These ultra-luxurious underwater homes are being built in Dubai


In the clear-blue waters off the coast of Dubai lies a chain of islands known as “The Heart of Europe.” It’s a man-made reconstruction of actual European nations, just on a smaller scale — part of a larger archipelago known as “The World.”

Richard Branson, fittingly, owns the island representing Great Britain. In the coming weeks, The Heart of Europe will get its first floating home, the aptly named “Floating Seahorse.” It’ll be the first of many in a giant fleet.

Take a look at these renderings:


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Property Update (7 July 2015)

Mr Brian Chee, 41, his wife Catherine Low, 38, their daughter Heidi, five, and son Reygan, eight, live in a top-floor four-room flat in Punggol East. They are happy there and have no intention to sell despite attractive resale prices. (

Mr Brian Chee, 41, his wife Catherine Low, 38, their daughter Heidi, five, and son Reygan, eight, live in a top-floor four-room flat in Punggol East. They are happy there and have no intention to sell despite attractive resale prices. (

Bumper profits for early BTO flats |

Some in Sengkang, Punggol have tripled in value on resale market

SINGAPORE : Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in Sengkang and Punggol may have been unpopular when they were first launched, with complaints over the location and the lack of amenities.

But home buyers who signed up for the flats some 10 years ago are now having the last laugh, with the value of their homes nearly tripling.

The Straits Times looked at data provided by SRX Property of flats launched in and after 2002 when the BTO system began.

Of these, the highest number of transactions were of Sengkang four-roomers with the leases starting in 2009. They cost up to $205,000 when they were first launched around 2005.

Their average resale price over the past three years was $566,880 – about 2.8 times the highest price home owners paid to HDB.



Asia Retailers Turning More Cautious, Leasing Activity Weaken |

ASIA : In spite of the first quarter of the year traditionally being a quiet leasing period, several markets in Asia Pacific still recorded prime rental growth, including Tokyo, Melbourne, Sydney, Ho Chi Minh City, Wellington, and Manila. However, retail leasing activity in the region has weakened further as retailers turned more cautious, says CBRE.

Dr. Henry Chin, Head of Research at CBRE Asia Pacific commented, “Tourism is lately continuing to influence the regional retail market, particularly in South Korea and Japan. Core shopping districts in both markets continued to see sales benefit from the influx of shoppers from mainland China. However, with the recent MERS outbreak, the tourism sector has been hit hard in South Korea. This is affecting retailers as people are avoiding public areas with large crowds, particularly shopping malls and restaurants. Online retail is benefitting from the outbreak however, as South Koreans opt to shop for food and daily necessities from the safety of their own home, as reflected by the 60% y-o-y growth in online shopping sales of hypermarkets during the first week of June. Elsewhere in Hong Kong–despite its top ranking–Q1 2015 saw sluggish leasing activity due to a change in tourist consumption patterns and concerns over the outlook of visitor arrivals, in particularly from China. Following the implementation of a new rule allowing Shenzhen residents only one trip into the city per week, Hong Kong’s retail sector may experience additional pressure, however, the impact of this should be limited. Read more >>


Dubai property market unlikely to see drastic correction |

The majority of business executives say any losses or gains in the Dubai property market will be within 10 per cent of current values, a new survey showed.

DUBAI : Dubai’s property market is unlikely to see a severe correction similar to the one in 2008, a market intelligence survey by London Business School showed.

The study, which polled more than 200 business executives, examined the possibility of another real estate bubble in the emirate’s property sector.

But about 84 per cent of respondents in the survey said that they don’t expect Dubai’s property prices to plunge in the way they did during the 2008-2009 correction.

“Only 3 per cent of those surveyed expect an annual decline larger than 20 per cent,” said London Business School’s professor of finance Joao Cocco.

Dubai’s property market, which rebounded strongly in 2013, has dampened in the recent months due to additional supply and volatility in the UAE’s equity markets and lower oil prices.

House prices in the emirate fell 0.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, leaving average prices 0.5 per cent lower than a year earlier and 19.4 per cent below the 2008 peak, according to a report by real estate consultant Cluttons.

Around 50 per cent of the respondents in the London Business School survey also expected prices to drop in the future. Read more >>


Beyoncé-inspired skyscraper to be built in Melbourne |

AUSTRALIA : Australian firm Elenberg Fraser has won planning approval for a 226-metre-high Melbourne skyscraper that will feature a curvaceous form taken from a music video by Beyoncé.

