Toa Payoh’s facelift

As one of the oldest mature HDB estates in Singapore and HDB’s second satellite town, Toa Payoh has a past which evolved with the growth of the nation. As more new towns such as Punngol, Sengkang and even newer ones in the future such as Bidadari come up, older estates are welcoming timely upgrades.

And it is now Toa Payoh‘s turn as the popular estate saw an overwhelming response to the BTO HDB flats launch a couple of weeks ago. With it’s central location, full-fledge sets of amenities, MRT stations, bus interchange and established schools in its midst, it’s an estate which will stand its own for a long time to come.

TreVista in Toa Payoh Made up of mostly HDB flats, there has hardly been any new private homes launched in the district for almost three years now. However, a plot of land near  the MRT station has been put aside for development, and should a private property be launched in the spot, it will be sure to bring in the buyers and fetch high prices.

In the current market, resale flats sales have dipped from 25 to 15 per quarter, but rental prices and value appreciation of private properties in Toa Payoh has remained stable. Average prices stand between $1, 121 psf to $1, 460 psf with monthly rents currently between $3,60 to $4,10 psf. The private apartments in the area now are Trellis Towers, Oleander Towers and Trevista.

The years ahead hold great promise for the estate and its continued growth seems imminent.

More private non-landed homes left unsold

The industry continues to experience the effect of the tightening noose that is the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework. The latest property cooling measure, though launched a year ago, continues to takes its toll on the property market as developers are finding it harder to move units.

SantoriniThe three biggest residential developments with unsold units are The Santorini in Tampines, Kingsford at Hillview Peak and The Skywoods at Dairy Farm. At The Santorini, 81 per cent or 484 out of the 597 units remained unsold. Kingsford at Hillview Peak remains 69 per cent unsold, with only 160 out of its 512 units sold. With 101 units sold at The Skywoods, 319 remained unsold of its 420 units. Most of these properties however are larger developments and might be close to other newer homes or property launches.

It is becoming harder to entice buyers as they may now expect discounts and add-ons to sweeten the deal, especially as new properties continue to enter the market and take the attention away from older launches. But projects with a better location will still win hands down, as proximity to MRT stations and schools and other amenities will bring the asking price up a notch.

Deflating rental prospects hurt home sales

Buying a property and collecting rent used to be one of the most popular ways to start your investment journey. Usually the case for cosmopolitan cities, the situation may have changed in this developing country. Rental rates have continued to deflate as immigration policies were adjusted.

According to URA data, vacancy rates have reached the highest point since 2006. City centre and luxury homes have been hardest hit as expatriates are now choosing to live further away from the city with more and cheaper housing options. And as sentiments go, the less lived in a property, the less others will want to live in it. And it’s a cycle which if not arrested soon, may be detrimental to the market.

But most of the unsold units reside in the prime districts 9, 10, 11. Further away in Sentosa, the Cape Royale is 100 per cent unsold with its 302 units still on the market. It was completed last year. Developers IOI and Ho Bee are going with the decision to rent the units out instead of trying to sell them.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

And as more developments were finished in 2014, the number of unsold homes in completed projects continues its climb. Some of these include The Interlace at Depot road, Starlight Suites in River Valley, TwentyOne Anguilla Park and Concourse Skyline on Beach road.

Developers have been steadily offering discounts or cutting prices in order to bring the buyers and tenants back into the market. As shown by recent sales at The Vermont, where slashing the prices have sold 30 of its 37 unsold units. From $2,400 psf, it dropped to just a little over $2, 000 psf.

City Fringe wins once more

From Marine Parade to Novena to Kampong Glam, areas surrounding the busy city centre and central business districts are some of the best spots for property investments and this has hardly changed over the years.

The mixed-use development DUO at Ophir road was one of the latest offerings late last year. This year, another similar residential-cum-commercial project join their ranks – the City Gate on Beach road. But before these giant developments came into play, the Concourse Skyline condominium apartments were already in place. This 360-unit property was priced at $1, 590 psf at its 2008 launch. Despite 101 of its units remaining unsold, existing units have gone for as much as $2, 075 psf in the last quarter of 2013.

CIty GateWith the large number of incoming units from City Gate, which is targeting a price range of $1,900 to $2, 000 psf, these remaining units at the Concourse Skyline may be up for some fierce competition. Developers, Hong Fok Land, may experience some pressure to lower prices in order to meet the “All sold” status.

City Gate will sit on the site of the former Keypoint and will feature 188 commercial units and 311 apartment units ranging from one- and two-bedders to the increasingly popular dual-key units. Penthouses will vary in size, from 484 sq ft one-bedders to 1, 819 sq ft four-bedders. The wide variety of units will draw buyers with different intentions in mind, but with such a prime location, the only thing that might stop consumers in their tracks is the strict loan limits.

Smaller apartments gaining popularity once again

Just a couple of years ago, there were debates about whether homes were becoming too small for comfort as the 500 sq ft studio apartments or shoebox units took the market by storm. Some shunned small units, preferring instead to go for larger ones with a lower psf price.

