The GCB, in the style of the Tang Dynasty, is sold by Raymond Ng, executive chairman of Enviro-Hub Holdings
PERCHED on platforms near the swimming pool at the sprawling residence, two 15-tonne stone lions cut imposing figures.
The main house’s exterior walls are fitted with display panels showcasing centuries-old marble relics from China. A custom-designed tea room inside features vintage pots and tea bricks that cost US$7,000 a piece.
Even for Singapore, this house sets a new standard. It’s selling for S$63 million, and that doesn’t include some 500 Chinese artifacts for which the buyer will have to fork over a few million more.
The house, modelled after the seventh-century Tang Dynasty capital of Chang’an, is almost like a private museum, showcasing the collections of owner Raymond Ng, the executive chairman of Enviro-Hub Holdings, a Singapore property and recycling business.
Mr Ng, who has lived in the house for more than five years, bought it in 2010 for S$17.3 million and spent another S$12 million designing and renovating the property, according to Jervis Ng, an agent with JNA Real Estate, who’s handling the sale. Mr Ng, the owner and no relation to the agent, declined to comment.
It’s clear that Mr Ng is a Chinese artifact aficionado, with pieces in the basement of an annex building that include an armillary sphere from the Ming Dynasty and two rare bone sculptures of which there are just four in the world.
There are also silk paintings by Giuseppe Castiglione, known as Lang Shining when he lived in China as a painter for emperors in the Qing dynasty.
There are plenty of modern touches in the Camden Park home that sits on a plot of land measuring more than 26,000 square feet (sq ft), or the size of about five basketball courts.
Among the standout features: a car elevator and basement garage that can accommodate up to 12 vehicles, and a wine cellar arch that holds 2,000 bottles. There is a two-storey walk-in closet with spiral staircase.
While such homes would be regarded as mansions in other countries, they are known as “good class bungalows” in Singapore.
The term was first used in a government master plan in 1980 to attract high-net worth people to contribute to the city’s economy, according to British academic Robert Powell, author of Singapore Good Class Bungalow 1819-2015.
In land-scarce Singapore, where 80 per cent of the population live in HDB flats, there are only about 2,500 of these lavish private properties, typically located in prime districts and ensconced behind dense foliage to maintain privacy. Some are more than 100 years old, dating to colonial times.
Bungalows are modest homes in many parts of the world, but in Singapore, the plot of land must be at least 1,400 square metres (15,070 sq ft) to meet the standard.
Each comes with a price tag that can easily run into the tens of millions.
“Good class bungalows are highly attractive to affluent buyers for their scarcity and prestige status,” said Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie.
Another restriction that makes them exclusive – buyers have to be Singapore citizens. Foreigners can buy the properties by becoming citizens, or if their spouse has citizenship.
Some notable local owners include Lim Oon Kuin, whose beleaguered energy firm Hin Leong Trading collapsed this year after hiding losses.
The bungalows have also been a draw for the super rich from overseas who have settled in Singapore.
Notable owners include Dyson founder James Dyson and Alibaba Group Holding co-founder James Sheng. The Business Times reported that the record price for a bungalow here is S$230 million, in a sale last year to Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.
In the first five months of this year, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the two-month circuit breaker and an economic recession, at least five bungalows were sold. The most expensive was priced at S$40 million.
Mr Ng’s residence would easily top that if it is sold for the asking price, in a small test of Singapore’s real estate rebound.
“Very few new good class bungalows have been built over the years, which adds rarity of such prized possessions,” Ms Sun said. “Therefore, they will likely continue to be one of the coveted assets among the affluent in the long run.” BLOOMBERG