With work-from-home (WFH) likely to be entrenched even after the pandemic, demand for resort-style residences with plentiful facilities and multi-functional space is growing in Asia
Last year may be in the rear-view mirror but Covid-19-induced uncertainty will affect Asian real estate markets for the foreseeable future.
Retail and hospitality have been wounded due to lockdowns and travel restrictions while the mass residential sector is battling belt-tightening in most global property markets.
Still, not all segments were equally impacted in the year the world stood still. And some, such as branded residences and resort-style properties, even managed to thrive amidst the turmoil.
Off the back of a buoyant decade in which the number of branded residences around the world increased by 170 percent, an additional 100 new projects launched in 2020, according to a recent report by Savills.
Asia, in particular, has witnessed a surge in development, especially of urban resort-style properties that often bear the branding of global hospitality titans.
In early 2020, hospitality and real estate consultancy firm C9 Hotelworks noted that the region now accounts for more than a third of global stock for hotel-branded residences.
“Despite the pandemic, we are seeing green shoots in urban-located resort-style residences,” says Bill Barnett, the company’s founder and managing director. “One thing that is impactful from the pandemic is the work-from-home (WFH) ethos, with branded properties increasingly attractive given their scale of facilities and onsite services that lend themselves to this opportunity going forward.”
Indeed, the current environment looks set to bring both operational and design challenges—but also plenty of opportunities—as the balance of private-to-shared space in residences is reconsidered.
Flexibility is expected to be paramount, with space that can be configured as an additional bedroom, study or home gym becoming increasingly important to homeowners, in addition to a greater desire for private outdoor spaces.
One thing that is impactful from the pandemic is the work-from-home ethos, with branded properties increasingly attractive given their scale of facilities and onsite services that lend themselves to this opportunity going forward
Shared amenities are expected to remain in demand, although their usage may change, and the adoption of proptech is accelerating as a result. Apps, for instance, that allow residents to book facilities and cap occupancy levels could assist in the short term and allow interaction with the concierge, reducing the need for human contact.
“It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that widespread travel bans and work-from-anywhere tendencies will likely have long-term, structural implications on many asset classes,” says Kristin Thorsteins, partner with Portman Investment, a strategic advisory firm for hospitality and early-stage tech startups. “Another direct consequence of the pandemic is that people realised the feasibility of working from home and sought a more pleasant environment to stay in during lockdowns.
Given the reassurance that branded and resort-style residences provide in terms of quality and service, I believe the sector will see increased interest from potential buyers.”
Despite the economic turmoil, Morgan Stanley recently stated that high-net-worth individuals’ wealth is set to fall by only four percent before rebounding in 2021, which also bodes well for the upscale segment.
Affluent, globally mobile individuals are, after all, branded residences’ primary demand base. Knight Frank’s latest Global Branded Residences report goes as far as stating that there is “a direct correlation between wealth creation and demand for branded residences” and they see “a renewed interest in the branded concept given the rapid growth in global wealth witnessed since 2000.”
Another pandemic-triggered trend emerging in the segment is the shift from resort-style residences being used largely as holiday homes to primary properties, especially in major cities.
Even before the outbreak, developers and operators were targeting affluent investors in prime urban neighbourhoods across major Asian capitals, including Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore—and to a lesser extent, emerging market hubs like Ho Chi Minh City. The current pipeline of branded residences, in fact, is now evenly split between cities and resorts in the region, according to the Knight Frank report.
With demand for upscale urban resort residences expected to continue through 2021 as other segments gradually recover, we round up some of the year’s most innovative, eye-catching and award-winning resort-style properties from around the region.
Walden Thonglor 8 by Habitat Group
Located along Bangkok’s most happening high street, Walden Thonglor 8 breaks from the neighbourhood’s bright lights, brick and mortar to provide homeowners with a minimalist oasis amidst the mix of upscale restaurants, bars, and boutique malls. Privacy is paramount here, although convenience remains king with some of the city’s top education institutes, healthcare facilities, and luxury retail outlets within walking distance.
Beyond the exclusive address, this eight-storey low-rise by the reputable Habitat Group features 117 units ranging in size from 31-square-metre one-bedroom units to open-plan apartments with skyline vistas. Amenities meanwhile include a state-of-the-art fitness centre, automatic parking, and multipurpose rooftop with numerous pools, gardens, and a party area. Recently named Best Low-Rise High-End Condo Development (Bangkok) at the PropertyGuru Thailand Property Awards, units at Walden Thonglor 8 start from THB8.9m (USD297,360).
The glass facade and lavish interiors may be a far cry from Thoreau’s humble abode, but the bucolic exteriors, relative peacefulness and picturesque rooftop do offer a much-needed antidote to Thong Lor’s soaring high-rises and round-the-clock lifestyle amenities.
dusitD2 Residences Cebu by Grand Land Inc.
