separate it from the park connector. (Greenery has been thoughtfully planted around the courts to provide some privacy.) You have to go up one floor to find the rest of the facilities (and the ground floor units), which strikes me as a very sensible decision: you wouldn’t have to worry about an audience as you exercise and the elevation also makes it airier. The paths are wide enough to make taking a stroll (or jog) around the condo appealing although, with the park connector right next door, you wouldn’t really need to walk around the grounds.
To sum it up, I’d say the facilities at Windermere aren’t bad but they’re more practical than beautiful.
To be honest, I don’t really use a condo’s facilities so the above isn’t a deal-breaker for me – I’m more concerned about the architecture of the block than the facilities of a development. (Here’s a checklist of questions to ask about a condo’s facilities before you buy.) There are 2 types of towers in Windermere with the difference being the number of stories (8-9 floors vs 23-24 floors). I visited the taller tower and, after viewing it, I really must salute the architect of Windermere for his or her attention to liveability. (I guess I’m not the only 1 who’s a fan of this development as the last penthouse sale was way back in 2013!)
In the taller block, the architect thoughtfully designed the unit stacks to come up to different heights (with a difference of 1 floor). In other words, the penthouse on the lower floor has lift access to both floors (very important for families with elderly or babies in prams and rather rare- this is only the 3rd development that I’ve come across during my loooooong house hunt with such access) whilst the penthouse on the higher floor has the entire lift lobby to itself! (This space doesn’t count towards your floor area.)
There is a large window in the lift landing, making it feel light and airy, so it could even potentially function as a study area for big families. Lift landings are often dark and dreary but this one is so bright, you wouldn’t even need a lamp unless you were using it at night. Alternatively, you could use the space as a buffet area for your next party (once COVID restrictions cease).
Inside the unit
There’s a high ceiling over the living room, giving it the grand feel you’d associate with a top floor unit (as does the powder room on the lower floor – something which is pretty much extinct in newer condo developments that don’t cost an arm and leg). The living area opens to a balcony so the unit is windy and bright. In addition, there are grills all around so you can safely enjoy the view (without incurring additional expenses.)
I’m not going to discuss the layout of the unit in detail, as this is something that would vary from unit to unit. Suffice to say, instead of the ubiquitous bomb shelter, there’s a much more useful store room and utility room. In addition, there’s an outdoor rack for you to hang your washing on bamboo poles outside the yard.
Finally, on the upper floor, there are 3 bedrooms (including the master, which has a very high ceiling) and a roof terrace (which is accessed through 1 of the bedrooms.) Unfortunately, the roof terrace of the unit I viewed is right next to a pump room. From friends who have stayed in penthouses before, I understand that being close to the water tank or lift pumps can make penthouse living noisy. However, I didn’t hear any sounds whilst viewing the unit at Windermere.
Property StoriesA First-Time Homebuyer’s Journey: 4 ECs With Big Units Under $2 Million + The Esparis & The Dew Reviewby TJ
What I didn’t love about Windermere
Given my positive review above, you’d expect that viewing Windermere would bring me closer to the end of my house hunt. Unfortunately, the lift at Windermere is super slow. It’s literally the 2nd slowest lift I have ever come across (Regency Heights has the honour of having The Slowest Lift Ever that is also rather small and sort of shakes/ makes weird noises!). This could potentially be an issue for people who hate wasting time in a lift or ones who are claustrophobic (me). Moreover, given that the (taller) block is over 20 stories high with only 2 lifts per block, you have to share the lift with quite a few people. On the journey down (which was not during peak hours), we stopped at least thrice to allow people in, making the already slow journey even slower.
(On the bright side, the lift appears to be well-maintained and I spotted notices about monthly lift maintenance in the lift lobby. I’ve taken to checking the lift condition and maintenance after a friend who lived at the Pinnacle@Duxton told me that people had been trapped in its lifts several times!)
Exiting the car park exit brings me to my 2nd pet peeve. It is simply mystifying why all the pillars are clustered around the turns: the car park is spacious, open, and bright EXCEPT at the turnings. Suddenly, when you need to turn to exit the development (as directed by the car park signage), 101 pillars pop up around the turn, turning it into a very, very tight obstacle course. I’m not kidding: there was barely 1cm between my car and the pillars at some of the turns, and I had to go through THREE of these turns to get out. It took me 5 minutes to navigate just 1 turn, as I had to constantly reverse my car then inch forward, in minute amounts, to ensure that I didn’t scratch the car.
