Many people like the idea of a duplex apartment (much like an HDB maisonette). You often get separate living areas so it’s more private, and sometimes you can even have a high ceiling in the living/dining room – which is always a unique feature to have in a home.
In my first post about my search for a new home, I identified duplex apartments as one of the ideal properties for a multi-generational family. Provided there are bedrooms on both floors (some duplexes have 100% outdoor space on the second floor), the different family units can have their own personal spaces (and independence) while still living close enough to make meals very practical set.
However, older people, like my mother, may not entirely agree. After all, as people get older, climbing stairs becomes more and more difficult and older people may lose access to the upper floor, making them feel like their living space has been reduced by half. Worse if the rooms are only on the second floor, so it wouldn’t be very scalable if you get older.
Step into the duplex apartments with a lift to both floors – the perfect solution, in my opinion!
There are two types of duplex apartments with elevator serving both floors: those with interior private elevators and those with exterior elevator lobbies. My preference (and the subject of this article) is the latter because duplexes with internal elevators are often very expensive. A real estate agent suggested Wallich Residence to me – not sure about you, but it’s not quite in my budget!
For those with the cash (we’re talking over $13 million here), other luxury residences that have duplexes/triplexes with elevators to all floors include Park Nova (largest penthouse), South Beach Residences (penthouse), Meyer House (penthouse) and 15 Holland Hill (for once, a maisonette with a garden instead of a penthouse!), Cluny Park Residence and Leedon Residence (5-bedroom unit and penthouse). So yeah, definitely on the high end, it’s a pretty easy find.
Additionally, duplex apartments with exterior elevator lobbies on both floors can be converted into two dual key units with one unit rented out in the future, should you find that you no longer need as much space. . Unfortunately, these units are pretty much property unicorns: they’re super rare.
I have messaged over 10 real estate agents and none have been able to suggest a single development with such a unit. Instead, they all tried to push me towards the grouped houses, despite my disinterest. After sifting through hundreds of property listings, I was only able to find the following 5 developments which have duplex units with external elevator lobbies on both floors:
1. Windermere (under $2 million)
Windermere is an executive condominium in Choa Chu Kang that I reviewed a while ago and really liked. In the taller towers, there are two types of penthouse units, one of which is accessible by elevator to both floors. (The penthouse units are staggered within each block, so one unit occupies the 23rd and 24th floors, while the other occupies the 22nd and 23rd, giving the 22nd/23rd floor penthouse elevator access to both levels.)
However, note that Windermere has been in its 99-year lease for a few years, so be careful if reselling or leaving a legacy for future generations is high on your agenda. As I have already done an in-depth review of Windermere, I won’t repeat myself here – instead, click this link if you want to read more.
2. The Luxurie (under $3 million)
The Luxurie is a 622-unit condo in Sengkang that features duplex penthouse lofts with elevator access to both floors. Developed by Keppel Land and completed in 2015, The Luxurie’s lease starts from 2011, so you have a better buffer before lease decay sets in. of only three private projects within 300m of the MRT. (The other two are Compass Heights and La Fiesta.)
There are only eight penthouses in this condo, three of which are larger in size (over 2,700 square feet). Each floor of the larger penthouse has outdoor space, bedrooms and a living room/family room, so they can almost be described as two separate condo units connected by a staircase – perfect for multi-generational families. The ceiling is also wonderfully high (nearly 8m), which makes the units even larger than they already are.
Note: The main entrance on the upper floor opens onto the roof terrace which then leads to the family room/living room, so you will be exposed to the elements if you enter from the second floor on a rainy day. It can be a bit slippery for older people, although you can always ask the MCST for permission to build a roof covering over the area.
ALSO READ: House Tour: A warm loft-style apartment with custom furniture
3. Pepys Hill (prices vary)
We have now arrived at what was once our top choice for a new home: Pepys Hill. When we visited this condo at the start of our house hunting, my mom and I really, really liked it. First of all, this is a freehold condo in Pasir Panjang, and West Singapore is our territory. (I must admit I was also thinking “Great Southern Waterfront”.)
