Singapore

Abandoned house sold for $2.23m in frenzied 12-minute auction

Frenzied auction for Sembawang Hills Estate terraced house where skeletal remains were found

The Sembawang Hills Estate terraced house where two sets of skeletal remains were found has a new owner.

It was sold yesterday for $2.23 million to a local contractor in a frenzied auction that lasted 12 minutes.

The auction held by real estate agency Knight Frank was made on behalf of the Public Trustee's Office, which comes under the Ministry of Law.

The Government took over the ownership of the abandoned house in 2015, after it had remained in a dilapidated state for about 10 years.

The house's last two known residents - Ms Pearl Tan, a retired civil servant, and her sister Ruby - were declared to be presumed dead by the High Court in 2015. Neither of them left a will.

They would have been 81 and 68 respectively in 2006, when the first set of skeletal remains was found in the house by National Environment Agency officers who entered the house for a mosquito breeding inspection. The officers found a human skeleton in a toilet.

I plan to rent it out first and sell it after five years. Mr Goh Tee Kia, after buying the Sembawang Hills Estate terraced house for $2.23 million

It was only around a decade later, in 2015, when a contractor hired by the Building and Construction Authority entered the house to erect a temporary roof, as part of the roof had collapsed, that a worker found another set of bones.

The auction yesterday was supposed to start at 2.30pm, but it was delayed by 10 minutes because there was not enough space in the Amara Hotel function room that was readied for 70 people instead of the 160 who turned up.

Bidding for the 1,720 sq ft house in Jalan Batai, off Upper Thomson Road, started at $1.7 million. It climbed within minutes, in increments of $20,000, to $2 million.

The house was almost sold to Mr Alvin Tan, a developer, at $2.05 million.

That was when Mr Goh Tee Kia joined the fray with a $2.1 million bid. Until then, he had sat quietly with arms crossed in the second row of the packed room.

Another developer tried to outbid Mr Goh and the price soared to $2.15 million, $2.18 million and $2.2 million in quick succession, until Mr Goh made his $2.23 million bid.

APPLAUSE

"Sold at $2.23 million," said the auctioneer, drawing applause from the crowd.

Mr Tan, who stopped bidding at $2.05 million, told The Straits Times after the auction that he had set himself a price cap of about $2 million.

"It was not meant to be (mine)," he said.

After Mr Goh won the bid, he signed and handed over a $223,000 cheque, or 10 per cent of the winning bid, to Knight Frank.

Records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority showed that Mr Goh owns construction company G & C General Contractors and lives in a landed house near Holland Road.

The 70-year-old said he will tear down the old house and build a new one.

"I plan to rent it out first and sell it after five years," he said.

At $2.23 million, the Jalan Batai house was sold at $1,297 per sq ft.

On the price he paid, Mr Goh said he had "overpaid by about $500,000", referring to the starting bid of the house at $1.7 million.

Property