Midtown Modern Review: Along The Ophir-Rochor Corridor In The Heart Of Bugis

Ivan Cai
Ivan Cai
Co-founder
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Midtown Modern is conveniently located in District 7 of Singapore which is just a stone’s throw away from Bugis MRT Station. With its launch tentatively scheduled for March 2021, Midtown Modern is a 99-year leasehold development and is expected to obtain its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) 2024 or later.

 

Comprising 580 units, its substantial size and will boast adequate facilities to serve residents’ needs. This development is a joint venture between GuocoLand and Hong Leong Holdings.

Background

GuocoLand acquired the site for Midtown Modern through the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme in 2019. Its winning bid of S$800.2 mil was only 4.2% higher than the next bidder, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) website. This indicates that GuocoLand did not overbid for the land as the second-highest bidder also valued the land at a similar price. Hence, we believe that GuocoLand will likely be able to price Midtown Modern competitively as they did not overpay for the plot of land. 

 

The site area for Midtown Modern is 11,530.80 sqm and it has a maximum permissible Gross Floor Area (GFA) of 48,430 sqm. Under the URA’s Bonus GFA Incentive Scheme, developers can enjoy an additional 7% bonus GFA for building balconies and other open spaces. Using the land bid price and the total allowable GFA, we are able to determine the PSF Per Plot Ratio (PSF PPR), which is at S$1,435.

Tenderer GuocoLand + Hong Leong
Site Area (m2) 11,530.80
GFA (m2) + 7% 48,430 + 7%
Tender Price S$800,190,000
Estimate PSF PPR S$1,435
Estimate Min PSF ~S$2,488 psf

Details on GLS land site for Midtown Modern
*Note: Construction costs S$407 psf; 5% ABSD, 30% expenses + margin

The construction costs for Midtown Modern was identified to be S$407 psf based on the contract value awarded to Tiong Seng Holdings Limited. After factoring in a 30% profit margin and other expenses such as legal fees and marketing costs, and not forgetting the developer’s 5% Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD), we arrived at an estimated minimum PSF of S$2,488 psf for Midtown Modern. There has yet to be any indication on its price, so we will provide an update on the project’s pricing once released. 

Criteria 1: Growth Areas​

The first step of analysing any project is to identify potential growth in the area. Since Midtown Modern is located at the fringe of the Central Business District (CBD), rental will be on the higher side. As such, tenants who choose to stay in this area are likely to be working in the CBD and drawing high wages. Hence, we can deduce that the rental demand in the Bugis area is linked to the growth of CBD.

 

Within the CBD area, there are several plots of land zoned as “white” sites which signal plenty of room for growth to take place. However, this is likely to be a longer-term scenario where it may take 10-15 years before we witness any spillover effect from the growth of CBD to benefit the Bugis area.

Criteria 2: Unique Selling Points

The second step is to look at the actual site location to spot the unique selling points of the development. 

Locality

Midtown Modern is located right next to Bugis MRT, which is a huge advantage for its convenience. It is also in close proximity to heritage sites such as Kampong Glam. Located opposite Bugis Junction, there are plenty of amenities and food options (along Tan Quee Lan Street and Liang Seah Street) for residents of Midtown Modern. Healthcare facilities are also easily accessible as Raffles Hospital is within walking distance. 

 

On top of that, the sites highlighted in purple are some of the GLS sites awarded in recent years, showing our government’s effort in revitalising the Ophir-Rochor corridor as per URA’s vision. 

Image from URA Master Plan

Primary Schools

Parents who wish to send their children to Stamford Primary School, which has a popularity of 157 according to salary.sg, is conveniently located within a 1km radius of Midtown Modern.

Image from OneMap

If we expand the radius to 2km, St. Margaret’s Primary School (popularity: 69) and Farrer Park Primary School (popularity: 146) are located in the vicinity.

Developer’s Credentials

The main developer for Midtown Modern is GuocoLand which has a strong track record. Looking at their past developments, there have not been any major complaints with regard to the built quality of the finished projects.

Projects Location Tenure TOP Total Units
Meyer Mansion Meyer Road Freehold 2024 200
Midtown Bay Beach Road 99yrs LH 2022 219
Wallich Residence Wallich Street 99yrs LH 2022 181
Sims Urban Oasis Sims Drive 99yrs LH 2017 2024
Leedon Residence Leedon Heights Freehold 2015 381
The Waterline Poh Huat Road West Freehold 2013 103

List of past developments by GuocoLand

GuocoLand has also developed large scale projects such as Sims Urban Oasis which features more than 1,000 units. Hence, GuocoLand should be able to successfully deliver Midtown Modern on a satisfactory level.

Criteria 3: New Launch Comparison

The next part of our Midtown Modern analysis is to look at the other new launch projects in the area, which are The M and Midtown Bay. Both of these projects are leasehold projects and near Bugis MRT. They were also launched at a similar time (Midtown Bay in October 2019 and The M in February 2020).

Image from Google Map

Interestingly, Midtown Bay is also developed by GuocoLand. However, between the two projects, The M makes for a better comparison as it is similar to Midtown Modern in terms of project size, with 522 units.

1 Bedroom

The 1 BR launch price for Midtown Bay is around S$3,000 psf while The M launched at around S$2,500 psf. There is only a single 1 BR unit left at The M, which suggests healthy demand for 1 BR units in the Bugis area, around the S$1.23 mil mark.

Image from Google Maps

However, when looking at Midtown Bay, only 41% of the 1 BR units were sold. 

