Jurong will have more ECs

When Westwood Residences in Jurong comes up, Lake Life will not be the only new executive condominium (EC) in the Jurong district. Applicants will have better news as prices are expected to hover around the lower end of their price expectation.

Westwood REsidencesWestwood REsidences

Photo credit: thewestwoodresidences.com

Developers are gradually becoming more attuned to buyers’ pricing sweet spot and are more likely to price new units within their affordability range. If response at Lake Life EC was anything to go by, this new executive condominium and its fresh new prices may well be hot property. However, second-timers with a subsidised flat or EC will need to take note that the latest regulatory change will mean they will be subjected to a resale levy of $40 to $50 psf. Upgraders and first-time applicants will however enjoy a discount or subsidy.

Developers, Koh Brothers and Heeton Holdings have indicated an estimated price of $800 psf. The original price range was $790 to $840 psf. Bookings for the new EC units at the 480-unit Westwood Residences will commence on May 30 but show flats will be open by this weekend. The property will lie in the exclusive area of Westwood and just a few bus stops away from the Boon Lay MRT station. It also lauds itself as the first bike-themed development, with a focus on sports and lifestyle related offerings such as an aqua gym, bicycle garage and outdoor mini velodrome.

Slowing down of property market slowdown

The first quarter of 2015 has proved to be a slow one for the property industry. But the slowdown has lost some speed. Compared to the previous quarters, the decline for both private and public housing was at around 1 per cent for the past three months.

Property prices and sales have been slowing down since mid-2013. In the resale HDB flat market, prices have fallen for 7 consecutive quarters and private property prices have fallen 6 quarters in a row. What will the rest of the year hold for these market segments?

Northpark Residences1For the private property sector, property analysts are predicting:

  1.  A further dip in prices as the number of unsold units are on the rise.
  2. Continued fall in rental prices as more completed new homes enter the fold. The decline in the first quarter of the year was 1.7 per cent; rental prices fell 1 per cent in the last quarter of 2014.
  3. As interest rates rise, home owners and developers may be pushed to lower prices further to secure deals. The competition between resale and new properties may also heat up.
  4.  A 5 to 8 per cent fall in private home prices for the year as buyers delay their market entry, possibly waiting for prices to fall further before making a buy.

In the HDB resale flat market, the prospects seem slightly more positive:

  1. HDB resale prices are expected to fall at a slower pace of 4 to 7 per cent and perhaps even stabilise.
  2. But as more new BTO (build-to-order) flats and ECs (executive condominiums) are completed this year,  flat owners may feel the imminent pressure to sell their existing flats at lower prices in order to move into their new units.

A fall in home prices seem inevitable this year, but the good news may come in the form of increasing sales and reaching a balance between sellers and buyers in terms of home prices.

Will adjusting HDB income ceiling help “Sandwich class” own a home?

As earning power climbs, the combined household income for an increasing number of families now fall just above the income ceiling for public housing. This puts them just out of reach of a new HDB flat yet still quite a distance away from being able to afford a private property, especially as inflation and the financial stress of providing for a family kick in.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

The combined household income ceiling for a new HDB flat currently stands at $10,000 while the same for an executive condominium (EC) is $12,000. The income ceiling was last raised in 2011, from $8,000 to $10,000 for HDB flats and $10,000 to $12,000 for ECs. Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in the number of couples and families falling into the “sandwiched class” of middle-income households in Singapore. Especially as Singaporeans now tend to marry late in life, when the husband and wife’s earning capabilities are at a certain level which puts them just beyond qualifying for a new HDB flat might be facing the most headaches.

Is there a way around it as public housing was originally aimed at helping those in need. But since there might always be a section of the population who will find public housing out of reach and private housing too much of a financial burden or risk, will raising the income ceiling really help elevate their circumstances only to be a burden to yet another group of citizens? What other options are available for these middle class families? Will they be looking at resale HDB flats as the only viable and affordable option?

Could lower resale HDB flat prices be a good thing?

Although HDB resale prices have dipped 0.6% last month, sellers could  turn the seemingly negative into a positive as this may mean that more buyers will see the market as flattening and be willing to purchase from the resale market instead of applying for a new one directly from HDB.

As HDB has been active in rolling out a massive number of new BTO and EC flats in the past few years to comply to demand from citizens, especially young families and multi-generational families. Even singles now have an option of buying new 2-room flats directly from HDB. Previously they could only purchase from the resale market. The increased supply of HDB flats has meant that more families and young couples have been successful in securing their new HDB flat, leaving less buyers for the resale market.

DoverHDB flatBut may sellers find themselves unable to raise their asking prices by too much as most buyers will be restricted by the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) line which banks now have to toe. Loans will now be capped at 30 per cent of the gross monthly income. Part of last month’s drop in sales volume and prices could be due also to the Chinese New Year festive season.

Industry experts are expecting prices to drop further or maintain its status quo at least for awhile more. Any rise will be short-lived and a temporary anomaly. It may only be a question of how soon the buyers will return to the market. Are they waiting for prices to lower even further? What will make them change their mind and give them the push to purchase now?

