Husband and wife, Mr and Mrs Tan, medical specialists in their respective fields, saw 75 houses in three months when they were house-hunting in 2021. “It was the peak of the craziness for house buying in 2021,” relates Mrs Tan. “We got gazumped twice and were near the end of our tether when we decided to just look at off-plan options because we couldn’t find any house that we liked that was already built.”
Many of the houses they saw were old and in need of refurbishment. “This was in 2021, and in the pandemic times, I wouldn’t dare buy a house that needed a lot of work,” says Mrs Tan. Their find after the 75th house was a pair of semi-detached houses at 51 and 51A Vanda Road that were still under construction.
The structure and the roof were up, and the developer was targeting to complete and obtain temporary occupation permit (TOP) for the houses in March 2022.
The living and dining area with full-height glass doors opening out to the pool (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Due to Covid, construction was slow and hampered by delays in the delivery of some of the materials. TOP was only obtained nine months later, on Dec 5, 2022. “We felt like we were waiting a long time for the house,” says Mrs Tan. “We finally moved in just the week before Christmas.”
The site was formerly a detached house sitting on a freehold site of 7,246 sq ft and was purchased for $10.5 million ($1,449 psf) in 2017.
Recent sales transactions at Vanda Road: EdgeProp Landlens
The buyer then rented out the house for the next two years until late 2019. In early 2020, approval was obtained to redevelop the property into a pair of semi-detached houses, 51 and 51A Vanda Road. Pau Loh, managing partner of Tellus Design, was engaged to design the new pair of semi-detached houses.
The pair of semi-detached houses was a redevelopment of the former detached house at 51 Vanda Road (Source: EdgeProp Inspector)
‘Streamlined modern architecture’
Owing to Covid, works on the site were delayed by a year. However, Tellus’s design was unchanged as Loh drew inspiration from “the streamlined, modern architecture” of Tiong Bahru, where the low-rise public housing blocks built in the 1930s to 1950s by the Singapore Improvement Trust — the predecessor of HDB — were gazetted for conservation in 2003. “It’s a minimalist Art Deco style, and it suits our tropical climate,” he says.
Loh added his own interpretation by introducing wider overhanging eaves and deeper recesses to create shelter and cool the house’s interiors. “We wanted to break away from the rectilinear modern houses that predominate the current house designs,” he adds.
The house at 51 Vanda Road appears more spacious because of the horizontal design elements incorporated, according to Loh, such as the recessed walls and the wraparound balcony with the wide overhang on the third level.
The third level of the house has recessed walls with wide eaves and a wraparound balcony (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Tellus has also designed many houses across Singapore. Loh’s works in the Bukit Timah enclave include a pair of semi-detached houses at 16 Greenview Crescent; an ongoing house at 23 Maple Avenue; and a redevelopment property at 49 and 51 Jalan Ampang, off Coronation Road West.
When construction at 51 and 51A Vanda Road started in 2021, a neighbour approached the developer about buying one of the semi-detached houses. The semi-detached house at 51A Vanda Road sits on a freehold site of 3,504 sq ft and was purchased for $10.9 million ($3,111 psf) in September 2021, according to a caveat lodged with URA. Mr and Mrs Tan purchased their home at 51 Vanda Road, which sits on a slightly larger site of 3,667 sq ft, for $11.18 million ($3,049 psf) in November 2021, based on the caveat lodged then.
The kitchen with Gaggenau appliances and glass panels that can be closed if needed (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
House with high-specs
The house features high specifications, from marble flooring in the living and dining areas, to a home lift serving every floor, and full travertine marble bathrooms equipped with top-end sanitaryware and bathroom fixtures. The kitchen is fitted with a full range of luxury Gaggenau appliances, including a dishwasher and Blum kitchen cabinetry.
Given a choice between an open or enclosed kitchen, Mrs Tan opted for “the best of both worlds” — customised glass panels that can be folded back or closed.
A customised wine cellar was also installed for Mr Tan, which saw interior design firm Kuhlmann International working closely with Celsius Equipment, a specialist designer and builder of wine cellars. The wine cellar can fit over 1,000 bottles.
As the wine cellar had taken the space meant for the helper’s room, the latter was moved to the yard. A new wet kitchen has also been built in the yard.
Wine cellar that can fit over 1,000 bottles (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The house has solar panels on the rooftop, which helps reduce the energy bill.
The property has a car porch and driveway that can fit four cars, a garden, and a 16m lap pool. The three-storey semi-detached house has a built-up area of 9,000 sq ft, with five en suite bedrooms.
