6 Ultra-luxe Homes in Asia to Buy This June

Posted in What to Buy

This month in ‘Ultra-luxe Homes’, we’re once again diving into a plethora of impressive residences across the region: including a winter retreat in one of Japan’s most prestigious ski villages; the world’s tallest luxury apartment (complete with “sky car porch”) and much more.

No matter whether you’re in the market for a brand new getaway property or lucrative investment opportunity, here are six of the most staggering options we’ve found this month.

1. Saladaeng One, Bangkok

ultra-luxe homes

This ultra-luxe condominium is part of a wider residential development at the heart of Bangkok, by local real estate developer SC Asset. Located just across the way from stunning Lumpini Park, this one-bedroom unit boasts uninterrupted views of the surrounding Silom financial district; with tenants also having access to the complex’s club, rooftop pool and fitness facilities. Saleable area for this property comes to a total of 613 sq. ft., making it an ideal bolthole for the frequent business traveller.

2. Ford Avenue, Singapore

ultra-luxe homes

Designated by Singaporean authorities as a ‘Good Class Bungalow’ (one of the city-state’s most desirable residential property classifications) Ford Avenue is a slice of resort-style living that remains close to the heart of affluent District 10. At 15,600 sq. ft. there’s ample room for a family of six or more, with carport space and a suitably lengthy 23-metre pool to match.

3. Four Seasons Private Residences, Bangkok

ultra-luxe homes

Part of an ultra-luxe complex exclusively made up of corner apartments along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, this Four Seasons-administered property is the Canadian hotel group’s first waterfront residential concept in all of Asia. The 3,830 sq. ft. space is taken up by four bedrooms (each with their own freestanding bath), making this an ideal permanent base for affluent property owners who prefer a touch of hospitality in the home.

4. Galleria Costa, Ashigarashimo

ultra-luxe homes

Less than two hours drive from Tokyo in western Kanagawa Prefecture, Galleria Costa promises to be a getaway home unlike any other. Consisting of 8.5 acres of pristine oceanfront real estate (including a two-storey guest house), the property offers breathtaking, unparalleled view of Sagami Bay; with each room possessing an ocean view. The outdoor pool and baths (rotenburo) have been intentionally designed to give the impression of an infinite horizon; and when you finally manage to pick your jaw off the floor, there’s no shortage of amenities indoors (i.e. a gym, tennis court, karaoke, and golf simulator) with which to keep yourself entertained.

5. Glasshouse Niseko, Hokkaido

ultra-luxe homes

Nestled atop a tranquil woodland escarpment, this bespoke glass, concrete and steel build is one of the most stylish lodges to retreat to after a day spent skiing down the slopes of Mt. Yotei. The ‘Glasshouse’ is the brainchild of award-winning architect Hikohito Konishi: incorporating traditional Japanese building elements, such as an indoor spa handmade using Hinoki wood, into the otherwise contemporary two-floor layout. It’s great as a permanent retreat during ski season, or failing that — to rent for your next excursion to Niseko.

6. Moon Shadow Villa, Phuket

ultra-luxe houses

Located in Phuket’s affluent, resort-heavy neighbourhood of Kamala, ‘Moon Shadow’ is a stupefyingly large private villa, with six bedrooms and a saleable area totalling 12,366 sq ft. Incredible views of the Andaman Ocean are to be had at quite literally every angle throughout the house — excluding the wine cellar — with standout features of the project including a waterfall feature, double-wide terrace and peripherally connected private terraces.

As of the publishing date of this article, any aforementioned properties were available for sale. We cannot guarantee that these properties will be available for sale indefinitely, so please check the respective listings for the most up-to-date information.

Randy Lai

Insane ‘Billionaire Bunkers’ Where the Ultra-rich Will Wait Out the Pandemic

Posted in How the One Percent Live

For us, it’s the end of days. For them, an excuse for a remote destination holiday — armoured convoy included. We are, of course, referring to ‘billionaire bunkers’: those inscrutable edifices built by the one percent in order to wait out war, natural disasters, or, in 2020, a certain global respiratory infection.

Over the last decade, the ultra-rich have become increasingly paranoid about the advent of such cataclysms; and with a limitless supply of capital and ever-dwindling array of meaningful investment options, there’s more interest around a state-of-the-art luxury bunker than you’d initially think.

