On June 20, a single buyer scooped up 20 one-bedroom units at Scotts Square at prices ranging from $1.76 million ($2,821 psf) for a unit on the 13th floor to $2.01 million ($3,220 psf) for a unit on the 30th floor, according to caveats lodged with URA Realis. The total purchase price for the units was $37.388 million, which translated into an average price of $2,966 psf based on the strata area.

The apartments are 624 and 635 sq ft and located on the 12th to 30th floors.

According to market sources, the buyer is an Indonesian who purchased the units via a private banker. It is unclear whether a bulk discount was given or whether there was a rebate on the additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD), which is 15% for foreigners. Even those who purchase residential units using a company or special-purpose vehicle will be subject to the 15% ABSD.

Scotts Square comprises 338 freehold units in two towers sitting on top of a high-end mall. On the left is the Grand Hyatt and on the right, the Marriott Singapore and Tangs department store

Including the bulk purchase, the freehold project is about 90% sold. Completed in 2011, the residences at Scotts Square are a mix of one- to three-bedroom apartments in two towers — one 43 storeys high and the other, 34. The two towers sit on top of the Scotts Square Retail, which underwent a revamp two years ago and is 95% leased, according to Wheelock’s 1QFY2017 results ended March 31.

The introduction of the additional conveyance duty on March 11 was to deter the acquisition of a company or shares in a company that holds residential units. However, it has not deterred bulk buying of units by individuals using a company for their purchase. The bulk buyer of the units at Scotts Square will have to hold the units for at least three years to avoid having to pay seller’s stamp duty.

“The bulk purchase is a sign that buyer confidence is returning to the high-end residential market,” notes Samuel Eyo, managing director of Singapore Christie’s International Real Estate. “The buyer could be betting that prices at Scotts Square could return to the $4,000 psf level.”

After all, when the project was launched a decade ago, prices of units sold ranged from $4,006 to $4,451 psf. In 2012, a 635 sq ft, one-bedroom unit on the 43rd floor of Scotts Square fetched $3.788 million, or a high of $4,803 psf, according to a caveat lodged then.

Based on the average rent of $5,000 a unit, which was the rate that Wheelock Properties had leased out some of the remaining units, the investor could see a gross rental yield of about 3%.

According to Joseph Tan, CBRE executive director of residential services, the bulk purchase of the units at Scotts Square represents an attractive buying opportunity. “The supply of freehold, luxury residences right in the heart of Orchard Road is very limited,” he adds.

This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 786 (July 3, 2017) of The Edge Singapore