Luxury condominiums going at lower prices

$2,200 psf to $1, 800 psf.
$3.7 million to $3.4 million.

That’s how far lower the prices for high-end luxury apartment units are going for.

Perhaps it’s a case of when the going gets tough, the tough gets going, at lower prices. It’s no secret that while luxury properties are the creme de la creme for property agents and developers, when investment money is slow in coming, these are one of the hardest to sell.

Hallmark residencesAnd the going looks like it is going to be tough for quite some time more. Property developers are struggling to move unsold stock, and depending on whether their holding power is strong enough, they may be forced to make other moves sooner. There were news earlier on this month that developers are looking to convert condominiums into serviced apartments as the pressure of the deadline to sell looms closer.

At MCL Land’s Hallmark Residences in Bukit Timah, the uncompleted condominium development is already advertising sales of units at discounts of up to $300,000. A 969 to 990 sq ft 2-bedroom unit was originally priced at $2 million but is now at a lower $1.8 million. Since its release of the first 20 units in January, 5 have been sold. They are however planning for a proper launch sometime in the first half of 2014. At the 999-year leasehold St Regis Residences on Tanglin Road, prices have dropped from $4,653 to $2, 349 psf. Of the over 10,000 private homes still under construction in the prime districts 9, 10 and 11, nearly half remain unsold.

Once again the story of low demand versus high supply dogs the real estate industry. With the government’s many cooling measures, a bubble is unlikely to happen especially since loans are harder to get. It will be interesting to see how the property market plans for a rebound.

Change is in the wind for resale HDB market

And buyers too. More for buyers perhaps, as new rules regarding the cash-over-valuation (COV) for HDB resale flats kicked in at 5pm yesterday:

  • Sellers will no longer be the ones getting a valuation of their flats from HDB. Buyers instead are responsible for that part of the procedure.
  • HDB flat valuations can only be secured after the seller and buyer have agreed on a price. Previously, the seller could obtain a flat valuation prior to seller and then offer the valued price to the buyer, and on top of that demand a COV price.
  • The Option-to-purchase (OTP) period will now be 21 days instead of the previous 14.
Photo by ThinkStock.

Photo by ThinkStock.

Most of these new rulings were to help buyers obtain a home loan, especially since the loan limits have decreased. According to the National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, this move will also help “restore the original intention of valuation, which is to help buyers get a housing loan”.

The government is keen to make the HDB resale market less dependent on COV prices. Recent HDB sales have seen the COV prices drop to almost zero in many cases and some even selling below valuation. Just last year, median COV prices have sky-rocketed to $38,000 with some even garnering six-figures.

HDB will also now be publishing HDB transaction figures on a daily basis instead of fortnightly. These recent moves may be the push towards transparency the public housing market needs.

HDB dwellers invest in shoebox apartments

With a private home market which fell 40 per cent last year, 2014 looks like it might continue to be in the home buyer’s favour. But more HDB dwellers have been snapping up shoebox apartments in light of the fall in home prices.

J GatewayConsidering the fact that most HDB flats are more than 500 sq ft in size, these smaller homes are more likely than not for investment purposes. In 2013, 13.3 per cent of private home transactions were from HDB dwellers, with them making up a whooping 62 per cent of sales in the shoebox apartment category.  Some of the more popular choices from this group were the Bartley Ridge, J Gateway and D’Nest condominium developments.

But it seems buyers are letting their nest eggs lay for longer, with secondary home sales dropping to a 10-year low. With smaller apartments being possibly easier to rent, with its overall lower rental price, it is an easy entry-level property investment and suited to HDB owners who are looking to ease their way into the private property market.

Who exactly are still buying up private properties then? The foreign buying force, it seems. The fall in foreigners purchasing homes here is marginal and in fact increased from 6 to 9 per cent in 2013. Mainland Chinese were the top buyers, closely followed by Malaysians and Indonesians.

Real estate market fluctuations hard to predict

It might be a matter of long and in-depth research. Or perhaps a intuitive touch to reading the markets. Maybe it’s a matter of luck. Whichever it is you possess, perhaps even a combination of all three, the property market has always been a delicate and somewhat temperamental creature to handle. As we reach the end of the first quarter of 2014, many may be wondering if this year of the horse may gallop into the horizon or merely trot on the spot. The three factors creating the most effect on the current real estate market are:

  • Property curbs
  • Weak demand
  • Oversupply of homes
Property-related rules may be updated often, thus it would be helpful to keep track of new or amended rulings.

Where are home prices headed?

For buyers looking for a place to live, it might be a good time to jump in. Those waiting for a market crash to scoop up the best deals may be waiting in vain as that is rather unlikely. Singapore’s growing population will make for a constant demand for housing, and since home buyers usually have a fixed idea of which areas they would rather live in, other factors such as location, proximity to transport and schools, may still determine the price they pay.

Property upgraders may find themselves in a good spot as well. As the private property market becomes increasingly competitive, the price difference between their current and desired property may be diminishing, thus in turn save them a rather substantial amount.

Property investors may be those finding themselves most in a bind as mortgage limitations and rising interest rates create boundaries which may hinder their progress. Analysts advice against hasty decisions as properties may not be the easiest to manage within an investment portfolio. They suggest that investors look at all possible angles when considering a property, such as the number of bathrooms, size and shape of the unit, hidden spaces which may not suit the taste of most buyers etc. All-in-all, investors need to plan for future interest rate hikes, the possible lack of tenancy, financial holding power and governmental policy changes.

