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.

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.

Executive Condominium take the market

Closing the year on a high note for developers, were the latest EC launches in the market, in particular the Lake Life EC in Jurong.

Only 412 private condominium units were sold in November, while more than double the number of EC units were sold at 855 at last count. This could be partly due to developers’ decision to hold back on new condo launches and the pent-up demand for EC units.

Bellewoods EC533 units at the Lake Life executive condominium project were sold at an average of $869 psf. Comparatively, the private condominium Lakeville sold 30 units at $1, 374 psf. Over at Bellewaters EC in Sengkang, 170 units were sold, followed by 79 units in Bellewoods at Woodlands. The only new private property launches last month were TRE Residences and Sophia Hills Residences which sold 52 and 9 units respectively.

Could this response be a sign that buyers’ affordability range is narrowing and many prefer the opportunities and subsidies public housing options provide? Or is it merely a knee-jerk reaction to the pent-up sentiment of holding back new EC releases for almost 7 years in the Jurong district? What does this mean for the private property market and are ECs proving more competition for the private market than expected?

Private resale property woes

Have buyers of private non-landed properties decided to take a hiatus? November’s sales figures for private resale condominiums seem to indicate a widening gap between buyers’ and sellers’ price expectations.

With the tough loan limit still in place, the number of buyers for private properties have shrunk, much more so for resale units. Some buyers could be holding back as they wait for newer launches or are simply wary about jumping onto the bandwagon too early as industry analysts have predicted a tipping of the supply and demand scale in the next couple of years.

RIse OxleyResale properties in some districts have however fared better, some selling up to $80,000 above the valued property price. In the prime district 9, buyers have responded positively to properties in the Cairnhill, Killiney, Leonie HIll, Orchard and Oxley areas. And far out in the western district 22 comprising of Boon Lay, Jurong and Tuas, the average above-valuation price buyers have been willing to fork out was up to $30,000. At the fringe of the city, in district 11 of Chancery, Bukit Timah, Dunearn and Newton, prices went to approximately $15,000 above the market value.

So it seems that despite  announcements that properties in the city centre may be loosing its clout, the recent  numbers seem to indicate otherwise. How are the suburban resale sector responding to this shift? Are they shifting their preference to public housing options such as executive condominiums?

Lake Life EC in Jurong attract first-time buyers

Unlike its counterpart in Punggol, Lake Life EC in Jurong have been attracting mostly first-time applicants. Buyers at The Terrace executive condominium in Punggol were mainly HDB upgraders.

Lake Life ECEven the developer, Evia Real Estate, was surprised by the large numbers of younger Singaporeans. About half of the 534 buyers were first-time HDB unit buyers. Perhaps partly driven by the pent-up demand for ECs, especially in the Jurong district, as Lake Life is the first EC to be built there in 17 years; and also drawn by the promise of an estate rejuvenation with lakefront living and new amenities. Top that off with governmental subsidies for couples living near their parents, it is not surprising most of the buyers were already living in Jurong or the nearby HDB estates such as Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok and Clementi.

This could signify a shift in buyers’ minds about the industrial and out-of-the-way Jurong of before. It has continuously added amenities and facilities to its midst, including libraries, schools, shopping malls and regional business headquarters.

Most of the buyers were below 40 years old and the average combined family income was $9,042. To qualify for a housing subsidy ranging between $5000 to $30,000 from HDB, the combined household income must not exceed $12,000. Perhaps this points to a new breed of home seekers and property buyers. Will private property developers eventually work to suit their needs and demands and close the gap between public and private property sectors?

EC peasy weekend breezy

If the crowds at the latest executive condominium (EC) launch were anything to go by, the property market may look a little cheerier. Despite many buyers being out of town and the upcoming busy holiday season, response to The Terrace EC in Punggol was heartening. 100 units out of the 747 were sold over the weekend alone. The Terrace launched on Sunday with prices starting at $710 psf for a three-bedder.

The TerraceMany of the buyers were young families and HDB upgraders as the options for mid to larger-sized units were available. The average unit size range from 1,001 sq ft for a three-bedroom unit to 1,711 sq ft for a penthouse unit. Other executive condominiums previously launched saw a slower weekend, but that could be due to the usual year-end lull and the fact that most units have already been selected and sold.

Location remains the main draw, though the EC sector is looking more positive than the private property sector. The other executive condominium developments which recently went on sale include The Lake Life, Bellewoods and Bellewaters. Joining The Terrace in Punggol will be the The Amore EC which is targeted to launch in January 2015. As competition heats up within the same district, buyers may have a wider range of options and prices may also adjust accordingly.

New properties lower overall rent

Though the government has reduced land sales in the second half of the year, a fresh new crop of properties reaching their point of maturity in the next year may have some effect on the rental prices of private properties across the board. In 2013 alone, 16,000 new non-landed properties entered the market and 25,000 more are expected to flood the market by 2016.

Shore Residences on Amber Road

Shore Residences on Amber Road

Tenants will have more rental options ranging from units in brand-new condominium to those at older private apartments as a large supply of condominiums enter the market next year. And as most tenants in a new development receive keys to their units at the same time, they may face competition from one another as they put up their units for rent at the same time. Older neighbouring properties as well as HDB flats may also face the same competition as tenants opt for newer choices. Rental prices may waver and some landlords may find themselves having to lower the rent to secure a suitable tenant.

Landlords may find themselves competing for the same and somewhat decreasing tenant pool, especially with concurrent restrictions placed on the foreign workforce. Diminishing expatriate housing allowances may also mean tenants may be looking out of the city centre for rental options. And though most of the new properties are situated out of the central region, the sheer supply may overshadow the demand.

Take the Katong, Joo Chiat and Amber road district for example. In that small area, there is The Shore Residences, Silversea, The Meyerise amongst other older properties. And in the up-and-coming Punggol and Sengkang regions, there is a good mix of ECs and private condominiums such as A Treasure Trove, The Luxurie and the latest launch of Bellewaters. It could very well be the battle between the new and newer in time to come as many new homes are erected in already-new clusters of private homes.

Price reduction at the Lake Life

Just launched not long ago, the latest kid on the block – Lake Life EC in the Jurong Lake district is already offering units at prices lower than its initial estimation. Prior to its launch, the price tag was expected to hover between $880 to $890 psf. But it seems the average is now around $857psf.
lakelife ECThis could be due largely to the loan limits and subsidy caps for executive condominium buyers. Before the cooling measures went into full force last year, prices were much higher as buyers could apply for larger loan amounts. In comparison to its neighbouring private condominium, Lakeville, prices at the EC are much lower. Lakeville units are selling at the medina of $1, 328 psf. Considering the fact that ECs will eventually become private condominiums, which may mean a wider profit margin in the long run. Executive condominiums (ECs) are a hybrid between public and private housing, and buyers can sell them in the market after 5 years, and after 10 years, the development will become a private residential property.

Reacting to the smaller loans which buyers can now receive, developers are adjusting their strategies to offer units prices at a lower quantum prices as compared to lower psf prices. At the Lake Life, 84 per cent of the units have been priced below $1.1 million. A few townships away in Woodlands, and over in the north of the island, the launch of Bellewoods and Bellewaters executive condominiums this weekend may fan the EC fire and buyers will have more fodder for comparison. Prices, expected to be set between $750 to $820 psf, will be competitive. What will buyers be looking out for?