High demand for bigger units in mature estates

Senja HeightsAccording to response from applicants for the latest HDB sales launch of BTO (build-to-order) and SBF (sale of balance) flats, bigger units in mature estates seemed to be most hotly contested.

3,770 BTO flats were rolled out in last week’s launch, with units available in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Panjang and Sembawang. In addition, 5,170 SBF flats were also available for selection across 29 HDB estates. The units in Bedok and Ang Mo Kio were most in demand as these mature estates have well-developed infrastructure and some buyers who have lived there most of their lives prefer to move within the estate.

bedoknorthwoods

Photo credit: HDB

Will this mean a corresponding demand for resale flats of similar size in the same estates? It is debatable as prices of larger resale flats have already been falling as demand waned. As the availability of new units direct from HDB, and options of going into the private property market beckons, HDB upgraders will have quite a few pros and cons to weigh. While private homes within the same price range may be quite a lot smaller, rental and future value appreciation of selected private properties may entice buyers. On the other hand, upgrading within the resale HDB flat market may get you a larger unit though not necessarily with future sale benefits. Rental demand however could still be high should the unit be near a MRT station, school or other amenities.

The A-Bi-Cs of mature HDB estates

Bishan and Bidadari. Both mature estates and both in popular demand. The only difference might be that Bishan is more established while Bidadari is a new foundling in the already-mature estate of Toa Payoh.

The recent buzz around the centralised Bidadari estate has prompted many to call it the “next Bishan”. How exactly do these 2 estates compare?

BidadariPhoto credit: HDB

As far as history goes, Bishan was one of the first model HDB towns 30 years back. And now Bidadari, which means “angel” or “fairy” in Malay, seems to be taking its place as the next big thing. Both B-word towns have good city-fringe locations and are built on land which were once cemeteries. Bidadari will have the luck of having Bishan run its course with the stigma of living on cemetery land. Buyers of today are no longer as affected by this fact.

Even though property agents and analysts say they are unsure how resale prices and infrastructure in this new estate will pan out, the initial response is very positive. Both its November 2015 and February 2016 launches were about 23 times oversubscribed despite the more expensive sales tags. Its proximity to the city centre plus the 3 MRT stations (Potong Pasir, Bartley and Woodleigh) serving it, Bishan makes up for the difference only by its direct access to its own shopping mall, park and amenities such as sports facilities, library, community centre, offices and business facilities. The Bishan MRT station is also an interchange station between the North-South and Circle MRT lines.

Bishan HDB estatePhoto credit: HDB

Resale HDB flats in Bishan can go up to $730,000 for a 5-room flat. While the new BTO flats in Bidadari were launched at prices between $544,000 and $625,000, they look set to reach possibly higher resale prices once they are available in the resale market.

 

HDB Flats – Mature vs Non-mature estates

Bukit Batok HDB - WestplainsThis year, in response to the high demand for new HDB flats in popular and mature estates, the Housing Board will be including more mature-estate-based BTO flats in their sales launch.

In February’s sales launch, they have already included some in Bidadari and Bukit Batok. Bidadari is considered a mature estate, part of Toa Payoh and the units in the previous launched have flown off the shelves because of its prime location. It is part of a mature estate yet holds the exclusivity and unique nature-friendly environment and freshness of a new estate. 1,594 new Bidadari BTO flats were offered up in this month’s launch and 1,655 more in Bukit Batok. 921 units were also available in Sengkang.

Alkaff Oasis Bidadari HDBAs per the response to last year’s Bidadari sales launch, the five-room and 3-Gen flats, with a starting price of $550,000, in this new estate received the most eyeballs.

Although mature estates often have a space constraint and are unable to absorb more new blocks, HDB is looking at allocating half of their 18,000 units to be launched this year to mature estates. In May’s launch, the public can look forward to new units in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok and Bukit Merah. Most will be 3- and 4-room flats, there in Ang Mo Kio, 2-room flexi and 3-generation units will also be available. This may be good news for smaller families or singles and senior citizens hoping to live near their parents or children.

Who’s the most expensive of them all?

Hong Kong. When it comes to housing affordability. According to Demographia, a United States-based urban planning research unit, Hong Kong has emerged as one of the most expensive cities out of 367 metropolitan areas in 9 countries. Second on the list was Sydney, followed by Vancouver, Melbourne and Auckland. Singapore was 5th on the list.

Hong Kong property

Photo: Apartment in Viking Garden, Hong Kong 

In Hong Kong, median home prices are almost 19 times the median annual gross household income. It is the largest year-to-year increase in pricing over the 12 years in which the research was conducted. A small shoebox apartment below 500 sq ft would cost almost US$75,000 (or S$1.1million) in Hong Kong. That is almost double the price of such an apartment unit in Singapore. In the United States, only 9 metropolitan registered highly affordable housing prices, with San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego being some of them. 14 other cities in the United States remained under the affordable level, with Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Rochester tied in first place.

SF FlatPhoto: San Francisco apartment

With the US interest rates rising this year however, property analysts are expecting some change in the global property markets. Hong Kong’s property bubble may burst should the authorities do good on their promise to meet housing supply demand.