The new Premiere Tower at 134 Spencer Street will boast a series of curves and bulges designed to make it as structurally efficient as possible, but that also reference one of Beyoncé’s music videos.

The shape is an homage to the undulating fabric-wrapped bodies of dancers in the singer’s music video for Ghost – a song from her self-titled 2013 album, which was originally published as one half of track called Haunted but released as a stand-alone music video.

“For those more on the art than science side, we will reveal that the form does pay homage to something more aesthetic – we’re going to trust you’ve seen the music video for Beyoncé’s Ghost,” said the Melbourne-based studio. Read more >>

Property Update (27 March 2015)

Why Singapore became an economic success |

When it started life as an independent, separate country in 1965, Singapore’s prospects did not look good. Tiny and underdeveloped, it had no natural resources and a population of relatively recent immigrants with little shared history. The country’s first prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew is credited with transforming it. He called one volume of his memoirs, “From Third World to First”.

Why did Singapore become an economic success? More here >>


3 values from home ownership, a legacy of Mr Lee Kuan Yew |

SINGAPORE : One of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s greatest legacies is home ownership. He believed that home ownership is a key pillar of a strong society.

His leadership has guided the creation of one of the most vibrant nations in the world and, in his words, it started with home ownership.

In opening the Pinnacle@Duxton, he remarked, “If all the HDB flats built over the past 50 years were rental flats, Singapore would be a very different society today.”

“We would not have the stability, progress and prosperity that the stake in home ownership of a growing asset has made possible.”

At SRX Property, we looked through Mr Lee’s speeches and writings and identified three values of home ownership: community, responsibility, and prosperity.

In other words, Mr Lee believed that home ownership glues different ethnic groups together. A home is something that everyone can aspire to and achieve, regardless of race, creed or culture.

It’s possible for different people to build a community together because each owner has a stake in their home, and, thus, the community.

He said, “The pride people have in their homes prevents our estates from turning into slums, which is the fate for public housing in other countries.” Read more here >>


Singapore to Carry Forward Lee Kuan Yew’s Business-Friendly Legacy |

SINGAPORE : The death of Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew marks the end of an era at a time when the country is facing slowing economic growth and struggling to complete its transition to a first-world economy.

But despite the current difficulties, businesses say Mr. Lee’s policies and philosophy will outlast the elder statesman, and that his son’s administration has proved that it will continue the legacy of pragmatism that characterized the Lee years.

“Singapore has always been able to change and adapt in order to remain competitive in a world of changing dynamics,” said Stuart Dean, chief executive of General Electric in Southeast Asia. General Electric has been in Singapore since 1969 and characterizes itself as “one of the pioneers of the then swampy Jurong,” referring to Singapore’s now-modern industrial island. Jurong Island is now home to some of the world’s largest chemical and oil companies. Read more here >>


Singapore banks seen profiting as rising rates bolster margins |

SINGAPORE : Singapore’s three major banks are poised to benefit from gains in local interest rates, which could signal bigger profits from their domestic lending.

The three-month Singapore interbank offered rate, or SIBOR, has more than doubled this year to just over 1 per cent, the highest since December 2008. If rates continue higher, DBS Group Holdings, United Overseas Bank and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp could reverse a squeeze on their net interest margins, the difference between the interest they charge for loans and pay out to depositors.

Singapore banks are “at a turning point,” said Ivan Tan, a Standard & Poor’s analyst based in the city-state. “The rise in margins would mark an important reversal after several years of compression, and has important revenue implications.” The three banks derive about 60 per cent of revenue from interest income at their core lending businesses, Mr Tan said.

Weakness in the Singapore dollar and expectations for higher US lending rates propelled SIBOR’s rise from December. With deposit rates climbing more slowly, the three banks should be able to boost their net interest margins from last year’s 1.69 per cent average, Mr Tan said. Read more here >>


Prime property market in Dubai sees sales fall |

DUBAI : Dubai luxury home prices remain relatively resilient despite a drop-off in sales activity, according to the latest analysis of the Emirate’s residential real estate market.

