Marina Bay home sales show positive signs

Private home sales in the suburbs have been showing sign of strain as the increasing number of new completed condominium units compete for the increasingly limited number of buyers, which could be further limited due to loan limits, a downtown project seemed to be bucking the trend and pulling in sales in the luxury apartment sector.

Marina One Residences in the Marina Bay precinct secured half of the total number of home sales in October alone. But that could also be due to the fact that it was the only new launch in the month. 334 units of the 1,042-unit condominium were sold at the average selling price of $2,228 psf. However, sales were still lagging behind its initial preview launch when earlybird discounts were given, and sale prices hovered between $1,960 and $3,100 psf.

Marina ONe iprop watermarkDevelopers are finding it harder to attract the buying crowd and have found they are now more sensitive to pricing as it became more difficult to secure bank loans. Though the price fight is not evident yet, as buyers are still willing to fork out a considerable amount for properties in good locations, it may only be a matter of time before the cracks show. Especially since 2015 and 2016 will see an even bigger influx of completed private homes in the market.

For now, developers are focusing their efforts on selling remaining units at previously launched projects such as DUO Residences, Coco Palms and Lakeville condominium, thus holding back on new launches. Will this drive consumers towards other property types such as executive condominiums (ECs) and resale HDB flats or will they continue to seek better deals with the existing private property market?

New private condos threaten Rental Market

As more new private condominiums in the suburbs attain their occupation-ready status, the number of apartments available for rental has increased significantly and fierce competition has brought rental prices down. Though concentrated mainly in the suburbs, where most of the new condominiums are situated, the decline has dragged the rental market down by 1.5 per cent.

FOresta Mount FaberAnd as most of these new condominiums are in close proximity to HDB flats, the HDB rental market has also been affected somewhat as tenants now realised they may be able to afford a private condo after all and instead choose this option over HDB flats. And as this pressure is exerted on the HDB market, some HDB flat owners may consider jumping over to the private property market and the HDB resale flat sector may see some shifting as a result of the spillover effect.

From January to September of this year, there were a total of 6,621 condominium units entering the market in the suburbs alone. This has pushed rental prices down 5.3 per cent and a 1.3 drop in the number of rental deals signed in September alone. However, a year-on-year comparison with 2013 showed an increase of 11.8 per cent in terms of the number of units leased. This could signify a shift of tenants leasing private properties as opposed to HDB flats as the price gap narrows.

Eight RiversuitesMoving forward, 2015 and 2016 may see a vacancy rate of 10 per cent and more if immigration policies remain the same and if rental prices become even more competitive with up to 20,000 new units reaching completion annually. Is this a sign that the cooling measures have worked? Or is it merely a sign that investing in residential property may have to take a different slant, to focus on long-term profits through property appreciation rather than on short-term rental profits? How does that then change the criteria for property selection?

Do upgraded HDB flats bring higher resale prices?

Given an older resale HDB flat in a prime location and a recently upgraded one in a less popular HDB estate, which would you choose?

HDB recently announced that they will be speeding up the Home Improvement Programme, the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and the Selective Lift Replacement Programme. Some sellers and property agents are putting a higher price tag on flats which have be selected for such programmes. But with caveats.

HDB MUPPhoto credit: HDB

Only HDB flats whose owners have already paid for the upgrading may have an edge in the resale market. As the upgrading is usually only billed and paid for after the work is completed, some buyers may find themselves having to foot the bill for the flat or estate’s upgrading work if the seller has not already done so. Though it may seem like a significant difference, property agents are saying that it will not affect resale prices on the whole. The most it will do is slow down the price decline.

In fact, some buyers may prefer not to purchase flats which have yet been upgraded as it may bring inconveniences such as dust and noise for a significant period of time. Only flats which have been completely upgraded can command a higher selling price. But buyers who are thinking ahead may consider these older flats for the potential they hold once upgrading has been completed. With elderly-friendly facilities, newer amenities, perhaps even more room, the future could be more promising than you think.

More vacant EC units left in the market

Executive Condominiums (ECs) used to be the cream of the public housing crop. But now, one in eight EC units are left unoccupied in the market. What are the reasons behind this change?

Belysa Executive Condominium in Pasir Ris is not yet available on the resale market for foriegn purchase. But it will be in 10 years' time.

Belysa Executive Condominium in Pasir Ris.

