SINGAPORE — There has been indicator that suggest the obvious signs of the influx of the influx of ultra-wealthy families from overseas, particularly from China to Singapore.

Despite Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied claims on the city state is set to attract nearly 3,500 high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) with a net worth exceeding US$1 million to become citizens this year, local economy has since feel the impact of the influx of these HNWIs, such as the rising demand and property values.

For examples, the price of golf memberships for expats at the exclusive Sentosa Golf Club surged last year to S$840,000 as more Chinese join.

Singapore’s real estate market has defied a global slump as newcomers snap up luxury condos, driving prices higher for 12 straight quarters.

According to EdgeProp.sg, these wealthy Chinese buyers even eyeing on conservation shophouse in the CBD and Chinatown, driving the transaction spiked above $7,000 psf.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has only accorded approximately 6,500 shophouses in Singapore with conservation status, making this class of property extremely rare.

Shophouses are only granted “conservation status” if they possess distinctive architectural features which are of historical and cultural significance.

Local property agent observed a recent surge in overseas investors

During an interview with EdgeProp.sg, Loyalle Chin, the director of PropNex ShophouseHuat and associate group division director of PropNex Realty, observed that “a fresh wave of overseas investors, including those from China”, who are driving up prices for commercial shophouses in Singapore’s CBD.

In early April, a 999-year leasehold, two-storey intermediate conservation shophouse along Amoy Street was sold for $21.8 million, which is $3.112 million (16.65%) higher than its last sale in November 2022.

The buyer, NC Properties, is said to be linked to Hong Kong’s New Century Group and has invested in conservation shophouses in the Telok Ayer and Circular Road neighbourhood.

The article also mentioned other shophouses in the CBD and Chinatown that have sold for prices above $7,000 psf.

For instance, Liberty House, a five-storey commercial building on a 999-year leasehold site of 7,180 sq ft with a gross floor area of 28,876 sq ft, was sold for $92.2 million.

The buyer is Union Property Holding, whose owner is Zhang Nie, the former Singapore head of Chinese oil trader Unipec. The price reflects $3,193 psf.

Chinese nationals turning to commercial shophouses that have licenses for nightclub use

Loyalle Chin told EdgeProp.sg that some Chinese nationals who had rented Good Class Bungalows (GCB) in prime districts or bungalows at Sentosa Cove in the last two years, intended to turn their homes into party houses, which is not allowed in private residential neighbourhoods.

Consequently, they are now turning to commercial shophouses that have licenses for nightclub use from the Urban Redevelopment Authority and public entertainment licenses from the Singapore Police Force, allowing them to open until 3 am.

Chin added, “It allows them to hold live shows, entertain friends and even open the venue to the public.”

Bugis Point, a six-storey commercial shophouse with a total floor area of 19,902 sq ft and a 999-year leasehold on a 2,784 sq ft site, was put up for sale by expression of interest, which closed on April 18.

Loyalle Chin stated that the building has an indicative price of $92 million, or approximately $4,623 psf on the floor area.

Bugis Point is fully leased, and tenants hold public entertainment licenses that allow them to operate until 3 am.

Chin added that Bugis Point has seen “multiple interested parties and received several offers”, most of the interested parties are said to be Chinese.

Singaporean politicians asked the government for more details on whether the surge in wealth will affect the income gap

Over the past seven months, politicians from the opposition parties and even the ruling People’s Action Party have asked the government for more details on whether the surge in wealth will affect the income gap, what rich immigrants have been investing in locally, and what impact Chinese non-residents have had on property prices and rents.

According to a report by Bloomberg, despite spending lavishly on mansions, luxury cars, and golf club memberships, few meetings with Chinese tycoons have resulted in business beyond basic custodian deals, according to hedge funds, banks, and private equity firms.

Family office assets at Singapore’s banks are on the rise, but money managers say little of that cash is being invested in funds or private equity firms that would generate the hefty fees needed to create a flood of jobs.

Finance executives quoted by Bloomberg cite two main reasons for the reluctance: the tiny capital markets in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and the time needed for tycoons to feel comfortable with advisers they barely know.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore estimated there were about 700 family offices at the end of 2021. Industry experts say the current estimate is more like 1,400, with mainland Chinese the biggest drivers of growth.

The backlog alone of single-family offices applying for tax incentives and pending approvals is around 200, according to Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in response to a question filed by Workers’ Party Louis Chua in March.

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