Sales in Dubai’s prime segment, comprising properties worth over AED10 million, hit the lowest level since the end of 2012 in the final three months of 2014, the research document from international real estate firm Knight Frank shows.

Despite this however, Knight Frank’s prime residential price index saw a relatively modest fall in the three months to December of 1.2% quarter on quarter, the second consecutive quarterly fall.

Indeed an examination of the data shows that these two declines nearly reversed the increases seen in the first half of last year, leaving values just 0.3% higher year on year in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Despite the lower level of transactional activity however, the nationalities investing in real estate in Dubai remained diverse. Data from the Dubai Land Department (DLD) shows that, in 2014, more than 140 nationalities bought property in the Emirate. Read more here >>


London firm enters boom market for city student properties |

UK : Hattington Capital, a boutique firm that is involved in private equity deals and real estate, is planning a €25m project to build a development with almost 250 accommodation units on the site of the landmark Frawley’s store on Thomas Street in the capital.

It’s the company’s first foray into the student accommodation market either in Ireland or the UK. Hattington is understood to be on the lookout for additional sites in Dublin.

There are 80,000 full-time students in Dublin and another 100,000 language students.

The site on Thomas Street was once owned by developer Liam Carroll. It’s believed that Hattington bought the site from the receiver for around €2.5m.

Frawley’s closed in 2007 after more than a century of trading on the site. Read more here >>

Property Update (16 March 2015)


Properties abroad attractive as S$ strengthens |

SINGAPORE : With the Singapore dollar strengthening against currencies in the region, investing in overseas properties is looking more attractive than ever.

In particular, the Malaysian ringgit, the Australian dollar and the British pound have tumbled against the Singdollar since the end of last year, and look set to fall further.

For instance, one Aussie dollar now costs S$1.064 compared with S$1.082 as at Dec 31. One ringgit now costs S$0.374 compared with S$0.379 at the end of last year. As for the British pound, it now costs S$2.057 compared with S$2.065 back then. Read more here >>


Cash outflows could press on property |

In the underground currency war, the Asia-Pacific front is seeing the most intense action. In fact, the abnormal monetary easing by Europe and Japan are stimulating global liquidity, offsetting the negative impact from expectations of a move by the United States to raise rates.

Because economies and exports still need to recover, it is believed that in the short term, countries in the region will continue to cut interest rates. Beijing, New Delhi and Singapore surprisingly loosened monetary policies this year. At the same time, the currency war will bring potential risks to the Asian-Pacific region.

One is that the US Federal Reserve could raise rates this year and easing monetary policy may cause outflows of capital from the Asia Pacific to the United States.

Fortunately, part of the capital outflow is flowing from the euro region and Japan to Asia, alleviating some of the pressure.

Another concern is the Asia-Pacific property market. Besides China, mortgage delinquencies in Singapore and other countries continue to rise. Read more here >>


Dubai apartments now up to Dh400,000 cheaper |

DUBAI : Did you know that if you buy a one-bedroom apartment in Dubai today, you would spend nearly Dh400,000 less than you would about six or seven years ago?
Analysts said that if you’re planning to buy an apartment or villa, Dubai’s relatively low property prices, coupled with a slight decline in home loan rates, make 2015 one of the best times in years to invest in real estate.

Prices of apartments in Dubai now cost more than 20 per cent less than in 2008, and there is a likelihood that prices will further slow down or stabilise in the next few months, as more projects are expected to be completed before the end of the year.

“Prices are good and buyers have negotiating room as the market is slow,” said Ryan Mahoney, CEO of Better Homes Real Estate. “Sellers that were asking exorbitant prices in [the first quarter of] 2014 are now asking a far lesser price.” Read more here >>


Asking prices for London homes fall amid UK election jitters |

LONDON : Asking prices for London homes declined in March as affordability constraints and pre-election jitters denied the property market its usual spring boost.

Prices demanded by sellers fell 0.4 per cent following a 2.8 per cent jump in February, property website Rightmove Plc said on Monday. It was the first decline seen in March for three years and took the average London house price to 580,308 pounds (S$820,000). Values in England and Wales rose 1 per cent.

“This month fits the consistent pattern of ebbs and flows in many different localities within the overall London market, with prices still going up in some better-value boroughs and still going down in others that have overshot,” Rightmove Director Miles Shipside said in the statement. “The consistent theme is of a readjusting market.”

