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December 14, 2021

Limited Edition HDB Flats: All About Maisonettes

 “Limited Edition” HDB Flats: All About Maisonettes

Since its inception in 1960, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has resolved Singapore’s housing crisis and successfully housed a nation, building public housing flats that have kept pace with the times. Over the decades, the HDB has offered a variety of flat types to meet different needs.

In this blog series, PropNex Research looks at some flat models which are no longer built - such as HDB terraced houses, maisonettes, Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats, and executive apartments – and why they have remained popular and are commanding premium prices in the resale market.

Part 3: Maisonettes

1. What is a Maisonette?

The HDB first introduced the maisonette flat type in 1984, and it was phased out by the 2000s. These rare HDB units are iconic for their two-storey layout and have very generous floor space for a HDB flat. They can span from 137 sq m to 243 sq m (1,475 sq ft to 2,616 sq ft), making them 1.5 to 2.0 times bigger than the average 5-room flat, which tend to be below 120 sq m (1,290 sq ft).

The first floor is usually designated for common areas like the living room, dining room, kitchen and balcony while the second floor can house up to 3 bedrooms. There are three types of maisonettes: five-room maisonettes, Executive maisonettes and Penthouse maisonettes. For penthouse maisonettes, as the name suggests, they are built on the highest level of HDB flats, granting their occupants pristine bird’s eye views of the surrounding areas.

The first batch of maisonettes that were built were the 5-room Model A maisonettes, built between 1983 and 1984. While the rarest, there’s little actual difference between these early maisonettes from the ones built later on. Maisonettes that were built after this batch were referred to as Executive Maisonettes (EMs), these were built all the way up till 2000. In 2012, the Government had announced that they will not build any more EMs, adding that the executive condominium (EC) scheme will replace EMs. Due to the rarity of these HDB flat types, they have been very popular amongst Singaporeans looking for a large and spacious home.

2. Where can they be found?

Maisonette flats can be can be found in a variety of locations in both mature and non-mature HDB towns. While most maisonettes average about 1,590 sq ft., the largest maisonette units in Singapore are found in Bishan, Choa Chu Kang, Queenstown, Hougang, and Pasir Ris. Amongst these, Pasir Ris is the only town where there are several HDB blocks consisting of entirely maisonettes. Having been built in the 1980s through till 2000, many of the maisonettes are now situated within well-established neighbourhoods, with convenient access to amenities such as food centres and schools.

Some of the priciest maisonettes – frequently transacting at over $900,000 - are located in Toh Yi Drive in Bukit Timah and Bishan St 13 in Bishan. These flats have leases that commenced in 1988 and 1987 and are within walking distance to Beauty World and Bishan MRT station.

3. How have Maisonettes performed in the resale market?

Based on the transaction data, there were 767 HDB maisonette units resold in 2020 – representing about 3% of the total HDB resale volume during the year. The top two most expensive maisonettes sold in 2020 were located in Bukit Timah. A 1,685 sq ft unit at 2 Toh Yi Drive was the priciest, transacting at $1.21 million or about $730 psf. The second top deal was another nearby maisonette unit at block 6 Toh Yi Drive which went for $1.16 million ($700 psf).

In 2020, sales volumes were expectedly stronger in towns that are outside the central region, owing to their more affordable pricing and availability of units for sale. Hougang topped the list with 114 maisonette transactions at an average price of $696,000 followed by Tampines with 96 transactions at an average price of $708,000.

In contrast, some of the popular areas in the city fringe saw fewer deals done and at higher prices. Queenstown, for instance, had four maisonette transactions with prices averaging $954,000, while Bukit Merah had three transactions, at an average price of $836,000.

It appears that buyers were willing to pay a significant premium for a larger home. Comparing against 5-room flats resold within the same town in 2020, the average prices of maisonette units were all substantially higher than that of the 5-room counterparts.

There was a sharp spike in the sales of maisonettes in Q3 2020 where 245 such units were transacted – up by 131% from 106 units sold in the previous quarter. Ever since Q3 2020, the maisonette sales have remained brisk, with quarterly numbers generally exceeding those achieved in the four quarters of 2019.

For the full-year 2020, the 767 maisonette transactions represented a 7.4% increase from the 714 units sold in 2019. The rise in demand from Q3 2020 coincided with the end of the circuit breaker – a semi lockdown in Singapore to curb the spread of COVID-19 – suggests that the pandemic had shifted some buying interest toward larger homes. With telecommuting and working from home being the default working arrangement for many workers, more buyers have been on the lookout for more spacious homes to accommodate a work or study room.

The growing demand for maisonette units had pushed prices higher. The average unit price rose by nearly 3% quarter-on-quarter from $423 psf in Q3 2021. Based on transaction data for Q3 2021, the average price of maisonettes has reached $476 psf, rising by about 16% from Q2 2020.

4. Why are maisonettes popular and does it make sense to buy them?

The double-floored layout is a rarity and that is the key selling point of maisonettes which gives its occupants a taste of landed housing at a relatively manageable price-point. Maisonettes may also find favour among those who are downgrading from a private property including a landed home. In addition, a sizable (say 1,600 sq ft) family home in Queenstown at the price of around $1 million would be a compelling option for many buyers, compared with more pricey private apartments in the area. Furthermore, since the HDB no longer builds maisonettes, it also means that their supply is limited, making them that much more desirable.

However, prospective buyers of maisonettes should take note of their declining leases as many of them have been built in the 1980s and 1990s; even the last batches of maisonette units to be rolled out in the late 90s would be more than 20 years old in 2021. Apart from the issue of lease decay, those looking to buy such flats should be prepared to pay a premium for choice units, in the form of cash-over-valuation.

Contact a PropNex Salesperson right now to find out more about maisonette listings.

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