Despite the restrictions due to the global pandemic, Singapore’s real estate market is thriving, as buyers continue to snap up millions of dollars’ worth of properties, even the most coveted GCBs.
GCB on Cable Road – Photo by Marcus Lim via marcusl.net; Interior Design by Designworx Interior Consultants
Well-known for their massive land sizes and epic designs in exclusive and prestigious locations, the Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) continue to make waves in Singapore’s real estate sector. One of the record-breaking purchases was the coveted “Ladyvale Bungalow”, a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) in Nassim Road by Jin Xiao Qun, the wife of Nanofilm Technologies International founder and executive chairman Shi Xu. The massive freehold land of 32,159 square feet sits next to the British High Commissioner’s residence, Eden Hall with a record of $4,005 per square foot, making it a whopping $128.8 million investment.
Another notable GCB transaction was the recent purchase by Ian Ang, the 29-year-old co-founder of gaming chair company Secretlab, who bought the $36 million Good Class Bungalow (GCB) spanning over 23,000 square feet in the Caldecott Hill Estate, an exclusive luxury home with unblocked view of expansive lush greenery and Marina Bay Sands.
GDB near Tanglin – Design & Photo by Guz Architects via Mothership
Like art and antiquities, Good Class Bungalows belong to a limited property class, the crème de la crème of real estate that will always be in demand. Its exclusivity along with premium design, architecture, and planning makes it an attractive investment for the wealthiest of the wealthy.
What’s in the name?
The acronym GCBs or “Good Class Bungalows” is uniquely Singapore. The origins of the term are quite unclear, but Professor Robert Powell, the author of the book Singapore Good Class Bungalow 1819-2015 has claimed the terminology first was used in the Ministry of National Development Masterplan in 1980.
What makes a property a GCB?
Good Class Bungalows or GCBs are the most prestigious class of landed properties in Singapore because of the planning conditions stipulated to preserve their exclusive low-rise character. The minimum land size for GCBs is 1,400 square meters or about 15,070 square feet, where it can only rise up to two storeys plus an attic and a basement. The land coverage should not exceed 35%, and the rest of the 65% is allocated for landscaped areas such as gardens, swimming pools, tennis courts, and any other impervious surfaces.
Villa De Jervois Multi-Generation GCB
Also, Good Class Bungalows are all located in prime residential districts where the most popular are districts 20,21, and 23, other districts include 10 and 11.
Why are GCBs rare?
To put into perspective the scale of a GCB property, an average Singapore home according to ST Property is 667 square feet or 62 square meters. Comparing this standard to the minimum land size of GCB, which is 15,070 square feet or 1,400 square meters, that is 22 times larger than the average Singaporean home.
The Good Class Bungalow is significantly larger than the standard Singaporean home, and as such, it’s no wonder there are only around 2,800 plots in Singapore in 39 GCB areas. You’ll find the crème de la crème in prime locations such as Chatsworth Park, Raffles Park, Swiss Club Road, Oei Tiong Ham Park, and Rideout Park.
It is also unlikely for the number of GCBs to increase as URA has announced that it will no longer release new sites or designate new GCB areas. The only probability of an increase in the number of Good Class Bungalows is that owners or developers might subdivide their properties into smaller plots. Although, there are only a few GCB lots that are large enough to be subdivided into smaller lots since there is a minimum required lot area.
Why is GCB an attractive investment?
Prices of these ultra-luxury properties continue to yield positive capital appreciation due to the strong demand from UHNW Singaporeans plus low-interest rates. This surge in prices is quite significant, especially in the brand-new bungalows near the Botanic Gardens. Moreover, most GCBs are located in the Three Conservation Areas of the Singapore National Parks Board.
GCB at 35 Leedon Road; Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore/EdgeProp
Singapore is also known for the super penthouses, which are also one of the most expensive high-end properties. So, why do wealthy clients still prefer the GCBs? That’s because Good Class Bungalows offer much more value per square foot compared to the super penthouses, and GBCs can be designed according to the owner’s taste.
The gazetted design and planning conditions aim to preserve and maintain the high-quality residential environment with no possible intrusion from other housing forms like semi-detached, or terrace housing. Therefore, exclusivity, luxury, and well-maintained environmental quality make GCBs the highly desirable residence choice for well-heeled buyers.
Who are the buyers of GCBs?
Most GCBs are reserved for the Singaporean tycoons and other Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals (UHNW) or, simply put, Singaporean billionaires. Foreigners may buy land-scarce city-state penthouses or apartments anywhere in the country. But, for the rare Good Class Bungalows, only Singaporeans are provided with the license to buy.
While GCBs are mostly bagged by tycoons and other UHNW, Singapore permanent residents (PR) can seek approval from the Singapore Land Authority, provided that the land to be purchased does not exceed 1,393.5 square meters or 1,500 square feet. Another criterion is that the Singapore PR has given significant economic contribution to Singapore.
Most notable Singapore PR owners of GCBs include Kuok Hui Kwong, the daughter of Malaysian business tycoon and investor Robert Kuok, Tommie Goh 2G Capital co-founder, and movie star Jet Li, who has moved his family to the lion city.
What are the other features of GCBs?
For a typical bungalow, the setback is 2 meters, but GCB is required to have a setback of 3 meters for the sides as well as the rear. With a wider setback, you’ll have a smaller site coverage percentage. The concept is to encourage GBC owners to have more open space, for landscaping and other amenities, which are not part of the house. The spacious grounds of GCBs are popularly used for swimming pools and gardens.
The interior is as impressive as the spacious outdoors. Aside from the massive bedrooms, living area, dining area, and kitchen, the GCB owner can easily include an indoor water feature, a signature bespoke sculpture, or even a mini art gallery. Basement spaces, on the other hand, are mainly used as a spacious garage, an indulgent home theatre or entertainment room, a private wine cellar, while spaces in the attic may be utilized as a meditation room or study room.
This land-scarce city-state’s real estate sector seems to be immune to recessions and the latest global pandemic. With its resiliency, it’s safe to say that Singapore’s real estate market will remain strong and vibrant this year and beyond. For ultra-luxury properties like GCBs, we are seeing a continuous significant increase of property value, a unique real estate trend that sets Singapore apart from other global markets.
P.S. If you’re hunting for a Good Class Bungalow perfect for your family or investment portfolio, feel free to reach out to elite realtor Michael Ciola who’ll go the extra mile to make your dream come true.