Near-record house prices and lending curbs introduced by the Bank of England last year are making it hard for first-time buyers, Rightmove said. At the top end of the property market, the prospect of a “mansion tax” if the Labour opposition wins the May 7 election and recent changes to the stamp-duty system are weighing on demand. Under the overhaul introduced in December, buyers of homes costing more than 937,500 pounds pay more tax. Read more here >>

Property Update (9 March 2015)


Another slow year in condo sales expected |

SINGAPORE : New evidence has emerged that condominium sales dived by 60 per cent after mid-2013, when tough home loan restrictions kicked in.

And experts do not expect sales to pick up this year, adding that they might even fall further as buyers hold out for price drops.

An analysis by consultancy JLL found that in the first six months of 2013, condo sales stood at 12,909, based on caveats lodged.

But by the second half of last year, that figure had nosedived 60.3 per cent to just 5,126 sales.

In both six-month periods, buyers with private addresses made up about 54 per cent of the combined sales totals. The rest had Housing Board addresses, so some would have been upgraders.

Buyers with HDB addresses bought 2,336 units in the second half of last year, a 60.8 per cent drop, while buyers with private home addresses bought 2,790, a 59.8 per cent dive, said JLL national research director Ong Teck Hui.

That the decline is roughly equal across both categories of buyers could surprise some, as the formula for the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) applies fairly to both, said Century 21’s chief executive Ku Swee Yong. Read more here >>


Manila rule change lures foreign banks |

At least seven Asian banks are looking to begin lending or open offices in the Philippines, lured by juicy prospects in the region’s second-fastest growing economy as their domestic markets languish, central bank officials said.

The surge in interest comes as steps adopted last year by the Philippines to remove caps on foreign banks take effect.

In a country where only one household in five has a bank account, Manila is keen to develop a comparatively small lending sector, worth 10 trillion pesos (HK$1.76 trillion) in assets, into an engine to drive an economy it expects to boom 7 to 8 per cent this year.

Industry insiders said among those looking to open branches or expand presence were Taiwan’s Cathay United Bank and Taiwan Cooperative Bank, alongside South Korea’s Shinhan International Bank, Woori Bank and Busan Bank. Central bankers declined to identify contenders by name, but said at least seven had expressed interest.

“Foreign banks are coming in. We have approved one, and there are more in the pipeline .… around seven,” central bank governor Amando Tetangco said. Read more here >>


Obama’s nod to China could bring NYC real estate boom |

NEW YORK : It hasn’t gotten as much attention as his other immigration decrees, but President Obama has agreed to let Chinese citizens apply for multiple-entry business and tourist visas that last for 10 years, not just one. Student visas have also been extended to five years from one.

Reaction to the immigration policy, announced Nov. 12, was immediate in China. There was a 68.2% leap in visas issued in December and January, for a total of 351,650. If these numbers continue, an additional 833,000 visas will be issued, bringing the total to 2.1 million in 2015.

The elite hunger to leave China.
Among the nation’s 2.4 million millionaires, 64% plan to leave and 78% want their kids educated abroad, according to a 2014 poll by Hurun, a Chinese research company.
One thing they’re doing right away — buying real estate and driving up prices in New York. Read more here >>


Dubai to ‘benefit from affordable housing quotas’ |

The proposal by Dubai Municipality to introduce mandatory affordable housing quotas for all new residential developments is long overdue and is expected to bring a wide range of benefits to the UAE emirate, while driving further maturity in the market, according to leading international real estate consultants, Cluttons.

With the residential market in Dubai now meandering through the second half of the current property cycle and with values stabilising following the tremendous growth recorded in 2013 and the first half of 2014, the timing for the introduction of such legislation is ideal, it stated.

Steven Morgan, the chief executive of Cluttons Middle East said: “The issue of affordability has been one that has been quietly bubbling away in the background for some time. With the introduction of the federal mortgage caps and the doubling of property registration fees, we saw genuine end-users in the market forced into a holding pattern as they attempted to make the transition from rented accommodation to owner occupation.” Read more here >>

Property Update (4 March 2015)


Private resale prices fall further |

SINGAPORE : Resale prices of private homes continued to cool in January, falling at their fastest pace in at least two years.

Experts say the lack of buying activity leading up to the end-of-year festive season may have spilled over into the new year but the overall trend is one of declining values.

