Competitive pricing will help Property developer move units quicker

Home mortgage interest rates look set to rise sometime this year, and while new properties continue to come into the market, buyers will be spoiled for choice with executive condominiums, resale private apartments and new condominium units all competing for their attention.

Trilive KovanPricing might then be the differentiating factor in the current property market which is still finding its footing. In January, Symphony Suites in Yishun proved to be one of the best sellers in the non-landed private property market. Prices averaged at $1,010 psf, which was not considered to be on the higher end of the price spectrum. Most suburban properties fared better, making up 62 per cent of the total sales numbers last month. City fringe properties followed behind with 28 per cent and city centre homes took up only 10 per cent.

The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) continues to be the main obstacle for buyers as the loan amounts they are now able to receive have been largely reduced. However, developers are unlikely to make drastic price reductions as land prices have been high for the past two years.

Contrary to concerns that new properties may outshine previous older launches and resale properties, some older developments have fared well in the last month. Trilive in Kovan sold 22 units at a $1,562 psf median price while 20 units in Jurong West’s Lakeville also exchanged hands at the average selling price of $1, 378 psf.

While the influx of new units and restrictive loan limits may be the way things go for the year ahead, the demand for residential properties may not necessarily have disappeared altogether. It may simply be a matter of buyers taking longer to weigh their options.

City fringe properties – Sales versus Rental prices

Despite a steep drop in prices of non-landed properties in the city fringes, rental prices in these districts seem to be holding up well. In 2014, sale prices in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) fell 5.3 per cent, more than the 4.1 in the central region and 2.2 per cent in the suburbs. Sale prices between city fringe and suburban properties are narrowing, especially with the large number of new city fringe properties introduced last year, paired with the increased ABSD (additional buyers’ stamp duty) and TDSR framework (Total debt servicing framework).

Sims Urban OasisExpatriates may be steering towards the city fringe regions with their exclusivity, proximity and more price-friendly options. Rental prices in the city fringes are around $3.50 to $4.50 psf, compared to $5 sf in the city centre and $3 psf in the suburbs.

With city fringe homes becoming more affordable, and rental prices still considerably high, these properties may be a good investment as resilience in demand and rental seem consistent. One of the latest city fringe residential development to go on sale is the Sims Urban Oasis, just a stone’s throw away from Aljunied MRT station and the future Paya Lebar Central Sub-regional Centre. Prices are starting at $628,000 for a 440 sq ft one-bedder to $1.55 million for a 990 sq ft four-bedder. Other properties in various city fringe districts include TRE Residences in Geylang, Eight Riversuites in Whampoa East, Highline Residences in Tiong Bahru and Sky Vue and Sky Habitat in Bishan.

Low sales for resale homes in January

With city centre homes leading the way, resale home prices seemed to be walking down the same path as the month before, with a dip of 1.7 per cent. Suburban homes’ decline was slightly less steep at 1.1 per cent and across the board, resale homes saw a 0.2 per cent drop in prices. On the bright side, city fringe properties did fairly well, with a 1.5 per cent gain.

The number of transactions were part of the reason for the drop. In January, only 282 private properties were sold, down from 363 in December last year. Other reasons include the loan restrictions and overall lower buying sentiments. With the festive season coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, the numbers for February may not see a drastic pick-up, but from March onwards, the figures will be telling of the year’s property market prospects.

6DeryshireAs the year goes on, industry experts are expecting buyers to pick up on the softening home prices and keep a quick eye out for serious sellers who may have potentially value-worthy offers. There are sellers out there who are still holding on to their asking prices as they wait out 2015. The year could be a tussle between the these two groups. Any extreme asking prices on both ends will be unlikely to do anyone any favours.

Currently, areas with the highest resale home value (Measured by the amount buyers were overpaying or underpaying) of $60,000 are Watten Estate, Novena and Thomson. In Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang, the prices were a negative $31,000.

A major shift in dynamics this year could be caused by the higher interest rates which are likely to happen this year. Buyers may take that into consideration, together with the tightened loan limits, which does not give them much leeway in negotiations. Sellers who are eager to make a sale will do well to consider these limitations as well and understand that it will not be easy for their buyers to easily fork out additional cash.

Making timely overseas property investments

The strengthening Singapore Dollar, in particular against the Japanese Yen and Malaysian Ringgit, may be just the incentive to look outside of the country for possible property investment opportunities. So what new launches lurk in these 2 countries, ripe for the picking?

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Photo credit: CBRE

In Tokyo, a 883-unit high-rise Global Front Tower in the Minato ward is calling out to investors with their 4.5 to 5.1 per cent yield. With prices starting at $740,000 for a 780 sq ft unit and going up to $1.04 million for bigger units in the 912 sq ft range, it might be quite a steal considering its prime location near the city’s main Yamanote Line. Situated within the development itself are amenities such as a childcare centre and convenience store, pluses for rental.

HarbourCity_Melaka

A little outside the Iskandar region, in the much-loved tourist spot of Malacca, a new mixed-use development made up of a hotel, mall and theme park, could be just the thing for those looking for investment properties somewhere closer to home. The Harbour City development, which off the coast of the new off-shore man-made islands of the Melaka Gateway development, is targeted to open by 2018 and will attract new tourists to the already popular city. Securing a unit in one of its 780 suites may give buyers the opportunity to own a holiday home of sorts which earns you cash even while you are away.

