As aspirations soar, and towers become higher, a new breed of penthouses are setting the real estate market aflame, called Super Penthouses
By: Leong Boon Hoe, COO, List Sotheby’s International Realty, Singapore
Posted on: September 26, 2019
One unique penthouse in Singapore became the talk of the town around the world when British billionaire, Sir James Dyson, of the bagless vacuum fame, paid S$73.8 million (US$53.2 million) to own it. The Wallich Residence super penthouse by developer GuocoLand is the largest and highest residence in Singapore. The five-bedroom, 21,108 sq ft “villa in the sky” sits on top of Guoco Tower and Wallich Residence at 290m (961 ft), higher than many other international properties and with unobstructed views of the Central Business District, Marina Bay and even Sentosa island.
As much as Sir Dyson’s purchase excited the whole city, billionaires buying penthouses in Singapore and causing a splash is not exactly new. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin made news in September 2017 when he bought a 10,300 sq ft, duplex penthouse at the top of the 36-storey Sculptura Ardmore by SC Global Developments in Singapore. At a price of S$60 million (US$43.3 million), it was the most expensive apartment in Singapore since Sun Tongyu, co-founder of Alibaba, forked out S$51 million (US$36.8 million) for a 13,874 sq ft penthouse at the neighbouring Le Nouvel Ardmore in 2015.
The love for penthouses can be found in most major global cities. In January 2019, the founder of hedge fund Citadel, Ken Griffin, caused a buzz when he bought a penthouse in Central Park South in New York, at the astronomical price of S$328 million (US$240 million). The 24,000 sq ft, unfurnished penthouse, which spans from the 50th to the 53rd storeys, atop a 290m tall building, set a new record for the most expensive penthouse in the world.
What is a penthouse other than an apartment unit that is at the top of a tall building? Why are people willing to pay such prices to own one?
A luxury penthouse offers top-of-the-line furnishings, private lifts and car park, generous outdoor areas and their own private pools. Some even come with hotel-style concierge. But more than just the tangible benefits, a penthouse represents luxury, space, privacy, exclusivity, great views and yes, prestige and status.
Today’s penthouses are also chasing the superlatives. There are bragging rights associated to staying in the largest or the highest penthouse. Some are found atop the “supertalls” or “cloud-busters”, that go up to 305m to 609m (1,000 ft to 1,999 ft) in height, found in major cities like New York and Dubai. These factors lead to premiums in the price of the penthouses.
As a result, a new breed of penthouses has evolved: the super penthouse. They are rare because not all developers cater for super penthouses, even if they do have penthouses. Just a few years ago, a penthouse at 8,000 sq ft might have qualified as a super penthouse, but now there is a following for even larger penthouses. Today, only penthouses that are larger than 10,000 sq ft warrant the accolade, and these usually come at a price only within reach of the ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals.
UHNW buyers tend to be collectors of fine art, prized sports cars and of course, trophy real estate. They go for nothing less than the best-in-class in terms of location, size, views, privacy, luxurious furnishings, architectural merit and more. Most of them are C-suite executives, chairpersons, and entrepreneurs. These super penthouses are not just the owner’s private abode; they’re also used as a space to host meetings and personal gatherings.
Penthouses all over the world thrive in prime areas where real estate is highly valued. Some of these exclusive residential addresses include 57th Street and Park Avenue in New York, Knightsbridge and Hyde Park in London, Peak Road at the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong and Avenue Princesse Grace in Monaco.
In Singapore, the most prestigious and exclusive residential enclaves are found close to Orchard Road such as Ardmore Park, Nassim Road, Paterson Road, Angullia Park, the financial and downtown districts (Marina Bay and Beach Road) and new waterfront districts like Keppel Bay and Sentosa Cove. These are also where some of the best penthouses are found. Since 2010, eight super penthouses have found owners, with the four largest transactions done in the last five years.
Super penthouses are generally considered less susceptible to market volatility because of their scarcity. The sale of a super penthouse may even help to restore or signal confidence in the market. Case in point is how the Central Park South sale lifted the Manhattan real estate market sentiments, which had cooled off during the global financial crisis. Similarly, in Singapore, the sale of the Le Nouvel Ardmore and Sculptura Ardmore super penthouses both took place during the property market downturn period. Such significant sales can sometimes lead to an improvement in sentiments.
The Hunt for Trophy Real Estate
Of the super penthouses around the world that are for sale right now, the one that truly stands out in terms of asking price is the uber exclusive Tour Odeon Tower Sky Penthouse in Monaco. With an asking price of S$457 million (US$335 million), it is set to become one of the most expensive luxury homes in the world once sold. Sitting atop the second tallest building on Europe’s Mediterranean coastline, the five-storey, 35,500 sq ft penthouse gives a whole new meaning to the word luxury with its 360-degree views over the sea and stunning outdoor rooftop circular infinity pool complete with a water-slide from one of the balconies.
Other reputable super penthouses currently looking for buyers include Miami’s Eighty Seven Park (asking price S$93 million/US$68 million) and One Thousand Museum (S$28 million/US$20.5 million), as well as the S$33 million/US$24.2 million Pacifica Towers in Auckland.
In Singapore alone, there are four super penthouses that are currently for sale, reflecting the growing appreciation of such assets and developers’ awareness of demand from buyers.
Of these, the largest super penthouse now is the 17,642 sq ft super penthouse at The Marq on Paterson Hill. The opulent home is fully decked out and meticulously curated in a designer house’s furniture, furnishing fabrics, wallpapers, carpets, tableware and bespoke leather upholstered items. For now, the developer, SC Global Developments, is content to hold on to the trophy asset for its corporate use.
Over at Reflections At Keppel Bay, a large waterfront residence development by Keppel Land and designed by starchitect Daniel Libeskind, a 13,293 sq ft super penthouse is the stunning crown of the 41-storey iconic tower. The triplex features six bedrooms and a huge entertainment lounge. Besides offering panoramic views of Keppel Bay, Sentosa and the open sea, the unit is so spacious that the owner can pursue personalised lifestyle options, such as creating a private spa, gymnasium or art gallery.
Along the same vein, the developer of Concourse Skyline, Hong Fok Land Limited, collaborated with luxury magazine Robb Report Singapore to transform one of its two super penthouses into a magnificent home with a carefully curated selection of state-of-the-art furniture and luxury products. Highlights include De Gournay hand-painted wallpapers, Devialet Gold and Classic Phantom Speakers, a glass chandelier and table lamp mouth-blown and-hand cut by Parisian glass artist Nathalie Ziegler, and the Rocking Chair, one of only 12 pieces worldwide, by British-Israeli designer Ron Arad. Another masterpiece is luxury German brand Kaldewei’s free standing Meisterstuck Soundwave bathtub in a stylish matte black, which acts like a membrane and plays music when connected to a Bluetooth device while the water pulsates with the beat of the music.
Super penthouses have, quite quickly, become the next high echelon of society.
With a track record of close to 20 years in managing projects and marketing premium residential properties in Singapore and key gateway cities in Asia such as China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, Leong Boon Hoe heads the company’s strategic development and core businesses, including brokerage, project marketing, investment advisory, research and consulting services. He is also in charge of setting up the investment team to advise and broker cross border transactions in Southeast Asia. Under his leadership, List Sotheby’s International Realty, Singapore, recently won four awards at the Asia Pacific Property Awards 2019-2020, including top awards for real estate agency marketing and website, as well as national awards for development marketing and real estate agency (single office).