Maxing the potential of HDB Housing Grants

The General Elections of 2015 have brought about some changes in the local housing and property scene. With raised income ceilings for new flats and executive condominiums, plus a series of other adjusted or new housing grants, more HDB flat applicants are able to now secure a unit and at less by making use of these new grants.

HDB flats 10The new Proximity Housing Grant provides singles and families who are buying a resale flat with or near their married children or parents, with a respective $10,000 and $20,000 grant. Since its implementation on 24 August, 684 families and 53 singles have applied for the grant. Income ceilings have also been raised to $12,000 (from $10,000) for families and $6,000 (from $5,000) for singles. This means more would qualify for a HDB flat and the respective grants, possibly allowing some applicants who may have previously fallen just short of the income ceiling to now successfully apply for a unit.

Indirectly, this move may have also helped to boost resale transactions. As applicants who wish to live near their parents or married children may not be able to find a new flat within close proximity, especially in more mature estates where new flats are rare, resale flats may be their next best choice. With a combination of the Proximity Housing Grant and other CPF housing grants, what they may finally have to pay for a resale flat may be much more palatable.

Demand for EC units slowing down

The Executive Condominium (EC) market seems to be facing some resistance from buyers. The pricing sweet spot in recent launches of Signature @ Yishun and The Criterion seem to be around  $750 to $780 psf respectively.

The most recent public housing policy changes include a higher income ceiling of $14,000, up $2,000 from the previous $12,000 for ECs. This may have an effect on the crossover pool of buyers who may well be able to afford private condominiums and may weigh in their options between both housing types. 20 per cent of the buyers for Signature @ Yishun fell within those with monthly household income above $12,000. Though more significant impact probably comes from the Mortgage Servicing Ratio and other loan restrictions.

Signature@YIshunThe Criterion is a 505-unit development built by City Developments and Signature at Yishun, a 525-unit project by JBE Holdings. That may also have thinned out the demand a little, as both are situated in Yishun and there are many points for comparison. Buyers may also be holding out in wait for the massive 12,000-unit BTO launch in November.

Although the sales may not be as fast and furious as before, with units being sold out within the launch period as buyers now tend to take their time in making comparisons and coming to a decision, the response will still be comparable.

Upcoming EC launches buyers can look forward to include Wandervale in Choa Chu Kang Drive and Parc Life in Sembawang.

The Criterion EC in Yishun

One of the latest executive condominium (EC) offerings certainly meets quite a lot of criteria for a good property. The Criterion EC in Yishun, jointly developed by City Development Limited and TID private limited, is set to yield 505 residential units by 2018.

TheCriterionThis new EC will feature units will range from two- to five-bedders and exclusive penthouses which offer scenic views of the golf course at Orchid Country Club or the Lower Seletar Reservoir. This new development will also offer flexi-units which allow buyers to select a room configuration that best suits their needs. Plus, a high percentage of the units will also have the optimal north-south facing orientation which most home owners look for to avoid the heat from the rising and setting sun and also allows for natural ventilation.

Its location also puts it in close proximity to the Yishun MRT station and bus interchange, the up-and-coming Northpoint City and a good number of schools, not to mention the Yishun Sports stadium and Sports Hall. Medical facilities in the vicinity include the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Yishun Community Hospital.

Buyers looking to book a unit can first view the show flat daily from 10am to 7pm, located near at the end of Miltonia Close. They will also be interested to know that The Criterion is the first EC to offer a microbubble spa from Japan aside from the range of more than 50 facilities promoting varied lifestyle activities such as yoga, cycling, swimming, starlight dining and community farming. How’s that for a modern living microcosm for you?

Waterfront living in public housing 

Not only do exclusive private mansions, bungalows, landed properties and condominium apartments or penthouses have waterfront views, public housing now offers such options, especially in the form of executive condominiums (ECs).

These hybrid property types begin their journey as public housing eligible for application under the Housing Development Board (HDB), and after 10 years, they become private condominium apartments, enjoying the benefits and price tags of private properties in the market. When they come with waterfront views and lifestyles, all the better.

Bellewaters ECA few of these EC properties include Bellewaters, and one in Punggol aptly named Waterwoods. Both situated in the new towns of Sengkang and Punggol, they seem targeted at young families and families who are looking to relocate or upgrade. With a projected temporary occupation permit (TOP) acquirement date of 2017, and now the raised income ceiling from $12,000 to $14,000 for ECs, it could be the prime time to seek out a good unit in potential EC developments. A bonus point for Bellewaters is that it was launched before 2013, thus the resale levy which is levied on home buyers who have previously bought a HDB flat or have taken a CPF housing grant does not apply here.

Waterwoods Punggol ECThere are big things planned for the Sengkang and Punggol HDB estates in the next couple of decades, including a North Coast Innovation Corridor with the Seletar Regional Centre and Seletar Aerospace Park in its midst, as well as the Punggol Creative Cluster and Learning Corridor which includes The Singapore Institute of Technology and links to the Punggol waterfront. The Punggol Waterway is also set to be a hub of commercial, retail and recreational activity.

