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.

Dual key apartments rising in popularity

The latest property type on the block has been gathering an increasing crowd of fans. Not surprisingly, since they offer the space and the privacy for larger, multi-generational families, giving them the option of having their family members close, but not too close for comfort.

The concept began with the Housing Development Board and their “Granny flats” in 1986 and the first private properties to pick up on that were the Caspian and 8@Woodleigh. And now, new properties actively set aside a number of units as dual key apartments.

Boathouse ResidencesSome of the latest market offerings to include these units include Seventy Saint Patrick’s, Northpark Residences, Riverbank@Fernvale and Botanique @ Bartley. Older properties with these options include Coco Palms, and The Santorini at Tampines. At the latter, there are 144 dual key units. Most of the dual key units include a two- or three-room unit attached to a studio apartment, with two separate entrances.

In addition to providing privacy, these units also provide a cheaper alternative to buyers who are running an office out of their home. It gives them a separate entrance to their business and a physical separation from their living quarters while saving on transport costs and time.

Plus, it is easier to rent out these smaller units. For longterm investment considerations, these units could also be sold as it is or as a normal unit with the separating structures reconfigured.

Coming up later this year, the Boathouse Residences, developed by Frasers Centrepoint Limited, will also feature dual key apartments.

Affordable units below $1 million at Botanique @ Bartley

Over the weekend, the 797-unit Botanique @ Bartley condominium opened for viewing at pocket-friendly prices. Situated on Upper Paya Lebar road, near Bartley MRT station, the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary), Maris Stella High School and The Australian International School, this new property seems like it has all the ingredients for an expensive price tag.

But instead, more than 70% of its units were pricedbelow $1 million, making it one of the more affordable new properties around town. With prices starting at $598,000 for a one-bedder, up to $1.68 million for three-bedders. While most of the units here are smaller, with one-bedroom apartments ranging between 495 to 689 sq ft and 926 to 1, 356 sq ft for three-bedders, the total quantum prices are more palatable with upgraders. A floor area comparision will however reveal that at $1, 300 psf, it is actually priced higher than the nearby Bartley Ridge which went for a median of $1, 296 psf.

Botanique@BartleyDeveloped by the UOL Group, the Botanique @ Bartley will feature “flexi” units, referring to the two- and three-bedders which can be converted into dual-key apartments. Some of UOL’s other properties include the popoular Thomson Three which only has eight units left unsold, Seventy St Patrick’s and Riverbank@Fernvale.

The rest of the year might not be hectic on the new private property front, with more attention possibly given to executive condominiums, thus supply might not necessarily overtake demand. How will that impact both the private and public housing markets?

Homes near nature pricier?

Concrete jungle, we are often called. But in land scarce Singapore, that could hardly be avoided. Thus similarly in most cosmopolitan cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Sydney, snagging a spot near nature could mean a costlier price tag.

Rail CorridorIn Singapore, homes in areas near the Rail Corridor, or the 24km pathway stretching from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands where the old Malaysian railway track used to pass through, may fetch a juicy sum as they bring along with them the option of being near nature, and a piece of history. It certainly increases the hip factor.

Most of the properties in the 6 main areas along this track are landed homes in Bukit Timah along Holland road and Rifle Range road. But in 3 areas near Bukit Merah, the Kranji and Buona Vista MRT stations, and also the Sungei Pang Sua canal in Choa Chu Kang, majority of the properties are still currently only for industrial use.

Depending on how URA allocates and develops the plots of land not the defunct railway track, home owners may expect a rise in home prices along the stretch. New properties planned for the future could also be priced accordingly. Already without the noise that comes with the railways, values of property in the vicinity have risen slightly.

Thomson Three 1But if you are looking for something already in the market, some of the latest properties which are near pockets of greenery and nature include Thomson Three near MacRitchie reservoir, The Foresta at Mount Faber and with some landscaping, the Botanique @ Bartley.

Stronger Singdollar = Better overseas property investment opportunities

Though investing in overseas properties may have its risk, the opportunities of gain it brings could also be significant, especially in times when the Singapore dollar is strengthening against the Malaysian ringgit, British pound and Aussie dollar.

