Up and coming district – Jalan Besar

As properties in the city centre become increasingly out of reach for the average investor hoping to gain a footing in the property industry, more are turning to the city fringe areas such as Marine Parade, Kampong Glam and Novena. Now, the Jalan Besar and King George’s Avenue districts could also be attracting buyers.

CitronThough the private homes market in the area has softened in the past year due to mortgage limits, its proximity and increasing popularity with the young and hip crowd and potential connectivity with future MRT lines in its midst, has renewed interest from investors. An area in King George’s Avenue has also been gazetted for future HDB blocks. One completed condominium apartment block in its vicinity is the City Square Residences, which during its launch drew huge crowds looking to purchase smaller units for rental purposes. Other private residential properties include Parc Somme and Kerrisdale.

Buyers waiting for new options can keep an eye out for private residential properties such as The Citron Residences on Marne road. Property experts are positive about the potential rental yields of smaller apartment units in the area as the district continues to bring in a variety of new businesses. Currently rents for smaller apartments in the area go for as much as 4 per cent more.

ECs not so easy for buyers

Executive Condominiums (ECs) were first launched at the turn of the century, and these hybrid property types had legs in both the public housing and private property sectors. This scheme was launched by the Housing Development Board (HDB) thus buyers can apply for various government grants and loans. After an ownership period of 10 years, they will become private properties and their investment value more often than not, increases, some rather significantly too.

Their main purpose was to help HDB owners move into the private property market, especially the “sandwiched” class who are unable to afford private properties but yet do not qualify for HDB flats, and ECs quickly gained momentum in the first decade of the 21st Century as buyers found the space they received, the governmental benefits and the potential long-term gains a boon. In 2010, the revival of this sector created a huge rise in quantity and prices of ECs.

Sea Horizon Executive Condominium.

Sea Horizon Executive Condominium.

Even though executive condos are still popular to date, the tighter loan curbs mean those who are unable to receive HDB grants and have to take private loans are now only able to receive up to 80 per cent of the price of the property and have their loans capped at 30 per cent of their gross monthly income. With prices of ECs coming up to the $1 million mark and beyond, this has largely reduced the number of eligible buyers, not forgetting that there is a $12, 000 monthly household income ceiling for EC buyers.

Upcoming EC launches in Woodlands and Sengkang will be a good gauge of market response and affordability of units. Should the price points be right, there may not be a lack of buyers. Currently, there are still remaining unsold units at ECs such as Skypark residences, Waterwoods, Forestville, Twin Fountains, Sea Horizon, Ecopolitan and The Tampines Trilliant.

Smaller apartments gaining popularity once again

Just a couple of years ago, there were debates about whether homes were becoming too small for comfort as the 500 sq ft studio apartments or shoebox units took the market by storm. Some shunned small units, preferring instead to go for larger ones with a lower psf price.

But now as loan limits are truly showing their might, buyers are favoring smaller apartments once again due to their lower quantum prices and the ease of rental. Though not all are flocking to shoebox units, after all, young families do need a reasonable amount of space, the average home size has dropped to 947 sq ft from June last year. And for HDB upgraders, their chances to move onto the private property market might have become slimmer, especially if size is a major consideration. The average 4-room HDB flat is around 969 sq ft.

CIty GateOne- and two-bedders have increasingly become more popular with buyers as they are usually within their budget and investors find them easier to rent out. URA figures in fact also showed that new residential properties have also featured smaller units, with the average size being 753 sq ft. But this hardly comes as a surprise as home size has been shrinking since 2009.

The other popular property  type is the dual-key apartment which provides the atmosphere of having two separate living spaces within the same home. Some of these units share the same entrance but separate facilities such as kitchens and toilets, while others share the same facilities but have separate entrances, providing privacy for bigger families and offering more rental options.

As we progress into the second half of the year and the market evolves in reaction to buyers demand and supply of land, will developers be quick to re-strategize and cater to the majority?

Queenstown has more flats to offer

One of the oldest HDB estates in the West, Queenstown looks set to have a fresh set of HDB flats. For the 3,480 flats from Tanglin Halt road to Commonwealth Drive will be torn down and rebuilt under the Selected En Bloc Redevelopment scheme.

Queenstown-HDBThis will be a promising move for the mature estate as these two to four-room flats make way for newer, bigger blocks. Most of the residents were offered replacement flats and compensation based on current market value of their units. Most three-room HDB flats in the Queenstown area are priced between $305,000 to $390,000 according to current HDB transaction values.

Residents can look forward to new sky gardens and terraces, panoramic views of the city and new shops, eateries, supermarkets and hawker centres. Considering these flats will have a new 99-lease of life, future residents will be stoked that their new flats will possibly fetch even higher prices in the future.

Commonwealth TowersOne of the more prominent private property offerings in the area is Commonwealth Towers, which is particularly attractive to buyers due to its proximity to the Queenstown MRT station. In nearby Alexandra and Tiong Bahru, there are other popular apartments such as Highline Residences, Ascentia Sky and Alexis. Will surrounding properties also benefit from this redevelopment process?

