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Resale DBSS flats in demand

With four-room resale DBSS HDB flats at The Premiere @ Tampines going for $570,000 to $590,000, a marked rise from its original $278,000 to $410,000 price tags, interest in newer DBSS launches may continue as resale units just became available last year. Units at The Premiere were the first to come on the market.

The Premiere at Tampines

The Premiere at Tampines

The Design Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) was suspended in 2011 due to the high prices of flats at The Centrale 8 in Tampines. But since its suspension, majority of units at the existing DBSS projects have been successfully sold. At Pasir Ris One, only 53 units are left, with 88 per cent sold, and owners will be receiving their keys in about a months’ time. Trivelis in Clementi only has 28 units left and is ready for occupation. Lake Vista in Jurong West and Parkland Residences in Upper Serangoon have been fully sold.

Property experts are however aware that the earlier of these DBSS developments were launched when property prices were considerably lower, thus allowing for a higher profit margin. Newer projects may have been launched at higher prices. Coupled with the MSR (Mortgage servicing ratio) cap, this may mean a lower yield for future DBSS resale unit sales. With executive condominiums (ECs) and BTO flats covering the needs of most families, the role of the DBSS may not be as relevant today as before.

But demand seems to be quite positive as there will still be buyers who do not mind paying a bit more for units at a good location and with all the interior fittings and finishings done at no extra costs.

How much is that DBSS resale flat in the window?

$700,000. This is how much one of the first DBSS units to enter the resale market recently cost.

And this could very well set the trend for all the following DBSS resale units which enter the market. The Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) has been discontinued since 2011 when the public questioned the prices at which developers were selling the public housing units at. Centrale 8 at Tampines went for $880,000 in 2011, though developers lowered it to t$778, 000 thereafter.

The Premiere at Tampines

The Premiere at Tampines

But since units at the 2006-launched The Premiere at Tampines have gone on the resale market since most of its occupants have passed the 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP), all eyes are on how much these originally premium units will go for considering the current market situation.

Although lower than the highest asking price of $800,000 for units in Tampines, the average selling price is still about double of its original. A 5-room flat at The Preimiere @ Tampines originally cost $308,000 to $450,000. Recent sales figures showed a 2 units going for $699, 888 and $671,000. Comparing its age and size with other HDB flats nearby, they are considerably pricier. Most of the other HDB flats in this mature estate may however be larger, almost 109 sq m larger, but with less than 70 years left on the lease.

Centrale 8 in Tampines under the DBSS scheme. Image by Sim Lian Group Limited.

Centrale 8 in Tampines under the DBSS scheme. Image by Sim Lian Group Limited.

Should these young HDB flats cost more than its counterparts and will buyers buy into its premium private developer fittings qualifying for its higher prices even as resale units?

Resale HDB flats in prime locations command high prices

Even though the resale HDB flat market seems to be following the general downhill trend of the property market over the last year or so, bigger and newer units in the town’s hottest locations are still bringing in big bucks.

Of the 20 five-room HDB flats which sold at over $900,000 this year, as compared to just one in the same period last year, 14 were from the lauded Pinnacle @ Duxton. The other sales came from units in Bukit Merah and Queenstown.

View from PInnacleAs units at the Pinncale@Duxton were only recently released into the market, after their statutory five-year MOP (minimum occupation period), part of the increase in sales could be accounted for by these units. At their time of launch in 2004, five-room units were only priced between $345, 100 to $439, 400. Prices have since more than doubled. With their astounding views (for a public housing facility) and close proximity to the CBD (Central Business District), chinatown and city centre, the reasons for their expensive price tags could hardly be disputed.

Most of the other flats which sold in Strathmore Avenue and Holland Drive, were also newer ones which came under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). These flats were newly built in order to house owners of older flats nearby which were scheduled to be demolished. Many of these owners were luckily enough to secure a new flat at almost no additional cost, and now are able to sell at a profit.

Other areas with a higher ratio of newer resale flats include the less mature estates such as Punggol and Sengkang. Here, the units may not command as high a price due to their far flung location and higher number of sellers. But that said, it could be early days yet and in years to come, another tune may be sung.

Yishun no backwater town

A somewhat laid back atmosphere that speaks of a slow and nature-filled life with occasional bursts of activity and energy describes the fringe township of Yishun. This HDB estate once was called “Ulu” (a Singaporean slang for being out-of-the-way and backward), but it has progressed nicely into the genteel gem it is today.

It seems to live life just the edge, growing and filling in a gap that straddles bustling and slow. Latest news of the redevelopment of the Yishun Central, with Frasers Centrepoint Homes taking the lead in building a mixed-use condominium and mall development, Northpoint City, in the vicinity, the Yishun area may be seeing a revival of sorts.

The EstuaryStretching out in a large area between Chong Pang, Sembawang and Yio Chu Kang, it has quite the space for development and expansion. Some of the current private properties already in its midst include Orchid Park, Lilydale and The Estuary. Newer residential developments include Nine Residences, Symphony Suites and the recently launched Northpark Residences.

There are a considerable number of HDB flats in the area as well, and property prices are considered reasonable and affordable. For now. New BTO (Build-to-Order) flats were also introduced into the mix starting from 2013, putting a good 9,500 units in the estate, including Yishun Greenwalk, DBSS ADora Green and Vista Spring.

From kampung to new town. The kampung spirit remains strong.

