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How to pick better stacks / blocks when buying a new launch condo

One issue with a new launch condo is that nothing is built yet, so you need to visualise the project in your own mind – and while a showflat can provide a good guideline, it is harder to visualise the “stacks” or blocks. Usually all there is to look at is the project layout, and maybe a scale model.

Here, I will explain how to identify the better stacks with just these basic elements:

1. Start by outright asking: which are the premium stacks?

The sales team will be happy to tell you which stacks have units that are selling for a premium, and why. This reflects the developer’s opinion on which stacks have better views, better access to facilities, and so forth; but because everyone’s tastes in homes is subjective, the developer’s point of view may not match your own.

For example, a developer may have priced all the units in a stack 15 per cent higher because that stack has an unimpeded waterfront view – but if you prefer ground floor units, pool views, or simply close your windows most of the day, this is not useful to you. As such, the premium is not worth paying.

That said, premium stacks generally are the ones with a better view, and the units in the stack may have better finishing, such as higher-end flooring materials.

As a loose rule of thumb, investors may want to prefer the lowest-priced stacks, as the difference in quality may not translate to a significantly higher rental rate. A home buyer looking for comfort, however, may be willing to pay a premium for even slight differences.

2. Determine the facing of the stack

Note: You do not need to be an expert in sun directions, and guess the facing from looking at the model – just ask the sales team. This is an anticipated question in any showflat.

Most buyers want to minimise the impact of direct sun into the unit. Some home owners feel it’s unpleasant to bear the full heat of the afternoon sun, while others may have concerns over cooling costs (the hotter your unit, the more power you use on air-conditioning). As such, many seek a stack with a North-South alignment – this will keep your home cool throughout the year.

Notably, one of the new launches in the East – Tembusu Grand – has every block in a North-South alignment. So with this project, you can focus on other details such as proximity to the facilities, or the most ideal view, without too much concern about sun glare.

Another widely accepted alternative are South-East facing stacks. Units in these blocks tend to catch the gentler morning sun, and may provide a picturesque view of the sunrise. However, they catch less of the sun once it’s fully risen, so the units don’t heat up during noon.

Other facings, in particular East-West facing stacks, are probably going to get more of the noonday sun. While this isn’t widely preferred, it’s not always bad – there are some home buyers who enjoy having a lot of natural light flow into the home, or who feel the heat is still manageable (e.g., you can always hang heavier drapes over the main windows). This comes down to personal preference.

3. Watch out for stacks that directly face roads or MRT tracks

As a rule of thumb, most buyers will prefer stacks that are not directly facing a major road or MRT station. These stacks can be prone to greater noise pollution, as the traffic is passing right by the block.

If the stack has large floor-to-ceiling windows and is facing an MRT track, there’s a possibility that the windows will buzz of vibrate slightly whenever the train roars by – this can start to get annoying, or interfere with your beauty sleep.

That said, developers have learned from the past, and most new launches today are built to avoid these issues. You can ask the sales team what provisions have been made – the developers may have set back the block far enough to minimise the impact, or may have architectural features that block or absorb the noise.

For a development like Tembusu Grand, for example, stack 14 (for the three-bedder units) is likely to be quieter, as it’s set further back from the main entrance and the car park.

The Continuum, on the other hand, is unusual in that stacks are on both sides of Thiam Siew Avenue (the road runs between the project). However, the quieter stacks are likely to be 32 and 30, as they’re facing a landed enclave, and are also set further back from Thiam Siew Road.

If the stack is tall enough, you can also consider that higher floor units will still be insulated from the noise, even if you’re directly facing the road or MRT track.

You can also use Street Directory for this

When in doubt, you Street Directory rather than just the developer’s site layout. Below, we can see the roads, train stations, etc. and their proximity to the condo Terra Hill:

You can also use built in tools on Street Directory to calculate distances, such as the distance to the Pasir Panjang MRT that shows up near the condo here. As an aside, it’s easier to see which other condos, offices, etc. may be visible in different directions.

4. Which stacks are closer to the facilities you’ll use?

Ideally, you will want to walk a shorter distance to the pool, gym, convenience stores in the development, etc. For this reason, you may want to pick a stack that’s closest to the main facilities you’ll use.

This can sometimes be at odds with certain qualities – for example, a stack nearest the pool or BBQ area may also be noisier, so this is a trade-off that home buyers must consider. There is no right or wrong answer here, and it boils down to personal preference.

5. Decide if you want a stack near the main entrance

Note that a stack near the main entrance is not always the most convenient. In some cases, other stacks may be near side-gates that allow for quicker shortcuts to MRT stations, or overhead bridges. In particular, note that side-gates are sometimes not well marked on the condo site maps, so you do have to ask.

Other than this, some buyers avoid stacks near the main entrance (or main entrances, if there’s more than one) as they feel there’s more noise from people coming and going. This is another instance of a stack where you may want a higher-floor unit, to minimise the noise.

6. Not all stacks have the same view

Even if two stacks face the same direction, that doesn’t mean they both have an equally good view. In some cases, one stack may have a partially obstructed view, while others may have a clear line of sight.

Some stacks are also positioned to maximise certain elements – such as for a pool view rather than the surrounding greenery, or vice versa. Usually – but not always – the stacks that command a better view are made obvious by developer pricing (they tend to already be premium stacks).

For The Continuum condo, for instance, the stacks along the north side face a greater number of private apartments (although it’s sparse enough to not crowd the view). But stacks long the south side are likely to be favoured, as they face a low-density landed enclave, and provide an unblocked view of the East Coast area.

Also with regard to the view, note that some stacks see a dramatic improvement as you move up to higher floors (e.g., the lower floors of a particular stack may face little more than the carpark, but the higher floors of the same stack may have the best view of the nearby low-density housing, waterfront, and so forth).

For Terra Hill, we can see the stacks are on a hillside slope, that all have different facings. Stack 25 in particular has a view right down the created valley, toward the main entrance:

If it’s difficult to get a sense of the article via a 2D map, you can try using Google Earth to get a view from various angles:

From here, we can see which stacks are pointed at which particular buildings. The relative heights of nearby buildings are also a bit easier to compare; you generally want to be higher than the surroundings for a better view.

Here’s one of One Bernam:

We can see that One Bernam is generally taller than the nearby buildings in two specific directions (the top and bottom ends of this picture, however it’s orientated). In other directions you may have a tower looming.

Most developers provide “balloon shots” these days, to show the likely view from the 10th floor or higher. But Google Earth can suffice if they don’t provide these images.

Finally, bear in mind that the ideal stack doesn’t always correspond to better returns

It’s better to pick a stack that you would feel comfortable living in. While a better stack should theoretically translate to higher resale prices, there is no way to guarantee this. We have no existing empirical study to prove that stacks bought at a premium will also be sold at a premium; this is just a hypothesis.

As such, owner-investors should prioritise their own comfort and lifestyle preferences – don’t pick a stack that you actually dislike, simply because you’re told it’s “premium”.

Ideally, reach out to us so we can do a walkthrough based on your lifestyle needs and budget – from there, we can help to recommend stacks or unit layouts that will give you the best advantage for the price. Contact us at Max Properties SG so we can help you.

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