The Pricey Attraction of Waterfront Properties
An opinion piece about the price of waterfront homes in Singapore and across our shores.
By Alexander K Shlaen
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing more attractive for a property than a waterfront view. Be it an ocean, lake, or a river, I can watch for hours the water glimmering under the sun especially during sunset moments. The most spectacular views are when you witness the sun sinking into the body of water where the horizon meets. This is what I call — the best show that nature has to offer, daily!
Surprisingly, many Asian coastal and island nations, even smaller island nations, had their original settlers turning their backs on the sea.
In Singapore media, I saw some articles with headings such as: “Why are Sentosa Cove properties making a comeback?” One would expect the titles to be more like: “Why are these properties the most expensive in Singapore?”
I am amused by such articles. From my logic, and from what we know of the prices in the most prestigious locations in the world, the priciest properties tend to have waterfront views. Whether it is in Hong Kong with the fabulous views of the harbour, or a palace belonging to the princely family of Monaco with the views of the Mediterranean Sea, these are fine examples of how a waterbody adds lustre to a property.
The lure of the Little Red Dot
Singapore, a small tropical island nation surprisingly has its most expensive properties inland. These are villas or as they are called here — Good Class Bungalows, or GCBs.
All these GCBs are located inland and have minimal to no view due to the local topography of relatively flat land. Naturally one of the reasons is the tenures of the land, which are usually freehold, while all the properties in Sentosa Cove are built on 99-year leasehold land. Overall, the leaseholds can be extended, but of course, there are no guarantees what it will become in a hundred years from now.
Without a doubt, waterfront properties across the world boasting sea views have eye-watering prices, thus these only lure the very rich to their shores.
To entertain you, a villa that belonged to the late Pierre Cardin was listed for US$420 million, though was not yet sold. This huge property in the south of France with views of the Mediterranean is a work of art, but not for everyone’s taste, I must say. It has round bubble-like forms, which ties into Cardin’s own futuristic style of ’60s fashion design.
Sometime before the Covid-19 epidemic, what I call the “previous life” or pre-Covid time, the valuation of a waterside street made up of just 13 houses in the south of England hit the most expensive stretch of coastal real estate in the world. The combined property value was a staggering US$128 million.
Rich man’s playground
Sandbanks in Dorset is known for attracting the rich and famous, thanks to its secluded location and harbour views. Now, Panorama Road’s total price-per-square-foot has exceeded that of waterside streets in Miami and Monte Carlo, according to Country Living publication. Each of the 13 houses that lines “Millionaire’s Row” has uninterrupted views of Poole Harbour and the south coast. The cheapest property there is worth over US$7 million, while the most expensive will set you back almost double that.
Mansions there sit on narrow plots measuring just 40- to 60-foot wide, while the street itself is only 850-foot long, just under 260 metres. Sandbanks estate agents Tailor Made say this means property there is at a premium, with houses commanding a very high price per square foot.
Closer to our shores and again in the pre-Covid era, a house on Sentosa was on the market with the following highlight: Biggest Sea-facing Bungalow On Sentosa For Sale. This very rare modern sea-facing, harbour-view bungalow at Sentosa enjoys one of the most stunning, breath-taking panoramic vistas of the shimmering waters.
The Lion City’s development of the Sentosa Cove pushed the envelope and placed basically all its properties in front of the water. And the real big change is in the making. The huge seaport that is occupying the big chunk of the southern part of the island is relocating, freeing the central part of the island to build what can be, and likely will be, the most beautiful seaside promenade in the region. It will make a nice continuation all the way from the Marina Reservoir and adjacent golf fields and The Gardens By The Bay in the east, connecting all the way to Sentosa island in the west. There will be plenty of space to erect properties that will be facing the southern seaside. I predict that these will be the most prime properties in the region.
Hong Kong, Tokyo or Superyacht?
It’s clear that the attraction of waterfront properties is very prominent in the West and Asia is now catching up. Only Hong Kong, due to its fabulous geographic location, has the best exposure to the sea views. For a country that knows how to appreciate water views, everybody in Hong Kong knows that the higher up the peak you go, the more sea views you enjoy, and of course the property prices escalate.
In post-Olympics Tokyo, there was massive construction of the residential properties around the photogenic Tokyo Bay. I believe the move towards this area will rise and Tokyo will have many more properties facing its Tokyo Bay than ever before.
While on the subject of waterfront properties, I can’t resist mentioning superyachts. One such fancy property floating on the seas is The Flying Fox. It is 450-foot-long (just over 137 metres), a 67-foot-wide craft built by Lürssen in Germany and happens to be the longest yacht available for charter. It costs roughly US$4 million per week to charter. If you would like to own it, the estimated cost of this beauty is around US$400 million. Its length is just about half of the aforementioned most expensive street in Dorset, south England, but the price of the superyacht dwarfs the combined US$128 million value that the Dorset properties hold. This makes that street a smashing bargain compared to this pricey yacht! Well, it is up to you, my dear readers, to decide which would be your preferable waterfront property or asset.
Alexander Karolik Shlaen, Executive MBA, is the founder of the Singapore-based Panache Management Pte Ltd which represents Aston Martin Interiors, Tonino Lamborghini Casa and Formitalia design lines in Asia. Panache Management is involved in real estate and technology investment projects and provides luxury interiors and designs for exclusive real estate, private jets and superyachts. Shlaen has appeared in various regional and global media and has written the Luxury Expert columns of regional business magazines since 2009. He was also the chairman of the judges’ panel for Asia Property Awards and is frequently sought to attend established business forums. Learn more on PanacheManage.com