The higher availability of units may likely be due to the project’s pricier 1 BR units at S$1.46 mil.

2 Bedroom

Looking at The M, the average past transactions for 2 BR units are below S$2,500 psf. With 73% of 2 BR units sold for The M, the remaining units are available from S$1.60 mil. In comparison to Midtown Bay, only 25% of the 2 BR units were sold. This could likely be attributed to the price quantum.

Image from Google Maps

The 2 BR units at The M which come with only 1 Bath, are transacting around S$1.40 mil to S$1.60 mil. Although the 2 BR units at Midtown Bay are larger as they come with 2 Baths, the price point of S$2.25 mil may be harder for people to swallow. This means that when the price quantum for 2 BR units crosses the S$2.0 mil threshold, the buyer pool is potentially much smaller as fewer people are willing to pay or can afford such units at this pricing.

 

Hence, this brings up an interesting question:

If Midtown Modern launches at the same price as Midtown Bay, which project will be the better investment?

Since both projects are assumed to be of a similar price point, Midtown Bay will have an advantage over Midtown Modern with its earlier estimated completion date. Midtown Bay will achieve its TOP about 2 years earlier than Midtown Modern. As such, from an investment standpoint, buyers of Midtown Bay will be able to collect their keys and start renting out their units much earlier. 

However, since Midtown Modern and Midtown Bay are both developed by GuocoLand, it is likely that Midtown Modern might be priced slightly lower to draw in interest for both projects.

Is there a chance for Midtown Modern to launch at a higher price than Midtown Bay?

This will be quite an unlikely scenario. The 2 BR units at Midtown Bay are only 25% sold. Hence, if Midtown Modern is priced higher than Midtown Bay, it may be challenging for GuocoLand to sell both projects.

 

However, since Midtown Bay is expected to complete next year in 2022, demand may pick up once buyers can physically have a look at the completed project. Furthermore, developers can no longer re-issue the Option to Purchase (OTP) due to the new URA regulations introduced last year. This means that interested buyers who are looking for brand new properties and yet are not willing to rent for stay will be restricted to completed projects only. Hence, existing homeowners will be able to sell their houses and move in within a short time frame since the keys for Midtown Bay are readily available.

3 Bedroom

When it comes to 3 BR units, The M has sold all of its 17 units. For Midtown Bay, 3 out of the 8 units were sold while the remaining 5 units have yet to be released.

Criteria 4: Resale Project Comparison

All new launches will eventually lose their status as a “new development” after some time and subsequent buyers will usually compare across similar projects in the same area. Hence, it is important to study the resale market to have a better analysis of Midtown Modern.

Image from Google Map

There are a few projects surrounding Midtown Modern, which include Duo Residences, City Gate, South Beach Residences and Concourse Skyline. However, after considering a few key factors such as project size and lease remaining, we have identified Duo Residences and City Gate as the main comparables.

 

Although South Beach Residences was completed in 2016, it was only officially launched in September 2018. Hence, South Beach Residences can also give us a gauge of the market demand in the area in recent years.

1 Bedroom

City Gate is relatively new as it achieved TOP in 2018. The 1 BR units are asking from S$880k or S$2,042 psf, which is considered on the lower side when looking at the quantum. In terms of psf, buying a unit at around S$2,000 psf in the city area is considered undervalued as well.

 

However, here is the catch: City Gate only caters to a specific target  audience, as the original bedrooms come as loft type rooms. This may only appeal to a small group of people who either prefer to stay in a unique loft layout or tenants who do not mind paying a lower rental.

Image from Google Maps

For South Beach Residences, there are no 1 BR units available at the moment. For Duo Residences, the price for 1 BR starts from S$1.32 mil or S$2,454 psf. This pricing is competitive and worth investigating further.

2 Bedroom

For City Gate, the 2 BR units start from S$1.38 mil which is very affordable considering its proximity to the city area. However, once again, the bedrooms come as loft type rooms, which may not appeal to the mass market.

Image from Google Maps

The 2 BR units for South Beach Residences directly from the developer are asking from S$3.0 mil. Till date, 64.7% of the units were sold, which suggests healthy and good demand for the project.

 

In the resale market, 2 BR units from Duo Residences are asking from S$1.85 mil. At this price point, Duo Residences is a good competitor and could be an alternative to Midtown Modern.

3 Bedroom

The 3 BR units at City Gate are quite affordable at S$1.78 mil which is below S$2,000 psf. This pricing is attractive for buyers who can accept the loft type bedrooms.

Image from Google Maps

Till date, South Beach Residences has sold 91.8% of its 3 BR units. The remaining 3 BR units are starting from S$4.9 mil. This shows that 3 BR is a popular unit type in the Bugis area and there is a certain pool of buyers who are willing to accept the high price quantum of S$5.0 mil.

 

For Duo Residences, the 3 BR units were also fully sold by the developer and the resale market starts from S$3.36 mil.

Criteria 5: Exit Strategy

Investors looking for potential capital appreciation may not find Midtown Modern the most attractive project as it will take some time for the growth of CBD to happen. Apart from that, growth in the Bugis area may not have much movement. 

 

Homeowners who are looking for new launches in this area with the purpose of homestay and investment (“Homevestor”) may be keen to look further into Midtown Modern. However, one needs to have deep pockets due to the high quantum of properties in this area. 

 

As such, Midtown Modern may be more suitable for homeowners who simply want to stay near the CBD area and enjoy the convenience that comes with it.

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