One of the main factors could be the increasing number of completed units whose owners have yet to renovate or move into. Some of these EC developments include Esparina Residences in Sengkang, Belysa in Pasir Ris and Riverparc Residence in Punggol. ECs are particularly attractive to young families as they are poised to help them move in the private property market eventually. A hybrid between public and private housing, buyers of executive condominiums are able to utilize the public housing grants for the initial purchase, and after 10 years, the property becomes privatized and owners can then reap the profits from selling the units in the private property market.

There are also a number of home owners who have purchase units to make use of the public housing grants they are eligible for, but do not yet need to live in them. They may opt instead to rent out their units after the 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP).

As the overall property market weakens and the HDB resale market remains flat, HDB upgraders who may have planned for a move are finding themselves unable to find a buyer for their existing flat, thus have yet to move into their new ECs.

Is the EC market softening? And will it continue to do so? Currently vacancy rates are at 6 per cent according the URA figures and thus far 739 units have been left vacant. What does this signify for 2014 as the year makes its way into the last quarter?

Property market slump continues

Resale home sales and rental prices have continued to soften as we reach the middle of Q3. July proved to be rather quiet for the resale private home market as prices reached a 21-month low, according to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) figures.

LakevilleAs more new private properties reached their completion dates and entered the rental market, the number of units for rent increased, which caused the rental market to become more competitive. And as immigration rules tightened, the supply and demand scale tipped in favor of tenants. Rental prices were at a 38-month low last month. And the blow is felt not only in the private property market but also the HDB resale market with prices dropping to a 30-month low in July.

The areas with the largest price decline is the city center, with prices dropping 4 per cent. This is followed by the city fringe areas with a 1.1 per cent dip and the suburban districts with a 0.6 per cent drop. Property experts say that the drop in rental prices could be one of the reasons contributing to the slipping resale prices.

With property prices so closely linked to immigration policies in this small nation, how will the authorities balance the issues of housing and population?

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.

The Resale HDB flat rollercoaster ride

A year or two ago, the property market was at its peak and now, it seems to be have taken the quick dash down. With the fervent entry of new HDB flats and private properties over the last 3 years, the market is now facing a possible glut. The continuous implementation of property cooling measures also accounted for much of the decrease in activity over the last 2 quarters.

The resale market for HDB flats seem to have taken a dive due to the bumper crop of BTO flats. Photo courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board.

The resale market for HDB flats seem to have taken a dive due to the bumper crop of BTO flats. Photo courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board.

Data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority seems to signify a peak in home supply in 2016. That is when most of the properties purchased in the past 2 years will be completed and ready for occupation. That might mean many will be compelled to sell their existing homes and the resale HDB flat market may then face yet another challenge then. By 2016, 33,290 homes are expected to be completed.

In the resale HDB market, transactions have been at an all-time low since 2005. Prices fell by 0.6 per cent, and sellers may find themselves at the mercy of market demand. Median COV prices are now $10,000 and below. No longer are the days when sellers could command exorbitant cash premiums, which have to be paid upfront.

Most buyers in the resale HDB flat market now are upgraders or PRs. But the pool of buyers may have diminished as buyers may be restricted by loan limits and reduced number of foreigners granted permanent residency. PRs are now only allowed to purchase HDB flats after a 3-year period. Property analysts are expecting interest to rise again after the first half of the year, as low prices bring the buyers back.

Turning down the heat on the HDB Resale market

What are the reasons for the constant upward climb of HDB resale flat prices? If demand is lower than supply, it would naturally tune the prices up a notch. Yet the question is, how do you increase the supply of resale flats? Yes, now BTO flats are being built but not everybody is Singapore is able to qualify for one in that category. Those who fall into the category of people who need to buy from the open market include Permanent Residents (PRs), Singles, families whose combined income disqualifies them from applying for a new flat, and various others who may not be able to afford a private apartment yet are finding it increasingly difficult to afford even a resale HDB flat. What then  should these folks do to put a roof over their heads?

Many are holding on to their flats in order to secure income through rental. How much of this rent is declared as income? Now that is another questions, a crucial one in fact. Perhaps as long the landlord of an existing HDB flat is able to earn a good income, supplement it through rental of rooms, there is little rush to sell it.

Although HDB has already implemented a restriction on the number of years PRs can sublet their HDB flats, as long as many are still holding on to their HDB flats, there will not be sufficient resale flats in the open market available for the rising groups of individuals or families who can only purchase one from the open market. Perhaps the question lies in whether HDB flats are still considered public housing or are they simply that in name? Have the increase in BTO flats helped keep prices at a realistic range? Will there come a time when the rules limit property purchases to only one per person if one of the property is a HDB flat? It might seem severe or unthinkable. But that day might come.