The master bedroom and two bedrooms are on the second level, with the remaining two on the third level. The couple worked closely with Kuhlmann on the design of the walk-in wardrobe in the master bedroom, the built-in wardrobe in their sons’ bedrooms, and the interiors of the rest of the house.
Mrs Tan's favourite area is the family room on the second level, where she can watch Netflix and check on her two sons occasionally to ensure they are doing their homework in their bedrooms. “We have seen many houses, and very few have a family area and at least three bedrooms on the same level,” she adds.
Family room on the second level of the house (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The third level of the house has been turned into a home entertainment area with a pool room and another for foosball, where her sons can entertain their friends. The two bedrooms on the third level are guest rooms, although one doubles as a home office for Mr Tan.
In addition to air-conditioning, Haiku ceiling fans have been installed in all the bedrooms and the main areas of the house. The house has 3.2m ceilings and is north-south facing, with a nice breeze on most days. “The house is also blocked from the sun by the house next door, so the pool is shaded,” says Mrs Tan.
Mr Tan estimates that they spent about $500,000 on the interiors and in furnishing the home.
The entertainment area with a pool room and another for foosball on the third level of the house (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
On the hunt again
However, the couple is now searching for a bigger home, a detached house this time. “We are addicted to fresh starts,” says Mr Tan. “We have lived in Canada and the UK, and we have done a lot of such home changes. We moved three times in the UK. Since moving back to Singapore, this is our third place.”
It’s the creative process that the couple thrives on. “We like doing our own designs, and right now, we want to do something else,” he adds. “We thought we should put our house on the market, and if we can get the right price, we’d be happy to go and find something else.”
This time around, they want an old property, where they can embark on additions and alterations. Alternatively, Tan adds, it could be a piece of land “where we can have carte blanche” to design the house.
Mrs Tan agrees. “It’s a hobby,” she says. “We were very hands-on in the interior design process for this house and selected the finishings ourselves. We also like art, wine and things with aesthetic and functional elements.”
Master bedroom with balcony featuring willows (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The couple has seen most of the houses on the market. “We are not in that same frenzy as before,” says Mrs Tan. “If there is a house showing, we will go and see. But there’s limited stock, so there are fewer new viewings. We are just keeping an eye on the market and monitoring prices.”
Alvin Choo, associate district director of investment sales and affluent markets at PropNex, is handling the sale of the semi-detached house at 51 Vanda Road, which will be sold by private treaty. The asking price is $13.8 million ($3,763 psf).
The property on Vanda Road is in a quiet private housing estate off Dunearn Road in prime District 11. Top schools in the vicinity include Nanyang Girls’ High, National Junior College, Raffles Girls’ Primary and Hwa Chong Institution. Choo notes that the Vanda Road area has wider roads and predominantly detached and semi-detached houses. It is also flanked by the Eng Neo and Raffles Park Good Class Bungalow Areas. “The residential enclave is less dense and, therefore, more exclusive,” he says.
Choo of PropNex: It's almost brand new, with high-quality interior design, a wine cellar, and in move-in condition (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Costs of new build versus old
According to Choo, given the generous built-up area of 9,000 sq ft, the semi-detached house on Vanda Road can easily fit a multi-generational family. “It’s almost brand-new, with high-quality interior design, a wine cellar, and in move-in condition,” he says.
Based on caveats lodged, two semi-detached houses sold over the past 12 months were at 6A Vanda Drive on a 3,542 sq ft site that fetched $12 million ($3,388 psf) in September 2022, and 6B Vanda Drive that also went for $12 million or $3,375 psf in January, given its slightly larger land area of 3,555 sq ft. The two houses were completed earlier this year. However, the two semi-detached houses at Vanda Drive have smaller built-up areas of about 7,000 sq ft, Choo points out.
Opposite 51 Vanda Road is 56 Vanda Road, an old semi-detached house that changed hands for $8.8 million ($2,230 psf) in March 2022. The property sits on a freehold site of 3,946 psf. As the original house was built in 1977, it is likely to be torn down and rebuilt.
Loh of Tellus Design describes his design of the semi-detached houses at 51 and 51A Vanda Road as “streamlined, modern architecture” (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Choo reckons land costs in the Vanda Road neighbourhood are likely to be in the $2,200 to $2,500 psf range today, depending on the shape of the land, elevation, location and other attributes.
Tellus’s Loh estimates it will cost about $2.5 million to $3 million to build a new semi-detached house with the exact specifications and built-up area as the property at 51 Vanda Road today.
Unlike Mr and Mrs Tan, not many home buyers relish the idea of redeveloping a property, notes PropNex’s Choo. Most would prefer something new. Over the years, he has seen more “emerging successful professionals” moving to the area — “partly also due to the good schools, the amenities and prime address”, he adds.