The iProperty Brand

Passing the midway point of the year is always a psychological achievement. For the iProperty Group, it presented its own set of milestones, from the expansion of our business growth to Indonesia, to getting investments valued at A$8.9 million from the No. 1 property portal in France to establishing new partnerships that will in turn generate more leads for you. The start of 2011 has been nothing short of exceptional.

How has it been for Singapore? Well, I will let the numbers do the talking on how well the start of the first 6 months of 2011 was in comparison to the same period last year:

  • 139% increase in number of monthly unique visitors to our website
  • 61% increase in listings
  • 38% increase in consumer subscribers to monthly eNewsletters

Now wouldn’t you say it was an EXCEPTIONAL start too!

Aside from that, I am pleased to say that the iProperty family is rapidly growing. As such, we have recently changed our name from IPGA Ltd to now be officially known as the iProperty Group. This change reflects the growth of our company and better represents where we are at today and more importantly, where we want to be tomorrow.

Since our humble beginning in 2003, iProperty.com has become Asia’s leading network of property websites providing the most comprehensive platform for property agents, buyers, renters and investors. It has also established itself as a channel for Property Agents and property developers to reach their target audience in a more cost effective and convenient way.

Why the change of name? Simple, it is because we wanted to standardize the usage of our brand name in all the countries we operate in. We want ‘iProperty’ to be the name that property investors remember when they look for properties. We want to be the name that agents remember when looking for an avenue to generate leads for their listings. We want to be the name that is synonymous with ‘all things property’ and be the leading No.1 property website in all the countries we operate in.

And how do we do ensure that we achieve this? By continuously delivering on our brand promise to create exceptional online property media products that are loved by customers, respected by clients and feared by competitors.

Here’s to a better record breaking 2nd half of 2011.

Have a great week ahead!

Lowdown on Singapore’s property market Q2 2011

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has released their Q2 real estate statistics. 2 major property agencies, CB Richard Ellis and PropNex, have responded with their views. What do the property veterans have to say?

URA's real estate statistics are available on their website.

In their second quarter real estate statistics released yesterday, the URA has pointed out that:

Prices and Rentals
- The rate of price increases continues to moderate. Prices of private residential properties increased by 2.0% in 2nd Quarter 2011, lower than the 2.2% increase in the previous quarter.
- Prices of non-landed properties in Rest of Central Region (RCR) and Outside Central Region (OCR) increased at a more moderated pace.
- Rentals of private residential properties4 increased by 1.3% in 2nd Quarter 2011, compared with the 1.2% increase in the previous quarter.

Supply in the Pipeline
- The supply of residential units in the pipeline continues to build up. As at the end of 2nd Quarter 2011, there was a total supply of 71,111 uncompleted private residential units from projects in the pipeline.
- Of the supply in the pipeline, 33,899 units remained unsold as at 2Q2011.
- The unsold units comprised 10,309 units in CCR, 7,610 units in RCR and 15,980 units in OCR.

Launches and Take-up
- A total of 4,802 uncompleted private residential units were launched for sale by developers in 2nd Quarter 2011, compared with 4,130 units in 1st Quarter 2011.
- At the same time, 4,325 uncompleted private residential units were sold by developers, compared with 3,430 units in 1st Quarter 2011. Developers also sold 119 completed private residential units in 2nd Quarter 2011.

Terrasse, one of the major projects in the Outside Central Region (OCR) which sold well in Q2.

How active have home buyers been?
In response to URA’s numbers, Mr Li Hiaw Ho, Executive Director, CB Richard Ellis has this to say, “The volumes of new and resale homes (excluding ECs) sold in Q2 2011 outnumbered the corresponding numbers in the first quarter by 23.6% and 12.0% respectively.

A total of 4,444 new homes were sold in Q2 2011, most of which were located in Outside Central Region (OCR) as developers actively pushed out their projects built on leasehold sites bought from the government land sales programme in 2010.”

Hedges Park in Flora Drive.

Of the 4,444 units sold in Q2 2011, 61.4% were located in OCR. Major projects in OCR that sold well include Eight Courtyards, Hedges Park and Terrasse. Small-format projects in Geylang area seemed to be popular as seen in the sell-out of Centra Heights, Melosa and Sims Edge. In the EC market, all the 315 units of Belysa were sold during the quarter as it was attractively priced at $670 psf.

Melosa condo project in Geylang

The strong activity in the primary market spilled over to the secondary market resulting in 3,945 resale homes and 670 sub-sales in Q2 2011. Despite the slightly higher number of sub-sales in Q2 2011, it represents only 7.4% of the total sales volume, showing that the property measures are effective in keeping speculative activity at bay.

