The Reef at King’s Dock is a 429-unit, 99-year leasehold luxury condominium development by Mapletree and Keppel Land in District 4. The condo is located along Keppel Bay and features waterfront living and scenic sea views.
Project Name: One Balmoral
Address: 1 & 1A Balmoral Road
Site area: 66,276 sqft
Configuration: 91 units in two, 12-storey blocks
Unit types: 1BR units (593 sqft)
2BR units (969 sqft)
2BR + PES (1,184 sqft)
3BR (1,410 – 1,421 sqft)
3BR + PRT (2,228 – 2,314 sqft)
3BR + PES (1,787 sqft)
4BR units (1,658 sqft)
4BR + PRT (2,293 – 2,691 sqft)
4BR + PES (2,099 sqft)
Est. TOP: 2016
Legal Completion: 2020
Propshort: The bigger units here are greatly dampened by the permeating presence of bay windows, large balconies, planters and household shelters. 3BR units and above look and feel better with these fixtures but the 1BR units suffer the most, despite being slightly bigger than most 1BR units offered in some other developments. Without the space wastage that are bay windows and planters, the units would have been much better.
Location woes aside, One Balmoral units pack quite a punch. The smallest unit, a 1BR, is at a generous 592 sqft. Even with the space-eating bay windows and household shelters, the floorplan shows a layout that is far from the constraining ones from other condominiums. As a 1BR unit, there’s plenty of space for one or two persons. The 3.2m ceiling (for typical units) do help with making the space feel less cramped.
The walk-in closet while a nice addition may prove to be too little for the long run but this has and will likely always be a design flaw in every modern development where personal space is shrunk constantly.
However, as the units increase in size, much more space wastage is seen. The 2BR unit includes a planter in the rather large balcony and bay windows make the common bedroom look small. The kitchen is compact and it shares room with the equally space wasting addition of a household shelter. Some of the balcony space could have been shaved off for the kitchen but developers seem to think homeowners need/want bigger balconies than kitchens or even bedrooms.
One can only imagine how much more usable space there could be without bay windows but to remove them would be on the owner’s prerogative. Some clever renovation can turn bay windows into useful fixtures but as these things are usually below windows, you’re limited by what you can do.
However, since the units are rather large, the actual feeling you get from living in them would be different. The 2BR units are between 968 to 1,184 sqft which is already bigger than most 2BR units in other developments. It’s just a shame that there’s such a prevalence of bay windows. The much bigger units and penthouses are probably going to make better use of the bay windows on account of the larger floor space than their smaller counterparts.
With the excess of space, these things become luxurious fittings that enrich a home. The larger units are glamourous as a result since the space wastage elements are diminished by the sheer size. The varying ceiling heights do help to instil some posh to the units but overall, it is the execution of the layout that determines how good they actually are.
Propshort: There’s extremely little along Balmoral and Stevens Road to sell the area as a good place to put down roots. Other than the perceived exclusiveness usually gleaned from higher quantum locations like these, there are no amenities in the vicinity while the nearest MRT station is about a 15-minute walk away. Traffic in that direction is constantly slow and the narrow two-lane road is frequently jammed. Unless massive redevelopment comes to this area bringing with it retail elements, living in Balmoral Road is to pay excessively for exclusivity and nothing else.
One Balmoral is conveniently close to Raffles Girls’ School. The esteemed school is a five-minute walk out from the main gates of One Balmoral and therefore, a boon for residents in the area with children that attend there.
However, the school is expected to relocate in 2018, fetching what analysts claim to be billions of dollars in the sale of its land. Once that happens, the smart money is on that approx. 550,000 sqft land be (partially) converted into retail space.
Should that fail to occur and instead, more condominiums are erected, then the area becomes denser with residential components and the already narrow and constantly congested roads will worsen.
One Balmoral is in the middle of three MRT stations – Stevens, Newton, and Orchard – though it’s not particularly close to either. The nearest, Stevens MRT, is roughly a 15-18-minute walk. It’s an uncomplicated trek, but much of the journey involves walking up an inclining slope and past several old and new developments, chief of which is a hotel neighbouring One Balmoral.
Hopefully, the hotel comes with some form of dining and retail outlets opened to the public as well. Should this happen, then this amenity-absent area will have a saving grace once the school moves out.
Currently, residents will need to ride out to shop. There are bus stops and buses in the area to service this back and forth of course. Stevens MRT to One Balmoral and vice versa is about three to four stops but even at 3pm, the roads get so congested due to the construction going on along Stevens Road (as well as the two-lane road being narrow) toward Bukit Timah Road, that it may be quicker to walk if the weather holds.
