Buyers may prefer ‘software’ to ‘hardware’

These include greenery, shuttles to main shopping belts, housekeeping, laundry and childcare services

The recent move by the Government to cool the residential market is a measured one, targeted at property speculators. It is unlikely to deter genuine home buyers from shopping for their dream home.

We believe this group of buyers are now better placed as they could be more selective and choose where and what they want to buy.

So, what type of private homes would continue to entice buyers? What can developers do to differentiate their projects and entice buyers to opt for their project? After all, property purchases should be treated with a mid- to long-term investment horizon.

A survey was conducted by Savills Research and Consultancy in the first week of last month to explore what buyers would like to have when they buy a new private home, apart from common provisions such as swimming pools, tennis courts, kitchen appliances, wardrobes and air-conditioning.

The poll was done at various prime residential locations, heartland areas and new property show flats, comprising a good mix of different age groups, nationalities, housing types and gender. Of these demographics, 64 per cent of respondents were HDB upgraders versus 36 per cent private home owners.

Topping the wish list of 220 respondents was more greenery in their homes. Specifically, 57 per cent of respondents opted for “gardens and greenery”. This was followed by “shuttle services to main shopping belts” (53 per cent), “services for housekeeping, laundry, car washing and child care” (45 per cent) and “more car park lots” (43 per cent).

Private homes adorned with lush landscaping will, therefore, remain popular among buyers here.

This could be a reason why many private homes that draw inspiration from a “green” theme have appealed to buyers. Some well received projects include The Tree House, Park Natura, Meadows @ Pierce and Nassim Park Residences (picture).

These developments have either integrated their landscape into the surrounding natural greenery or have created their own expansive canopy of roof gardens, sky terraces or sprawling green fields within their premises.

Homes that come with verdant landscaping usually command a premium for their green tranquillity and exquisiteness.

However, it seems that such serene living is not appreciated by private home owners alone (64 per cent) as HDB upgraders are found to have a strong preference too (54 per cent). Mass market homes which are predominantly bought by HDB upgraders could, therefore, incorporate more greenery to boost sales.

The survey also found that contrary to popular belief, buyers may have a stronger preference for “software” than “hardware” provisions.

“Software”provisions encompass branding, advertising efforts and personal services, while “hardware” offerings cover physical peripherals such as facilities, finishes, fittings, fixtures and landscaping.

Traditionally, developers differentiate their products by enhancing their “hardware”.

For example, many developers have upgraded the types of swimming pools provided in new developments – from a simple lap pool to an array of water features like spa, dip, fun, heated, lounge and infinity pools. For some, hydro-therapeutic jets, spa equipment, aqua gyms and water playgrounds are incorporated.

Barbeque pits have also been outmoded by modern epicurean gourmet kitchens.

These entertainment pieces designed to impress guests are now stylised with different thematic cooking functions to serve tandoori, Japanese teppanyaki, Western BBQ and Italian cuisines. Brand appeals have also been raised by employing world-renowned architects, branded fittings and importing quality marble slabs from East Mediterranean countries.

But are these what buyers really want? According to the findings, common “hardware” items such as “imported quality marble tiles and timber flooring” (20 per cent), “spa facilities” (23 per cent) and “more or bigger balconies” (23 per cent) were not as popular among respondents.

Instead, they preferred “more car park lots” (43 per cent). The scarcity of both private and public parking spaces could have made this a precious commodity among buyers.

The other “hardware” item respondents chose is “white plans” (35 per cent), a relatively new concept where owners are given the flexibility and freedom to design, create and carve out their home layouts.

As this customisation usually entails higher construction costs, only some luxury homes like The Alba, Boulevard Vue and Skyline @ Orchard Boulevard offer such privileges. More developments could incorporate such design flexibility, perhaps within the confines of limited layout choices to contain costs.

Interestingly, the second and third most popular wish list items were “software” items that encompass personal services that can enhance a dweller’s daily convenience. These items include “shuttle services to main shopping belts” (53 per cent) and “services such as housekeeping, laundry, car-washing or child care services” (45 per cent).

These personal services were more popular among both private home owners and HDB upgraders than other commonly provided “software” items such as homes being “designed by renowned architects” (21 per cent) and “concierge services” (15 per cent).

Unfortunately, a comprehensive range of these personal services are not always available in developments.

Individual pockets of services are, however, found in selected private homes such as Bayshore Park, that has some laundry services, or The Minton, which is said to be contemplating some child care services from within its premises.

Moving forward, new developments could enhance their marketing strategies and forge new partnerships to enhance the palette of personal services provided for discerning home owners and investors.

After all, as society advances and competition intensifies, it would not be surprising that condominium development may incorporate the provision of services as well.

More studies can, therefore, be done to better understand the spectrum of “software” that buyers want and their impact on the buying decision.

By Christine Sun, senior manager at Savills Research and Consultancy.

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