Residential prices in Q2 2011 rose by 2.0% q-o-q according to preliminary estimates by the URA, a smaller increase than the 2.2% in the previous quarter. This shows that home prices are stabilising. Home rents moved up 1.3% q-o-q, a shade better than the 1.2% chalked up in Q1 2011. The rise in rents was led by rents in OCR in both quarters, which is possible as an increasing number of expatriates take up local packages without separate housing allowances.

Sims Edge condominium units are popular with expats.

Going forward, they expect the take-up in Q3 2011 to be lower than Q2 2011’s volume as uncertainty of the debt crisis of the European Union and the U.S. have somewhat dampened market sentiments. In addition, the record supply of public housing being released to the market as well as a possible tweaking of government policies in the coming months is likely to affect the demand of private suburban homes.

How much more will COV levels rise?
PropNex’s CEO, Mohamed Ismail, has other opinions on the property market and predicts a further rise in COV for resale HDB flats.

He says, “Those who took 1Q11 to understand the cooling measures have come back to buy on the resale market. However, there are still many owners who, due to the effects of the cooling measures—especially the lower 60% Loan-To-Value ratio and revised Minimum Occupation Periods, are reluctant to move or sell their flat, resulting in a supply crunch and driving median resale prices as well as COV levels up.”

According to data from PropNex data, which has a 25% market share in the HDB resale market, COV levels have risen.

 

Mr Ismail also noted that for the months of April, May and June—which constitutes 2Q11—PropNex data showed a 1%, 4% and 10% increase respectively in the number of HDB resale flats being transacted at COVs of $50,000 and above.“Home sellers must remain realistic about their COV demands,” pronounces Mr Ismail, “because if not, there will be resistance from the buyers.”His predictions? The overall median COV looks set to rise to $38,000 in the third quarter before plateauing in the beginning of next year.”Will the resale market be affected by the new BTO launches? HDB’s latest BTO flats launch in July 2011.

“In the latest Build-to-Order (BTO) exercise in which 3,556 flats were launched,” continues Mr Ismail, “the over subscription rate was between three to four times, which demonstrated a continued strong demand for public  housing.”

His sentiments are that some would-be upgraders are hanging on to their HDB flats because of the widening price gap between HDB resale flats and private property. As such, potential HDB upgraders could have found private property prices to be out of reach so they postponed their upgrading plans.

“In addition, those with existing home loans could be put off upgrading because of the rule that they cannot borrow more than 60% of the value of the property they want to buy,” continues Mr Ismail, “the 40% cash upfront is a substantial amount for those who are taking bank loans, which have a close to 25%, also means they would have to sell before getting another loan and have nowhere to stay in the interim.”

Source: Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA); Mr Li Hiaw Ho, Executive Director, CB Richard Ellis; PropNex.

Editor’s Commentary:
Now into the second half of 2011, 3 months after the stirring General Elections in May, the housing situation seems to be in a standstill despite HDB’s announcements that many more BTO flats are being built. The income ceiling and DBSS reviews are perhaps what the public is looking for? And what about resale HDB flat prices, will they fall when the new flats are ready?

Most home buyers in Singapore are willing to offer up to S$25,000 in COV

Survey results by iProperty.com.sg highlights home buyers’ willingness to secure their dream homes 

Singapore’s number one property website, iProperty.com.sg, revealed in a recent Quick Poll in July, the market’s willingness to secure their dream property, even if it meant paying more than $45,000  in cash-over-valuation (COV) to seal the deal.

Key findings from the survey revealed that:

  1. Most survey respondents (63.3%) are willing to offer between S$10,000 to S$25,000 in COV to ensure they secure their dream HDB homes.
  2. The remaining respondents are willing to offer higher COV for their dream homes, with 16.8% willing to offer between S$25,001 to S$35,000, and 6.7% are willing to offer between S$35,001 to S$45,000.
  3. 13.2% of respondents are willing to offer S$45,001 and above.

If given the opportunity to own the HDB home of your dreams, with ideal location and facilities, how much COV (cash-over-valuation) are you willing to offer to ensure you secure that property?

A total of 327 respondents took part in this online survey from 28 June 2011 to 19 July 2011.

This comes on the heels of recent reports of a Tampines unit at Block 151 of Tampines Street 12 which sold at $150,000 COV, further reinforcing current market sentiments that saw the return of higher COV with the tightened supply in the housing market.

In response to Singapore’s all-time-high property prices, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan recently commented, during his first official visit to the HDB Hub, that prices of HDB’s new flats are typically pegged to prevailing resale prices, but are discounted.

Acting on the public’s call for more affordable housing, the HDB had seemingly lowered indicative starting prices for new flats recently launched in Sengkang, Tampines, Jurong West, Bukit Panjang and Yishun – as compared to the previous BTO launch in May 2011.