The roads are a bottleneck and traffic moves at a snail’s pace. Ironically, the opposite direction toward Scotts Road and Orchard is relatively smoother. Expectedly, it gets more congested as the egress nears Orchard Road but as the roads, there are wider, traffic chugs along more reliably than through Stevens Road.
Aside from the congested roads and the one school across the road that may move out, there is nothing of note in the immediate vicinity. No shops, no malls, no 7-11s. To live in One Balmoral is to own a car. This area is simply not convenient enough to reside in without a personal vehicle of some sort.
To rely constantly on public transport or taxis is to inconvenience yourself greatly since with the congestion, you’re going to be stuck in a bus or cab anyway. At least in your own car, you’re not stopping at every bus stop or incurring more costs in a taxi.
The closest amenity of any kind right now are in Orchard Road, which is great for a weekend out but not so helpful when all you want is a quick jaunt to a nearby shop to buy some food or grocery shop. Fortunately, the myriad of delivery services available through various apps and websites alleviate this inconvenience by a lot, though having to rely on those services do not paint the location in a better light. In such a development, services like the ones offered at Gem Residences are more needed here than the pools and water features provided by One Balmoral.
For now, this location is considered exclusive, surrounded as it is by landed houses, nearby embassies, and towering condominiums. Land value is high as a result of this exclusiveness, though, in actuality, it’s more out of the way than exclusive.
Still, there’s a market for everything and judging by the number of condominiums that have cropped up in this area, there apparently is some demand. For potential buyers with a stricter budget, though, the exclusive location of Balmoral Road and Stevens Road is one that can be missed.
As a freehold development in an area full of freehold developments, the price of the smallest unit is expected to start high. True to form, the 592 sqft unit starts at $1.445M for a unit on the 3rd floor and quickly jumps to $1.541M for the same unit on the 5th floor.
Since 2013, only a meagre 9 units were transacted out of the 91 units available with the last transaction occurring in May of 2015.
With too few transactions in each unit group to calculate individually, the median PSF for all transacted units thus far is $2,411.
When compared with neighbour Three Balmoral which TOPs in 2016, that property has done slightly better, with 11 transacted but out of 40 units instead of a staggering 91. However, the smallest unit is 614 sqft and was transacted at $1,344,000, which is a lower quantum than One Balmoral’s 592 sqft unit.
Should One Balmoral have been developed with lesser units, it may have had an easier time selling but with 91 units on hand, it’s difficult to expect anything short of an uphill climb for the development to achieve full occupancy.
Median psf for the past four quarters for District 10 is $3.70. Using the 592 sqft unit priced at $1,44,5000 as a base and adding a 20% new build premium, the rental yield is 2.2%. The much lower rental yield is expected since despite being surrounded by private property and freehold developments, there is little in the area other than Raffles Girls School to warrant renting here.
Should the hotel and the new development to take the place of the school include some retail element, then the viability of Balmoral and Stevens Road will increase.
Until then, it’s advisable to take a wait and see approach as there are no incentives for an individual without a car, to rent a unit here, let alone hope to flip it for profit.
One Balmoral is a cautionary tale. While Singapore’s smaller land size automatically makes any available plot of land precious, One Balmoral’s location and lack of interest proves that not every plot of land developed will be received warmly.
For One Balmoral, its higher quantum is at direct odds with the absence of amenities. Even the school is likely to relocate, greatly inconveniencing the students that live in the area in the process. While there are bus stops and buses that go toward Stevens MRT and Orchard respectively, the narrow two-lane road to Stevens MRT station is perpetually clogged with vehicles.
The bus stop to Orchard, however, is a three to five-minute walk from One Balmoral, across the road, and after the school. But the reality of having to travel out of your vicinity to do basic shopping does not do One Balmoral any favours. On top of the absolute lack of amenities, the units all come with bay windows, thus increasing the amount of unusable space in units that on account of their bigger sizes, should have been the development’s saving grace.
The extremely close hotel by Oxley also further troubles the area. With the pertinent question of ‘which tourist in their right mind would want to rent a hotel in such an out of the way location’ aside, it brings more crowdedness to a zone already suffering from continuously bad traffic.
On a wet day, the numerous trees in the area are home to plenty of mosquitoes and other bugs, making this exclusive area feel rather subpar and expensive on account of the landed properties and public perception.
In the future, this area may be a good idea for more than just the individuals with a particular niche requirement for extremely isolated locations. For these people, One Balmoral is sufficient but until more life comes to this traffic heavy and amenity barren area, there are plenty of other projects in better locations at more respectable prices to consider.
After all, it is a buyer’s market what with the sheer number of choices available.