Winds of change in local property market

A decade or so ago, owning a second or third property might be the fastest way to secure your retirement funds or to even accumulate a tidy little kitty. Investment properties were considered a surefire way of earning additional income, but in the climate of today, property owners and investors have much more factors to consider and competition to battle against.

SunshinePlazaResidencesWith the rental market weakening, property agents are finding that it takes twice as long and also many more viewings before a property is successfully tenanted. And even then, for much less than before. Some property owners have had to reduce rents by almost half. Leaving the units empty are simply not an option for some investors as the rents go towards the mortgage or mortgages of their properties. It is after all better to have less help than none at all.

SerangoonHDBflatFor new investors looking to enter the market, the environment is a lot tougher than before. Considerations such as whether there is a large pool of HDB flats available for rental nearby, the long-term potential of the property, competition from other new launches or even within the same property, whether the local and global economy will affect businesses and commercial hubs nearby thus reducing the pool of foreign tenants, and so forth.

Before the market makes a complete recovery, a possibly lengthy period of stabilisation will ensue, despite the governments having made some allowances in the are of the property cooling curbs.

February’s dip in resale flat prices points to market stabilisation

February was a little slow for the resale HDB flat market as prices fell by 0.3% and transactions by 8.5%. This was following a promising start to the year. But industry experts are not too quick to dismiss the possibilities for the sector as the year moves ahead.

ClementiHDBflatThe slight dip last month was most likely due to the post Chinese New year lull which is a common occurence. Rather than being indicative of a falling resale flat market, the decline simply points at a stabilizing  market enironment. Though resale flat buyers paid about $2,000 less than market value across  the board, some HDB estates continued to clock more than 10 transactions and at prices above market value

In Bedok, some buyers paid $10,000 and more for their resale flats while in Clementi, some transactions closed at $4,000 above market value. That comes as no surprise as these are mature HDB estates where demand is high. There were also some recent private property launches in the vicinity, for example the Clement Canopy, which may have had some residual effect on the resale HDB  flat market.

Aerial view of HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio

Aerial view of HDB flats in Ang Mo Kio

There were however a couple of HDB towns which did not post as promising figures despite being popular locations for flat seekers. In Queenstown, the lowest below-market prices were clocked at $12,500,  followed by $10,000 in Ang Mo Kio. Prices of 3-room flats rose by 0.2% while executive flat prices fell by 1.7%. Overall, prices of resale flats in mature estates rose by 1.1%.

 

2017’s first BTO Launch expected to be over subscribed

Could it be a sign that the Housing Board’s first Build-to-order (BTO) launch this year was on Valentine’s Day and that this launch is also the first time families can apply under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme? Perhaps the parallels are pushing it, but the 4,065 new flats in Clementi, Tampines and Punggol will no doubt provide a good start for couples hoping to start a family.

CLementiHDBPhoto credit: HDB

Out of the 4000 plus units, 1,603 will be in Clementi, 638 in Tampines and 1,815 in Punggol. This latest launch will also feature a number of 2-room flexi units which are popular with singles who are now allowed to purchase selected flats directly from HDB, and senior citizens. In fact, these were the most heavily subscribed units in the current launch.

Units in Clementi are expected to garner the most interest, with its proximity to the upcoming Jurong Lake District and schools such as NUS High School of Math and Science, UniSIM, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and the National University of Singapore. Four-room flats in Clementi are expected to start at $432,000. In comparison, prices of 4-room HDB flats in Tampines are considered affordable considering its mature estate status with four-room flats starting at $299,000 (before grants are applied).

TampinesHDBPhoto credit: HDB

Application closes today and analysts are expecting a four to five times take-up rate for units in Clementi and Tampines while Punggol might be twice oversubscribed. There are 731 two-room flexi units offered in Punggol and the projected subscription for these units is 5 times that number. Despite it’s isolated locale, Punggol is growing to be a busy business and lifestyle cluster, and thus more appealing to singles and senior citizens choosing to live close to their married children.

Resale HDB flat market’s continued stabilisation

For 2 consecutive years now, the sales volume of resale HDB flats have been on the rise. Since 2014, the number of transactions recorded for resale HDB flats have been increasing, from 17,318 in 2014 to 19,306 in 2015 and then 20,813 last year.

ToaPayohHDBflatResale flat prices are showing signs of stabilisation, with only a 0.1 per cent fall in 2016 from the year before. Though last quarter’s transaction figures fell 9.1 per cent, it could be due to the usual year-end lull as most were away for the school holidays. Akin to buyers’ sentiments and reactions in the private property market, HDB flat buyers have also been increasingly keen on closing deals as prices have been falling steadily since 2013. Most consider the market currently nearing or at the bottom of the property cycle and are thus more confident or willing to make the purchase at what they consider lowest-possible prices.

Despite the government ramping up supply of new BTO (build-to-order) flats for young couples and families, even including singles in their bigger scheme of things by providing them the option to purchase 2-room units directly from HDB instead of previously restricting them to only units in the resale market, there are still those who will require a unit sooner rather than later or do not quite qualify for new flats. These buyers will be the ones who prop up the market, though with the current cooling measures still in place, prices are unlikely to rebound anytime soon.

