House saved from Chinese swindler-tour guide on the market from $35 mil

timothy.tay@edgeprop.sg

A sprawling bungalow at 2F Gerald Crescent belonging to Chung Khin Chun, 90, the victim in a highly publicised financial abuse court case three years ago, was launched for sale on Feb 22.

The asking price of the 999-year leasehold property, which occupies a 31,882 sq ft site, is upwards of $1,100 psf, or from $35 million, according to sole marketing agent Savills Singapore. The vendor is Hedy Mok, Chung’s niece and the appointed deputy public trustee for the administration of her estate.


A 39,000 sq ft garden behind Chung’s bungalow was sold in 2004 and redeveloped into The Gardens at Gerald (top, left), which contains 25 strata terrace houses. (Picture: Savills Singapore)

The property, located in Seletar Hills Estate, was developed by Bukit Sembawang Estates. When Chung and her husband, the late Dr Chou Sip King, purchased the house in 1961, it sat on a sprawling 71,000 sq ft site. The price then was $40,000. Today, the piece of land would have been worth $157 million when adjusted for inflation, according to an online inflation calculator by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The property has a 999-year lease starting from 1879. When Chou was alive, the garden alone accounted for more than half the site, or 39,000 sq ft. The garden had durian and rambutan trees, a lily pond and rock paths, and was adorned by sculptures made by Chou. As the couple had no children, the garden became the playground for their eight dogs.

In the last property boom in 1996, a developer had offered the couple $28 million ($400 psf) for their property, but they refused to sell it. In 2004, the couple, who was then in their 70s, had walking difficulties and realised they could not maintain their huge garden. They decided to put it up for sale. As the market was in the doldrums, boutique developer Oaktree Land managed to purchase it for $7.6 million ($195 psf per plot ratio) and developed the site into 25 strata terraced houses called The Gardens at Gerald. The project was completed in 2007.

A series of unfortunate events

Chou passed away in 2007, and the following year, Chung went on her annual holiday to China accompanied by a friend. They engaged a tour guide in China named Yang Yin. Little did Chung suspect that she would fall prey to Yang’s designs.

By 2009, Yang had become a resident in Chung’s bungalow, and by 2011, he had become a Singapore permanent resident (PR), after reportedly falsifying receipts that made it appear that he owned a firm that was profitable. He even manipulated Chung into making a will stating that he was the sole beneficiary and was given the lasting power of attorney (LPA) over Chung’s estate and assets in 2012.


The house, which occupies a 999-year leasehold site of 31,882 sq ft, has been launched for sale by tender

His wife and two young children from China even moved into Chung’s home in 2013. That was when Chung’s niece, Mok stepped in and had them evicted. By 2014, Chung, who was 86 then, was diagnosed with dementia. Mok arranged for Chung to move in with her and was appointed her guardian by the courts.

Up until that point, Mok had only visited her aunt every quarter. "She was a very private person," she says. Mok's mother and Chung are sisters.  Mok successfully petitioned the courts to throw out the will made in 2012 in favour of Yang and revoked his LPA. The court case dragged on for three years. Yang was found guilty of 120 charges brought against him, including the misappropriation of $1.1 million from Chung and fraudulently obtaining Singapore PR status. He was given a jail sentence of 11 years and two months.


Mok, Chung’s niece, the appointed deputy public trustee for the administration of Chung’s estate, says her aunt was a very private person. (Picture: Samuel Issac Chua/The Edge Singapore)

 

Value preservation

After the court case ended, Mok’s next task was to sell the property at Gerald Crescent. The bulk of the proceeds from the sale will go to charity, according to Mok.

Suzie Mok (no relation to Hedy Mok), senior director of investment sales at Savills Singapore, expects keen interest for the property at Gerald Crescent, given the rarity of land parcels of such a size in the Seletar Hills Estate. “Over the years, many have been subdivided and sold,” she says.


Suzie: The best way to preserve the value of the property is to sell it to a person who will redevelop the site without carving it up

The 31,882 sq ft site is zoned for a three-storey mixed landed development under the 2014 Master Plan. According to Suzie, it can be developed into 11 houses — two bungalows, a pair of semi-detached houses and seven terraced houses. However, that means 10% to 15% of the land has to be allocated for an access road, she explains.

An alternative scenario would be to sell it to a high-net-worth individual or someone who will redevelop the site into several bungalows for family members, without carving up the site into smaller pieces, she adds. “This will help preserve the value of the property for future generations.”

Suzie does not see the 1% increase in buyer’s stamp duty having any impact on properties of such sizes. According to Mok, about $5 million from the proceeds of the sale could go towards the purchase of a small house in the East Coast for her aunt, so that her aunt could live near her. Meanwhile, another portion will be put in a trust for her living expenses, she adds.

The tender for the property at Gerald Crescent will close on March 22.

 

This article appeared in EdgeProp Pullout, Issue 819 (Feb 26, 2018)

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