Here are three of the most insane examples: far from the dank, slightly bleak vibe of National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers or the fallout shelters from cinema and video games; these allegedly indestructible structures all come equipped with pools, private cinemas and much much more.

billionaire bunkers
California-based Terra Vivos have constructed a number of bunkers available for co-share, including this one in South Dakota (roughly the same size of Manhattan).

Europa One

billionaire bunkers

Marketed as a “modern day Noah’s Ark”, the Europa One compound is California-based Vivos Group’s answer to the quintessential continental holiday home — notwithstanding a few, shall we say, upgrades. For starters, the whole structure is carved out of solid bedrock; beneath a 400-foot mountain in the free state of Thuringia (Germany). At the time Vivos originally earmarked it for modernisation, it had been a Soviet military cache — used to store Red Army munitions during the Cold War. When buyers acquire one of the Europa One bunkers (private apartments from €2 million, approx. HK$16,782,900), the typical ‘starter kit’ involves a 2,500 sq.ft. residence spread across two floors; and access to a variety of communal facilities such as a chapel and pub. Factored in to the cost of purchasing one of these modest, subterranean fiefdoms is a full-time coterie of staff and security personnel.

The Oppidum

billionaire bunkers

Whereas a majority of the existing billionaire bunkers around the globe enable multiple wealthy families to clump together (strength in numbers everyone!), The Oppidum is a strictly ‘sole owner’ proposition. And when it comes to apocalypse-proofing, it boasts some pretty mean credentials. Originally developed as a joint military installation between Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union, construction began in 1984. This massive, fortress-esque compound was built (in theory) to withstand manmade disasters and nuclear attack — it was the 80s, after all — but underwent extensive beautification in 2013. The price is only disclosed to serious buyers, but the lucky owner can expect what’s allegedly the ‘largest billionaire bunker in the world’ (77,000 sq ft) to be accompanied by a subterranean garden (with artificial lighting to mimic natural sunlight), lap pool, spa facilities and wine cellar. Clearly, the remodellers had their priorities in order.

The Survival Condo Project

billionaire bunkers

Given the highly specific proclivities of the ultra-rich, there’s even an underground bunker that could make Ernst Stavro Blofeld jealous. Said to be “at an undisclosed location in Wichita, Kansas,” the Survival Condo is a 15-storey facility that is built into a decommissioned Atlas missile silo. (For all you military nuts out there, that’s the first ever intercontinental projectile developed for the US Air Force). Survival Condo CEO Larry Hall describes it as “true relaxation for the ultra-wealthy,” replete with all the classic bells and whistles you’d expect, from pool and spa to Kohler bath and kitchen amenities in each unit. The project is designed to sustain 75 people comfortably for more than five years, and prices start from US$1.5 million for half-floor units at 920 sq.ft.

In a slightly unnerving twist — the mechanics of which seem tenuous at best — under a ‘crisis scenario’, the Survival Condo’s board of directors may restrict a resident’s ability to leave the bunker without first securing permission. Remain indoors — it’s for your own safety.

Randy Lai

Should you Invest in Hong Kong’s Property Market during CoViD-19?

Posted in Ask An Estate Agent

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past 10 months, you’ll know that Hong Kong’s real estate sector has been experiencing its sharpest decline in nearly a decade. Amid the worst economic contraction in the region’s history (8.9 percent in the first quarter), commercial investments have proven particularly vulnerable — hit by the lethal one-two combo of months-long anti-government protests, then the global coronavirus pandemic.

Data released by investment firm CBRE indicates these factors (and the resulting slump in consumer confidence) contributed to one of the worst quarters for retail property transactions since 2009: only 20 deals, roughly amounting to HK$7.5 billion, have been made so far this year.

By contrast, though there remains an air of caution among consumers, experts’ prognosis of the city-wide housing market is steadily improving. To make sense of the government’s quantitative easing policies, the latest price data, and ultimately, whether you should wait longer for the market to bottom out; we phoned up Victoria Allan — an ex-director at Colliers who now manages her own premium realty firm, Habitat Property, here in Hong Kong.

