Higher future demand for ECs?

Recent news of the income ceiling for new HDB and ECs (executive condominiums) flats possibly being raised have brought about a wave of questions from the market. Will this increase competition for new BTO flats? How will the resale HDB flat market be affected? Will the private property sector see lower or higher demand?

Since ECs and mass market private homes often go after the same pool of buyers, raising the income ceiling for ECs may mean increasing competition for the latter. With the higher income ceiling of $14,000, buyers who were previously ineligible for executive condominiums may now find themselves able to purchase these unique public-private hybrid properties, drawing them away from the private property market.

Sol AcresECs are considered public housing and buyers are able to take advantage of available housing grants for this property type. After 10 years, they become private property, which considerably ramps up their sale value. Buyers who have previously had to turn to private properties at much higher prices, and who are now eligible to apply for ECs will no doubt be in glee. The difference between an EC and a private property is about $300 psf and buyers comparing private homes and ECs in the same vicinity may come up with savings of up to $250,000. Not an amount to be scoffed at.

One recent EC offering, Sol Acres, have since sold 294 units. Upcoming EC launches are expected to give pricier private mass market homes without the calling cards of a good location, a run for their money. Prices of ECs usually stand at around $800 psf whereas private homes go from $1,000 psf and up.

 

Raised Income ceilings for HDB and EC flats

In the months ahead, the HDB market may see some significant changes.

In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a raise in income ceilings for new HDB flats as well as ECs (executive condominiums). The income ceiling for HDB flats could be raised from $10,000 to $12,000 and for executive condominiums, from $12,000 to $14,000. Just four years a, the income ceiling for ECs was raised to $12,000 but apparently income levels have risen since then. The government are also making it easier for lower-income households to purchase 2-room flats. The Special Housing Grant (SHG) will be raised from $20,000 to $40,000, giving them the financial support they truly need.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

And to promote stronger familial ties plus cater to the growing group of young families who prefer to live near their parents, a new Proximity Housing Grant will help buyers who wish to live near their parents or married children secure their new flat.

This could be good news for buyers and home-seekers, as more applicants may then find themselves eligible for a new BTO flat or EC. But will there be more applicants now vying for available units. And how will this move  possibly affect the resale HDB flat market?

 

BTO Flats in less mature estates sold for more

Punggol Northshore, one of the latest BTO (Build-to-order) HDB flat offerings in Punggol, proved popular with young families and couples. The response may have been surprising 10 years ago, when the area was still underdeveloped and considered far-flung. But now, as the amenities have built up over the years, those who have bought units in Punggol and Sengkang in the earlier years are reaping the ripe profits.

Punggol HDB EstateMost of the resale HDB flats which sold in these 2 HDB estates have tripled their original purchase prices. Four-room flats in Sengkang once cost $205,000 but now they can sell for as much as $566,880 in average on the resale HDB flat market. The lowest recorded sale was $410,000, double its original price tag. Property analysts have placed the HDB price index at a 90-per-cent increase since the launch of the system in 2002.

Once costing buyers $178,000 at its highest in 2003, prices of these BTO flats have since appreciated over the past 10 years. Most BTO flats take 4 years to be completed, and buyers have to fulfil a 5-year MOP (minimum occupation period) before being allowed to list their flat in the resale market.

It was once thought that older flats in mature estates were able to fetch higher prices, but these newer BTO flats are beating them at their odds; mostly due to the young age of the flats which means they will also be in relatively better condition, have more years left in their lease, and possess a higher potential for growth in terms of property prices once the less mature township is developed.

Reduced BTO flats = Increased resale flat demand?

The number was 16,900 and now it is 15,000. The Housing Board has revised the number of new BTO (build-to-order) flats to be offered this year as the resale HDB flat market has shown signs of stabilising.

In the previous year or two, the increased supply of BTO flats has meant that more who qualify to apply for a flat directly from HDB have been able to secure one fairly successfully, which has reduced the demand for resale flats. Recent launches have even been undersubscribed for some segments – three-room flats in Sembawang and four-room flats in Bukit Batok. Second-timers have also been more successful in securing units in this year’s BTO launches and the pool of available units in the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) has been growing.

BIdadari HDB

Photo credit: HDB

Prices of resale HDB flats have fallen 7.4 to 12.4 per cent since its peak in 2013. But the last quarter has indicated once more, a rising demand  for resale HDB flats, partly due to the lowered prices and the sense of the market bottoming out.

The next HDB BTO sales launch will be later this year in September, with 4,860 flats up for offer in Bidadari and Punggol Northshore, both of which are increasingly popular spots for young couples and families.

 

Higher success rates with HDB priority schemes

More BTO (build-to-order) HDB flat applicants have been successful in securing their units of choice at recent HDB sales launches. Under the Parenthood priority scheme, the number of married parents applying for a unit have dropped from 10,000 to 8,000 last year.

BuangkokParkVista_HDBWhat could this mean for the resale HDB flat market? As property prices drop, more HDB flat buyers may widen their options here, instead of heading straight for the new HDB flats. Some may have location considerations, especially if they have elderly parents or young children preparing to enter specific primary or secondary schools.

