Developers are downsizing their apartments in order to keep prices within the reach of buyers.
After the widespread proliferation of shoebox apartments, some as tiny as 258sqft - equivalent of just 2.5 carpark spaces - the shrinking of two- and three-bedroom apartments are gaining prominence too.
A three-bedder at 193-unit Natura at Hillview Terrace, for instance, measures just 635sqft. The home - smaller than a squash court and slightly bigger that five HDB carpark spaces - caused an uproar when it was launched last year.
The 32-unit Treescape in Telok Kuarau also has micro three-bedders starting from 603sqft.
Go back a few years and a three-bedroom unit would more likely be 1,500sqft in size, while most are now around 1,000sqft to 1,200sqft.
But sizes are changing fast as developers grapple with the opposing pulls of higher land costs and demand for affordable homes to fit buyers' tight budgets. The easiest solution is to build more compact homes, it seems.
A Knight Frank analysis of 40 private suburban condominium projects with at least 200 units launched since 2008 found average sizes shrinking by as much as 34% for certain types of apartments.
For example, one-bedroom units in developments launched in 2008 averaged 678 to 947sqft, or 21 to 28% bigger on average than the 538 to 678sqft units launched in 2010.
The squeeze intensified only in the past year with recently launched one-bedders averaging just 492 to 624sqft, about 27 to 34% smaller than in 2008.
Two-bedroom units launched in 2008 averaged 851 to 1,208sqft but those hitting the market in the past year measure 734 to 1,069sqft.
Similarly, average sizes of three-bedroom units are down by about 20% - from 1,208 to 1,620sqft in 2008 to 963 to 1,338sqft in the 2012 - 2013 period, Knight Frank noted.
Those flats look large compared with the offerings at Urban Vista, next to Tanah Merah MRT station. The launch last month featured two-bedroom units of 549sqft and three-bedders of 850sqft.
Developers are downsizing amid price pressure from buyers.
Experts say overall prices of up to $1.5 million are the most popular among first-time buyers and second-time investors in the light of property cooling measures that have tightened loan limits. While the Government has clamped down on developers building shoebox units, the more worrying trend could be the size crunch in the two- and three-bedroom apartment types instead.
"It's actually reasonable for one person to live in a shoebox unit. There should be more concern over three-bedroom units shrinking to as small as 600 to 700sqft instead," said an industry player.
Mr Teo Hong Lim, executive chairman of Roxy-Pacific, pointed out that homes in the past were probably larger as they included bay windows, planter boxes and household shelters in the total strata area, yet the actual livable area could have been less.
"Our homes are modular and flexible. The household shelter is now centralized at the fire escape staircase, so there is a more efficient use of space in the apartments," he added.
"Buyers are not shortchanged with compact units. they are given better value instead, with the option of having a three-bedroom unit or two-bedroom unit instead if they opt to remove the partition wall between the rooms."
Source: Our de facto English newspaper
Maybe homeowners should just remove all the partition walls between the rooms and convert their micro 2- or 3-bedders into a huge studio apartment instead? Having said that, if the wife and I really want a 2-bedroom apartment, we will be out there looking for a 2-bedder unit that's of adequate size for our needs, rather than having to pay for a 3-bedder and then sacrificing a room for more space. However, we belong to the old school and are probably too pampered by our 1600+sqft 3-bedroom apartment with no bay windows, planter boxes and household shelter.
And to Mr Teo, who claimed that buyers of compact units are given better value instead of being shortchanged, we have this to say: Are you serious..?