Prices fell 1.6 per cent in January over December following a revised 1 per cent fall in that month over November, according to the Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) yesterday.

“Prices are still expected to trend downwards, though it will likely be a sub-1 per cent rate of decline,” said SLP International executive director Nicholas Mak.

The last time prices declined at a 1.6 per cent pace was in February 2012, possibly caused by the introduction of the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty in December 2011, said Mr Mak.

However, it could have been an anomaly as prices then rose over the next four months. Read more here >>


The 15 Happiest Economies in the World |

Feeling bummed about your economy? It’s time to pack your bags for Switzerland.

That’s one way to read the fate of 51 economies (including the euro area) this year, based on Bloomberg calculations of what’s known as the “misery index.” Inflation and unemployment, two factors that make consumers unhappy, are remarkably low in the 15 countries shown below, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.


While the Swiss National Bank attracted some tumultuous headlines earlier this year, the haven of ski slopes and chocolates still outshines its peers in the survey as a consumer-friendly place to live. For the country’s working-age consumers — only 3.3 percent of whom are likely to be unemployed this year — an estimated 0.9 percent drop in prices in 2015 will help cushion the blow from a surging currency. That’s enough for Switzerland to claim one of the least-sad spots in the misery index. (The lower the score, the better.)

That’s great news for an already-wealthy country. Switzerland is the fourth-richest, as measured by International Monetary Fund estimates of gross domestic product per-capita estimates for 2015.

Look to Switzerland’s north for another consumer dreamland: Norway. There, consumer prices will probably increase by a mild 2.2 percent this year, edging just slightly above the 2 percent threshold for which some major central banks worldwide aim. Joblessness is projected to be about 3.75 percent in 2015. And income? Best of any in the group, at an estimated $67,619 GDP per capita for this year. Read more here >>


Property Market in Malaysia : What To Expect |

Almost 20 years ago, the property market in Malaysia was hit hard by the Asian financial crisis. House prices contracted between 8 to 9.5 per cent. The government’s stringent policies helped the market to recover. From 2006 onwards, the residential market experienced exponential growth.

The property market started weakening from 2009 when the base lending rate was increased and there was signs of an oversupply in office space and retail properties. Now, there is an oversupply in high-end properties and condominiums.

Speculation is now rife that the property market is headed for a period of doom and gloom. Moody’s says the two main reasons for this are the cooling measures put in place in 2013 by central bank Bank Negara Malaysia and the April implementation of the six per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST). The research house says the lull in demand after GST could last six to nine months.

Affordability is a major issue. Sales volumes fell 8 per cent year-on-year in Q1-2014, the fifth consecutive quarter of a drop in transactions, according to Standard Chartered Research. This is primarily because housing prices rose 72 per cent in Q1-2014 versus 2005, or about 6.7 per cent on average annually.

Bank Negara came up with a string of cooling measures to curb rising household debt that stands at almost 87 per cent of gross domestic product. Loans for properties formed the bulk of household debt at almost 50 per cent. This is why one of the cooling measures was to tighten housing loan approvals. The housing loan application rejection rate dropped to 30 per cent. This affected the property market in Malaysia and 90 per cent of respondents in a Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia survey in 2014 said they experienced a slowdown in sales. Read more here >>

Twisting Cayan Tower completed and units selling fast

Twisting Cayan Tower, Dubai

Twisting Cayan Tower completed and units selling fast (

The project dubbed the ‘world’s tallest twisting tower’ in Dubai was recently completed, with some 80 percent of the residential units already sold.

Located on the Dubai Marina, the 75-storey Cayan Tower is twisted 90 degrees from top to bottom, and comprises 570 apartments.

Buyers have a choice of units ranging from studio to four bedroom, as well as duplexes and penthouses. Prices start at Dh2 million (US$544,500). The interiors are made of marble and wood, and each apartment has built in wardrobes. The architects who designed the units have used open space concepts to ensure there are no pillars any where in the building.

Amenities of the development include pool, whirlpool, spa, massage rooms, conference room, nursery, kids play area and gym.

The twisting tower was created Skidmore Owings and Merril, the same team behind the world’s tallest tower Burj Khalifa, as well as the Jin Mao in Shanghai and Trump Tower in Chicago.


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