In 2013, 26, 494 new HDB flats were released.  But as the supply of BTO flats decrease, dropping to 16, 900 this year, and as most first-time HDB flat applicants successfully receive their flats in time for family-planning; the number of applications under these priority schemes look set to fall as well. Many of these new flats could be in non-mature estates. But as mature estates reach a saturation and before these non-mature estates reach maturation, will resale HDB flats  and private properties be the way to fill in the gaps for buyers looking to live nearer their workplaces, elderly parents or children’s schools? Will temporary rental of condominium apartments or even HDB flats be a stop-gap for this group of home seekers; and will that be an opportunity for investors and landlords of properties near schools and MRT stations?

Applying for a HDB loan – Do it early

If you’ve been waiting for ages to qualify and apply for a HDB flat, the housing development board has advised against last minute loan applications.

Not only does the process help you get a firm grip on your finances, it also helps give you a better idea of how to plan for the future. A HDB loan eligibility letter will tell you how much you are able to loan from the Housing Development Board (HDB) should that option be your mortgage financier of choice. Some buyers may opt for a bank loan instead.

MacPhersonSpring_HDB

Photo credit: HDB

But if you’re buying a BTO flat directly from HDB, they will require a HDB loan eligibility letter when booking a flat. This is to prevent buyers finding themselves in a bind, unable to acquire sufficient loans after they have already booked a flat. Previously, they were only required to have the HDB loan eligibility letter when signing the Agreement for Lease which could be a number of months after booking a flat.

Though this may not affect those looking to purchase a resale HDB flat, some buyers who may original be considering a BTO flat may change tracks and also consider resale options should they qualify for a higher loan quantum. Will this then be a boost for the resale HDB flat market?

The latest BTO launch in February consists of flats, including larger 3Gen (3-generation) flats, in non-mature estates such as Bukit Batok, Housing and also the mature estates of Geylang. The new McPherson Spring flats in Geylang are situated near the MacPherson MRT station and may be the first to be booked up. For singles who are now able to purchase 2-room BTO flats directly from HDB, those in Housing may be hot property. Applications will close on Tuesday and it may be some time before the next launch in May.

Interest in Executive Condominiums wane

Just awhile ago, the interest in executive condominiums (ECs) was red hot as pent up demand for these sought-after properties was released after a long hiatus. In areas such as Jurong, which had not seen a new EC launch for 17 years, the response was promising.

This interest has however diminished very quickly. In the latest EC launch, only 18 per cent of the units launched have been sold. Out of the 378 units in The Amore EC in Edgdale Plains, only 70 were sold at its launch last weekend. Prices averaged at $800 psf. A similar property nearby, The Terrace executive condominium, which was launched earlier last month, has only had approximately 20 per cent of its 747 units sold at a median of $812 psf.
TheAmoreEC_1Photo Credit: www.amore-ec.com

Bellewaters EC in Sengkang and Bellewoods EC in Woodlands fared similarly, with the only development bucking the trend being The Lake Life EC in Jurong West. Most of the units at The Lake Life sold within the weekend of its launch in November 2014. The sudden demise of interest in ECs came unexpectedly as even within last year alone, there was a good 9-month wait before any new EC development was launched and a rise in sales figures after a long wait is the norm.

Property analysts are putting this slowdown on the increase supply of BTO (Build-to-order) HDB flats, declining resale prices which have made resale HDB flats more affordable and the 30 per cent Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) which was implemented in December 2013.

Moving ahead in 2015, 10 more new EC launches are expected and sales may be slow as future ECs will require a resale levy tax and competition heats up within the same location. As seen by recent numbers, areas with a higher concentration of ECs tend to fare more poorly in terms of sales volume.

Resale HDB flats prices dip

The number of resale HDB flat buyers is diminishing. At its two-year low last month, the number of flats which exchanged hands in May was 1, 320. In April, 1, 484 resale flats were sold. Prices also fell 1.2 per cent in May, the lowest since April 2012 according to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange’s (SRX) price index.

Marsiling Greenview BTO HDB FlatThe most common reason for the drop was the loan curbs. This has prevented many buyers from securing a desired loan amount, thus unless they have a large enough cash reserve, it usually puts a resale flat out of sight. The number of transactions in March and April were more positive but that could be due to the pent out demand following the festive season in January and February. Other possible reasons for May’s drop could be the release of new BTO and SBF (sale of balance) flats by HDB in the same month. The latter SBF flats are usually more popular with location- and price-conscious buyers as they are cheaper than resale flats but yet are situated in mature estates.

But what about HDB upgraders who are have purchased private properties? Unlike private property owners who are not allowed to purchase HDB flats, HDB flat owners are allowed to purchase private properties. But as buyers play the waiting game, resale flat owners are now simply willing to wait, if they can, or rent out their HDB flats. This in turn keeps rental supply high, but that also means they will be likely to compete with private property rentals. As the supply of tenants are kept stable, this could also mean there will be a price-war in the rental market.

How long will the resale market remain weak? Will it be a tough uphill climb?