Property cooling measure not going away

Yet. For now, as long as global circumstances continue to destabilise, growth slows and home prices remain high, the local government is unlikely to loosen the noose on the property market and the property cooling measures look set to stay.

Thomson Impressions2Property analysts say only a drastic and sudden market plunge will move the authorities into action as they focus their energy into repositioning Singapore as research and development investment-worthy. Though a complete reversal of the sudden market boom between 2008 and 2013 seems unlikely, the property cooling measures rolled out by the government over the past few years have effected a slow and gradual decline in property prices.

More households are saving up for their first home or to invest in a second, and putting away less for research, education, entrepreneurship and development. And as high home prices also mean higher wage expectations and thus higher labour costs, the high property prices here may be detrimental to Singapore’s overall growth over the next few years. In the near future, it seems unlikely that the property cooling measures will be lifted, until such time when a balance between national growth, competitiveness and housing needs is struck. Or till a sudden fall in property prices. Would a prolonged period of suppressed property market be any less damaging to the local economy?

Increasing difficulty in securing Australian home loans

Foreign property buyers hoping to snap up homes in Australia may find it increasing harder to secure home loans from Australian banks. The major Australian banks such as Commonwealth Bank, the National Australian Bank (NAB) and Westpac have further tightened loan restrictions to non-residents.

Sydney NSW skylineIn June this year, foreigners buying properties in New South Wales (NSW) have to now pay a 4 per cent stamp duty surcharge. In the state of Victoria, stamp duties have been raised this month to 7 per cent from the 3 per cent which commenced last year. Queensland may soon implement a 3 per cent foreign property surcharge as well, with a projected commencement date of October this year.

Foreign property buyers have come under the hammer of late, with citizens raising concerns about rising home prices, especially in popular cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Mainland Chinese buyers were the largest investors, spending A$24 billion in the property market last year, doubling that of A$12 billion in 2014.

The National Australian Bank (NAB) and Westpac are however still Sydney Surrey Streethelping Singaporean investors secure loans via their Singapore offices, though they are careful to alert clients to the total debt servicing ration (TDSR) framework which still applies. There are also other sources of home financing, including private lenders though additional information and documents, such as bank statements and income slips, will be required.

Bungalow of Tan Tock Seng’s descendant sold for $145 million

Is paying $145 million for a landed house over the top? Well, there is a first for everything.

The recent sale of a 25,741 sq ft freehold bungalow at 9 Cuscaden road is the first foray into Singapore’s property market for Hong Kong tycoon, Stanley Ho who has made billions through the gambling industry. The bungalow was put up for sale by Tan Tock Seng’s descendants and the site is zoned for hotel redevelopment with a plot ratio of 4.2. The bungalow was originally the family home of Tan Tock Seng’s great-grandson, Tan Hoon Siang and was put up for sale for between $160 to $170 million just last month. Named Villa Marie, it was presumably named after Mr. Tan’s second wife, Marie Windsor.

BungalowsStanley Ho’s Shun Tak Holdings paid $145 million for the prime site, the highest ever paid for a landed property and at $2,145 psf, it is all eyes on what is eventually built. Because of how it was zoned, the transaction was made sans the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD), which could be a real positive, considering how much the deal cost. Though zoned for hotel redevelopment, there is also the possibility of building residential units up to 20 storeys high. Could Orchard road be seeing a new residential block or hotel in its midst? Will other landed properties possibly be seeing more activity soon?


No signs of weakening China property market

Shanghai and Shenzhen – both super cities for properties. Home prices in these 2 top-tier cities have not waned despite China’s government tightening rules on the property market.

Savannah Hong KongIn April this year, home prices in Shanghai and Shenzhen continued to rise 2.3 and 3.1 per cent respectively. Though the numbers are slightly lower than March’s 3.7 and 3.6 per cent, in light of economic instability in other countries, this is a good sign. Even within China, where internal restructuring, higher global competition and weakening demand have began to put the brakes on their economy, the property sector continues to enjoy the momentum of growth.

Just over a year, home pieces in Shanghai  have risen a whooping 62.4 per cent and that in Shenzhen have grown 28 per cent. Across 70 cities in China, home prices are now 6.2 per cent higher, a further increase from the 4.9 per cent in March. Besides buying in the mainland, Chinese investors are also buying up properties in various other international cities such as Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong; and countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand.

Canada HouseEven while property prices in first- and second-tier countries continue to accelerate, third-tier cities are also beginning to post positive growth after a period of declining interest and sales. Policy makers are however concerned about the excessive lending and rising debt levels and may be prompted to tighten lending rules and implement further measures.

