Property Stories Touring Sembawang Hills Estate: An Affordable Freehold Landed Enclave With A Hawker Centre
- January 3, 2022
- 12 min read
If you didn’t already know, only 5% of Singaporeans live in a landed home. Hence, it’s almost everyone’s dream, and ambition to live in a landed home. I’ve covered a fair few in my cheapest freehold landed estate series so far, and Sembawang Hills Estate is no different. As it is just a stone’s throw – about 10-15 minutes walk away from Teachers’ Housing Estate which I had previously visited (and liked very much and written about) I was dithering whether or not to devote an entire article to the area. Being so close by, I wasn’t sure if Sembawang Hills Estate would be significantly different enough from Teachers’ Housing Estate to warrant its own article. (Must give readers value for their money, no?) Nonetheless, I decided to give it a chance and hop over to take a look before writing it off!
First things first, what exactly is Sembawang Hills Estate? Nobody quite seems to agree: PropertyGuru lists it as a freehold, 1,063 terrace house project by Bukit Sembawang Estates Limited located at 1 Casuarina Road in D20. On the other hand, SRX states that it consists of 600 houses of mixed tenure and the sales records show that there are both terrace and semi-detached houses in the neighbourhood. 99.co concurs with PropertyGuru about the 1,063 houses, but has it located at Jalan Chengam and states that it was built in 1980. (According to the Business Times, D20 is the 6th most transacted landed area in Singapore for the period 2018 to July 2021, with an average CAGR of 3.1% and $1,471 psf.)
Note: Sembawang Hills is currently primarily landed houses, but a new 48-unit condo, Lattice One, is being developed in the area. You can view photos and a video taken by drone for a bird’s eye view of the estate here.
To clear up any confusion, I popped over to the government site, URA Space, and these are the 11 streets that pop up when you type in “Sembawang Hills Estate”:
- Casuarina Road
- Seraya Crescent
- Nemesu Avenue
- Jalan Leban
- Jalan Chengam
- Jalan Lanjut
- Jalan Menarong
- Jalan Gelenggang
- Jalan Kuras
- Jalan Tarum
- Jalan Chempedak
Interestingly, Sembawang Hills Drive is NOT listed as 1 of the streets in Sembawang Hills Estate, which is somewhat counter-intuitive so I decided to type “Sembawang Hills Drive” into URA space and it shows some houses on the road as part of Thomson Hills Estate whilst others are considered to be within Sembawang Hills Estate. Hmmm. I think the takeaway here is thus that the boundaries of this Estate are quite fluid but generally within the region bounded by Saint Nicholas View, Sembawang Hills Drive, Old Upper Thomson Road (which borders Lower Pierce Reservoir Park) and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. (Note that quite a major road, Upper Thomson Road, transverses the Estate.)
Trivia: 2 skeletal remains were discovered at 1 of the houses in Sembawang Hills Estate- a 1,720sf house off Jalan Batai – which later sold for $2.23 million in a mere 12 minutes (i.e. about $1,296 psf).
I was glad I visited as the 2 areas have totally different vibes. Firstly, Sembawang Hills is a lot more convenient: there is not only a hawker centre (Sembawang Hills Food Centre – click here for food blogger recommendations amongst the stalls) within the Estate but also several rows of shophouses, which have so many units that you can find:
- at least 3 pet-related shops (Pet Lovers Centre, Mount Pleasant Vet Centre and CatSmart)
- 2 grocers (Nature Fresh Mart and Hao Mart)
- several restaurants, including the famous Casuarina Curry, a coffee shop and a halal ice cream cafe
- as well as a doctor, a gym, spa, church and Upper Thomson Community Hub
I’d say your basic needs are quite covered in Sembawang Hills Estate and it would suit people who like being part of the hustle and bustle more than Teacher’s Estate would, which is more for people who enjoy peace and quiet. Obviously, with so many commercial units within the Estate, Sembawang Hills Estate doesn’t feel quite as serene as Teachers’ Housing Estate, which is almost like a time capsule of old Singapore.
