SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - One need not be a hardcore fan of Elvis Presley or Bang & Olufsen (B&O) products to like this three-storey detached house located at Holland Green. The current owner, who only wants to be known by his first name, Johan, is a Swedish permanent resident and a fan of Elvis Presley for 32 years. At one point, the family lounge on the third level of the house had a tribute wall festooned with memorabilia of the “King of Rock”.
The whole house — the living, dining and outdoor patio, as well as rooms upstairs — has been custom-installed with B&O ceiling-mounted speakers, which are connected to the same sound system. “We have 12 B&O loudspeakers throughout the house and at one point, five TV sets around the house,” says Johan.
A private banker turned entrepreneur and co-founder of a deep tech company, Johan and his Singaporean wife, Rose, bought the house at Holland Green in April 2011 for $5.647 million. They took a train ride on the 79-year-old railway between Singapore and Malaysia before it was decommissioned in July that year, following the historic land swap deal between the two countries in 2010.
The train ride was significant for the couple for another reason: the former railway ran past the couple’s home at Holland Green. “We wanted to see the house from the train before they closed the railway,” says Johan.
The couple named their new home Casa White Haven for several reasons. The first is the fact that “Casa” is home in Italian. “I’m a big fan of Italy — the fashion, the food and the cars,” says Johan. “It’s our favourite travel destination and I have a relative who lives there.” The “White” reflects the exterior of the house, which has been painted white. “‘Haven’ is a place where you can feel safe,” he adds.
The second meaning of “White Haven” is less obvious, except to the most hardcore Elvis fan. Elvis’ mansion Graceland is located in the community of Whitehaven in Memphis, Tennessee. And the name “Whitehaven” originated from a Colonel Francis White, an early settler and major property owner in Tennessee. He was said to be influential in getting a rail line to run through what was first called White’s Station, and later, Whitehaven.
For Johan, the name “Whitehaven” is significant not only because it was Elvis’ home district, but the link to the old railway station. After all, their home at Holland Green overlooks the Rail Corridor.
The former 24km Rail Corridor has been turned into a green corridor. In addition, the 800m stretch of Bukit Timah First Diversion Canal separating their home at Holland Green from the Rail Corridor has been widened and upgraded by the PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, as part of the Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters project. The environment around it has also been enhanced, incorporating a waterfall and a new park, the Holland Green Linear Park fronting the canal.
“We saw the entire renovation programme,” says Johan. “It has now become a beautiful park, especially with the enhancement of the diversion canal. The Rail Corridor has become an amazing green corridor for walking, running and cycling.” There is also a bridge for people to cross the canal to the Holland Green Linear Park and Rail Corridor.
Every room on the second and third level of Casa White Haven has a view of the canal and the park. Adjacent to their home is the Holland Green Playground, a neighbourhood park that has also been upgraded by NParks. “They upgraded everything — from the benches to the exercise equipment, the playground for children and even the walking paths,” says Johan. “Living here is like having your own park, and you don’t need to maintain it.”
There is a side-gate from their home that leads directly to the playground. “Having the playground there is so convenient,” says Rose. “My helper could bring my daughter there to play and I didn’t have to worry about their safety.”
In addition, Johan and Rose’s home has the added advantage of being located at the cul-de-sac of a quiet street with just 53 detached houses. The entire housing development by CapitaLand is called Holland Green, and was completed in 1998.
When Johan and Rose bought their property at Holland Green in 2011, the previous owner had already undertaken extensive renovations to the interiors and even the exterior in 2004. This included removing several walls on the first level of the house to create a seamless connection between the living and dining areas.
Linking the two parts of the house is a corridor with glass doors leading out to a landscaped, timber decked patio on one side, and a powder room and outdoor shower on the other side. The swimming pool and pool deck at the patio has been turned into a landscaped garden with a reflective pool.
Big sliding glass doors from the living room lead to the patio too. What captivated Johan, however, was the horizontal thin window with a view of the car porch. “When we moved in, I had a Ferrari and a Maserati,” he says. “If you’re sitting on the sofa in the living room, you can look out at the cars. It’s literally like having the cars in my living room.”
While Johan enjoyed the view of his cars, Rose preferred to look out at the greenery. “My favourite spot was towards the view of the greenery and the sky, and we could hear the sound of the running water from the canal,” she says. In the evenings, the couple would sit at the patio overlooking the water feature and landscaped garden, with the greenery beyond the wall. “He would be smoking his cigars and the music would be on,” says Rose. Johan agrees: “It was a nice place to sit out and smoke cigars.”
The house has also been built with generous storage space, concealed behind black panelling along the walls — along the corridor linking the living and dining area and at the dry kitchen.