In Singapore, housing prices are 5 times that of the median annual gross household income. Although still considered ‘severely unaffordable’ under Demographia’s rating scale, HDB has been making efforts in the last couple of years to increase supply and reduce demand for public housing. For now, the price of a new HDB flat is still $150,000 to $180,000 lesser than a resale unit in the same area.

 

Resale HDB flat prices stabilising

HDB resale flat prices fell a mere 1.5% last year, buoyed by a 0.2% rise in the last quarter of 2015.

Skyline Bukit Batok HDB BTO FlatPhoto credit: HDB

With the lowered prices of resale HDB flats, there may be an increase in sales volume this year as buyers have found many of these sans-COV (cash over valuation) resale units more affordable. Price-wise, property experts are looking at a 1 – 2 per cent movement, with prices staying quite stagnant this year. More young couples and upgraders may also be moving into the private property market as the total quantum prices of units have come down to a much more palatable level.

According to Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, resale flats are mostly selling at market value, with prices comparable to that of 2011. Some of the property cooling measures which have been implemented since that which have taken effect, and which may continue to do so include the mortgage servicing cap of 30 per cent, the 25-year maximum loan tenure limit, and a 3-year waiting period for permanent residents before they are allowed to purchase resale HDB flats. Demand may also have waned as singles are now able to purchase new 2-room BTO flats directly from HDB and 18,000 new flats are to be rolled out this year with the first launch in February.

Though this may point to the market bottoming out by end of 2015, two consecutive quarters of price increase is required before a clear sign of a market rebound can be confirmed.

Higher chances for Singles applying for new HDB flat

The year might be looking up for singles hoping to secure a new HDB flat.

Fernvale Woods HDBPhoto credit: HDB

Before July 2013, singles were only allowed to purchase HDB flats from the resale market. For two and a half years now, 2-room new BTO HDB flats have been accessible to them though the number of applicants vying for a unit have been overwhelming and the wait have been long for some.

But since the most recent launch, the number of applicants have whittled down to 7.5 per unit. When the scheme first began in 2013, there were 57.5 applicants going for a single 2-room unit. These new 2-room flexi flats are the result of merging the 2-room and studio apartment schemes, and are designed mainly for the elderly and priced to help them and families in the lower income group. Singles who earn less than $5,000 then were also allowed to apply for these flats. The income ceiling has since been raised to $6,000 mid last year.

Bidadari HDB flat Alkaff

Photo credit: HDB

Singles are however restricted to new 2-room BTO flats in non-mature estates, which means they are not eligible for the new flats in Bidadari, which is considered a mature estate. Nevertheless, this option has helped many singles own their own space, to have a bit of privacy they can call their own in this growing city. The pricing of the new 2-room flats are considerably lower than those sold in the resale market, and most of the latter are much older and may not be suitable for the needs of singles who are looking for an affordable home.

Though there will still be competition for new 2-room flats, property experts are expecting the number to fall to a comfortable 4 or 5 applicants per unit.

 

2016’s BTO flat supply to benefit first-timers

First-time HDB applicants will be the main group to benefit from this year’s ramped-up BTO (build-to-order) supply, according to the new National Development Minister, Lawrence Wong.

Punggol HDB EstatePhoto: Punggol HDB estate

The Housing Development Board (HDB) will be rolling out 18,000 new units over the course of the year, almost 3,000 more than last year’s 15,100 units. Last November’s mega-launch released 12,000 new flats in popular estates such as Bidadari to the public’s overwhelming response. Though the number of new BTO flats reaching completion within these 2 years will increase, 26,000 new flats were completed last year, the authorities maintain their stance in providing a balanced and stable supply of homes for Singaporeans.

With new priority schemes and higher income ceilings in place after last year’s elections, more first-time applicants have been successful in securing a unit within a shorter time frame. From 2011 to 2013, HDB had ramped up their supply and construction of BTO flats to meet the pent-up demand from the decade before.

Last year, the number of flats launched was reduced from 16,900 to 15,100 as the resale HDB flat market slowly stabilised. Those hoping to apply for a new BTO flat directly from HDB will be happy to hear of the increase in supply which will be spread out over various flat types and HDB estates.

Are new HDB BTO flats truly affordable?

The next HDB sales launch will be in about 2 months’ time. Considering the response from the November mega-launch, the February launch will be greeted with much cheer as 4,150 BTO units from Bidadari, Bukit Batok and Sengkang will be offered this time round.

Bidadari HDB mapPhoto credit: HDB

The Bidadari flats received the most number of applicants in the most recent sales exercise. Even though the 5-room flats here were price at $544,000 (excluding grants), they were oversubscribed with 259 applicants vying for 151 units. Despite Bidadari’s history as a former cemetery, it is the only mature estate in November’s launch and its prime location added to its popularity. There were also 2-room flexi units offered in the exercise and were well-received as always. A number of these short-lease 2-room flexi flats were kept aside for senior citizens and they can make use of HDB and CPF grants to purchase them.

But these Bidadari flats were not the most expensive of new BTO flats launched. In May, 5-room BTO flats launched in Clementi cost between $576,000 to $725,000. Even then, there were almost 14 applicants to one unit. Have Singaporeans truly become more affluent or are they simply getting used to property prices here, even public housing? Prices of the next BTO launch will be watched closely, especially as the economy is expected to slow down considerably next year.