Is a dual-key condo right for you and your family?
By: Chang Hui Chew
03 November 2016

Dual-key units at City Gate, linked by a common balcony.   Photo: Christopher Chitty

Dual key units are relatively new. They were first introduced to the private market in 2009, but have taken off since then and have become a common feature in many new launches.

These units are divided into two sub-types, typically sharing a foyer and possibly some facilities such as a kitchen. Originally, they were designed to cater to multi-generation families: parents could provide a more private living space for their children, or a family could have grandparents move in with them, for example.

The Housing Development Board (HDB) actually piloted dual key units in 1986 but phased them out due to low demand. It wasn’t until 2009 that Frasers Centrepoint tested the waters again with a very small number of dual-key apartments at its Caspian project. This time it took off: from 2011 to 2014, almost half the new developments launched onto the market featured dual-key units.

When the dual-key market really hit its stride in 2011 and 2012, the demand was strong and these units could command a premium over similar-sized non-dual-key units in the same condominium complex.

However, other factors such as the view and proximity to condominium amenities can account for variation in price within a development, so it’s not clear whether the difference was down to the dual-key feature. The popularity of dual-key units were also affected by the property cooling measures taken subsequently, along with the rest of the market.

Before deciding on whether a dual key apartment is suitable for you, here’s a look at its selling points and the new features of these residential units.

A better investment?
In 2013, the government introduced an additional 7% stamp duty charge on local buyers who are purchasing their second property, the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD). Although a dual-key condo effectively gives you two properties, on paper it still counts as a single unit so it doesn’t incur ABSD.

The units are therefore a popular and cost-effective way for buyers to house other family members. If you’re planning to move into the unit with your family, do remember that these apartments are not entirely separate and you will likely be sharing at least a foyer or a kitchen, so this does mean you’re going to have to give up some privacy.

These dual-key units are perceived by some buyers as a good investment for rental yield, as owners may choose to earn rental income by letting out one of the rooms to help pay for the mortgage. These apartments may appeal more to singles and couples looking to rent, as these offer more personal space than a standard unit that’s shared with other tenants. Such comforts include having separate keys, their personal bathroom and a pantry area or kitchenette; it’s almost akin to living in a studio apartment.

More options for buyers
As the market for these units has grown, developers are getting more creative with their offerings. The dual-key units at Bijou for example, are duplex apartments; the master bedroom comes with an attic that is large enough for a desk, TV area and even some sofas.

The Bijoux offers duplex dual key units.      Photo: Christopher Chitty

The Crest on the other hand, gives some flexibility with its 3-bedroom dual-key units. You can treat the extra room as a guest suite, or remove the wardrobe and replace it with a kitchenette so it can be used completely independently from the rest of the property.
The Crest has flexible, 3-bedroom DK units.     Source: Developer brochure

Other upcoming freehold residential developments such as the Trilive offer more variety in terms of size for dual-key units, which can vary as widely as the compact 2-bedroom (614 to 689 sq ft), the mid-tier 3-bedroom (883 to 904 sq ft) to the more spacious 4-bedroom (1,163 to 1,195 sq ft) apartments.

A model of the Trilive, which has a range of DK units.    Photo: Yasmin Beevi

A recent and popular dual-key development is City Gate, which offers 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom dual key units. Centrally located at Beach Road, the condominium is part of a mixed development that comes with an integrated shopping mall, so residents get to enjoy the retail convenience too. The development also benefits from the area’s ongoing urban redevelopment, which may up the value of its residential units in the years to come.

City Gate is a popular recent launch with DK units.    Source: Developer brochure

Working from home
There is anecdotal evidence of buyers using the second unit as a home office to save on rent. For some professions this may make sense, but it does come with some limitations. There are only so many people who can physically fit into a home office, and there are some government restrictions on how many people can work within the residential space.

Dual-key units also tend to be located away from the CBD, so the location may not be ideal. But if the location is not important and you don’t mind the fact that you can’t put a sign outside, it can be a good way to save money and cut out the daily commute altogether.

So for those who are thinking of having a two-in-one home office, perhaps the compact SOHO (Small Office Home Office) units in Bijou or UP@Robertson Quay may fit your needs better. All of the units of UP@Robertson Quay also come fitted with De Dietrich kitchen appliances and sanitary fittings from Duravit and Grohe, which makes it almost move-in ready. Some units even include a space-saving Murphy bed that can switched from a work desk to a foldable bed to suit your needs.

DK units at this prime project can be used for home offices as well.
Source: Developer brochure

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