On the second level is a study with full-height windows to capture the views of the outdoor greenery and the canal. There is a balcony linking the study and master bedroom. The study has its own en suite bathroom and wardrobe, hence it can easily be used as a bedroom. The master bedroom has 17m panelling that conceals ample storage space for clothes, shoes, handbags, linen and even suitcases. The panelling also conceals the entrance to the master bathroom, which has a skylight and is open to natural ventilation — it is spacious and comes with a bath tub, shower compartment, a long vanity top with his and hers sinks, as well as water closet.
The third level has a family lounge with an attached bathroom. It enjoys floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the greenery. It can be enclosed to create a bedroom with an adjoining study. There is another bedroom on the third level, with en suite bathroom and built-in wardrobe. Besides the windows, skylight and glass sliding doors which bring natural light into the interiors, another draw for the couple was the high ceiling.
Johan also liked the fact that when they bought the house it was already renovated. “I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with contractors,” says Johan. He likes the timeless design: “I’m Swedish, and I like this kind of classic design because it is something that will survive over time,” he adds.
The architect engaged by the previous owner, Terence Chan of Studio Terre, had designed the interiors such that it is adaptable to suit different lifestyles. The previous owner, for instance, was a real estate lawyer who wanted the house to be designed as his “bachelor pad”. He also wanted room to entertain. Hence, the seamless connection between the indoor and outdoor areas.
For Johan and Rose, they wanted a family home as they just had a three-month-old baby daughter when they bought the house. Yet, it suited their needs even without them having to undertake any renovation, except the installation of Johan’s B&O sound system and speakers. “The interesting thing about this house is that it fits a lot of different people,” says Johan.
Bigger families who want more bedrooms can easily convert the family lounge on the third level into a fourth bedroom.
Having lived in Casa White Haven for about six years, Johan and Rose have since moved to the Dunearn Road area. For Rose, the reason for moving was so that her daughter could attend Methodist Girls’ School. “I wanted to be able to walk her to school in the mornings,” she says. “If we had continued to live at Holland Green, I would have had to drive and deal with the morning traffic.”
The house has been tenanted since — previously to an Irish expatriate, and now to a Dutch expatriate family. The current monthly rental rate is $12,500, which is almost a 30% premium to the average rental rate of other detached houses at Holland Green that were leased over the past two years, from May 2018 to May 2020, according to Nancy Tey, senior associate vice president of List Sotheby’s International Realty. Tey and Michele Cabasug, associate vice president of List Sotheby’s, are the exclusive joint marketing agents for the property.
As much as Johan and Rose love Casa White Haven (and even created a website for it), they have decided to put it on the market. “I am now an entrepreneur,” says Johan. “I want to invest in my own business. That’s why I’m selling the house.”
The asking price for the detached house at Holland Green is $5.38 million. Based on the land area of 4,405 sq ft, the price translates to $1,221 psf. However, if it is based on the built-up area of the four-bedroom house, which has a floor area of 4,715 sq ft, it is about $1,141 psf. Based on the asking price, the gross rental yield is 2.79%. This is a premium to the general bungalow rental yield, which is around 1% to 1.5% today, estimates Tey. “Bungalows at Holland Green that have not been renovated will command even lower rental yields,” she adds.
Two other detached houses on Holland Green changed hands earlier this year: One of the houses, which faces Holland Road, fetched $4.2 million ($896 psf), according to a caveat lodged in April; while the other, which has views of neighbouring houses, was also sold for $4.2 million ($902 psf) in March, according to URA Realis. The houses on Holland Green have 99-year leases from 1995, which means they have a balance of 74 years left on their leases. “The transacted prices reflect their 99-year leasehold tenure,” says Tey.
In the Holland Road area, freehold detached houses are fetching more than double the asking price of Casa White Haven at Holland Green. For instance, a newly completed, detached house sitting on a 6,103 sq ft, 947-year leasehold site along Holland Road was sold for $12.38 million ($2,028 psf) in February this year. A 38-year-old bungalow sitting on a freehold site of 9,053 sq ft on Holland Road, in the Ban Guan Park enclave, changed hands for $15.5 million ($1,713 psf).
For $5 million, one can only get a freehold, semi-detached house fronting Holland Road, points out List Sotheby’s Tey. “I’m marketing a freehold, semi-detached house sitting on a land area of 3,800 sq ft in the Holland area, and the asking price is $7.8 million,” she notes.
Tey believes that the asking price of $5.38 million for Casa White Haven, a three-storey detached house, represents a rare opportunity. “It has premium facing with views of greenery,” says Tey. “It will appeal to those who want to be close to nature and a prime District 10 address.”
Johan adds: “We wouldn’t have bought any other house on Holland Green. We chose this house because of its location, the modern interiors as the house was updated, and it is the only one next to the playground and with such views of the park.”