Buying TOP or Sub sale condo – Is it worth it ?

Buying TOP condo - is it worth it

Table of Contents

Introduction

A lot has been covered on both buying new launch and resale condos. But little has been mentioned about purchasing TOP condos.

Given the unique preference for some buyers towards getting something that is completely new. That has not been lived in by any previous owners and yet not being able to wait out for 3 years for a new launch to be constructed.

TOP condos is a subset within the broader resale condo category that fulfil these needs. 

What are TOP condos or Sub sale condos ?

TOP condos are new launch condo developments that have been fully constructed. These are properties that are bought at launch, by its first owners directly from the developer and have completed its 3 year construction period.

As a prospective TOP condo buyer, you are looking to purchase these properties at its completion and be the first owner to live in it. 

You would purchase it immediately after achieving its TOP status, this is known as a sub sale transaction. 

Or you can purchase it 1 or 2 years after its TOP, when it achieves its certificate or statutory completion, CSC status, from its first owner. This is known as a resale transaction.

Hence, you will often see the term TOP property and Subsale property being used interchangeably.

Criteria that defines a TOP condo or Sub sale condo

  • New launch development that have completed its 3 year construction phase
  • Have not been lived in by any owner before

Sub sale Condos vs New Launch Condo

To set the context, let’s summarise the differences between a TOP condo vs a New Launch Condo development. 

The differences to some extent, is largely similar to a resale condo vs a new launch condo. 

For a more in depth write up on this topic, feel free to refer to the article “new launch vs resale condo” within the article link inline. 

Summary of differences between TOP / Sub Sale condo vs New Launch Condo

TOP CondoNew Launch Condo
Waiting timeReady for immediate occupancy, no waiting time3 year waiting time required for condo to be fully constructed
Entry PriceSubjected to negotiation with first owner that purchased directly from developerPurchase directly from developer, opportunity to benefit from developer’s progressive price increase strategy.
Opportunity for ProfitSubjected to entry price.Higher probability, as all new launch buyers are incentivised to only sell at a profitable price, providing owners the opportunity to price their property for sale based on fellow new launch buyers’ selling price.
Unit Available for SelectionNarrower unit for selection, based on what’s available for saleBroader units available for selection during launch phase
Risk of Unit SelectionMitigated risk, as you are able to view physical unit before purchaseHigher risk, no physical unit available for viewing. Purchasing off site plan and floor plan.
Interest ExpenseHigher, full mortgage payment from day 1 of ownershipLower, progressive mortgage payment for the first 3 years based on stages of completion.

Summary of differences between TOP / Sub Sale condo vs Resale Condo

TOP condos can be considered a subset of resale condos. The key difference lies in TOP condos being brand new in nature. 

A resale condo would have been lived in by its previous owner, and you would be inheriting the interior design of the previous owners. 

On the flip side, a TOP condo is brand new, it provides a blank slate for your intended interior design with no need to knock down any previous design established by its previous owners.

TOP CondoResale Condo
Lease lifeBrand new, 99 years less time taken to constructDepends on development, 99 years less no of years previous owners lived in property.
Condition of PropertyBrand newLived in by previous owner
Condition of DevelopmentBrand newSubjected to the upkeep of the resale condo development
PriceHigher in terms of PSF and QuantumLower, depending on age of development
Repair costStill under developer’s 1 year warrantyBuyer to bear repair cost

Quick intro – Decoupling Expertise

Quick introduction, before you decide to commit the next 5 mins reading this article.

We are decoupling expertise, a team of specialist realtors that specialise in helping Singapore property owners derive the best strategy to purchase their second investment property without ABSD.

While decoupling property is often the go-to strategy that property owners adopt. We pride ourselves for helping our client explore and evaluate other alternatives that best suit individual circumstances and objectives. 

Drop us a text to explore the best strategy to minimise ABSD on your next property purchase.

Greatest Concern – Is buying a TOP condo or Sub sale condo good for investment ?

Given TOP condo or Sub sale condo brings about several benefits as compared to new launch condo and resale condos.

The greatest concern home owners and investors would have is if TOP condos are good for investment. 

In fact, many home buyers are wary that they are handing out profits to the first owners that purchase the property directly from the developer at launch. 

For the next part of the article, let’s dive deeper into reviewing the profitability of TOP condo buyers. 

Research Methodology – TOP condo or Sub sale condo profitability 

Sharing our research approach. 

To gain an effective understanding of the profitability of buyers that have previously purchased a TOP condo. 

We shortlisted the following condo development and we specifically picked out profitable and non profitable transactions made by the property buyer that purchased the property immediately after the development TOP. 

We then tracked the average profit / loss and the respective holding period for these new launch buyers. 

List of condo development to be considered

The Covid-19 pandemic caused an anomaly in the real estate market. Due to the pent up demand and the surge of demand for bigger sized units, triggered by the covid lock downs.

It resulted in abnormally high profits for property owner that sold their property between the 2022 to 2023 period.

Hence to provide a fair reflection of the profitability of TOP condo buyers vs New Launch condo buyers, it will be helpful to review the performance for 2 categories of condo development.

The first category being those that achieve its TOP status earlier, between 2011 to 2014. For this category, its TOP buyers will be selling into normal market condition, before the Covid pandemic takes place.

The second category being the more recent New Launch developments that achieved its TOP status between 2016 and 2018. This is the category in which its TOP buyers sold into the post pandemic market. 