ClementiHDBflatProperty analysts are however hopeful that the number of resale flats transacted this year will be closer to the 21,000 to 23,000 mark. Resale prices have fallen to a level at which young couple and families find attractive or affordable enough to commit. A large number of HDB flats and suburban condominiums will also reach completion this year, which could mean more HDB upgraders will be looking to sell their existing flat in the resale market. And as rents are expected to fall as well, for the same reasons, the most optimistic outlook could be a 1 to 2 per cent price increase by end 2017.

Fewer new HDB Flats to be launched in 2017

sembawanghdb-flatMore applicants have been successful in securing a suitable and preferred unit from the Housing Board (HDB) directly since the authorities ramped up supply a few years back. Come 2017, the supply flow of new Build-to-order (BTO) flats will be reduced by 1,000 units from 18,000 this year to 17,000. Some of the latter launches this year, in particular those in non-mature estates such as Sembawang and Yishun, have already seen lower application rates and the 10,000-unit stock of balance flats from previous launches is also rather high.

81d36c494a88405a9dbd5dad5c28924aPart of the reason for the trim could also be the slowing economy and the reduced pace of family formation. But unlike the long 3- to 4-year wait typical of most BTO flats, these newer launches could be launched by 2018 and be ready for occupation by 2020. With the declining local populus, tighter immigration policies and a rapidly ageing population, the Singaporean government is feeling the increased urgency in encouraging millennials to form new family units.

Most of the younger generation of Singaporeans prioritise acquiring a home and having children in that order. Being able to provide them with a home quickly will no doubt be crucial in the push for Singapore’s birth rate. The National Development Minister, Lawrence Wong, has however promised that the supply of new BTO flats will continue, albeit being adjusted according to demand, across both non-mature and mature HDB estates to provide applicants with a range of choices.

Raised income ceiling for HDB grants – Help or Hurt

The income ceiling for the application of HDB grants was raised last year, and till date, the policy change has helped more than 1,500 household secure new or resale HDB flats. Previously, the income cap was $12,000 for executive condominiums, $10,000 per household  or $5,000 for singles. Following the adjustment in August last year, the income cap is now $14,000, $12,000 and $6,000 respectively.

Westwood ResidencesThe Housing Board has cited rising income and an increased demand for public housing as push factors for the change. Some property experts however feel that the move has hurt the private property market as these are potential private property buyers whom the market may have lost out on and whom may have cost taxpayer’s more burden. However, these buyers could also have been sandwiched between the public and private housing markets, unable to afford the latter nor the former without a CPF housing grant.

From the 11,833 new HDB flats and 6,464 resale flats sold within the last year, about 5 per cent and 15 per cent of the purchases would not have been made prior to the income ceiling revisions. The last time the income ceiling was raised by $2,000 was 5 years ago in 2011. The question remains if it is a matter of eligibility or affordability of existing public housing units which detracts a possible remaining group or groups of buyers who may still be unable to purchase resale units despite securing all possible grants.

 

Resale HDB flat market remains stagnant in November

Resale HDB flat prices have remained stagnant for the past couple of years, indicating that the market has stabilised. Though prices have increased by 0.2 per cent last month, sales volume has gone the opposite direction with a 5.3 per cent drop. The minimal rise is likely to be caused by buyers ready to complete transactions before the quiet festive year-end holiday season.

hdb-flat-rentalBetween permanent residents having a longer wait before they can purchase HDB flats and a closing gap between private non-landed homes and resale flats, the market is not looking a rebound anytime soon. As more new flats are being completed and more HDB flat owners receive keys to their new units and demand remains quiet, the scale between sellers and buyers may tip towards the latter.

Sellers of HDB flats in mature estates may fare better as prices here have increased 0.8 per cent in November. Location and proximity to schools, transport nodes and amenities remain the crucial factors in sealing deals. 1,585 resale flats were sold in November, down from 1,673 in October. In a year-on-year comparison however, 18,005 units have been sold, up from 2014’s 17,318 and likely to be comparable to 2015’s 19,306 units. The market stagnation is expected to continue well into 2017, especially as the authorities have not shown any signs of lifting the property cooling measures.

Resale HDB flat prices likely to remain at current level

After many consecutive quarters of market stagnation, buyers are coming to accept current resale HDB flat prices as the new norm.

solacresMany have remained in inertia as they waited for HDB flat prices to fall. But even with the introduction of massive new BTO flat supply, prices have not budged beyond the 11.3 per cent drop since the April 2013 peak. And property analysts are not expecting any further fall in prices, saying that the current resale flat prices are probably as low as they can get, especially as the government is closely monitoring the market in order to create some sort of balance between  individual profit and public housing provision.

Though the number of resale HDB units sold increased by 0.4 per cent in October, prices fell slightly by 0.1 per cent. Prices of the larger 5-room flats fell the most, at 0.9 per cent, though the rarer 3-room flats segment saw a 0.6 per cent rise and similarly a 0.8 per cent rise was reflected in the executive flat market as these units are in higher demand.

houganghdbThe past quarter has seen the resale HDB flat price index fluctuating within the 1 per cent range, with a fall in August likely due to the Hungry Ghost month, followed by some correction in September. In the months ahead, prices of HDB flats are not expected to swing either ways though the number of transactions may increase as buyers begin to realise that the numbers are unlikely to drop any further.