RETIREE Sam Tan, 72, is looking for a private property to invest in. But one thing will send him out of a showflat straight away: a mechanised carpark.
The wait and the inconvenience that come with such a system - where drivers drop off their cars to be parked under a computerised system using moving platforms and lifts - put him off.
"Sometimes, agents are not transparent about how this carpark works," he said. "But once I find out, I'm not interested."
He is not alone: Agents say that of every 10 potential buyers, two or three will lose interest in a development that has a mechanised carpark.
Even so, the number of such carparks looks set to grow due to the urgency of maximising land use, said suppliers.
Mechanised carparks have been here for decades, and were first used in commercial buildings. They began appearing in residential properties such as condominiums in the last five years or so.
Islandwide, mechanised carparks offer 5,000 spaces; in contrast, "normal" spaces provided by Urban Redevelopment Authority carparks alone add up to 24,000.
Agents say there are over a hundred residential developments with such carparks, including Kembangan Suites and Attitude @ Kim Yam. A popular system would require only floor space of just three normal carpark spaces to stack up to 50 cars.
While expensive to build, they are still a cheaper option than basement carparks requiring deep excavation. Developers may also prefer to use basement space for facilities like swimming pools. But mechanised carparks often mean waiting in line to retrieve one's car, and being incapacitated if the system breaks down.
Property agents say families with young children are the most resistant to buying property with mechanised carparks because of the waiting time and the need to take all their belongings out of the car before dropping it off.
Most of such developments are usually aimed at singles or investors who will not care as much about the carpark, said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail.
Still, agents and suppliers say that buyers may have to start getting used to such a system.
"It's not a big percentage now but the number of developments coming up that have mechanised carparks is sizeable," said Mr Alan Tan, head of sales and marketing at HSR International Realtors. Forty per cent of the developments that HSR is marketing have mechanised carparks.
Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said in January that the Ministry of National Development is working with her to develop a pilot mechanised carpark system for an HDB estate by the end of the year. This could solve parking woes, especially in older estates, she said.
Mr Raymond Pang, managing director of Current, a mechanised carparks supplier, said he is handling 30 to 50 inquiries from residential property developers. "I don't think there will be a reversal in this trend," he said. "Look at Hong Kong or Tokyo. That is the way to go when you have not enough land, but still want parking lots."