What Are Singapore’s Good Class Bungalows And Why Do UHNWIs Want Them?

aerial view of singapore
Singapore's Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) are the ultimate place to live in the country.

A purchase of a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) in Singapore signals a wealthy individual’s arrival toward becoming part of high society.

As the ultimate place to live in the country, GCBs attract ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) because of their exclusivity and uniqueness.

Not many people can buy a GCB property, which makes it even more attractive. Singapore has reserved most GCB purchases for its citizens since 2012.

In other words, foreigners simply can’t acquire GCBs even if they are among the world’s billionaires. There are, however, specific exceptions that may allow foreigners to acquire landed homes in GCB areas.

singapore harbor skyline aerial view at dusk

Demand for Singapore’s luxury properties is expected to see continued growth in 2022.

Permanent Residency And A Hefty Contribution

British billionaire James Dyson reportedly moved to Singapore in 2019 as a permanent resident. In the same year, Dyson spent more than US $87 million on two luxury properties:

  1. GCB at 50 Cluny Road in Bukit Timah
  2. Penthouse unit at Guoco Tower

How did the inventor of bagless vacuum cleaners acquire a GCB if he’s a foreigner? The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) approved the purchase based on two known factors:

  1. An “exceptional economic contribution” to the country
  2. Permanent residency for at least five years

Keep in mind that SLA reviews the potential economic contribution based on several factors, including an individual’s income.

Dyson also didn’t purchase a GCB right away after meeting the SLA’s criteria. His first luxury property purchase cost more than $54 million in 2019: a 21,000-square-foot penthouse unit in Guoco Tower.

singapore skyline with gardens and clouds

A detailed set of architecture and construction elements further shrouds GCBs in exclusivity.

GCBs Are Designed To Be Exclusive

A detailed set of architecture and construction elements further shrouds GCBs in exclusivity. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) requires each GCB to measure at least 1,400 square meters.

The property’s depth and width must also be at least 30 meters and 18.5 meters, respectively. You also won’t see GCBs that are higher than two stories.

Houses in GCB areas may appear smaller than expected because of a land-use policy. The URA only allows the bungalow itself to occupy up to 40% of the plot’s size.

singapore condominiums at night

Condominiums in Singapore’s wealthy neighborhoods are popular among investors because the purchase does not require approval from the government.

Why Are GCBs Sought-After Properties?

Brilliance Capital founder Sammi Lim describes GCBs as the “crème de la crème” of Singapore’s luxury property market.

Lim’s background in international luxury real estate for over 17 years provided her with a broad yet in-depth knowledge of prime properties.

Her insights made it easy to understand the rarity of GCBs. Lim estimated that there are approximately 2,800 GCBs in the country.

Despite some of these properties costing more than US $20 million, the Covid-19 outbreak reignited UHNWIs’ desire to own GCBs.

Lim believes that the rich further realized the importance of quality homes during a pandemic. A more spacious house in an exclusive area sets the backdrop of a perfect place for isolation.

Some investors not only pursued GCBs due to Covid-19. They also chose Singapore because its residential market has outperformed its counterparts in Asia, according to Lim.

In neighboring luxury property markets such as Hong Kong, the trend of finding bigger homes became more evident as well. Several high-profile deals in 2021 indicated a brewing battle for exclusive properties.

orchard road in singapore with shops and skyscrapers

Buyers looking at prime locations such as Orchard Road should expect lots of competition.

Why Did Singapore Tighten Rules For GCB Purchases?

Singaporean authorities enforced tighter rules for GCB acquisitions to prevent an uncontrollable rise in residential property prices. Analysts predict that it would be more expensive for the average Singaporean to buy a house in 2030.

Another reason for the stricter criteria involves environmental conservation. The URA classified 39 GCB areas with diverse species of plants and trees.

For instance, Dyson’s GCB in Bukit Timah overlooks the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The URA seeks to protect the UNESCO World Heritage Site and other conservation areas by not allowing disruptive housing projects (e.g. condominiums).

If you’re unwilling to buy a GCB but still want to buy a luxury home in Singapore, check out Brilliance Capital’s recent listings.

Author

Randolf Santos has covered different segments of the real estate industry since 2014. He worked at S&P Global Market Intelligence before joining Forbes Global Properties as a contributor. You can reach him at [email protected]

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