Development that TOP between 2011 and 2014

  • Dleedon
  • The Minton
  • The Estuary
  • Kovan Residences
  • Clover By The Park

Development that TOP between 2016 and 2018

  • Coco-Palms
  • Sims Urban Oasis
  • The Panorama
  • Commonwealth Towers
  • Bartley Ridges

Profitability comparison TOP Buyer vs New Launch Buyer

Development that TOP between 2011 and 2014. 

For this cluster of developments, you will see the expected norm of new launch buyers making higher profits than TOP buyers.

But it is also safe to say that TOP buyers are also largely profitable, and when the right development is selected, profit can be quite substantial as well. 

Referencing Kovan Residences and Clover By The Park as examples. 

TOP BuyersNew Launch Buyers
DevelopmentAverage ProfitAverage Profit
Dleedon198,591265,409
The Minton158,782282,950
The Estuary125,083217,141
Kovan Residences298,645427,779
Clover By The Park390,661599,800

Development that TOP between 2016 and 2018. 

For this cluster of developments, you would learn that timing plays a large part in influencing the profitability of home owners. 

This category of TOP buyers, held their property throughout the pandemic period and sold when market demand is at a high post pandemic. 

This resulted in a distortion in the norm, whereby the TOP buyers made more profits than the New Launch Buyers.

TOP BuyersNew Launch Buyers
DevelopmentAverage ProfitAverage Profit
Coco-Palms245,865246,476
Sims Urban Oasis234,727146,234
The Panorama290,454341,451
Commonwealth Towers231,926174,554
Bartley Ridges285,039221,249
Average257,602225,993

Factors that has a impact on the profitability of TOP properties

Referencing the performance of the 2 categories of condo developments, it is safe to say that investing in a TOP property is not a loss making transaction. In fact, when proper due diligence is being exercised when selecting condo development, there are substantial profit to be made. 

In this section and section that follow, we will highlight some of the key factors that have a substantial impact on the profitability of a TOP condo. 

Factor #1 – Upcoming price catalyst

Bearing in mind that you could be paying a high price to purchase a TOP condo from its first owner who bought at launch. It is important to ensure that there are upcoming price catalysts that will further drive the price of your TOP condo upwards. This will ensure further price appreciation and capital gain for your unit in 5 to 6 years time. 

Price catalyst includes

  • Future new launch to be launched in the proximity – setting new benchmark price to stimulate price appreciation for your developments
  • New MRT transport line development
  • BTO, HDB flats being built around the vicinity – spurs future demand from upgraders
  • New township development – URA carving out the area as a new township

Referencing the condo development from our research, Sims Urban Oasis and Commonwealth Tower are two developments that have benefited from positive price catalysts.

Penrose New Launch driving the prices of Sims Urban Oasis TOP units upwards

Sims Urban Oasis’s TOP buyers bought the property at its TOP at a decent entry price from its new launch buyers and enjoyed price appreciation driven by the launch of Penrose, a new launch that drives the price of Sims Urban Oasis upwards.

Factor #2 – Holding power matters

Applicable across all property types, not restricted to TOP or Sub sale condos, the ability to hold on to a property and not sell during sub-optimal time matters. 

Referencing the sub-optimal profits for Bartley Ridge new launch buyers as compared to its TOP buyers. Most of the new launch buyers, owning 1 or 2 bedroom units sold during the start of the covid pandemic, registering sub optimal profits. 

Factor #3 – Price gap between TOP condo and comparable new launch condo

When TOP condo is priced very close to New Launch Condo

If the price of a TOP condo is very close to the New launch condo then you may want to reconsider your TOP condo purchase. When these new launch condos TOP, you will be competing with these condos with newer leases to resale at the same price. 

When TOP condo is priced very close to older Resale Condo

Then it makes more sense to purchase the TOP condo which is newer in both lease and aesthetics. Similar selection criteria when evaluating investment property is applicable to selection of TOP property.

Other selection criteria to consider 

For a more in depth discussion on this refer to our seperate article on Which Condo is good for investment in Singapore ?

  • Potential demand from surrounding HDB upgraders
  • Upcoming URA transformation plan for the location of property
  • Proximity to MRT
  • Proximity to reputable school, within 1km and 2km radius
  • Proximity to international school
  • Proximity to expat’s place of work
  • Surrounding area supply of competing property
  • Layout of units within the development
  • Price of units in comparison to other developments

More reads regarding property research for 2nd investment property 

Author

  • Jue Wen

    Jue Wen is the content marketing lead. This means he spend his waking hours researching and writing all things real estate. He believes life is a hustle and there is no joy in grinding away daily in our little rat races. He believes making wise moves in real estate investment can be a game changer. Aside from writing all things real estate, you can find him in your nearest bouldering gym.

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Jue Wen

Author

Jue Wen is the property analyst and content marketing lead at decoupling expertise.
He specialises in helping clients overcome the complexities involved in owning their second private property in Singapore.
He had over 10 years of experience in real estate investing and have written over 40 detail guides on decoupling and minimising ABSD. He is a licensed real estate consultant and holds a Bachelor degree in Business Management from the Nanyang Technological University.

Kenji

Co-Author

Kenji is the Group Division Director of ERA Realty Network.
He have got over 20 years of experience in real estate and have successfully helped over 50 couples purchased their second property. He specialises in helping client achieve the best approach towards acquiring their ideal investment properties while minimising ABSD.