Private homes sales show slow and steady improvement

Twin-Peaks3Private non-landed property prices have been rising for 2 consecutive months now, a positive sign considering the recent market lull. Though values and volume are still lacking behind that during the peak of 2012 and 2013, any slight improvement is something to cheer for.

In April, the jump in non-landed homes sold was 17.6 per cent, a considerable 28.1 per cent higher on a year-on-year comparison with 2015. A total of 689 non-landed private units were sold last month. Property analysts are happy with the recent progress as it shows that the market is not completely dismal, and buyers will still bite if the prices are right. Resale private home prices similarly rose for 2 months straight, though the percentage were more modest with a 0.1 and 0.5 per cent increase in March and April respectively.

The residential developments which showed the most positive uptick were Twin Peaks in Leonie Hill, A Treasure Trove, D’Leedon, Double Bay Residences, Parkview Apartments, Thomson 800 and Carribean at Keppel Bay. The highest rise in home prices were in the core and central regions with a 1.3 per cent increase, while resale home prices in the suburbs fell 0.2 per cent.

Double Bay Residences SimeiAs the mid-year closes in, these 2 months may set the tone for the rest of the year, though much still hinges on how both local and global economies fare. Buying abilities and sentiments may follow suit.

Resale HDB flat prices up again

HDB resale flat prices have risen for 2 consecutive months this year, with a 0.2% rise in February. More than a distinctive market rebound, property analysts are embracing the slight adjustments as a sign of market stabilisation.

JurongEast HDB FlatIn fact, the market has been stable for the past year and a half, with less than 1 per cent fluctuation. It is still however, the buyers’ market. The number of resale HDB flat transactions have fallen, which could mean that demand is slowly waning, and the price point may be what the buyers are focused on. With the transparency of transaction data and statistics, more options made available such as singles now being able to apply for 2-room flats directly from HDB, and the injection of 9,000 new BTO flats into mature estates this year, buyers are more savvy and will only take the bait if the deal is truly good.

1,200 resale flats exchanged hands last month, down from 1,286 in January but still up from 1,148 last year though the lull could have been due to the year-end festivities. Industry experts are expecting resale HDB flat prices to remain flat this year, with an increase of transactions up to July when a fall in activity is expected during the Hungry Ghost Festival month.

Private condominium prices hold steady

The fall in completed private condominium prices was gentler last year at 3.5 per cent, compared to the 5.7 per cent from the year before. Prices are expected to hold steady this year as a dip in supply of properties in this sector bring prices to a plateau.

Jewel CDL

Photo: Jewel @ Buangkok

Demand for smaller apartments of up to 500 sq ft in size, have been weakening as their numbers, especially in the suburbs, have been on the rise in the past couple of years. Investors have found them more difficult to rent out in the dulling leasing market and those outside the central region or further from regional business hubs may find themselves competing for the same tenant pool. Tenants now prefer units with larger floor spaces with just slightly higher rents.

Sale prices of completed private properties within the central regions however have fallen more sharply as they usually come with a higher total quantum price. Compared to the many newer properties which have found a sweet spot with their total selling price, units in these central or prime districts see fewer overall transactions.

As the volume of unsold completed condominium stock diminishes and with the fewer launches expected this year due to cutbacks on land supply, resale properties could expect a happier year ahead.

When investing in properties overseas …

There are a number of things to look out for when investing in properties. And even more so in properties overseas. It may be familiar ground if you know your stuff, but otherwise it could be a rather risky affair.

Balmain ColgatePhoto: Apartment in Balmain, NSW, Australia.

Every country’s investment environment varies, sometimes quite drastically, and while brochures and presentations may look sleek and professional, the ins-and-outs of the local economic infrastructure may speak the same language. Thus finding out more about the legal and tax systems of the country in which the property is located would be one of the first and most important steps. The Council of Estate Agencies (CEA) has good advice for investors in their consumer guide for foreign property investments. Some countries have restrictions on the type of property foreigners can purchase, and also on whom they can eventually sell it to and the about of taxes or stamp duties they have to pay. In Australia for example, foreigners purchasing property have to seek approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board; whereas in Cambodia, where the market is just opening up, the restrictions are not as limiting.

Similar to how you would plan for any major investment, doing the groundwork and sums will help you financially. It is wise to know what your options are should there be a need to sell, and how long it would take you to do that would depend on the political and economic situation. Make the effort to find out the developer’s track record, and even take a trip down to look at the properties. After-sales property management could sometimes make or break your bank account and familiarising yourself with the legal systems of the country could ensure you are well-covered in unexpected circumstances. Having a solid point-of-contact in the country, such as a property agency or management agent could also reduce the risk and make the investment experience a smooth-sailing one.