Malaysia, the UK and Australia have been favourite countries for Singaporeans in terms of travel, study and emigration. Property launches in these countries have been strongly marketed to local investors looking outside of our shores for investment opportunities. Especially for those who have purchased properties in Malaysia, their buck may walk a little longer now that the exchange rate is S$0.374 to RM$1.

DangaBayMasterPlan-600x235With cheaper payment options,  property developers have seen increasing interest from Singaporean buyers in the Iskandar Malaysia regions, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. At the same time, analysts caution buyers against jumping into the market without consideration. A property’s potential value appreciation should also be carefully weighed as the current property market in Malaysia is facing a almost sure-fire sign of saturation. And quickly too.

In London on the other hand, buyers who have previously bought property there have reported “unprecedented price growth”. However, he also added that investors who are looking to purchase properties purely to turn a profit should take into consideration factors such as currency fluctuations, political stability, ease of entry and exit from the market and market transparency.

One way to keep ahead of things is to attend property expos, seminars and know your market trends well.

Condominium prices wavering

It may be a year of fluctuations for the private non-landed property market. Condominium sales have been slow, though it picked up slightly in February.

Both new and resale private condominiums were affected by the market slowdown, much of it attributed to the TDSR (Total debt servicing ratio) framework set by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). But some property analysts are also connecting the dots between the lowered Cash-Over-Valuation (COV) prices of resale HDB flats. When COVs were high, potential HDB upgraders were able to leverage on these to leap into the private property market by using the COVs as part of the cash down payment for their new private homes. With the lack of this financial impetus, more are finding themselves in between an rock and a hard place when it comes to scaling up.

Sims Urban OasisWeaker buyers may find themselves having to hold back for now while those with the financial abilities will still be able to well afford what the market currently offers, and perhaps even more so as prices have been coming down for sometime now.

There has however, been a shift of interest from newer units to resale ones, in favour of larger floor area. HDB buyers have been purchasing units with an average of 926 sq ft in size, while private buyers leaned towards units averaging 1,119 sq ft in size. The sweet spot of affordability is now between $1.28 million to $1.46 million for private buyers and $950,000 to $1,09 million for HDB upgraders.

Will adjusting HDB income ceiling help “Sandwich class” own a home?

As earning power climbs, the combined household income for an increasing number of families now fall just above the income ceiling for public housing. This puts them just out of reach of a new HDB flat yet still quite a distance away from being able to afford a private property, especially as inflation and the financial stress of providing for a family kick in.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

The combined household income ceiling for a new HDB flat currently stands at $10,000 while the same for an executive condominium (EC) is $12,000. The income ceiling was last raised in 2011, from $8,000 to $10,000 for HDB flats and $10,000 to $12,000 for ECs. Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in the number of couples and families falling into the “sandwiched class” of middle-income households in Singapore. Especially as Singaporeans now tend to marry late in life, when the husband and wife’s earning capabilities are at a certain level which puts them just beyond qualifying for a new HDB flat might be facing the most headaches.

Is there a way around it as public housing was originally aimed at helping those in need. But since there might always be a section of the population who will find public housing out of reach and private housing too much of a financial burden or risk, will raising the income ceiling really help elevate their circumstances only to be a burden to yet another group of citizens? What other options are available for these middle class families? Will they be looking at resale HDB flats as the only viable and affordable option?

Yishun’s new private condo on the block – Northpark Residences

This weekend, there might be something to look forward to in the form of the 920-unit Northpark Residences preview launch. Part of Northpoint City, which will be an integrated development featuring the Northpoint Shopping Centre, Nee Soon Community Club, and links to the Yishun MRT station and bus interchange, these new units will bring life to the sleepy town.

Developed by Frasers Centrepoint Homes, the project will be ready by 2018. With the developer’s good track record with mixed-use developments such as Changi City Point, Compass Point and even overseas with Sydney’s Central Park, buyers may be able to rest a little easier should they wish to invest in this new project.

Northpark Residences1Since these new property types have held up well so far, with good responses from sales at projects such as The Hillier, The Centris at Jurong Point and Bedok Residences, Northpark Residences may be able to enjoy similar success. With its proximity to transport and amenities, rental at these mixed-use properties are usually in higher demand.

Units at Northpark Residences will be put up for sale later this month and as a guide; at Frasers Centrepoint Homes’ most recent launch, Rivertrees Residences, were sold at an average of $1, 050 psf.