Commenting on Minister Khaw’s recent measures to alleviate the demand-supply conundrum, Shaun Di Gregorio, Chief Executive Officer of iProperty Group Limited “Home buyers are now getting closer to obtaining their dream homes – be it new or resale flats – as signs of the stabilising housing market are beginning to appear. Not only are we going to see more and more new HDB flats being offered in bumper BTO launches in months to come, our recent Quick Poll also suggests that most home buyers are willing to fork out top dollar to secure flats in ideal locations and with good facilities nearby.”

He added, “However, there is still some way to go in addressing affordability issues – home buyers are still anxious to see what comes with the review of the income ceiling for first- timers to buy BTO flats, as well as the review of the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS), and how this affects prices of the remaining 9,500 new flats by year end, and subsequently, the impact on resale prices.”

An Introduction to Shaun Di Gregorio

Welcome to my very first CEO Blog Post!

Firstly, thank you for browsing through our website and for dropping in to read this. We hope that you have found the information on our site beneficial and helpful in your search for your desired property.

Being the Chief Executive Officer of iProperty.com Group is a big task and one that is filled with meetings, trips and other day-to-day commitments that it is sometimes hard to take time to chat with you, our agents and consumers. Via this blog, I am now not only able to speak to you but also hear what you have to say and hopefully via your comments, we are able to serve your needs better.

Without your continuous support, iProperty.com would not be where it is today. So THANK YOU and we look forward to more fruitful years to come.

So what better way to start off my first entry than to give you a brief introduction on who I am! When I first joined the team, I was asked the following questions and I thought it would be apt to share it with you too.

1. What inspires you?

Challenges inspire me. It gives me the opportunity to test my boundaries and also the chance to fulfil an untapped potential. I firmly believe that everyone should throw a challenge at themselves and see how they can achieve it. Someone once said that ‘Challenges will make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They’re what make you go beyond the norm’ and this very true.

2. What do you love about Singapore?

It is so easy to get around in Singapore. The airport is just amazing – efficient, spacious, clean and stress-free, especially when I am always transiting between the different countries that iProperty.com operates in. The other thing that I love about Singapore (and Malaysia!) is that no matter what time of the day, you can always get food!

3. What do you think of chilli crabs?

Not the usual way that you will have crabs done in Australia, chilli crabs are simply delicious! The Singapore team ordered the mantuo (mini pan-fried buns), and I recalled dipping into the sauce and discovering a whole new taste. I’m looking forward to tasting the other versions of this dish – pepper, butter, salted egg and claypot beehoon, you name it.

4. Which country do you come from?

I come from the land down under, Melbourne, Australia.

5. Are you married?

Yes, I am married to a gorgeous and great Irish woman from Ireland. We have two beautiful girls. My eldest daughter is almost three years old and my youngest, born on Father’s Day this year, is only a few weeks old.

6. How do you juggle your time between family and work?

Well, as any parent would tell you, being a parent is certainly not easy. It’s challenging but also very rewarding. Nothing brightens up my day more than receiving a nice warm cuddly hug and also a loving smile from my daughters. My wife is a full time stay-at-home-mum so the kids get undivided attention from her.

Juggling time between work and family is not easy but I believe, like everything in life, we need to find a balance.

7. What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?

My greatest aspiration would be to take iProperty.com Group to greater heights, and to tap into new markets not just in Singapore, but all around the region. This is all with the aim of making property search easy, convenient and assessable to all.

8. What do you think about the Singapore property market?

On a monthly basis, on the iProperty.com.sg website, there are more than 700,000 unique visitors looking through our site to find their ideal home or to keep themselves updated with the latest property news. This is a clear indication that the Singapore property market is in high demand and very buoyant. Property is almost a lifestyle in Singapore. Every Singaporean, in one way or another, is thinking about buying or selling property, talking about housing measures, searching for an ideal home or investing in property.

I foresee that with Singapore property prices at a high, many home buyers are just focused on finding affordable homes and this will remain a key concern for them till HDB makes up for the shortfall in supply of public housing. Some buyers will also continue to pay top dollar for HDB flats in popular mature estates. On the private property front, price growth has slowed down and we can tell more about private property prices when Minister Khaw Boon Wan announces the next round of housing measures.

9. What makes iProperty.com.sg different from other property websites?

We are unique in more ways than one, which makes us the leading property website in the country. But what makes us stand out from our competitors is our continuous strive to introduce highly innovative products that will make property search easy and quick no matter where you are. We are able to do this by understanding the needs of our customers and consumers. It’s by understanding that we are able to ensure that our website is fully equipped with the information you desire.

Space Optimisation and Beautification

Homeownership is a priority for many families. Due to consumer demand, the quality of HDB apartments (government housing provided by the Housing Development Board) has improved over time. Yet, Singapore’s finite geography and surging population mean that space remains a constant challenge. Soaring housing prices also mean that budget is a major factor.