Let’s start with an overview: what sort of shape was Hong Kong’s real estate market in at the end of 2019 versus around the time that the first wave of coronavirus infections hit? What are the most noticeable changes?

VA: Towards the end of 2019, the city’s property market already wasn’t in a great way — given all of the (ongoing) political protests. Those had a significant unsettling effect on the market, pushing prices down across the board by about 10 percent. As for CoViD-19, market sentiment was already becoming negative as early as Christmas 2019 — that’s because it was playing out in conjunction with a wider global downturn brought on by the pandemic.

Given the current position of the housing market, have there been any changes in government policy that have made it easier to purchase residential property?

VA: As a result of the pro-democracy protests, the HKSAR government actually altered the policy for first-time homeowners: enabling them to gain easier access to property valued at under HK$10 million (by reducing the amount they’d have to pay in their deposit). At this time, no further adjustments in policy have been made to take into account the economic impact of CoViD-19. It’ll be interesting to see if the government relaxes these policies. However, having had tight restrictions on lending over the last decade, there’s very little debt in the Hong Kong property market which can help to support price levels.

What have some of the most obvious impacts been on buyers since the property market was hit by Covid-19?

VA: We’re seeing many buyers seize the opportunity to invest — especially where it’s for self-use. Market prices are being discounted by 10-20 percent (as compared to 12 months ago), so it’s actually an opportune moment for those who want to purchase their first property or sell the one they currently own and upgrade. Sellers also need to keep a closer eye on personal liquidity, so it’s easier to negotiate with them for a reasonable price.

Hong Kong property
The sprawling penthouse in Repulse Bay has come down to a price (negotiable) of HK$95 million over the past two months. (Image source: Habitat Property)

In the case of new homeowners, it’s a great time to enter the market with either a small investment or property for self-use. Ditto for listings where the price is below HK$10 million — that’s a huge opportunity to buy at lowered prices whilst being able to finance at a higher level (i.e. up to 90 percent financing for properties priced below HK$8 million; and 80 percent for those below HK$10 million).

Hong Kong property
The Villa Helvetia penthouse includes amenities made possible by the surrounding environment of Repulse Bay – including a terrace, private garden and fibre optic cabling. (Image source: Habitat Property)

Foreign investors are also starting to re-examine the Hong Kong property market, as experts generally see it as a market with more medium-term stability than Europe and the U.S. As the number of CoViD-19 cases increases in those regions, their economies are projected to be worse-hit than Hong Kong.

Continuing in that vein, could you give a brief rundown of the opportunities that investors now have that mightn’t necessarily have been available if they were purchasing pre-CoViD-19?

VA: Absolutely! In addition to the reduction in market prices that has averaged 10-20 percent, another side effect of the public health emergency has been that a more varied range of properties has come up for sale. Even though we’re seeing some evidence that suggests the market hasn’t yet bottomed out, most buyers can be confident that if they buy now they’ll be able to take advantage of some discount.

Which residential districts in Hong Kong do you think best support these findings about the current market?

VA: For the purposes of easy illustration, the most dramatic reductions representing good ‘value’ can be found in high-end areas like Repulse Bay. The median price for a three-room apartment in developments like Ruby Court, for instance, has come down to HK$53 million.

Hong Kong property
Buyers and nascent investors will find the best, most dramatic bargains in non-urban neighbourhoods such as Repulse Bay (pictured) or Stanley.

To wrap up: can we get you to make a top-line prediction about the market’s trajectory over the next 6 to 8 months?

VA: Personally, I think that the market is already starting to stabilise — there’s more confidence locally given that Hong Kong seems to have the total number of CoViD-19 cases under control. However, the region’s borders still haven’t been reopened — which raises the possibility (however remote) of a third wave of cases. Last but not least, we have the reoccurring issue of protests: that’s bound to keep a lid on consumer sentiment and pricing. All told, I think the market could fall another 5-10 percent in 2020 before making a full recovery.

Hong Kong property

Victoria Allan is the founder of Habitat Property, a real estate company specialising in the sale and leasing of luxury property in Hong Kong. Prior to establishing Habitat in 2001, Allan held the position of Commercial Leasing Director at Colliers Jardine. She has over 25 years experience in residential and commercial real estate across a variety of global markets — including Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

Randy Lai