Dual-key condo: Analysing the pros and cons of SORA Condo

Dual-key condo units first hit the market with the launch of Caspian by Frasers Centrepoint Homes back in 2009. Since then, developers have caught on, launching numerous projects across Singapore that feature dual-key units. Some new launch condo projects featuring dual-key units include Enchante, Parc Clematis,Piccadilly Grand and SORA Condo.

SORA Condo is a new mixed-use residential development by Hong Leong Holdings and Guocoland. It is expected to yield 595 residential units on a site that is 17,100 square metres in size. The project is located in the Ang Mo Kio neighbourhood of Singapore. This is the first of four new residential developments planned for the area.

With dual-key units, owners essentially have two self-contained living spaces that share a single foyer and address. The larger unit in a dual-key configuration serves as the main unit, and the smaller unit — commonly a studio — serves as a sub-unit. A dual-key unit is typically 3 to 5% bigger — in terms of floor area — than a regular condo unit with the same number of bedrooms.

As you can imagine, dual-key condo units are designed to target certain groups of property buyers. Firstly, dual-key units appeal to multi-generation families who want to live under the same roof, but at the same time maintain their own privacy (i.e. elderly parents live in the sub-unit).

Secondly, these homes are popular with prospective property investors or couples looking to rent out part of their property, but because of affordability constraints, do not have the means to buy a second property.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of dual-key condo units.

Advantages of dual-key condo units 

No ABSD payable

While dual-key condo units are essentially two apartments side-by-side, these are legally a single property. As such, buyers don’t incur any Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) for the “additional” sub-unit.

An example layout of a dual-key condo unit in Singapore.With the Singapore government implementing a hefty increase in ABSD in December 2021, buying a dual-key unit makes more sense to first-time homebuyers (with an eye on property investment) and buyers of second and subsequent properties. Buying a dual-key unit lets the buyer “sidestep” the ABSD levied on an additional property, which is as high as 17% for Singapore Citizens buying a second home (25% for Permanent Residents), and 30% for foreigners buying any residential property.

Say you’ve got a budget of S$2 million, and you’re deciding between purchasing two condo units — a S$1.2 million two-bedroom unit for your own stay and a S$800k unit to rent out — and a dual-key unit.

Assuming you don’t own any other property, you’ll have to fork out 17% in ABSD on the second property bought if you go with the former option, which works out to a significant S$136,000. For a dual-key apartment, no ABSD is payable if it’s the first property you’re buying.

Renting out without sacrificing privacy

With dual-key units, you get to stay in AND rent out a single property without compromising too much on privacy. As opposed to renting out a room in a regular condo unit, you tenants will be utilising separate keys, living spaces, toilets and kitchen amenities.

As a landlord, you and your family members rarely have to rub shoulders with your tenants. So you don’t have to be mindful of them (you’re free to walk around in your nightgown) and can have as much personal space as you need.

Higher rental yield (compared to standalone studio units)

Renting out a sub-unit instead of a room in your unit not only affords you greater privacy. We also observe that a sub-unit can potentially fetch a higher psf rental price than renting out a standalone studio unit (i.e. not part of a dual-key unit).

For illustration purposes, let’s look at Riverbank @ Fernvale, which offers dual-key condo units.

Currently, there’s a rental listing for a studio of a dual-key condo unit in the development.

A studio of a dual-key unit at Riverbank @ Fernvale for rent.

  • Rent: S$2,000/month
  • Floor area: 250 sq ft
  • Price psf: S$8

In comparison, one-bedder units measuring 450 to 550 sq ft at the development are currently being rented out for a price psf of S$4.

Another example is a rental studio of a dual-key unit at D’leedon.

A studio of a dual-key unit at D’leedon for rent.

  • Rent: S$2,000/month
  • Floor area: 300 sq ft
  • Price psf: S$6.67

Like what we’ve seen for Riverbank @ Fernvale, there’s a lower price psf for the one-bedder units being rented out at D’leedon compared to the asking price of this listing. Currently, one-bedder units with a floor area ranging between 650 and 750 sq ft are being rented out at a price psf of S$4.83.

So, with dual-key condo units, a prospective landlord is likely to get higher rental yields with a lower cash outlay (when considering it’s also a property for own stay).

Disadvantages of dual-key condo units

Dual-key units can be more expensive per square feet

Some developers might price dual-key units significantly higher than regular units with the same number of bedrooms.

At Kingsford Waterbay, Kingsford Development priced dual-key units at a whopping 20 to 25% price premium. However, for The Orient, developer Aurum Land did not price in a premium for its six dual-key, two-bedroom units.

Given the vast differences in approach to pricing dual-key units, you’ll need to do your due diligence to determine if the price premium (if any) is justifiable, especially if you’re buying a resale.

Dual-key units can be difficult to sell

As we mentioned earlier, dual-key units only appeal to a certain segment of buyers, which is in the minority. This means that it might be harder for you to sell your dual-key unit if you want to do so.

Buyers outside these niche segments often see dual-key units as an inefficient configuration of space, seeing as they either have no intention of renting out the property, or have parents who are well-settled in another home. So, right off the bat, when you want to sell your dual-key unit, you’ll have to discount at least 90% of the buyer pool.

Tip: If you want to buy a dual-key unit that might be easier to sell, choose one that doesn’t come with a kitchenette (so that the sub-unit resembles a second master bedroom or a junior suite). Beware that doing so could reduce the appeal of the sub-unit to prospective tenants, and lower the amount of rent you can get.

Not suitable as a home office

While entrepreneurs and business owners might be keen on using the second unit in their dual-key property as an office space, this may not be the best idea. Utilising a unit in a dual-key property is only viable if you fly solo or have a small team, and if you aren’t planning on expanding in the near future.

According to URA, you’ll first need to apply for a license under the Home Office Scheme. Plus, it only allows for a maximum of two non-residents to be engaged in the business. On top of that, business owners are not permitted to put up any signage outside their property. So, dual-key units may not be suitable as a home office.

Should you buy a dual-key condo unit?

Ultimately, dual-key units are a niche unit type, where condos are concerned. If being a landlord on a budget is your priority, or if your parents are going to live with you in future, a dual-key unit can be the ideal solution.

For the former situation, be mindful that other factors still matter more. This includes whether the project is in an area with high rental demand, nearby essential amenities, the rental yield of similar properties in the area, etc.

More projects featuring dual-key units

New launch condos with dual-key units: 

  • Infini at East Coast (TOP: 2022)
  • Jervois Treasures (TOP: 2022)
  • Neu at Novena (TOP: 2023)
  • Parksuites (TOP: 2023)
  • Verticus (TOP: 2024)
  • Forett @ Bukit Timah (TOP: 2024)

Resale condos with dual-key units: 

  • Highline Residences
  • Seaside Residences
  • City Gate
  • Park Place Residences
  • Kallang Riverside
  • 120 Grange

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