In short, property investment opportunities outside of Singapore are there, it is simply a matter of research and keeping an eye on property trends, and striking while the iron is hot.

Developers bank on Cospace Flexi condo units

Besides offering direct discounts and rebates, developers are hoping their offer of bare-minium spaces will help them move more units. These “CoSpace flexi” units are sans frills such as privatised balcony spaces or interior finishing. Instead, they are bare, with no interior fittings or floor finishing, which could be just what some buyers out there want, since they prefer to add their own creative touch to the unit. Now they can do it at no “additional” cost of having to pay for finishing they will ultimately remove.

Symphony SuitesThis move has already been taken by Qingjian Realty at a couple of the most recent executive condominiums (ECs), Bellewoods and Bellewaters. These “CoSpace flexi” units often come with a $25,000 to $45,000 lower price tag. At Bellewaters, a fully-finished and fitted 1,238 sq ft unit costs upwards from $756 sf while a no-frills space of the same size costs $736 psf.

At the private condominiums, Symphony Suites in Yishun, developer EL Development is also adopting the same move. Said to be the “cheapest condominium in the market”, prices for a unit in this 660-unit development range between $671,000 to $1.1 million.

Of late, most buyers have been Singaporeans, who are likely to be HDB upgraders or investors. At CapitaLand’s Marine Blue, 31 out of 124 units have already been sold. The most popular units were the one- and two-bedders, though a few penthouses sold as well.

Will shoebox apartments be 2015′s top seller?

Despite a rise in the number of available shoebox apartments over the last year, the fall in prices of this property sector was the lowest amongst all the other completed non-landed private apartments.

JurongLake_URA

Photo credit: Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)

These small units up to 506 sq ft in size, especially if situated in good locations, will this segment continue to do well this year despite a 4 per cent price decline in 2014? Made popular in 2009, shoebox units in the prime districts such as those in the city centre or city fringes, were snapped up well and fast over the past 5 years. So much so that developers launched projects with shoebox units which made up as much as 80 per cent of the total number of units launched outside the city centre region.

Though these small studio-size units are commonly popular in highly populated cities such as London, Sydney, Tokyo and New York, will they work in suburban Singapore? With new regional hubs such as Jurong and Woodlands coming up, and even more in the next 10 to 20 years under URA’s redevelopment plans, it could possibly be so as businesses fan out from the city centre into these regions, bringing with them expatriates and their housing needs.

For the current year, property experts are waiting to see the markets’ response to resale shoebox units as more of these developments attain their TOP (temporary occupation permit). The most recent additions to the market are The Promenade@Pelikat and The Hillier. It could be a battle between centrally located shoebox units and slightly larger two-room apartments outside of the city.

Executive Condominiums – Now’s the time

If you are a second-time HDB property buyer, and are looking at upgrading from a HDB flat to an executive condominium (EC) – the time may be now. Before the resale levy really kicks in.

The TerraceImplemented in Dec 2013, the levy applies to ECs launched after Dec 9 the same year and as most of the EC launches from now on will be for units launched after Dec 2013, a levy of $15,000 to $50,000 will apply. And that’s no small sum to scoff at.

Executive condominiums have long been the way to move from public to private housing for most middle-class Singaporean families. As young couples now see this as one of the best ways to start their families, competition for the same properties have never been fiercer. As a hybrid between public and private housing, ECs will become private properties following a ten-year period. There is a income ceiling for applicants however, of a combined household income of $12,000.

As bids for EC land plots dip, mostly due to a saturation of launches in the last few months, prices and sales volume may not hold as well moving forward. Currently, ECs which just escape this resale levy include Bellewoods, Bellewaters, The Terrace, Lake Life and The Amore. They each boast their own unique selling point, with unblocked views at The Terrace, basement carparks at The Amore, nature-inspired landscapes at Bellewoods and resort-living lifestyle atmosphere at Bellewaters. Combined with options of units such as penthouses and condominium facilities, it’s the only logical step up for HDB upgraders.

Re-zoning Geylang – Fewer residential properties

At first instance, this proposal may not sound promising, but it may actually bring good news for owners of existing condominiums in Geylang. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has recently announced a re-zoning of residential areas in Geylang for commercial use.

Rezi3TwoWhile this means that there may not be as many private residential properties in the area, the value of those which have already been built may appreciate as offices and businesses eventually move into the area. This proposal by the URA could be seen as mainly to facilitate the balancing of residential and commercial activities in the district. The over-building of residential properties in the red-light district could have a reverse effect and introducing more commercial properties and maintaining a suitable amount of residential properties in the area may in turn increase the rental yields and value of properties in its proximity.

With Geylang’s prime location putting it close to the city centre, Aljunied MRT station and the Singapore Sports Hub, rental yields here are already 1.5 per cent higher than those in other districts. With the area mostly made up of smaller land parcels, the likely tenants would be boutique developers and small businesses, with the possibilities of niche eateries and shops.

Some residents have however raised concerns over this re-zoning move as more commercial spaces here may mean an increase in the illegal and disruptive activities normally associated with this infamous district. What are the pros and cons of purchasing property in Geylang and does one outweigh the other?