A 2nd difference is that Sembawang Hills Estate lives up to its name – it is rather hilly. Although Teachers’ Housing Estate is built on a slope, the slope is quite gradual. In contrast, Sembawang Hills Estate is more like a rolling series of bumps so it feels more strenuous walking along (some parts of) it. Note that this also affects the houses as some can only be accessed by stairs (either up or down from road level), which could prove difficult for the elderly or people with babies (strollers).
Walking around the area brings to mind the phrase “a tale of 2 cities”: parts of the estate, such as Casuarina Road, remind me of MacPherson Garden Estate i.e. the houses are teeny and in need of some TLC. Most people who buy these properties would want to knock down and rebuild, to maximise the plot size. (If you’re wondering how much this would cost and what the process is like, here is 1 Sembawang Hills homeowners’ rebuilding experience!) Although the roads here are nowhere as tight as the ones at MacPherson Garden Estate, some of these parts do feel a little squished and living here may be a bit claustrophobic if your neighbours aren’t the most considerate.
Property StoriesTouring Teacher’s Housing Estate: The Cheapest And Most Spacious Freehold Landed Estate (D26)by TJ
However, other bits of the Estate can be quite spacious and pleasant, with sizeable houses. I suspect that the “cheapest freehold landed houses in Singapore” will be found in the former and not the latter. Indeed, if you do a property search, the house prices here range from $3.6 million to $7.38 million and anyone who suggests that a $7.38 million house is cheap is most likely to be bludgeoned by his or her friends.
At the time of writing, the $3m+ properties in the area included:
- a 1,900 – 2,000 sq ft 2 storey inter-terrace for $3.6m
- a 3,000 sq ft 2.5 storey terrace with 7 bedrooms, 5 baths and a basement for $3.78m
- a brand new 2 storey with attic inter terrace for $3.85m
- A 3 storey with basement terrace houses on high ground with unblocked views from both the front and back for $3.88m, to paraphrase the ad
Why I’d move there:
- Convenience: all the shops you need in the area and an easy drive from town
- Nature and fresh air at your doorstep: you’re literally right outside Lower Pierce Reservoir. If that wasn’t enough, there are also 3 small parks within the estate: Leban Park, Gelenggang Park and Shangri-La playground.
- You can get a brand new home for $3.85million. Given that rebuilding costs today are already about $2million according to a couple of agents that I’ve spoken to (please double check this yourself as I’ve not done a serious investigation of the costs), not to mention COVID delays and supply chain issues, this doesn’t sound too heinous if you have the budget and need to move soon.
- Some houses are on elevated ground, which always makes for better airflow/ ventilation and light
- Several roads are wide and face greenery
Why I’d think twice:
– There are 2 petrol stations (Esso and SPC) along Jalan Leban and Jalan Kuras, which some homeowners aren’t fans of.
- To be quite frank, I was a little worried about dengue when I saw some of the houses. Whilst I enjoy gardening myself, there were a few houses that were so overrun by plants, I wonder if the owners can even tell if there is stagnant water around! In case you were wondering, I did not take a photo of said houses as I don’t think the house owners would be too happy with me! (According to a 2018 Facebook post, the NEA was concerned about rising dengue numbers in the area (9 cases, with 4 within a week). In 2019, the area was listed as 1 of the top 5 clusters so it seems my concern is not unwarranted.)
- We’re a city in a garden and share our space with wildlife, particularly when located at the doorstep of a reservoir. As you can see in the photo below, there are monkeys in the area. They may sound cute but they can be quite a nuisance – a friend couldn’t even leave a closed bottle of peanut butter in her garden without the monkeys descending in hoards and almost attacking her! Another friends’ parents live not too far away from here and wild boars are constantly seen in the area.
Other things to note:
- There is a HUGE reserve site next to Jalan Lanjut as well as an empty plot demarcated as “residential” next to Sembawang Hills Drive, so you may find a high-rise building popping up beside you one day.
- There are 2 primary schools close by: CHIJ St Nicholas and Mayflower Primary School.
- If you prefer the MRT to the bus, this may not be the most convenient area.
- The area is going through quite a bit of redevelopment, with nearby plots of land released in the GLS recently so there will be a fair bit of construction