Owners of Geylang terraces refuse to sell to condo developer, becomes ‘Up’ in real life

8 min read

If you’ve seen the movie ‘Up’, you might recall the scene where Carl’s old house gets surrounded by new high-rise buildings. Or you might have seen “nail houses” in China belonging to owners who stubbornly resist development and the demolition of their homes. Well, Singapore now has its own version of a holdout, after two terrace house owners in Geylang refused to be part of a group that sold their homes to a condominium developer.

As a result, one of the homes will be surrounded on three sides by Noma, an upcoming condo along Guillemard Road, while the other will be sandwiched in between Noma and existing condo La Brisa along Lorong 28 Geylang. In recent years, the area has seen seen successive landed homes snapped up by condominium developers eager for a profit.

noma condo
Noma condo along Guillemard Road.


“Impossible to find a house like this”: Owner

99.co understands that the developer, Macly Group, first approached the owners of the cluster of seven landed homes back in 2017 with the intention of buying the properties. The homes, which include a service road, occupied a squarish site measuring about 1,700 square metres. Sites of such shapes are typically a developer’s dream because of the ease of configuring units and layouts for sale.

However, two of the owners were unwilling to consider offers. When Shin Min Daily News recently spoke to the owner of the holdout along Lorong 28 Geylang, he explained his decision for not striking a deal with Macly Group, despite the other five owners doing so in June 2018 for a sum of $20.55 million.

Mr Goh, a 60-year old hawker by trade, told the paper in Mandarin: “My mother bought the house, but she has already passed away, so I live here now with elder sister.”

“I’ve turned the open area in the front of the house into a garden,” he added. “Aside from gardening, I also keep angelfish and birds. In the mornings I get to watch the city wake up while sitting in my garden.”

Mr Goh revealed that this was the second time he had turned down an offer for his home by a developer. Over a decade ago, Mr Goh’s home was part of a long row of terrace homes along Lorong 20 Geylang, most of which became La Brisa condo.

The freehold tenure of his home is another reason why Mr Goh refuses to sell. “Now it’s impossible to find a house like this. Other properties perhaps have only a 99-year tenure, but this is freehold. It belongs to us. And I get to do my gardening. I won’t sell no matter how much the other party offers.”

noma terrace house before after mr goh
Mr Goh’s terrace house (outlined in yellow in the first photo) became the only one standing. Source: Google


Guillemard Road holdout a Buddhism prayer hall and caretaker residence

It turns out that the other holdout property, which faces Guillemard Road, is a Buddhism prayer hall. Shin Min Daily News reporters discovered that a lady living on the premises is the caretaker of the hall, but not the owner.

The caretaker told the paper that the prayer hall, which is located on the ground level of the two-storey home, is only open to the owner’s family and friends, and she does not know the reasons for the owner not selling the property.

noma terrace house before after guillemard road
The landed prayer hall/caretaker’s residence along Guillemard Road will be hemmed in. Source: Google


Even though there are works ongoing around their homes, and part of their roofs are involved in the construction of Noma, both owners currently do not face any major issues with with living in their properties (aside from construction noise) and are able to enter and exit their homes freely.


How the condo’s architects chose to work around the holdout homes

While the Mr Goh’s holdout home along Lorong 28 Geylang wasn’t disruptive to the overall site layout, the landed property along Guillemard Road had the effect of virtually sectioning the Noma site into two.

macly group noma site
Yellow: What Macly Group wanted. Blue: What Macly Group got.


Working around this, the condo’s architects decided to house three separate blocks—a West Block, East Block and a North Block—surrounding the holdout property. And this is what the site plan looks like, with rooftop facilities on each block shown.

noma condo site plan facilities
(Above) Noma’s site plan showing the facilities on the 6th level. The vertical gap in the middle is where the holdout property is sited.
noma condo geylang facade
An artist’s impression of Noma. (Residents, please don’t party too hard and throw stuff onto the house in the middle.)


The design of Noma also means that the Guillemard Road holdout will be hemmed in on three sides by six to seven-storey high retaining walls. Above the retaining wall along the rear perimeter are two additional residential storeys, forming a “cliff” that’s eight storeys high.

As the house is sited on a North-South axis, the property will receive very little sunlight when Noma is complete. The artists’ impression below hints at how the Guillemard Road house will be dwarfed by Noma.

The yellow arrow indicates where the Guillemard Road house will be, which gives a whole new meaning to “tucked away”!