Dual-key units not forgotten

In fact, property developers are still building a number of dual-key apartments in new suburban condominiums despite its decline in recent months. These 2-entrances, 2-keys units are not very common though they can be found in some executive condominiums (ECs) and larger private suburban condominium developments. But they have appealed to large, multi-generational families.

For executive condominiums (ECs), only families who qualify as a multi-generation family as follows can apply:

  • Married couple with parents/grandparents
  • Fiance and fiancee couple with parents/grandparents
  • Widowed/divorced with children and parents/grandparents

SantoriniIn the private property sector, there are no such restrictions and those who are hoping to reap some profits from rental will find them particularly attractive. But the large size of these dual-key units may be an indirect reason for its fall in sales volume since the introduction of property loan limits. Home buyers simply are not able to afford the high quantum prices these units demand.

So far, dual-key apartments have been prominently featured in up to 8 private residential developments and now more than half of the condominiums with more than 400 units include dual-key units in their midst. Some of the more notable launches with dual-key apartments available for sale are:

How will these large condominium units fare in the later half of this year? Will it be a battle between the small shoebox apartments and larger rarer units?

HDB resale flat sales flat

Prices and sales of HDB resale flats have not gone down that drastically, though COV prices are now almost non-existent, but they have remained flat for the last quarter.

April marks a slight rise in the number of resale flats sold, 4.4 per cent up from March. This could be a sign buyers are coming back to the market after having observed the market for almost 3 quarters now and having held out in wait of market stability. As the frequency of BTO flats  launches slow down, buyers who are still in search of a flat which suits their needs, may it be price, location or size, could be more willing to purchase on the resale market now.

Resale 5-room HDB flat on King George's Avenue with asking price of more than $700,000.

How will the HDB market perform in the upcoming months? Analysts and experts are expecting prices to fall very slightly before stablising in the third quarter of this year. Overall, prices for most HDB flats fell, with the exception of executive flats of course. A 1.2 per cent rise was recorded for that sector.

With rents also coming down, mainly due to the decreasing demand as the foreign workforce diminishes, buyers of HDB flats are also more likely to think of their purchase as a long-term home occupation investment rather than to count on profiting from rentals.

The second half of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 would be an interesting time for the HDB resale flat market, a time to find their footing and possibly find ways to turn itself around.

Private home sales – Will the decline continue?

The property market has been softening. The decline seemed inevitable, especially as completed new private homes flood the market in the upcoming year or two.

Not surprisingly, shoebox apartments saw the largest dip in sales as the number of units are somewhat saturated. Buying power is also now lower and buyers who were initially looking at these units for investment may no longer be able to get the loans they need.

 

Marina One residential project with 1,042 new condominium units. Photo by marina-one.org.

Marina One residential project with 1,042 new condominium units. Photo by marina-one.org.

Rental issues such as the age, functionality and location of resale units now have to compete with the newer and sometimes faster property models. In the central districts, the decline in rents and sales of apartments were most evident. This could be due to the number of unsold high-end properties in these areas. Even suburban condominiums are feeling the heat as many expatriates shun them as they often do not provide the convenience and exclusivity they desire.

Whether the effect will transfer to the HDB resale market also awaits to be seen. As HDB upgraders who are moving to their completed units will have to let go of their HDB units within a specified time period, many may be in a hurry to let go of their units and possibly at lower prices than before as the market gets competitive. Pair this up with a diminishing market for smaller units as singles are now able to purchase new flats from HDB directly, as well as a smaller pool of permanent residents, the property market seems to be in for quite the turn this year.

Even as more new property launches are promised, how private home sales fare the next quarter may set the mood for the rest of the year.

Evaluation of the HDB Resale Valuation

Recent changes in the valuation process for resale HDB flats have drawn some feedback from the public. Many are wary of how this mix-up will cause some hiccups in the buy-sell procedure and how it may also affect the selling prices.

Photo by HDB.

Photo by HDB. How does the recent change in the HDB resale process affect the seller and buyer?

Sellers will no longer be the ones to apply for valuation of their flats. They now need to come to an agreement on a selling price with the buyer before the buyer applies for the valuation. This may favour the buyer more than the seller as COV prices have been the main bugbear in the search and purchase of a suitable resale HDB unit, but without prior knowledge of the price of a unit based on the age, location and size of the unit, buyers may also be very much left to glean information from rumours in the wind or self-research.

HDB has however tried to bring some equilibrium to this confusion by publishing resale transaction figures daily instead of fortnightly.

What HDB hopes to achieve with this procedure renewal is:

  • Long-term stability of public housing prices
  • Less dependency of sales on COV (cash-over-valuation) prices
  • Making the HDB resale market more transparent

Will this move help them achieve all that? Or will market forces turn this around on its head and steer it in the other direction?