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.

 

The private home gentle wave

It’s an up and down ride for the private non-landed property market for more than a year now. Across the board, non-landed resale home prices dropped 6.2 per cent last year. Prices of homes in the central districts dipped an average of 7 per cent last year, though there were good months when some segments managed to bounce back slightly before falling again. That could mean that things were mainly level though there are outliers.

Duchess ResidencesResale private apartment prices fell 0.2 per cent last month, with a 3.9 per cent fall compared to the same month last year. But some city fringe properties bounced back with an average price rise of 0.4 per cent. Part of the yoyo-ing in prices could be due to the Chinese New Year period in February and buyers were just coming back into the fray in March.

The second quarter of this year would be a crucial point in almost determining how the rest of the year will flow, at least up to just before the Hungry Ghost month. Though the ride has been more a gentle wave of price fluctuations rather than a roller coaster ride, property experts are however not expecting a drastic change in prices unless there are major policy changes or a major interest rates hike.

The year could be a relatively quiet one with bright sparks and dull moments along the way, but the basics of good location and lowered total quantum prices will still move units.

Penchant for Penthouses

Although the luxury property market seems to be falling behind as property cooling measures take bite, penthouses which are few and far in between are attracting the right customers.

At the exclusive Ardmore Park district, the one-and-only penthouse at Le Nouvel Ardmore recently sold at $51 million, apparently the highest recorded since the global financial crisis. Measuring at 13, 875 sq feet, that translated to about $5,000 psf. Considering news of a recent high-end property resale at a loss of $15.8 million just broke not too long ago, industry players are understandably happy about the recent progress.

Le Nouvel Ardmore in the exclusive Ardmore Park area. Image by Wing Tai Holdings Limited.

Le Nouvel Ardmore in the exclusive Ardmore Park area. Image by Wing Tai Holdings Limited.

Prime district condominiums are all in the millionaire range and penthouses are even higher on the price charts, mostly because of the floor area. One of the largest sale of penthouses in recent years was one at TwentyOne Angullia Park which sold for $42.9 million in 2013. Other high-end apartments include The Marq on Paterson Hill, The Orchard Residences and the Ardmore Park condominium. At The Marq, four-bedders start at $20.5 million ($6, 850 psf) which makes for a higher per square foot price than the $51 million penthouse at Le Nouvel Ardmore, but with a more palatable quantum price.

Are the buyers coming back into the market, slowly but surely? What will entice them back quicker and what are they looking for in a property? Property experts expect properties which are already completed will be a much higher draw for this high-end luxury property customer base as they often prefer to invest in the tangible.

More favour fixed home loan rates

With the property market still proving a little dicey this year, more buyers are opting for fixed home rates in the wake of possible higher interest rates this year.

Backed by the strengthening US Dollar, and the Sibor (Singapore Interbank Offered Rate) and Swap Offer Rate at their highest in five years; home buyers are understandably iffy about the financial difficulties they might eventually face. The three-month Sibor rate has reached 1 per cent last week, comparable to the boom in 2008.

Tropika East private property in district 14.

Tropika East private property in district 14.

Fixed home loan rates are locked in for a specific period of time (usually two to five years) and banks and brokers alike are reporting up to 80 per cent of their clientele showing interest and taking up fixed rates. Though the rates may be higher, the risk of fluctuating interest rates are reduced. It all takes detailed financial planning and a good understanding of one’s capabilities. How soon do you estimate being able to pay of bulk of your loan? How financially flexible do you need to be?

Location and rental potential seems to have trumped floor area and will properties with a lower total quantum continue to take the front of the race as the market leader?

Encouraging response from recent property launches

Over the weekend, show flats at two new condominium launches were packed to the rafters with eager buyers and those shopping for a good deal. Affordability and proximity to transport seemed to be the biggest crowd pleasers at these two developments.

Northpark Residences saw more than 70% of their 430 units sold with most of their buyers being Singapore citizens. Prices averaged at $1,300 psf. A 431 sq ft studio apartment for example, went for $612,000 while five-bedders with an average floor area of 1,432 sq ft sold at approximately $1.89 million.

