Sentosa Cove was conceived and planned by the Singapore Government more than 20 years ago to be Singapore’s most prestigious integrated oceanfront marina residential communities to rival other iconic marina communities around the world. This exclusive enclave was built on a 117-hectare stretch of mostly reclaimed land on the eastern coast of Sentosa Island. The northern and western boundaries are flanked by the award-winning Serapong Golf Course and Tanjong Golf Course. By the time it was fully developed in around 2013, it comprises around 1,800 apartments, 50 terrace houses and around 340 bungalows.
As a gated community with round-the-clock security and a concierge service, residents can enjoy the ultimate living with the assurance of safety, comfort and total privacy. The highly cosmopolitan community from all over the world relish a unique waterfront resort lifestyle. Sentosa Cove is a great place to bike, run, sail, play and golf. Residents are often seen walking, jogging, biking or pushing their prams along the palm tree-lined streets, manicured gardens and yacht-filled marinas. As an add-on to island living, friendly peacocks are seen roaming everywhere, inquisitive hornbills are perched on the trees outside the houses and occasionally, a family of otters sneaked into one of the private swimming pools for a play.
Quayside Isle, the main dining venue within Sentosa Cove, offers more than 20 exciting concepts with a widespread selection of specially curated new-to-market bistros as well as new dining concepts from reputable groups. In addition, there are Cold Storage supermarket, Jason’s gourmet grocer and Guardian pharmacy to meet the needs of residents and visitors. For residents who prefer to go to a shopping mall with more options, the VivoCity is just across the Gateway bridge, some 10 minutes’ drive away. Attractions at Sentosa island include Butterfly Park, Siloso Beach and Resorts World Sentosa where Universal Studios, S.E.A. Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark and several other fun places can be found.
Children of expatriates, up to six years old, can go to Eton House, the only international school on Sentosa island. School buses from most of the international schools on the main island would ferry children and youths to and from Sentosa Cove.
There are different types of residential properties at Sentosa Cove to suit a wide variety of needs ranging from low-rise terrace houses and bungalows to high-rise apartments. Most importantly, Sentosa Cove is the only address in Singapore where foreigners are eligible to own landed homes – terrace houses and bungalows – which are classified as restricted properties. Whether facing the Singapore Straits or South China Sea, the spectacular verdant fairways of the Serapong or Tanjong golf course, or the calm serenity of the waterways, each bungalow is uniquely designed and built to cater to the owner’s perception of a dream home.
A study of the sales activity at Sentosa Cove from 2009 to May 2020 shows that the market reached its zenith in 2010, in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis. The era of quantitative easing, global equity and rock-bottom interest rates sent foreign investors to Singapore’s shores. Besides the heightened awareness of Sentosa Cove among overseas investors, the opening of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) integrated resort in 2010, could also have caused the strong interest in the Cove. To stem the flow of excessive foreign monies into the Singapore property market and prevent overheating, the authorities unleashed a series of cooling measures from 2009, including the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD). The ABSD was targeted at foreign buyers and local investors to ‘slow down’ their exuberance which hit a record high of just under 20% of the total home sales volume in 2011. ABSD was introduced that year at 10% for all homes purchased by foreigners. As both sales volume and home prices continued to rise, the ABSD was raised to 15% in 2013. Most recently in 2018 July, as home prices rebounded at a fast pace, the stamp duty was raised to 20%. This heavy tax increase is a deterrent for potential buyers, especially foreigners. Sentosa Cove was more badly affected because it was more dependent on foreign money.
In mid-2013, the government also introduced the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework which limited the financing available for homebuyers. This led to very low sales in Sentosa Cove for four consecutive years (2013-16) and prices of both bungalows and apartments bottomed out in 2014 and 2015 respectively. During this period, the average price of bungalows was $14-$16 mil, down from $20 mil they used to fetch. As for apartments, their prices averaged at $3-$4 mil during the period 2013-2016, lower than the $4-$5 mil average they used to fetch.
Following the latest increase in the ABSD to 20% for foreign buyers in 2018, apartment prices have remained relatively flat. One of the hindrances to the recovery of interest in Sentosa Cove is the absence of new projects. As there had been no new development sites released by the government on the island. Without the sale of sites, hence no new residential projects, there is no way to reprice the existing properties.
The bungalow market, however, behaved somewhat differently as prices had been inching up gradually since 2018. We attribute this to the recognition of good value by buyers who realised that bungalows at Sentosa Cove are at least 15% cheaper than the Good Class Bungalows (GCB) on the main island. Notwithstanding the 99-year leasehold tenure compared to freehold GCBs, the sea view, island environment and resort lifestyle at Sentosa Cove is unique and cannot be replicated elsewhere on the main island.
The sales data for properties at Sentosa Cove also threw some light on the profile of the community living there. Take for instance, the identity of bungalow purchasers since 2010 to the current. Contrary to the common perception, Singaporeans formed a majority of 43% of the purchasers, while permanent residents and foreigners accounted for 27% each. It is likely that not all these Singaporean owners are living at Sentosa Cove all the time as they would have bought the bungalows for a holiday home or for rental income.
Looking ahead, there are a few planning initiatives that could have a catalytic effect on Sentosa Cove. First, the expansion of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) announced in April 2019. The $4.5 billion budget will include expanding Universal Studios to add two hugely popular theme parks – Minion Park and Super Nintendo World – and a new Waterfront Lifestyle Complex helmed by two new hotels with 1,100 keys.
Secondly, Keppel Land will be launching a high-end residential project on Keppel Island. It is possible that the launch of this project could lead to a repricing of properties on Sentosa Cove.
Yet another stimulus for Sentosa Cove is the development of the Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW) which stretches across Singapore’s southern coastline, from Pasir Panjang to Marina East. The former Keppel Club, which lies within the GSW, will be redeveloped into a new residential precinct comprising 9,000 units of both private and public housing, along with amenities and communal facilities.
Sentosa Cove is likely to benefit from this line-up of new initiatives with a time horizon of the next 10 to 15 years. Astute buyers would see that now is a good opportunity to purchase a property at Sentosa Cove for owner-occupation with a view to holding it as a mid- to long-term investment asset.