In a first for the Thai-born but increasingly international Dusit Thani, the hospitality group recently introduced its boutique dusitD2 Residence brand to Cebu. The group’s third property in the Philippines, located within local development partner Grand Land’s multi-tower condominium Grand Residences Cebu, aims to bring bleeding-edge design, technology and five-star facilities to residents in the heart of the eponymous island’s coastal capital.
Convenience, culture and charming coastlines are in abundance in this part of town. A par 5 from Cebu Golf & Country Club and within walking distance to the bustling CBD, the 160-unit property is accessed by a private lobby with facilities including an all-day dining restaurant, gym, pool and meeting rooms, as well as a roof deck lounge with ocean and urban vistas on the 35th floor. Accolades are already stacking up for the city’s first branded residence, the latest being a Best High End Condo Development (Metro Cebu) gong at the 2020 PropertyGuru Philippines Property Awards.
Dusit Thani prides itself on exporting Thailand’s legendary hospitality around the world, and this latest boutique addition in the Philippines succeeds in the sabai sabai department. Each of the seven-unit types is managed and maintained to five-star hotel standards, with 24/7 concierge service and rental programme, which is slated to generate up to 11 percent ROI per annum.
Amber Heights by UMLand
The award-winning Amber Heights is the first high-rise residential project located within UMLand’s maiden township Bandar Seri Alam. Situated on the outskirts of Johor Bahru, the nature-inspired, 240-unit property boasts a best-of-both-worlds appeal with seamless access to both the state capital and nearby Singapore.
Connectivity is the obvious allure at Amber Heights. Rubbing shoulders with one of the world’s leading metropolises — without the eye-watering cost of living — and Malaysia’s fastest-developing city make it an attractive proposition for families, professional couples and investors alike. Developed by one of Malaysia’s most reputable real estate firms, resort-style amenities and unit layouts cater to diverse tastes and price points. The intelligently designed clubhouse and abundance of green space, including parks, a plaza for get-togethers, and basketball court, are particular highlights at Amber Heights, which recently won the Best Condo/Apartment Development (Southern) trophy at the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Malaysia).
As part of the sprawling, 3,762-acre Bandar Seri Alam township, Amber Heights residents benefit from the plethora of education institutes located in the ‘City of Knowledge’, as well as medical facilities, including the Regency Specialist Hospital, and the recently opened Gravity Green. Spanning 4.87 acres, the township’s impressive food haven is already home to a number of renowned F&B brands such as Starbucks, Der’Cabin Bistro and Bay Street 66.
The M @ Middle Road by Wing Tai Asia
Dynamic District 7 is arguably one of Singapore’s most diverse neighbourhoods. Here, high-rises vie with old-world charm while backstreet boutiques complement contemporary retail malls and lifestyle amenities. Slated for completion in 2024, The M @ Middle Road promises to add refined accommodation to the equation. The mixed-use property, which features three 20-storey residential towers and 16,000 square foot of commercial space, sits in the district’s epicentre, only moments from the main attractions.
Designed by one of the Lion State’s most established architectural firms, P+T Group, the 522-unit development has been conceived to maximise its natural surroundings, including neighbouring Kallang Riverside Park, and harness views of Singapore’s ever-evolving skyline. Some of the city’s most popular shopping destinations, in addition to diverse dining and nightlife spots, are also on the doorstep. Access to the upcoming Nicoll Highway will bring the rest of the island much closer while the nearby Bugis, Esplanade, and City Hall MRT stations connect residents with the CBD within minutes.
Many of the unit types, which range from 409 square foot studios to three-bedroom apartments, are designed to incorporate a home/work concept—a much sought-after commodity in the current climate—with flexible spaces and furnishings. A series of low-rise, township-style properties on the lower floors, meanwhile, are ideal for multigenerational living.
The Residences at St. Regis Jakarta by Rajawali Property Group
A flurry of high-profile branded properties have put Jakarta on the investor radar in recent years, but few are as highly anticipated as The Residences at St. Regis. Starwood’s luxury hospitality brand makes its debut in habitual style with 164 fully serviced freehold units adjacent to The St. Regis Jakarta in the Indonesian capital’s prestigious Setiabudi district.
The St. Regis is one of those few elite global hospitality brands that boasts a coterie of loyal followers. Entry to the club obviously comes at a cost (in this case, almost USD2m for a three-bedroom property) but those with the resources are unlikely to be underwhelmed. Upon completion in mid-2021, the 62-storey tower will feature three apartment types: a three-bedroom Sky Residence occupying up to 373sqm, a 750sqm Sky Villa, and the premium four-bedroom Sky Palace.
Ownership inevitably comes with direct access to the hotel brand’s legendary amenities, which in this case include exclusive concierge service, a wine room, private garden pool, private dining and library lounge, and exclusive use of St Regis’s signature Butler Service, as well as the hotel’s fitness and fine dining facilities.
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