Mr Goh’s house along Lorong 28 Geylang, which is oriented on an East-West axis, will be sandwiched by two eight-storey high retaining walls on its north and south sides. The rear perimeter of the home will remain open towards a single-lane back alley. Because of its orientation, Mr Goh’s garden can continue to flourish even after Noma is completed.

Noma will house 50 residential units ranging from one- to four-bedroom apartments when it’s complete in 2023. Now here’s a fun fact: If Macly Group had managed to buy all of the landed homes it intended to purchase, it could have built at least another 20 units!

In terms of value, Mr Goh’s home is also the more valuable of the two because the maximum allowable height on that plot of land is eight storeys compared to the five storey limit for the house fronting Guillemard Road.

66% of units sold on the first weekend

Based on buyer demand, it would seem that Macly Group had made the correct decision to push ahead with the purchase even with two out of seven owners refusing to sell. On the project’s early bird sales weekend in August 2020, buyers snapped up 34 of the project’s 50 units at a median price of $1,639 per square foot (psf). Two more units were sold in September.

Based on the $20.55 million price tag of the site, it appears that Macly Group is poised to make a decent profit as the original price equates to around $700 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr). A developer’s breakeven price for a $700 psf ppr property, after factoring in construction, marketing and administration costs, is approximately $1,400 psf.

For a freehold property that is as close to the CBD as Noma, its median selling price could represent good value for buyers. About 500 metres away from Noma along Guillemard Road is Arena Residences (also freehold), which moved nine units in August 2020 at a median price of $1,841 psf.

One of the more unique layouts of Noma happen to be a stack of two-bedroom units that finds itself sited in between the two holdout homes. The 667 square foot units in this stack have an elongated layout that actually suits buyers looking for a kitchen space that can be expanded considerably:

noma condo two bedroom floor plan

If you ask us, the layout of the unit above is somewhat akin to a landed home, with the spacious balcony serving as a mini front porch. And perhaps the best advertisement for this condo isn’t its facilities but neighbours like Mr Goh, whose determination to cling onto their freehold homes could convince buyers of the value of a location like this.

(If you’re interested in buying a freehold property in Singapore, browse the latest freehold properties for sale in Singapore on 99.co today!)

[View all new launch condos listed for sale in Geylang.]


Would you have sold your home if you’re Mr Goh? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

If you liked this article, 99.co recommends 5 SG condos that make you feel you’re on holiday overseas despite Covid-19 and 5 things to know about Clavon, the latest new launch condo in Clementi

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Reader Interactions


    • Terrence

      Good for Me Goh. Little guy fights back against rapacious scumbag developers.

    • Adam Seah

      If I am Mr. Goh, I would sell it. Looking at this current situation, Mr. Goh’s house frontage both sides having high walls will be very warm and no much wind will pass into the house. Singapore having tropical climate, the house could be just like a klin and poor ventilation unless they need to have air conditioning in order to stay comfortably! Else this house need to rebuild to have a better ventilation throughout the years!

    • Sam Ow

      I opined that it is not a question of whether one would sell the property or not. In this case or subject matter, in question, there is No Right and No Wrong by both parties but strictly speaking a question of Willing Buyer and Unwilling Seller. In this case, the Willing Buyer attempt (s) had been futile and the Seller is unwilling to budge for reasons clearly stated in the article. Henceforth, we need to respect the Owner’s decision and the Buyer/Developer’s ingenious plan of developing to maximise use of space, configuration, unique design, variance sizes of units …etc to conjure a development of affordable sale price culminating to its rave success review. Kudos to the Buyer/Developer and Owner! My 2 cents worth of input.

      • Terry

        “the Seller is unwilling to budge for reasons clearly stated in the article”
        Can’t find this part in the article?
        BTW….how many owners are there in Guillemard Road house?

    • Tan

      Developers are reaping hugely… If I were him n price is right for air space can seriously consider

    • Sam Nonis

      Well done to Mr. Goh for his loving to the property which was a very hard earned money bought by his late mother….kudos! It’s not all about money for him, and if it to happen to me, I would do the same thing too. Hold on to your rights Mr. Goh!