But now as loan limits are truly showing their might, buyers are favoring smaller apartments once again due to their lower quantum prices and the ease of rental. Though not all are flocking to shoebox units, after all, young families do need a reasonable amount of space, the average home size has dropped to 947 sq ft from June last year. And for HDB upgraders, their chances to move onto the private property market might have become slimmer, especially if size is a major consideration. The average 4-room HDB flat is around 969 sq ft.

CIty GateOne- and two-bedders have increasingly become more popular with buyers as they are usually within their budget and investors find them easier to rent out. URA figures in fact also showed that new residential properties have also featured smaller units, with the average size being 753 sq ft. But this hardly comes as a surprise as home size has been shrinking since 2009.

The other popular property  type is the dual-key apartment which provides the atmosphere of having two separate living spaces within the same home. Some of these units share the same entrance but separate facilities such as kitchens and toilets, while others share the same facilities but have separate entrances, providing privacy for bigger families and offering more rental options.

As we progress into the second half of the year and the market evolves in reaction to buyers demand and supply of land, will developers be quick to re-strategize and cater to the majority?

$1 million sweet spot for home prices

The average affordability ceiling for properties have dropped by almost $200,000 ever since the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) placed curbs on loans. The average price home buyers can now afford, or are willing to fork out, is $1 million. Properties between the total quantum range of $800,000 to $1. 2 million generally sit better with buyers. The range used to be wider, with homes reaching $1.4 million selling just as well.

LakevilleDevelopers have been quick to realize the shift and have been offering considerable discounts or competitive pricing for new launches. Smaller units such as studio apartments and one- or two-bedders have also performed better than their larger counterparts. About 8,254 homes priced between $700,000 and $1.2 million were sold during the last year. Properties which were offering more affordable units, such as the Coco Palms in Pasir Ris which launched units at $980 psf, were able to garner more sales.

And for buyers hoping to secure a home below $500,000 there are now more available, and more sold. In the last year, 291 units below $500,000 were sold from June 2013 to June 2014. Comparing to the year before, only 61 units were sold within the same time frame. Buyers consider smaller units easier for both occupier and rental purposes, plus most HDB upgraders rate affordability of homes as between $900,000 to $1 million.

Orchard road’s West end revamp?

A little off the main stretch, but nearer the exclusive Botanic gardens and Tanglin stretch of sprawling private homes and foreign embassies, the West end of Orchard road looks set for a revamp as MRT stations and other area redevelopment plans are in the works for this spot.

The TomlinsonA MRT stop which is part of the latest Thomson Line is planned just next to the Camden Medical Centre and targeted to be ready by 2021. Now may be the time developers will consider expanding or redeveloping land and older properties around the area. There have been movements in the recent years, with the latest property being St. Regis Residences. Sales at this luxury property has not always been positive however. Prices of $4, 653 psf in 2007 have since almost halved to $2, 399 psf.

Older properties in the same area, such as Cuscaden Residences and The Tomlinson, however fetch a lower sales price, and may be more palatable to those seeking an investment. But due to the relatively large size of most apartment units in the area, it also narrows the target audience. Those who are able or willing to purchase properties here will be limited as it may be more difficult to rent out. At The Tomlinson, the average resale price is $1, 896 psf.

Will the new MRT line bring refresh the market even as luxury homes sales are on a decline? Will the possibility of future collective sales of older condominiums be an incentive to purchase now?

Woodlands’ popularity to rise with the Singapore-JB Rail

It’s almost another country, but not yet. Woodlands used to give one that feeling. But as Singapore welcomes foreign workforce from our neighbouring Malaysia, and as governments from both countries make a concerted effort to improve transportation between the 2 locales, Woodlands may be the next spot to watch.

The Woodlands Regional Centre and the Rapid Transit Systerm (RTS) will be the main boost to the far flung town and residents will be happy to see the increase in connectivity and activity in the estate. Completion of the RTS is expected to be in 2018, and it should be ready for use in 2019. It seems a long way away, but in just 5 years’ time, Woodlands could be a changed man.

Parc RosewoodThere may be more Malaysians and Permanent Residents (PRs) relocation to the area and rental of HDB flats and apartments in the area is likely to rise. Comparably, homes in the area are now priced much lower than more popular areas of Singapore, but all these may change as the influx of human traffic in Woodlands creates a regional buzz with new businesses opening up. URA is planning to revamp the area to be a modern sub-regional centre with commercial and retail businesses setting up shop. Schools in the area include Innova Junior College and Republic Polytechnic.

The newer condominiums in Woodlands are far and few in between, namely Parc Rosewood and Rosewood Suites. Older developments include Rosewood and Casablanca. Prices of the older apartments range between $800 to $873 psf and $872 to $1, 319 psf for the newer Rosewood Suites and Parc Rosewood. The process of converting Woodlands may be gradual but imminent. But perhaps once again, early adopters will benefit the most in the long run.