As an interior designer, one question I am often asked by HDB homeowners is: how can I maximise the space in my home while keeping it functional for my family’s changing lifestyles? This isn’t an easy question to answer, but it is a common one, which is why I’d like to share some of my interior design insights and suggestions you can use to make your home more spacious and beautiful.

Interior design tips:

Pattern and paint - I tend to use pattern and paint on walls to redefine the space. I usually use darker paint colours in smaller spaces and lighter colours in larger spaces. Dark colours blur the boundary lines within an interior, while light colours define the boundary lines.

Paint is a great medium to use in Singapore; our hot climate won’t cause it to peel like wallpaper does. It is also cost effective, and can be environmentally friendly if you choose those with low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). Marks and scratches can also be scrubbed off should your kids decide to get creative with their crayons on the walls.

Study room of a Pavilion Park showflat by CWD. Image courtesy of Masano Kawana.

Large-scale furniture - I also like to introduce large-scale furniture in smaller spaces. It changes proportions by tricking the eye to perceive that the room is larger than it really is. An example can be seen in the large sofa I placed in the study room of a Pavilion Park showflat, which has a secondary role as a guest bed.

Mirrors – One old trick is to use mirrors to enlarge space and enhance the expanse of the room. However, this should be done selectively. A strategically placed mirror can be more effective than mirroring an entire wall, and can save you some money too.

Jia Wei’s painted wall and pattern finish, with full-length mirror, in her HDB bedroom by CWD.

Here is the interior of a HDB bedroom I designed for a young girl named Jia Wei, on Groom My Room, a popular children’s show. The design was done within a tight budget and sponsorship from Swedish furniture house IKEA. The proposal illustration and ‘after’ photo are great examples of how you can dramatically transform any room – even a child’s bedroom – with sensible use of pattern, vibrant paint colours, mirrors and expert advice.

Illustration of Jia Wei’s proposed bedroom. Image courtesy of CWD.

‘After’ photo of Jia Wei’s bedroom.

Try some of these tips and transform the space and beauty in your home today!

To view the entire episode of Groom My Room, featuring Cameron Woo’s interior design, visit www.cameronwoodesign.com.

Investing in Super Prime London and the Importance of Leveraging Your Investments

Over the last two years, our clients have enjoyed some of their highest returns on their investment properties in London. For this reason, London has remained as one of our key investment markets for the past four years. Extreme undersupply and high rental yields are just two of the reasons why we favour this market.

First and foremost the London property market has continued to perform well over the last twelve months with property prices forecasted to grow 29.1% in the next four years. Secondly, the exchange rate continues to favour foreign investors with the pound currently undervalued making it relatively cheaper for foreign investors to purchase London real estate. Thirdly, rental values are at high levels and have increased by 16% year-on-year. It is likely that interest rates will increase in 2011, which will have an impact on rental yields, however we are still seeing a very strong uptake of rental with an average of five tenants competing for every property in the UK. This demand-supply disequilibrium in the market means investors are able to demand higher rents to offset higher interest rates. The final confidence factor on the London market is how attractive it is compared to the rest of the other real estate investment opportunities around the globe. Real estate in Singapore, Hong Kong and China is inflated and overregulated which makes purchasing in these markets difficult and very expensive. London has shown consistent capital value growth and good levels of leverage which has not always been present in Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

Leveraging your property investment especially in London can really push up your returns. Take this example: over the last 11 years property prices in London have increased 109%. If you were to leverage your investment at 70% in 2000 i.e. took an average loan of 70% of the property value, then you would have made a 376% return on your investment compared to the price growth of 109%. This indicates the importance of leveraging assets to optimise the returns on your investment. Leveraging is always sensible from the point of using your capital wisely and generating better returns, but also for reducing any tax liability. For instance, if you have GBP 1,000 rent and GBP 800 mortgage, you only pay tax on net income of GBP 200 and of course that is not taxable because of this low band of income. Therefore, your monthly rental will be offset against mortgage costs.

With so many London products in the market, one may be overwhelmed or confused as to where or what to invest in. To keep it simple: focus on prime Central London. Over the past few years, prime Central London property has performed better than the general London market and there are a few boroughs which have outperformed the rest. The likes of Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster are examples of prime Central London. Even during the recession, if you were to have leveraged your investment property in Kensington and Chelsea in 2006, you would have seen a return of 189% compared with 55% unleveraged. This shows the kind of return in prime Central London and how leveraging property can more than double your ROI.

Prime Central London is a perceived as a store of wealth with investors turning to these markets as a safe haven in the midst of ongoing global political and economic uncertainty. From Asian investors seeking to buy in Europe to investors from Russia looking for top quality product in an undersupplied market, prime Central London ticks all these boxes with a forecasted growth of between 5% and 10% for this year. To date, we have invested over GBP100 million in London on behalf of our clients.

To find out more about Tim Murphy and investing in global real estate click here or contact IP Global.