HDB resale market – Prices down, Sales up

15, 914 resale HDB flats were sold last year, compared to 14, 220 in 2013. Though the numbers were up in the terms of transaction volume, prices dipped slightly. Prices of resale flats in non-matures estates such as Punggol and Sengkang fell 8.3 per cent while those in mature estates such as Queenstown and Bishan saw a 3.1 per cent decline.
Pinnacle@Duxton_2015The largest drop were in the four- and five-room flats sectors. Prices of three-room flats remained the same while a 1.8 per cent increase may have cheered up some executive flat sellers. Recent additions to the resale market, flats at The Pinnacle @ Duxton, did extremely well, with 2 units already sold at $900,000 and $918,000. Property analysts are expecting four- and five-room flats here to hit the $1 million mark soon. With it’s prime location and unique design, plus it is only five-years young, that may not be such an impossible task.

Overall, the projected decline this year for the HDB market will mirror that of last, at a single-digit fall of 5 to 8 percent. And perhaps buyers will be buoyed by this news and have a good run this year as well. Industry experts are expecting a stable transaction level in the first 2 months of 2015, followed by an increase in activity in March after the Chinese New Year break.

Married couples opt for HDB Parenthood Priority Scheme

It may or may not increase the likelihood of young Singaporean couples starting a family sooner, but more married couples are purchasing new HDB flats under the Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS).

In the March sales launch alone, 32 per cent of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats were taken up by applicants under the PPS scheme. There is almost 100% possibility of all PPS applicants getting a flat. 3, 898 flats were launched in March in non-mature estates such as Sengkang, Punggol and Bukit Batok. A total of 12,000 applicants applied for BTO flats in the latest launch.

Compassvale Cape Mar2013

HDB’s next launch will be later this month, in Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong West, Sembawang and Woodlands. WIth 4, 850 new flats plus 3,000 balance flats from previous launches planned, response from PPS applicants may be even more than March’s 32 per cent. Other schemes which the HDB provides include the:

  • Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS)
  • Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS)
  • Third-Child Priority (TCP) Scheme
  • Tenants Priority Scheme (TPS)
  • Ageing-in-Place Priority Scheme (APPS)
  • Studio Apartment Priority Scheme (SAPS)

It should be noted that for the hotly debated Executive Condominiums (EC), the priority schemes do not apply. And for previous Design Build and Sell developments, developers are required to give priority to buyers applying under the Married Child Priority (MCP) Scheme and the Third-Child Priority (TCP) Scheme.

Topiary Executive Condominium in Fernvale.

Topiary Executive Condominium in Fernvale.

Under the MCPS, applicants who are a first-time married couple and who have at least one child below the age of 16 qualify for up to 30% of BTO and 50% of SBF (sale of balance) flats in each launch. This scheme began in January 2013 and many have since successfully secured a HDB Flat by applying under this scheme. Whether this will help population growth and fertility rate remains to be seen, but at least it has helped Singaporean couples secure a home more quickly and without the pain of waiting endlessly.

Previously married couples had joined engaged couples applying under the Fiancee scheme. However unmarried couples made up close to 50% of the applicants under this scheme, which lessened the chances of those who are already married or already have a child securing a flat.

Not easy to keep the spirit of EC

What was the initial purpose of creating this particular hybrid property type? Wasn’t it to help the so-called “sandwich class”?  But now as property developers of new executive condominiums (ECs) are creating options which are comparable to private properties, does it still serve its original purpose? Who are the ones actually benefiting from the EC scheme?

Forestville EC in Woodlands

First up, one does need to be reminded that land sold under the Government Land Sales programme are priced cheaper than those for private properties. Considering that permanent residents (PRs) are the most avid buyers of resale executive condominiums, are the eligibility criteria too lax thus pushing the prices up as both property buyers and developers alike recognise the hidden value of ECs? And with the narrowing of the price gap between ECs and private properties, will this instead nudge the price tag of the latter even higher?

If you compare a penthouse in an EC at $1.7 million to one in the private market at more that $3 million, which would you go for? The answer is clear. Should ECs have penthouse units or should they belong in the private market altogether. Do you think the government should step in to manage this sector as they did the Design Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS)?

Executive Condominium prices = Private Condominium prices?

And it might be that way for a while more as new executive condominiums present luxe features, giving private mass market homes a run for their money. The current price gap is 17.2 per cent this year, down from 32.2 per cent in 2007′s property high. Executive condominiums are hot ticket property buys in the local real estate market.

Some of the pros of buying an executive condominium include:

1. The income ceiling for ECs has increased to $12, 000 per household, thus if you earn less than that, you are still eligible for a housing grant from HDB.

2. After the minimum occupation period (MOP) of 5 years, the EC unit can be sold to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents in the open private property market.

3. After 10 year, the EC unit can then be sold to foreigners.

Property buyers see a great deal of rising value in this particular property type. And it is usually the areas where EC units are limited that see the most active sales. Districts with the greatest number of resale ECs are usually those with the narrowest price gaps.  Areas such as Bishan and Ang Mo Kio, and Pasir Ris, Simei and Tampines, saw the narrowest price gap of 10 per cent whereas in Sengkang, Punggol and Hougang, the price gap was 22.4 per cent. Average psf of units at Bishan Loft and Nuovo in Ang Mo Kio is only $100,000 below the average price psf of private condominiums in the same district.

The recent EC launches, CityLife in Tampines for example, has pushed this market up a notch into the private property arena with its  luxury penthouse, infinity pool and sky terraces.

Is this narrowing of the price gap between public and private housing a true reflection of the housing situation in Singapore?  If the rise in prices continue, would the Executive Condominium market eventually suffer the same fate as the Design Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS)? In the end, the only question we are truly left with is, should it be that way?