From city-living to Sentosa Cove condo: How a family’s love for golf made them uproot for a 'resort' lifestyle

PHOTO: Crystal Low

When Crystal Low and her husband started their first banking jobs 20 years ago, their matrimonial home was an HDB apartment. Today, after a successful career in the financial industry, the couple, who are now in their mid-40s, live with their teenage daughter and Weimaraner dog at The Coast at Sentosa Cove. 

Indeed, while property prices on the mainland of Singapore have been on a tear since Q3 2020, home prices at Sentosa Cove are showing signs of a gradual, upward trend since falling from their sky-high $2,000 psf prices in 2010.

From Q1 2020, condo prices on the island have averaged between $1,300-$1,700 psf. On the other hand, due to their scarcity, landed houses are signalling a bold, move towards $2,000 psf yet again. What’s remarkable is the sales volume, which skyrocketed in Q1/Q2 this year for both condo and landed houses compared to last year.

Due in large part to Covid-19 and work-from-home trends, high-net-worth and affluent Singaporeans (and foreigners) have been trading the conveniences of city-living for Sentosa’s privacy and sea-facing tranquillity.

Up till mid-August this year, there have been 103 transactions – 85 condominiums and 18 landed homes. This is 84 per cent more than the whole of 2020, where 43 condos and 13 landed homes on Sentosa Cove were sold, like this one we previously mentioned .

So for Crystal, it’s no surprise that her family would fall in love with Sentosa and choose to uproot to the island.

“Staying at Sentosa Cove is akin to staying overseas, like living in a vacation home,” she told, “there are few places in Singapore that could give the same ‘resort feel’ like what we saw in Australia’s Mandurah or Gold Coast. The idea of a ‘vacation home’ took shape in our wishlist when we were travelling in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe". 

Her home at The Coast is a 2000-plus-sqft, 3-bedroom apartment. As it sits on a promontory with unblocked views from all sides, she gets an amazing sea view from her balcony and an unblocked view of Singapore’s city skyline, including the Marina Bay Financial District, on the other. One can only imagine the Instagram-worthy panorama during the National Day fireworks.

The Coast at Sentosa Cove was completed in 2009 and stands at eight storeys tall. Beyond its full condo facilities, it has nearby supermarkets like Jasons The Gourmet Grocer (Quayside Isle) and Cold Storage, so residents don’t need to make the extra effort to drive into the city for a routine grocery run.

Other popular 99-year leasehold condos located around the marina- or sea-facing promontories (ie. Ocean Drive, Cove Way and Cove Drive in District 4) include The Oceanfront, The Berth by the Cove, The Azure, Cape Royale, Seascape, Marina Collection and Turquoise. 

Yet, the love for an islander’s life isn’t the only catalyst that prompted Crystal and her family to move out of the mainland. It was timing. According to her, she did consider moving to Sentosa in 2011/2012 but hesitated. At that time, the same apartment type was going for $4.5m (about $2,500 psf), which she said, was “really way out of our budget.”

Things changed as Covid struck and prices dipped to as low as $1,309.22 psf for a 4-room apartment at The Coast in April last year. Similarly, a 3-bedroom apartment at The Azure was sold at $1,194.27 psf in August 2020 while a 3-bedroom apartment at The Oceanfront sold at $1,072.09 psf in December last year.

At these per-square-foot prices, Crystal knew it was time.

“In Aug 2020, we managed to secure this high floor apartment unit at The Coast at below $1,500 psf. We realised that prices here have corrected to levels comparable to suburban home prices on the main island, which prompted us to seriously consider investing in this property.”

A family’s love for golf and a few weeks of rent

Before settling down in Sentosa Cove, Crystal has been buying and selling private residential properties as a private investor for the past 15 to 18 years. She’s bought mainly freehold condominiums in prime locations near good schools – during a time when there were no Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD), interest rates were low and rental yields were high.

“During my working years, my husband and I were holding onto several investment properties while living with my in-laws. As my husband and I worked, we needed our extended family to support and care for our daughter.

“In early 2020, which was before Covid-19 struck, we joined the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC). After several golf outings, my husband and I felt that we could really live and play in Sentosa Cove. That kind of started our journey to look for a property on the island.”

Instead of jumping right away into purchasing a property there, Crystal and her family made the decision to rent and live in one of the condominiums first – to try out the ‘resort’ lifestyle and see if it suits them.

After several weeks, they felt that Sentosa Cove is a place they could live long-term. The family of three enjoys golfing at SGC and the idyllic lifestyle on the island.

“It’s a paradise island for anyone who wants to reconnect with nature – leisurely walks by the sea, swimming with your child, walking by the beach with your pets, or just listening to the waves. My daughter and I got many opportunities to get up close with different wildlife – peacocks, hornbills, macaws – they were simply magical.

“Staying at Sentosa Cove, not just visiting as a tourist, is a very unique experience. There is a happy vibe about it, even for visitors. Everyone coming to visit the island are here for a good time.”

At that point, returning to the hustle and bustle of the mainland was no longer a priority. Crystal and her family decided to go ahead with the purchase.

To fund their property, they took partial profit on their investment properties on the main island and reinvested the proceeds into their new home. They were initially concerned with the tenure being a 99-year leasehold, but couldn’t resist the attractive price point and the island’s lifestyle offering. Besides, as seasoned property investors, they still have several other freehold properties on the mainland.

As the saying goes, #Yolo.

After an extensive 4-month renovation, Crystal and her family settled in before end-August this year. They decked their property in a modern, Mediterranean theme to suit the location.

“Nowadays, apart from running errands on the mainland, like visiting our parents, or fetching my daughter for enrichment classes, we prefer to spend our time exploring the island, engaging with the numerous activities like walking, cycling, dining, golfing and so on.

Every day feels like a holiday. As we hardly go to the malls now, we’ve been spending more time with home-cooked food and enjoying the views. For my husband, he enjoys his runs, walking the dog and occasional dips in the pool.”

Insights as seasoned homeowners

“Throughout our home-buying journey, we have been fortunate because we were never influenced by peers or the norm where we needed to put a major part of our financial assets into our matrimonial home. Our focus has been to invest in properties that generated additional yield.

“We took the unconventional method of diversifying, leveraging and generating yield from our investment portfolio, so we can reallocate resources to sectors we felt were underpriced.”

As a seasoned homeowner, Crystal shared the need to be open to ideas and try out different aspects before deciding what’s best (eg. her rent-first example). What worked for others might not work best for someone else.

“Once you know what you want, narrow down your top priorities. Ask questions like ‘is the property located near your children’s schools or workplaces?’ ‘Does it have to be freehold with huge upside potential?’ Also, never neglect your gut feel.”

In hindsight, Crystal admitted that choosing Sentosa Cove is 'definitely more emotions than rational thinking'. 

“For a place like Sentosa Cove, we went with our hearts in choosing the ideal place to live.” For a family who golfs at SGC on a near-weekly basis, it’s definitely a home-in-one to tee-off, love, play and relax.

ALSO READ: Can you afford a Sentosa property now that it's 'cheap'?

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