New properties on a fresh new ride

And hopefully it will be an upwards ride.

May 2014 was a good month for the new private home market. Mostly due to the large number of properties launched, 1,487 units were sold. But after that huge spike, sales have held steady at around 300 to 400 units sold per month, with December’s showing a little lower due to the festive season.

KingsfordWaterbayThe numbers have however increased significantly in March this year, from 390 units sold in February to 613 last month. The results are promising, but there has been a few recent launches of new units at previously launched developments and also a release of pent-up demand after the Chinese New Year festivities, which could account for some of the positive vibes.  Most of the sales came from Kingsford Waterbay with 155 units sold and Sims Urban Oasis with 107 units sold. New launches are pulling out all the stops to get buyers’ attention. Competition will be high as more launches are planned for the year, thus getting first dibs with the buyers’ pool is crucial for developers.

Suburban properties are often priced below city fringe and central district properties; at 22 per cent lower than city fringe and 43 per cent lower than central region homes. Lower quantum prices seems to be the factor helping to close deals, as the property cooling measures do not work in favour of most middle-income buyers. The Skywoods and Symphony Suites projects seemed to stacked up better, but sales at Northpark Residences and Botanique @ Bartley may very well give them a run for their money soon, looking at the response from the public.

The outlook for the market this year seems spotted, with possible glimmers of hope but also tough restrictions which may put a damper on sales volume and prices.

 

Private properties – Not all in the slumps

Recent figures showed that the property cooling measures have only really affected the luxury market, which has slipped into the red.

Even then, there are properties within the private property market which have not been as drastically affected by the measures and market slump. At Cote d’Azur in Marine Parade for example, prices rose by 4.3 per cent. Prices of resale units at Costal del Sol also rose 4.5 per cent. And for the new property market, in Chestnut Avenue, selling prices of units at Eco Sanctuary showed a promising increase of 4.1 per cent.

Eco SanctuaryAlthough this could be caused by developers choosing to release juicier units later in their launch schedule, enticing buyers to purchase at their latest launches, this nevertheless gives hope to the market. Buyers are still wiling to fork out the cash to get the units they want. And there is no lack of these savvy folks.

Naturally as with all market movements, effects are never seldom felt the same way across the board, there will be units with more potential than others. It takes a keen eye and a close followup of market trends to make a killing at the right time.

While this is good news for property developers and sellers, it raises the question of whether the property cooling measures have really been effective in making property purchasing affordable for the majority, or only instead stymied the inflow of foreign cash earnings in the high-end property market?

 

Good class bungalows still in demand

The private property, and perhaps more so landed property sector, has been the doldrums for most of the year. But the niche market for Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) has been thriving.

e704119a11f840b8865a9fb67a23b14eA total of 26 Good Class Bungalows were sold this year, with the total sales figure coming up to a whooping $587.75 million. Though it is nothing compared to the 133 sold for $2.38 billion at the height of the industry in 2010, it is comparable to the 29 sold last year for $682 million. But the average sf prices for GCBs have risen this year to $1,454 sf as compared to last year’s $1,388 psf. The Belmont Park, Chatsworth Park, Chestnut Avenue, Dalvey Estate, Raffles Park and White House Park areas received the most attention in 2014.

There are only 2,700 GCBs over 39 designated areas in Singapore, though the number may have increased slightly in the 1980s when GCB areas were gazetted. This resulted in some sites entering the good class bungalow market even though they are smaller than the usual 1,400 sq m size.

But property experts have noticed that the drop in transactions for these high-end properties were largely due to the  MAS-imposed TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework and ABSD (additional buyers’ stamp duty). Most buyers of these properties are likely to already have existing properties and the increased stamp duties will total up to a rather substantial sum.

They are expecting this market to fare similarly next year as the property cooling measures remain. But with buyers’ consideration possibly turning into long term value appreciation, the Good Class Bungalow sector will certainly stand its own.

$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.