Interest in Executive Condominiums wane

Just awhile ago, the interest in executive condominiums (ECs) was red hot as pent up demand for these sought-after properties was released after a long hiatus. In areas such as Jurong, which had not seen a new EC launch for 17 years, the response was promising.

This interest has however diminished very quickly. In the latest EC launch, only 18 per cent of the units launched have been sold. Out of the 378 units in The Amore EC in Edgdale Plains, only 70 were sold at its launch last weekend. Prices averaged at $800 psf. A similar property nearby, The Terrace executive condominium, which was launched earlier last month, has only had approximately 20 per cent of its 747 units sold at a median of $812 psf.
TheAmoreEC_1Photo Credit: www.amore-ec.com

Bellewaters EC in Sengkang and Bellewoods EC in Woodlands fared similarly, with the only development bucking the trend being The Lake Life EC in Jurong West. Most of the units at The Lake Life sold within the weekend of its launch in November 2014. The sudden demise of interest in ECs came unexpectedly as even within last year alone, there was a good 9-month wait before any new EC development was launched and a rise in sales figures after a long wait is the norm.

Property analysts are putting this slowdown on the increase supply of BTO (Build-to-order) HDB flats, declining resale prices which have made resale HDB flats more affordable and the 30 per cent Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) which was implemented in December 2013.

Moving ahead in 2015, 10 more new EC launches are expected and sales may be slow as future ECs will require a resale levy tax and competition heats up within the same location. As seen by recent numbers, areas with a higher concentration of ECs tend to fare more poorly in terms of sales volume.

New condominiums not spared from 2014’s lull

The stream of new homes entering the market has been continuous and more will be coming our way in 2015, with up to 2,500 units within the next two months. Larger new residential projects ready for occupation soon include the Sims Urban Oasis and Northpark residences.

Sims Urban OasisThis sudden increase in supply may not necessary affect sales prices, but the number of transactions may drop as buyers hold out in wait of what the rest of the year brings. In the last month of 2014, sales were lacklustre, with the best seller being Lakeville condominium with 16 units sold. This is followed by 13 units sold at Rivertree Residences and 12 at The Panorama. All are suburban mass-market private homes. Even the executive condominium market slacked a little with only 128 units sold at the 747-unit The Terrace in Punggol.

But the later half of 2015 may hold some promise as property prices may have corrected by more than 10 per cent and property cooling measures may then be lifted. Sellers may find themselves having to lower prices as competition heats up and buyers wait out as long as they can. It is just a matter of waiting for that sweet spot to hit the markets.

More going for BTO flats

Or so the numbers show. January marked the first launch of HDB’s new BTO flats for 2014, each new flat were oversubscribed by 1.6 times for first-timers and 3.5 times by second-timers. The location of these new launches were the main draw – two projects were situated in Punggol and many young couples and families were excited about the new waterfront living in this new town.

Matilda PunggolPhoto source: URA

Development and expansion in Punggol have been rapid, especially since it has been earmarked as the Punggol 21 township development plans under URA’s Draft Masterplan 2013. It promises to deliver a waterfront lifestyle living deep inland when previously only the outskirts, mainly in the East, of Singapore had the privilege of these sort of housing options. Although it may take some years yet before it is fully developed, the next decade may shift the focus into this area and as more families bring up their children there, no doubt popularity of its properties will also increase. And buying early may be the wisest choice yet. Private properties in the area include Ecopolitan, Watertown and Rivertrees Residences and executive condominiums such as Waterwoods, Prive and A Treasure Trove. It will be interesting to see which other new launches may move into the area this year.

Rivertrees condoAnd since HDB’s policy change in July last year, singles are now able to purchase 2-room flats directly from HDB and the subscription rate is a high 27.7. But the government has committed to offering up to 5,000 of such flats this year, with 30 per cent reserved for singles. There may be even more left in the basket for singles as the number of families going for 2-room flats are on the decline. Will this mean a change in the demand for 3-room resale HDB flats?

Triple the Subscription at Skypark Residences in Sembawang

506 units at Skypark Residences Executive Condominium (EC) in Sembawang, and 1, 604 applicants. That’s more than triple the number of units available.

This new EC will feature a 1, 250 sqm Skypark 50 meters above ground. Nothing to rival that of the Marina Bay Sands of course, but as high-rise living becomes more the norm than the exception, having a piece of greenery of your own might be more precious a commodity in the near future than you think. Applications came mainly from HDB upgraders and larger multi-generational families.

Skypark Residences ECPerhaps the possible lack of new EC projects in the few years to come have driven buyers to jump on this last opportunity of 2013 to upgrade. Created as a stepping stone for HDB owners into the private property market, executive condominiums have become a rare public-private housing hybrid which has immense potential especially since it becomes a private property after five years and owners can then sell to foreign buyers after ten years. The projected number of new EC launches in 2014 is two.

But there’s still time yet. Bookings will open on 16 November. Prices are expected to range between $720psf to $800 psf. Will more be wiling to bet their chances at applying for an oversubscribed executive condominium in a quiet neighbourhood or purchase a ready-to-live unit in a completed or almost completed suburban condominium? Are long-term benefits on the minds of property buyers or are short-term capitals what they are gunning for?