We may appreciate nice landscaping and greenery in a residence, but will buyers pay a premium for it? We speak to home buyers, developers and landscape experts to see if more green = more money.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

We may appreciate nice landscaping and greenery in a residence, but will buyers pay a premium for it? We speak to home buyers, developers and landscape experts to see if more green = more money.

<b>photography</b> LARRY HAYDN / 500PX
<b>photography</b> LARRY HAYDN / 500PX

When polytechnic lecturer Leo SL was shopping for a condominium apartment a few years ago, one of the things that attracted her to Reflections at Keppel Bay was its beautiful landscaping. “I really liked how the developer had included so much greenery in the project, which helps soften its metallic, futuristic feel,” she explains.

She chose a 2+1 bedroom apartment at Reflections, even though a bigger, freehold terrace house would have cost her about the same. Because she bought a unit in the tower blocks, which do not have balconies, she had to give up all her plants (“and even my vertical urban vegetable farm!”) when she moved in. But she now appreciates how the professionally managed landscaping at Reflections saves her time and money. “I like the wide, open green lawns and there’s a huge variety of fauna and flora not just within the condo, but also along the seafront promenade where I take daily walks,” she adds.

Landscape architecture in residences

Mike Wood, a senior associate at landscape architect firm Grant Associates, says there are good examples of condo landscape architecture projects in Singapore. “The new projects include the most up-to-date technology with regards to vertical landscapes and green walls. Reflections at Keppel Bay and the Interlace are good examples and are particularly recognised for their complementary landscape and architecture,” he says.

One of the more prominent upcoming “green” condominiums include Park Place Residences at Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ), which Grant Associates is working on. It has a connected green vernacular throughout the precinct. Envisioned to be “an exciting sequence of spaces” completely integrated with the rest of the built development, it was to be a distinctly “green” complement to a strong urban framework.

“Our vision for PLQ is for it to be a unique place for people to experience the fusion of nature and water in a variety of ways, including through quiet relaxation, events, play and drama, all within the context of a 24-hour lifestyle.”

The Park Place Residences landscape is particularly unique because the landscape played a key part in the overall concept for the entire precinct, says Mike. For example, the carpark facade from the Promenade was conceived as a folding piece of terraced landscape, consisting of generously planted ledges that helped to unify the new buildings and neighbourhoods into a single place, for a holistic overall look.

<b>photography</b> GRANT ASSOCIATES
<b>photography</b> GRANT ASSOCIATES
A flourishing trend

Andy Eng, project director at Nyee Phoe Flower Garden, the oldest – 106 years – nursery in Singapore, works with architects, developers, designers and homeowners. “Some architects and developers incorporate vertical green walls not just as a ‘wow’ factor, but also to improve the development’s chances of getting the BCA Green Mark,” says Andy.

Using landscaping as part of their projects’ appeal (and marketing spiel) is a common practice among big-name developers such as Far East Organization, UOL and Wing Tai but, increasingly, even new developers from China are adopting the practice.

“It’s definitely a trend. Landscaping helps to increase the property’s value and up its image, and it has become an expectation from home buyers,” says Andy.

Speaking from personal experience, he adds: “Given a choice, if two properties have the same price and similar features, but one condo has a better garden than the other, most will opt for the one with better greenery. Most condo-dwellers live in high- rise buildings and may not have space for a personal garden; if they can get a nice view from their window, it’s certainly a plus point.”

The current economic slowdown has caused developers to look for other options that are more economical and easy to maintain. For example, instead of a green wall, some condo projects now have spice or herb gardens. Nyee Phoe recently launched a new product for both developers and end users, which is a more convenient version of the vertical green wall. They use preserved green moss, which can be incorporated into any part of an interior space.

Unlike vertical green walls, it does not require a water point or discharge point, and the moss does not require watering, except a spray once a month. Prices start from $400 per metre square.

Greenery worth paying for?

Andy and Mike both advocate using more greenery in our environment. “People are getting more and more stressed; and green calms you down. The government has played an important part in promoting green living for a healthier lifestyle. Even in HDB estates, homeowners enjoy sky gardens and waterfront parks. What more for private properties? If you paid so much for your condo, you’ll expect a similar or better standard,” says Andy.

Sure, green living is a nice buzzword, but are buyers willing to pay a premium for it? For Mrs Leo, she admits that Reflections’ seafront location, proximity to the city (“and our favourite shopping mall, Vivocity”), good range of facilities and luxury-class finishing were the main reasons she and her husband splurged on a unit. “The pretty landscaping is a good-to-have bonus, but not the main draw. But we do enjoy the landscaping very much and we will certainly use it as a selling point when we sell our unit in the future.” 

Home shopper Jennifer Chan agrees. She has been viewing older condos, new projects, as well as walk-up apartments to find her bachelorette pad. “If a condo’s landscaping looks unkempt, that is a clear sign that the project’s management team is doing a bad job and it’ll definitely turn me off.”

She toyed with the idea of buying an older walk-up apartment that has minimal landscaping, so that she could decorate the spacious balcony with plants. However, that means she has to care for the plants and keep up with the daily watering, fertilising and more, which is difficult as she travels regularly.

Summing up the appeal of landscaping to home buyers, Jennifer concludes: “Buying a home in a condo with nice landscaping – where I don’t have to pay extra money for plants nor worry about the hassle – is very appealing. If I won’t buy a property now because the landscaping is badly maintained, others may feel the same way, too. I don’t mind paying a bit more for a property with good landscaping, especially if it will protect my investment and make it more marketable in future.”