Landed home prices set to rise

The spotlight has been on new and resale private mass-market homes recently. But with that market reaching saturation, attention is now turned onto landed private homes. Everyone knows how rare these types of property are in land-scarce Singapore, but prices have been falling due to the consumers’ diminishing ability to purchase these expensive properties.

Loyang Rise HouseBut the decline may ease up by end of this year. Analysts are expecting prices of landed homes to pick up next year. This may mean more home owners will hold on to their properties in wait for better prices. This restriction of supply could also be the start of rising prices. In the long run, landed homes do generally hold up in terms of prices better than condominiums. The drop in landed homes prices was only 0.7 per cent, compared to the overall private home prices of 1.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, buyers looking for a worthy landed property to purchase could look at areas such as Bukit Batok, Loyang, Jurong or Sembawang. Terrace houses are usually more affordable than semi-detached or bungalows, and they are usually the first to rise in prices when the property market bounces back.

One possibly glitch is the rental prospects of landed homes. Compared to apartments, they are harder to find tenants for.

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.

Will PRs go Private?

Now that Permanent Residents (PRs) have to wait 3 years upon receipt of their PR status before purchasing their first resale HDB flat, will they opt for the quicker route to owning property in Singapore and go private?

Alana BungalowIf they do, the private mass-market condominium and EC (executive condominium) market will happily reap its fruits. While the possible decrease in demand for resale HDB flats may mean that Singaporeans hoping to upgrade to the private property sector may now find it difficult, more PRs may be taking their place in keep demand for non-landed properties high.

The HDB resale market is expected to drop 15 to 25 per cent, according to industry experts. But they are hopeful that suburban residential private condominiums will continue to pique the interest of PRs who might not want to spend money they will never get back on rental and would rather invest in new developer homes.

Primo ResidenceHas the price gap between public and private housing widened? Or the better question might be, is this widening the desired effect? What about the government’s objective of helping Singaporeans upgrade from HDB to private property? Not forgetting the in-between housing category of executive condominiums (ECs), are the ECs filling up that gap efficiently and reasonably enough?

EC Easy

Despite the recent loan curbs flexing its muscles, the market seems to be responding with exuberance, but only to executive condominiums (ECs). The financial restrictions placed on property loans may have made it more difficult to purchase private properties, but it has not yet applied to executive condominiums, thus making this sector ever more attractive to buyers. In any case, ECs will become private properties once it passes the 10-year mark.

Sea Horizon EC near Pasir Ris Beach.

Sea Horizon EC near Pasir Ris Beach.

What makes the difference? If you own a HDB flat but wish to apply for an EC, you need to sell your HDB flat once the EC is completed. Which means you only essentially have one property at hand at any one time. And under the new TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework recently set by MAS, the bank will only calculate the monthly payment for your EC unit. But if you were to purchase a private property whilst holding on to your HDB flat, the bank will calculate the monthly mortgage payment of both your HDB flat and private property, which makes it harder to loan the maximum amount. This in totality, affects the amount of money you can loan from the banks, and thus may require you to have more cash available before making a private property purchase.

LUsh AcresThe most recent EC launches were wildly received by buyers, Sea Horizon in Pasir Ris mostly for its unique location and Sengkang’s Lush Acres for its amenities and potential for growth. Sea Horizon was oversubscribed by three times, with 1,500 applications for its 495 units, making it the most subscribed EC in 2013 thus far. Most exec condos have been located in centralised, more urban landscapes, but Sea Horizon overlooks Pasir Ris beach, making its seaviews a unique selling point for its developers, Hao Yuan Investment and Sustained Land. Over at Lush Acres in Sengkang, 76 per cent of its 380 units were already sold over the weekend. Prices averaged at $785 psf and total prices ranged between $704, 000 to $1, 275, 200.

With this new consideration in sight, will buyers now flock more fervently to EC launches and could this possibly nudge the authorities to in turn adjust the criteria for EC purchases? How will that affect the overall real estate landscape?