Property Stories Touring Clementi Park Condo: A Giant Development With Its Own Hill And Park + Freehold
- February 22, 2022
- 13 min read
When I first saw a unit listed at Clementi Park, a condo development built in 1986 by CDL and located in Sunset Way, I felt that I had found the answer to my housing prayers. Here’s why:
- Located in West Singapore, near my Mother’s office and an area familiar to us, but not as expensive as other parts of Bukit Timah (probably because it is in D21 and not D10, but I’m very happy to live in D21. As of November 2021, there were still units being transacted at $1,200 psf. Currently, at the time of writing, the asking PSF has gone up significantly and ranges from $1,397 – $1,600 psf. (I’m excluding the $1,155 psf for the penthouse as it’s an outlier because of the price tag (about $7m.))
- Situated away from the main road at the end of a quiet mostly landed enclave but with some shops nearby (namely Sunset Arcade and the commercial units at the Sunset Way HDB blocks)
- Extremely spacious: there are only 400+ units spread over a humongous plot of 973,984 square feet. Moreover, some studio units here are almost 1,000 sq ft so you can just imagine how big the flats are!
- Reasonable maintenance fees despite its age (For reference, a 3-bedroom, 1,900+ square foot unit has a maintenance of about $400+.) The management also seems to be quite understanding as, according to the agent I spoke to, they allow residents to do things such as merge the balcony space with the planter and shift the AC units so that they don’t take up so much space. (Note that I have not checked with the management directly so this information is unconfirmed.)
- Nice and bright units with thoughtful details. For example, instead of having a large window in the wall which is directly facing another block (a real eye sore and bad Feng shui) the window is narrow, with the larger window (in the same room) facing the unblocked view. The views of most units at Clementi Park are decent, even those on the ground floor are a good distance away from the opposite building.
- Freehold (my Mom’s favourite although not a 100% guarantee of a better return on your property these days.)
It is a development that consists of 487-489 units (different websites state different numbers) in both high and low-rise blocks. I went to view 2 units and was extremely impressed by the layout and sensible unit design. For example, in Block 137, there are only 2 units per floor which are situated on both sides of the lift. i.e. their main doors are not facing each other, which helps to buffer the units from lively neighbours.
Moreover, the corridor space allocated to just 1 unit is 2-3 times the size of the space allocated to THREE units at my current development (and most of the other condos I have viewed! From what I’ve seen, almost all the units use the additional lift landing space as extra storage, so your already large flat will have a good 100-200 sq ft of additional space.) Note that Clementi Park has a different layout for different blocks, so this it is not the same for all the blocks. Some of the low-rise are walk-up apartments, with pretty steep steps. (The residents here must be fit!)
The development is unique in that it has a “small” hill within the plot, complete with an amphitheatre and hill paths that make for great evening (or morning) walks. I can see how a family with young children would be very happy here although there are no Primary schools in the 1km vicinity. (The closest looks like Bukit Timah Primary School, which is just over 1km away. For those with kids, you’d be happy to know that Clementi Park is nonetheless relatively near other good schools such as Methodist Girls’ School, Nan Hua Primary, and Anglo-Chinese Junior College.)
There are many facilities in this condo – the pool and Clubhouse actually remind me of a Country Club, although they are located across the road (so you have to walk out of your condo and cross the (quiet) road to get to them. One thing I appreciate is how the facilities are set further away from the residences, so the units aren’t as noisy. On the flip side, if you are living in the blocks are at the far end, it is quite a trek to get to the Clubhouse. There are a couple of visitors parking lots, however, so you can have the option of driving too.
Trouble in paradise
However, there are several red flags worth mentioning. Firstly, all the articles about Clementi Park rave about how it is set in a tranquil landed enclave and very quiet, but conveniently forget to mention the presence of the PIE which is pretty much right next to Block 137! Currently, the noise levels are not an issue (you definitely can hear the road noise though), but there is a tiny strip of empty land (the long yellow “reserve site” on the map below) between the PIE and Clementi Park, which looks like it could potentially be earmarked for the expansion of the expressway.
(If you are looking for a North-South facing unit, commonly stated to be the “best” facing a house can have in sunny Singapore, due to the good airflow and lack of morning/afternoon sun, Block 137 is the “best” block.)
