Gem Residences
Gem Residences 

Buyers of triple-key units at GEM Residences will get their apartments with only one kitchen instead of the three kitchens originally depicted in the floor plan of the sales brochure.

The reason: the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has asked the joint developers to remove the kitchens from two sub-units in these apartments in keeping with "the approved floor plan".

In response to BT queries, a URA spokesman said: "URA approved the floor plan for a three-bedroom residential unit in GEM Residences comprising three bedrooms and a kitchen. The floor plan that was submitted to us for these units did not reflect three separate kitchens or sub-units. The developer was thus requested to market the residential units according to the approved plans."

Joint developers Gamuda, Maxdin and Evia Real Estate declined to comment when approached.

Triple-key units, typically with each of the three bedrooms having an ensuite bathroom, is not new here and is seen as an extension of the dual-key concept that emerged in 2009. They allow investors the convenience of renting out to different tenants, and to save on the additional buyer's stamp duty and legal fees they would otherwise incur from buying multiple units.

But what raised eyebrows for those 980 square foot triple-key units at GEM Residences was the provision of an open kitchen in each of the three sub-units that are about the same size.

This was a major draw for investors since marketing for the project began in late April, according to agents. The regulator is believed to have become aware around early May, and later asked the joint developers to change the TRIO unit to have just one kitchen. BT understands that a solid work-top instead of a kitchen will be provided in each of the two sub-units.

Of the 315 units sold over three days until Sunday, only three or four were TRIO units. Some buyers who were initially interested in TRIO units switched to the standard three-bedroom units after being told of the change for TRIO units.

One-third of the 37 dual-key units with a size of 775 sq ft were sold. Triple-key units start from about S$1.3 million while dual-key units at GEM Residences go from S$1.06 million.

One property agent who bought a S$1.4 million TRIO unit told BT: "I treat it as if I'm buying three one-bedroom units under one roof. I do understand that a conventional one-bedroom unit may fetch higher rental than each sub-unit in a triple-key apartment. But if I rent out one sub-unit for S$1,800-S$2,000 per month, my gross rental yield will be 4-5 per cent when I add them up altogether."

Also, the integrated club services in the condo will help to attract tenants when the project is completed, he added.

Under the novel "club condo" concept, GEM Residences is tying up with various service providers to offer on-demand services from car rental, laundry, food/grocery delivery, housekeeping and event planning to the hiring of a private chef. Other services – including free dance classes, weekly medical consultation, and concierge services – will be paid for by the developers in the first year and the condo management will decide whether to continue with these services thereafter.

GEM Residences is the first private condominium project for Evia Real Estate, which used to develop executive condominiums. Yet, the 99-year leasehold project in Toa Payoh has marked many firsts in the industry.

It is the first private residential project in recent years to release a full price list one week before balloting day, and to tie up with SP Telecommunications to set up high-speed broadband Internet for all households.

But one act of creativity that also got the joint developers on the wrong side of the URA was the "specimen cheque scheme". They had issued cheques of S$7,500 or S$10,000 to prospective buyers to offset their booking fee on balloting day. About 2,500 such cheques were submitted by buyers as expressions of interest.

The scheme was abruptly cancelled last Friday as directed by the URA, which told BT that the cheques could not be used because the scheme circumvents the requirement of a minimum 5 per cent booking fee for a residential purchase.

However, there was clearly little disappointment among buyers when it comes to this creative cheque scheme, since they were offered two similarly good alternatives – a direct discount of the same amount or a cash rebate upon the signing of the sales and purchase agreement. Each was also promised a few free additional kitchen appliances from Italian upmarket brand Smeg.

Written by Lynette Khoo for The Business Times.