Transport, though slightly lacking for now, will no doubt improve in time to come, and the new townships will have immense potential for growth.

Higher future demand for ECs?

Recent news of the income ceiling for new HDB and ECs (executive condominiums) flats possibly being raised have brought about a wave of questions from the market. Will this increase competition for new BTO flats? How will the resale HDB flat market be affected? Will the private property sector see lower or higher demand?

Since ECs and mass market private homes often go after the same pool of buyers, raising the income ceiling for ECs may mean increasing competition for the latter. With the higher income ceiling of $14,000, buyers who were previously ineligible for executive condominiums may now find themselves able to purchase these unique public-private hybrid properties, drawing them away from the private property market.

Sol AcresECs are considered public housing and buyers are able to take advantage of available housing grants for this property type. After 10 years, they become private property, which considerably ramps up their sale value. Buyers who have previously had to turn to private properties at much higher prices, and who are now eligible to apply for ECs will no doubt be in glee. The difference between an EC and a private property is about $300 psf and buyers comparing private homes and ECs in the same vicinity may come up with savings of up to $250,000. Not an amount to be scoffed at.

One recent EC offering, Sol Acres, have since sold 294 units. Upcoming EC launches are expected to give pricier private mass market homes without the calling cards of a good location, a run for their money. Prices of ECs usually stand at around $800 psf whereas private homes go from $1,000 psf and up.


Raised Income ceilings for HDB and EC flats

In the months ahead, the HDB market may see some significant changes.

In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a raise in income ceilings for new HDB flats as well as ECs (executive condominiums). The income ceiling for HDB flats could be raised from $10,000 to $12,000 and for executive condominiums, from $12,000 to $14,000. Just four years a, the income ceiling for ECs was raised to $12,000 but apparently income levels have risen since then. The government are also making it easier for lower-income households to purchase 2-room flats. The Special Housing Grant (SHG) will be raised from $20,000 to $40,000, giving them the financial support they truly need.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

And to promote stronger familial ties plus cater to the growing group of young families who prefer to live near their parents, a new Proximity Housing Grant will help buyers who wish to live near their parents or married children secure their new flat.

This could be good news for buyers and home-seekers, as more applicants may then find themselves eligible for a new BTO flat or EC. But will there be more applicants now vying for available units. And how will this move  possibly affect the resale HDB flat market?


Private property sales steady

Private property sales seem to be steady in the past months, though there has been a recent spike in July as a new condominium launch pushed numbers up. Post June-holidays sales could also have made up the rise in number of sales transactions, plus some buyers may be rushing to close deals before the Hungry Ghost Month.

High Park ResidencesThe recent launch of High Park Residences in Fernvale performed exceedingly well in July, with 1,169 units sold. The average selling price stood at $989 psf. Property experts put much of their success to their ability to put the finger accurately on the buyer’s pricing ‘sweet-spot’. Smaller units with more affordable quantum prices seem to be the way to go in the current market. A good 15 per cent of the units went for under $500,000 and a 388 sq ft unit even sold at $373,450.

Situated close enough to the upcoming Seletar regional hub, the popular condominium has 2-bedders sized at 570 to 732 sq ft and 3-bedders at 872 to 990 sq ft. Considering a 2-bedder deluxe unit goes for $650,000, prices are more than affordable for the average middle-upper-class Singaporean. Other properties which have sold well last month include Botanique at Bartley, City Gate and Riverbank@Fernvale.

Moving ahead, property analysts are expecting the new property market to quieten slightly, though activity may pick up in the executive condominium (EC) segment.


Choa Chu Kang’s Executive Condominium Future

With 11 bids for an EC (Executive condominium) site in Choa Chu Kang, it looks like the estate may be looking at 490 new homes in the next 5 years. The avid response could be due to the huge decrease in land supply this year and the possibility of the government further reducing the supply of land in the next year. In 2012, 6 EC sites were released in the second half alone; whereas this is the only EC site release by the government in the first half of  this year.

The BrownstoneCompared to last year’s EC site sales in Choa Chu Kang, the current site went for lower bids, and selling prices are expected to hover around $800 psf. The previous sites which were sold last March and September last year are however, closer to the Choa Chu Kang MRT Station.

Though there are 7 EC properties waiting in the wings for their big debut, and despite news that the EC vacancy rate was at 14.1 pre cent in Q2, developers are positive about the potential earnings from these public-private hybrid properties and are confident about the uptake. In Q2 alone, there were 2, 232 unsold EC units.

But if sales at last weekend’s launch of The Brownstone EC were anything to go by, the developers have little to worry about. 185 units were sold in the weekend alone, making it one of the most-sold EC launches this year.