I have not seen any news about the PIE being expanded as of now but Singapore is constantly upgrading so it seems like it may only be a matter of time. Moreover, Ki Residences, which is right next door, will only TOP around 2024 so that’s at least 3 years of noise and dust, especially if you live in the closer blocks (Blocks 135 and 137, I believe). By the time Ki Residence’s construction ends, the PIE expansion could very well begin. (In Singapore, 4 years is a lifetime when it comes to city building.)
Some people may not find this an issue. I do, as I am noise sensitive – if you’re not sure whether the noise level that comes with being next to the expressway will be acceptable to you, here is a YouTube video by someone living next to an expressway in Singapore as a reference. (This one is actually relatively quiet – I once listened to a recording by someone who lives next to a highway and it was much louder, probably because he/she lives on a higher floor and noise travels upwards. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the link and can no longer remember where I found it.)
Besides noise pollution, another problem that comes with living next to the PIE is traffic pollution. An article by the University of British Columbia published in 2020 states that “Living near major roads or highways is linked to a higher incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS).”
In land-scarce Singapore, many apartments are not ideally located, so it may not be possible to avoid such a situation. However, given that many of the current listings at Clementi Park are asking for about 15-33% more than the transacted prices 4 months ago, I’m in no hurry to close any deals here no matter how much I like the development.
Note: some of these are prices for “less than ideal” units (e.g. on top of several flights of stairs, no lift access, and with stairs steep enough that even someone like myself who has lived in a walk-up in the UK for many years finds them an issue! etc.)
In the end, I guess it’s all down to your luck if you buy a unit in Block 137 now. Maybe the PIE will remain the way it is forever or Clementi Park will en-bloc at a great price before the PIE expands. Do note Brookvale Park (now Ki Residences) went for under $1,000 psf ($932)when it went en-bloc in 2018. Personally, I’d only risk the PIE expansion if the selling price were very attractive, but I’m sure everyone has a different take on this.
Less mobile people will have issues
Unfortunately, whilst the unit layout is well-planned, the blocks themselves, in my opinion, are not designed with an ageing population in mind. For some reason, the architects decided that for many of the units, the lift lobby needs to be accessed via steps (no ramp). In other words, even if there is a lift to your flat, it is not a step-free access back to your home. (There are a few units that have step-free access but I believe these are mostly in the East-West facing Block 135 i.e have morning AND afternoon sun – not ideal in a country like Singapore which is heating up 2x faster than the rest of the world.)
Families with elderly members moving to Clementi Park better pray extra hard that they remain fit and mobile forever (2 of my grandparents spent their last days in wheelchairs, so step-free access is something I pay attention to.) I guess it would be possible for management to build ramps (for some of the blocks) if necessary, but that would add to the maintenance cost, which will only go up in the future given the age of the development.
If we had looked at Clementi Park 15, or even 10 years ago, I would be happy to move in immediately. However, with a Mother now on the wrong side of 70, the steps are a real cause for concern. There may only be a few of them, but it definitely makes entering and exiting one’s flat challenging if wheel-chair bound.
Moreover, whilst the car park is covered, the (short) path from the car to the lift lobby is not, so it could be quite slippery for old folks when the weather is wet. (FYI, it rains in Singapore 167 days a year on average- almost 50% of the time.)
Other things to note
- Although there are several exits and entrances in Clementi Park condo proper, there is only one for Sunset Way, which is where Clementi Park can be found. This exit/entrance is shared by landed houses, condos, and HDBs, so it could get pretty congested during peak hour!
- Many other property articles about Clementi Park mention the words “en-bloc.” However, given that the land is so hilly, I wonder if that would impact the number of units that can be built/pricing? (If I pay $1,600 psf for a unit at Clementi Park, it had better en-bloc at at least $1,900 to cover moving costs, renovation and potential additional stamp duties, if the en-bloc happens within 3 years of the purchase!)
- It is also getting on in age so some areas does need a bit of sprucing up.
- Being at the end of Sunset Way estate, there is limited public transport (it’s a long walk to the main road) but the condo has its own shuttle bus which goes to Clementi Mall/MRT at a cost of $20/month.
- The lift is on the small side which may be a concern if you have very bulky furniture. I have a friend who said no to a unit in a great condo for this reason!
In short, Clementi Park is a development that I wanted to love but, unfortunately, after viewing and doing my research, I am not sure it is a rational choice for me or someone with elderly family members. Shame, as it really is one of the better developments I’ve seen for some time now. If you and/or your family are on the younger side, looking for something less pricey in Bukit Timah, and don’t mind the lack of transportation issues, Clementi Park is definitely worth considering!