(I spotted a couple of larger cars parked in the development, so I’m guessing there may be a Secret Exit Passage that would bypass all these pillars. Either that or they’re all better drivers than I am. In my defense, I must say that I passed the manual driving test on my first attempt!) Obviously, if you don’t drive this wouldn’t be an issue – you’d think you need a car but Windermere is surprisingly close to public transport and it takes you a mere 8-10 minutes to walk to Yew Tee MRT
In summary, Windermere is a development with many things going for it:
+ Very open development, with green space around it, making it nice and breezy
+ Direct access to a park connector which leads to malls
+ Elevated facilities and units for privacy
+ Bright flats: there are windows in the kitchen and bathrooms and the stairwell of the duplex is lit by almost full-length windows
+ Management seems to be on the ball: there is a sanitizer dispenser in the lifts and they were in the middle of painting works when I visited. There are also communal noticeboards in each lift lobby with updates on renovation works, pest control, etc
+ Units are very functional with no bay window or bomb shelter: instead they have the more useful utility room and storeroom.
Plus points specific to the penthouse units:
+ Penthouse units in the taller blocks either have a lift lobby all to themselves, or have lift access to both floors
+ Double volume ceiling over the living room in the penthouse units (this is controversial as some people may view it as a waste of space)
+ Powder room on the lower floor so that you don’t have to clean the loo every time someone visits!
+ High ceiling in the master bedroom (which, looking at the floor plan, should not be factored into your square footage- click here for tips on reading a floor plan)
+ Only 1 reasonably-sized balcony per floor
- Some car park turns are very, very squeezy
- Slow lifts which could potentially be very crowded during peak hours
- A location right next to Yew Tee Primary school – you can look into the school from the grounds and you’ll have a live performance of Majulah Singapura and the school anthem every weekday morning
- And opposite Sugei Kadut industrial estate which is mostly low-rise, hence the openness of the area. However, some people may feel uncomfortable living so close to an industrial area (There is a rejuvenation plan in place for Sungei Kadut FYI.)
- Relatively uninspired facilities and design
- There’s a small charge to use some of the facilities
- It’s about 24 years into its lease
I prefer less crowded developments, which is why I initially focused on EC developments with fewer than 400 units. However, the 395-unit Windermere felt more open than the 274-unit Esparis, confirming my hypothesis that the surrounding urban planning and the layout of the blocks have as much of an impact on development density as the actual number of units. Hence, next week, I’m going to look at the ECs with over 400 units (and duplex units of over 2000sf as well as bedrooms on both floors.) Before I sign off, here’s an overview of all the ECs you can find in Choa Chu Kang, to help you with your house hunt!
|Windermere (reviewed above)||Fully privatized (TOP 2000)||Duplex unit with bedrooms on both floor|
|The Rainforest||Partially privatized- newest EC in Choa Chu Kang that is eligible for resale (TOP 2015)||The Rainforest has penthouses ranging from 1000sf to over 2000sf. However, as yet, I’ve not seen any duplex units with bedrooms on both floors. On the bright side, it seems that the MCST allows you to build a structure to provide some shade on the roof terrace.|
|The Quintet||Fully privatized (TOP: 2006)||The Quintet is THE EC in Choa Chua Kang for those who want more space. I’ve seen a duplex penthouse at 2500sf and even a triplex at 3488! (Both have bedrooms on 2 floors.)|
|Yew Mei Green||Fully privatized (TOP 2000)||Yew Mei Green has duplex penthouses over 2000 sf with bedrooms on both floor. In addition, it has a very functional layout (i.e. not an excessive amount of outdoor space)- unfortunately for feng shui believers, units here are rather irregular in shape.|
For die-hard Choa Chua Kang EC-lovers who don’t need to move anytime soon, there are also 3 ECs in this area that has TOP-ed but not obtained MOP status:
- Wandervale (TOP 2018)
- SOL Acres (TOP 2018)
- iNz Residence (TOP 2019)
Do note that as these are new EC developments, they were built after the laws changed and you won’t find any units bigger than 1722 sq ft. (If you need help deciding what kind of EC would be best for you, do check out this article.)
See you again next week!