    • Victor Wong

      I think he should compromise with the developer. It is a question of whether the developer’s compensation offer is sufficient to buy him a nearly equivalent property. If the price is right, it is not reasonable for a small minority (here being 2 out of 7) to stand in the way of urban renewal and land rejuvenation.
      On the other hand, while he refuses to sell, the developer is not entitled to build tall walls around to segrgregate his house such that natural sunlight and ventilation (i.e. breeze) that he used to enjoy is now substsntially blocked from his property. I think he can sue for his rights of easements.
      On non-landed propertirs side, I think the present rules for en bloc sales are inadequate or flawed. For example, the 80/20% rules should be based on number of supporters vs number of dissentors by counted votes, instead of presently based on 80% consensus of number of units in the estate, in which case abstention equates to objection.

    • how many mil if he’d sold to macly?
      no way. after noma is completed,
      goh hse will really ‘up’
      no one will know how up!

    • Terri T.

      If I get to profit from the sale, why make things difficult for the developer? I mean, he can do gardening around HDB estates as well. Why hang on to a crappy property?

    • Ann Wong

      Since I get a handsome profit, I will fulfill my sale. Purchase two properties one of which to harvest passive income another for my resident. In view of age is catching up is easy to tidy a smaller unit without a maid.

    • Deepster

      It’s hard to imagine a man’s sense of hard-earned achievement, contentment and most admirably his filial piety, would stand in the way of making more money..but I guess we just need more condominiums to future-proof this city..right?

    • Param

      I think these 2 owners did the right thing. They know the value of their plots. 5 other owners collectively got paid $20.5 mln only. They sold their PPR for $ 700 just equivalent to the cost of construction wheras in Singapore the construction cost is 20- 30% of the project value instead 50 % in this case. These 2 owners can now develop a 20 unit apartment block of 8 story and standing tall in between the two blocks of 5 story with higher allowable height restriction. In my opinion they stand to loose nothing.

    • A

      Is this project even approved by the authorities?

      Did they know if they could faced lawsuits by Mr Goh in the future for the lack of sunlight, winds plus maybe the rubbish thrown by the residents of the new development.

      Lawsuit might be brewing soon and there will be affected buyers which might not sound good for the developer.

    • Keith

      LOL! Hope he holds out. Won’t be surprised if the government interven in the developer’s favour.

    • kevyl

      Could have negotiated for developer to rebuild his house on the roof of the new development.

    • Jimmy Tan

      Want to sell or don’t want to sell still up to him.
      The take away here , rare personally , money can’t buy everything.

    • Ezen

      Not sure if it is a wise choice to be so stubborn. As many have pointed out, not only do they lose light and ventilation, they have effectively nailed the coffin for future sale of their house.

      if they thought that this house could be passed on to their children, they fail to realise the children would not be able to encash the value of this freehold property since no one would want to buy such a piece of trapped land anymore.

      might as well take the money to buy another landed freehold elsewhere..or maybe even 1 penthouse and 1 condo..still can also build your rooftop garden..

      the inflexible thinking will cost their future generations dearly. (assuming they r asset rich cash poor as typical with many elder generations, they will not be able to make further A&A to their old house too)

      Those who think u can still build 20 units in this plot dont realise that common areas take up space as well. it does not work linearly like that!

      • Jonno

        Absolutely correct! It will become a stranded piece of land which nobody wants.

        A&A will also be impossible to do as the site is hemmed in on 3 sides restricting construction equipment accessibility.

        The next generation will be cursing the previous generation for being silly not to take the money. Very hard for them to monetise any future value from their property.

        And for all those who support their decision, I hope that the same will not happened to you. And please do what you say & not say simply for the sake of it! Enough of
        those peoplee who don’t understand property in S’pore at all but chose to voice their 2 cents worth!

    • Lee

      I Hope Mr. Goh’s descendent can build a high-rise up! It is his land. The situation can flip-flop.

    • Ezen

      You are spot on about the construction accessibility. For even 1 commenter who said they can build their own high rise.. lol… obviously hasnt given any practical construction thought.

      Anyway, most netizens comment for the sake of commenting only ..also no wrong no right. But got wise or not wise. Hahah! Good luck to his next generation, hope they will see it from their grandpa’s viewpoint.. and not curse him for not cashing out!

    • Ming le

      I respect his right to not sell. If don’t know don’t any how tall, maybe it’s because this house he inherited from his mom who passed away. Not everything is about money. But sadly light and ventilation will be affected. Like someone else mentioned, will affect future price if they change their mind and want to sell. Lol at those dumb brainless comments saying the owners can budge another 8 storey apartment. Clearly don’t know basic laws, no government agency will approve such a tight space for privacy and safety reasons.

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