Shadows cast on property market

New properties are revving up their engines once more. As the market prepares themselves for these launches, what could the consumer expect?

Resale private properties situated near the sites of new properties to be launched this year may be slightly affected by the prices set by these new kids on the block. And as resale HDB flat prices dip, HDB upgraders may also not have as much as before to spend.   As developers find it harder to attract buyers since some have since redrawn from the investment pool as their finances are restricted by loan limits and mortgage curbs, prices of these new properties may be lower than expected. Properties nearby may then be forced to do the same with their resale units.

Tanglin ViewIn areas with potential for redevelopment and growth, such as Alexandra and Tanglin, competition may be fiercer. For example at Tanglin View condominium, the going rate used to be $1,600 psf a year ago, but now the average selling price stands at $1,400 psf. Similarly for Ascentia Sky apartments, prices have dropped from $1,900 psf to the current $1,500 psf.

But there are still profits to be made for private property sellers. Even though prices may not be as high as a couple of years ago, properties which were purchased 10 to 20 years ago may still find suitable buyers. Property prices today are definitely still much higher than a decade ago. Those who were hoping to rake in a quick profit with properties bought less than five years ago may find themselves having to hold on to their properties for slightly longer to wait out this year’s lull.

For the serious home buyer, it could be the prime time to buy.

Landed home prices land hard

With a few cracks in the market, landed home prices have come up lower to show for it. Perhaps an unexpected casualty of the series of government-implemented curbs in 2013. Once considered almost the rock of the residential property market, sellers may now find it increasingly more difficult to get the buyers who were once clamouring for them. Only 465 landed homes were sold in the second half of last year, that’s almost half of the 865 units sold in the first six months.

Whitley ResidencesPerhaps buyers may be willing in spirit, but in fleshly terms, their pockets are not. Restrictions on loans now leave buyers with shallower pockets and less cash all around. Landed home prices may have also peaked, and is now on the decline. As these properties are one of the few which cannot be bought by foreigners, it leaves a selective and much smaller pool of buyers or investors. When they feel the squeeze, so does the market.

Most of the target group for landed homes are working professionals in their 40s, who may already have a number of loans taken out, whether home, car or insurance. Servicing a heftier loan with a shorter timeframe means either smaller loan amounts or the need for bigger cash amounts in the bank, both of which may be a handful to juggle.

Poets Villas cluster housing in Teacher's Estate in the Upper Thomson district.

Poets Villas cluster housing in Teacher’s Estate in the Upper Thomson district.

But for those who are ready and able to invest, a short wait later and the prices may well be attractive enough to make a timely investment. Industry experts still consider landed homes a worthy long-term investment as demand will almost always outweigh supply.

Home prices down all around

Landed. Non-landed. Private. Public. Across the board, prices of all residential properties seem to have taken a hit in the last quarter.

Prices have dipped, some sectors more than the others, but signs are pointing to a possible slowdown in the market due to governmental curbs and the increased number of new property launches over the last 2 years. With the last price decline registered in 2005, resale HDB flat prices have been on the downhill slope for 2 quarters now. Private property prices have also suffered albeit to a lesser degree, with the lowest prices since 2009.

Mon JervoisMight it truly be the buyers’ market this year? Will this prompt more buyers to jump on the opportunity or are there other factors which might keep them away from the cash register? The tighter loan restrictions such as shorter loan periods, lower debt-to-income limits, and higher stamp duties may still be an obstacle to some buyers, thus sellers eager to cash in on their properties may find themselves having to wait a little longer for a good deal to come by.

Location usually still trumps all, though considerations such as space, amenities and living environment all have a part to play in the final selling price. With more new private condominium launches and new HDB flats pushing their way into the market this year, competition on the rental front is proving tough as well. Buyers now have more options for comparison and may be tempted to wait for prices to drop even further or wait it out for the best deal.

Even prices of suburban private homes, which have been the main stalwart of the property market last half of the year, have slipped 0.6 per cent. And as resale HDB flat prices drop, so have the number of HDB upgraders who may require the cash from the sale of their flats to purchase private homes. In turn, demand for mass-market suburban homes may fall.

Will it be a sombre year for Singapore’s residential property market?

Reduced BTO launches will not affect resales market

2013 was a year of new BTO HDB flats. With a sales launch almost every couple of months, it may have taken the shine off resale HDB flats. Coupled with the decreasing COV prices, will this mean a a weakening resale market?

National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan recently announced that starting 2014, HDB’s “massive construction programme” will slow as the pent-up demand for public housing units have been largely elevated by the continuous supply of BTO flats over the past 3 years. Industry analysts are not expecting the resale market to be overly affected by this announcement, especially since the pool of buyers usually have different motivating factors. Most BTO flat applicants are young families and first-time buyers. Now that application rates have fallen from 5.3 to 2 in 2 years’ time, there seems reason enough for the authorities to put the brakes on the building programme.

East Lawn Canberra HDB FlatIn comparison, the resale market has suffered slightly, with stricter loan limits, competition from the private property market, and recent COV prices have come to show for it. With the median at an all-time low, many are wondering if the cease of supply of new HDB flats will once again bring resale flat prices up. But this may be unlikely, at least for the next half year or so. As long as the loan limits and private residential options remain and especially since demand has been largely fulfilled,

It will be an interesting year for Singapore’s real estate sector. Which way will the wind blow?