Botanique @ Bartley2At the Botanique at Bartley, most of their units, about 70%, were all priced below $1 million. Definitely wallet-friendly for the middle-upper class household in Singapore and also more plausible for those who need a home loan. And they boasted the options of turning two- and three-bedders into dual-key apartments. Situated in the midst of quite a few schools such as the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (PLMGS), Maris Stella High School and the Australian International School, the property was quite the hot target for local and foreign buyers alike. Although only 300 units were put up for sale over the weekend, almost half have been sold. The most popular units were the one- and two-bedroom apartments starting at $598,000 for one-bedders and $798,000 for two-bedders.

If the weekend response and sales were anything to go by, the next few months may not be such dull ones. Is it time the property market picked itself off the floor, dust off and hit the road running? Will the positive effect rub off on older properties in close proximity to these new launches?

 

Yishun no backwater town

A somewhat laid back atmosphere that speaks of a slow and nature-filled life with occasional bursts of activity and energy describes the fringe township of Yishun. This HDB estate once was called “Ulu” (a Singaporean slang for being out-of-the-way and backward), but it has progressed nicely into the genteel gem it is today.

It seems to live life just the edge, growing and filling in a gap that straddles bustling and slow. Latest news of the redevelopment of the Yishun Central, with Frasers Centrepoint Homes taking the lead in building a mixed-use condominium and mall development, Northpoint City, in the vicinity, the Yishun area may be seeing a revival of sorts.

The EstuaryStretching out in a large area between Chong Pang, Sembawang and Yio Chu Kang, it has quite the space for development and expansion. Some of the current private properties already in its midst include Orchid Park, Lilydale and The Estuary. Newer residential developments include Nine Residences, Symphony Suites and the recently launched Northpark Residences.

There are a considerable number of HDB flats in the area as well, and property prices are considered reasonable and affordable. For now. New BTO (Build-to-Order) flats were also introduced into the mix starting from 2013, putting a good 9,500 units in the estate, including Yishun Greenwalk, DBSS ADora Green and Vista Spring.

From kampung to new town. The kampung spirit remains strong.

Dual key apartments rising in popularity

The latest property type on the block has been gathering an increasing crowd of fans. Not surprisingly, since they offer the space and the privacy for larger, multi-generational families, giving them the option of having their family members close, but not too close for comfort.

The concept began with the Housing Development Board and their “Granny flats” in 1986 and the first private properties to pick up on that were the Caspian and 8@Woodleigh. And now, new properties actively set aside a number of units as dual key apartments.

Boathouse ResidencesSome of the latest market offerings to include these units include Seventy Saint Patrick’s, Northpark Residences, Riverbank@Fernvale and Botanique @ Bartley. Older properties with these options include Coco Palms, and The Santorini at Tampines. At the latter, there are 144 dual key units. Most of the dual key units include a two- or three-room unit attached to a studio apartment, with two separate entrances.

In addition to providing privacy, these units also provide a cheaper alternative to buyers who are running an office out of their home. It gives them a separate entrance to their business and a physical separation from their living quarters while saving on transport costs and time.

Plus, it is easier to rent out these smaller units. For longterm investment considerations, these units could also be sold as it is or as a normal unit with the separating structures reconfigured.

Coming up later this year, the Boathouse Residences, developed by Frasers Centrepoint Limited, will also feature dual key apartments.

Affordable units below $1 million at Botanique @ Bartley

Over the weekend, the 797-unit Botanique @ Bartley condominium opened for viewing at pocket-friendly prices. Situated on Upper Paya Lebar road, near Bartley MRT station, the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary), Maris Stella High School and The Australian International School, this new property seems like it has all the ingredients for an expensive price tag.

But instead, more than 70% of its units were pricedbelow $1 million, making it one of the more affordable new properties around town. With prices starting at $598,000 for a one-bedder, up to $1.68 million for three-bedders. While most of the units here are smaller, with one-bedroom apartments ranging between 495 to 689 sq ft and 926 to 1, 356 sq ft for three-bedders, the total quantum prices are more palatable with upgraders. A floor area comparision will however reveal that at $1, 300 psf, it is actually priced higher than the nearby Bartley Ridge which went for a median of $1, 296 psf.

Botanique@BartleyDeveloped by the UOL Group, the Botanique @ Bartley will feature “flexi” units, referring to the two- and three-bedders which can be converted into dual-key apartments. Some of UOL’s other properties include the popoular Thomson Three which only has eight units left unsold, Seventy St Patrick’s and Riverbank@Fernvale.

The rest of the year might not be hectic on the new private property front, with more attention possibly given to executive condominiums, thus supply might not necessarily overtake demand. How will that impact both the private and public housing markets?