Secondly, it only has 32 units, which makes it extremely private (only two units per floor in the highest block!) Despite its small size, you still get facilities such as a swimming pool and gym (but no security guard). Also, the PSF was quite affordable then, so we wouldn’t have to compromise on space (less than $1000 psf – note that some units have large outdoor spaces, which not everyone is not a fan. Unfortunately, the only unit for sale at the time of writing is asking for over $1,400 psf, which shows how much real estate prices have gone up in just one year!)
There is also a back gate that leads to the MRT Pasir Panjang and Food Center (which is across the road and connected by skybridge for easy access) and you are only a 10 minute walk away. foot of the magnificent Hort park. Finally, I have good friends who live next door to Bijou. I find closeness with friends very important for a good social life, don’t you?
Pepys Hill units are very unique and most have different floor plans: there is a shorter block of walk-up apartments and a taller block with a lift. In the top block there are two units per floor, and many are duplexes with elevators to both floors (meaning it’s not just the penthouses that are duplexes – that’s okay (for people who don’t like penthouses, which some people find hot, noisy and a hard sell.) On the upper floors, you even have sea views!
So why didn’t we buy a unit at Pepys Hill? First, being a boutique development, you don’t often find units for sale, so we couldn’t find a unit for sale with a timeline that matched ours. (We have to sell our property before we can buy anything.)
Second, the condo next door (Flynn Park) is not only built very close to Pepys Hill, but has also become blocky recently. After the last two years of living between two construction sites and therefore developing gastric problems, I did not want to live next to another block project. (Yes, I know almost all of Singapore is a construction site these days, but since I know there is going to be construction, I might as well avoid it.)
Last but not least, Pepys Hill is built on a slope. Since the road next door (Jalan Mat Jambol) has been listed as one of the most flood prone areas by the PUB in 2020, slope creep is a huge concern for me, especially since the condo pushes the big 4-0 and is sort of built on stilts (tilted).
Call me paranoid, but after the Surfside condo collapsed, I’d rather be safe than sorry. As there are only 32 units, if major structural work is required in the future, I am concerned about the amount of my additional maintenance costs.
Note: Pepys Hill regularly lists “most likely to be in block”, but note that the tallest block is currently around 10 stories high, but the zoning is 1.4 (i.e. that a new condo can only have 5 floors.)
4. Village Towers (currently underway for $6.5 million)
Village Towers was recommended to me by a relative who is a seasoned real estate investor but, alas, I think she has an extremely biased view of our financial situation! Built in 1983, Village Towers is a 46-unit freehold development located along Mount Sinai Rise (near Holland Village).
Despite the few units, it has a swimming pool, tennis court, squash court and 24 hour security. (I shudder to think of the maintenance costs!) It’s also within walking distance of the Ulu Pandan park connector which takes you to Dover MRT (15 mins walk).
On the other hand it is opposite Dover Forest which will be turned into HDB apartments so the next few years could be quite noisy and dusty. (The exact section of Dover Forest that is directly opposite the village towers will be preserved, hopefully this will provide some sort of buffer.)
5. Jade Mansion (last sold for $4.38 million in 2021)
Last but not least is the smallest development on this list, Jade Mansion, which is located at 10 Leedon Road and very close to Holland Village MRT, and of course, very walkable to Holland Village itself.
Consisting of just 27 maisonettes over 2,600 square feet, this freehold condo was built in 1982 and features a tennis court and swimming pool. I like the double volume ceilings of the balcony, accessible from both floors. It’s a very unique layout, and very flexible for multi-generational living as well.
However, prices have increased in recent years. The second-to-last transaction (for a similarly sized unit) was $2.9 million in 2018, an increase of nearly 50% in just three years! Additionally, the condo borders Holland Road, which is quite busy, so some units may suffer from traffic noise.
Note: Jade Residences is another favorite on the “most likely to be bulk” lists, but I was told by a real estate agent that the plot ratio had already been maxed out (I didn’t confirm this myself because there are currently no units for sale.)
This article was first published in Stackedhomes.