Buyers think property market cool-down is here to stay

Private property prices and sales have been cooling for the past few months, and the market sentiments are that the cool-down will continue into the next year. Almost 4 in 10 people think that property prices will continue to decline over the next 6 months, though young couples who are at the verge of moving into the private property market think that a rise in housing prices may still be possible.

SantoriniInstead of a drastic fall in property prices, what 2014 has seen is a stabilisation of prices. HDB flat prices started off the price-drop which began in the second half of 2013. The private property sector followed suit in the beginning of this year. The most hard-hitting cooling measure was the restrictive loan limit which meant it became harder to borrow money to purchase a property. Although this may have made private property prices fall slightly, prices of HDB flats have not fallen significantly enough and with it becoming harder to get a HDB or bank loan, buyers of resale flats may be priced out of the market.

Thus a valid question may be, is the price decline sufficient? Is the decline sector- specific and is owning a property in Singapore a feasible goal for most citizens? What else can the authorities do to ensure equal opportunities for all. As the country prepares itself for the next General Election, answers may come soon.

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.

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?

Housing supply to slow down in 2015

The authorities have announced that public housing supply and land sales will slow down come 2015 as the market has showed signs of cooling and stablising after the many rounds of property cooling measures rolled out over the past year or two.

West Terra HDB Bukit BatokPhoto Credit: HDB

The Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has commented in a blog post that the supply of new HDB flats will slow by 25 per cent next year. There will only be 4 launches next year, compared to the usual 6 per year. Each launch usually puts out up to 4,000 new Build-to-order (BTO) flats. The rate of successful BTO flat applications has been on the rise as reflected in the few recent launches. More married couples achieve success in getting their new flats, and the authorities have been allowances for couples either opting to apply for a flat with their parents, or for one near their parents. In addition, parents who opt to apply for a flat in a non-mature estate to be near their married children, will also receive priority.

The slight shift in policies may ensure that families remain close-knit and are able to receive help when needed. It may also help with a shift in aging mature estates and introduce a more age-balanced population per HDB estate. Mr Khaw Boon Wan also hopes that the move will help newlyweds plan for a family more efficiently and in turn increase Singapore’s population with a higher birth rate.

In the private property sector, the number of land plots being sold for executive condominiums and private apartments has already been reduced this year, though the industry might see a further reduction come 2015. But will this mean a decline in the building, construction and property industries? Or has the previous land sales and launches been sufficient to keep the industry going for the next few years? Which part of the cycle is the property sector in at the moment and are we set for a boom or lull in the next year?

Rise in HDB Resale flat sales

As HDB resale flat prices continue to decline for the eighth month in September, buyers are taking the opportunity to suss out the best deals. The number of sales transactions for HDB resale flats rose to the highest since April this year. A total of 1, 469 flats were sold in September, up 10.7 per cent from August and almost 20 per cent from the same month last year.

St George Towers

Photo credit: HDB

It comes as no surprise that the larger flats saw the largest fall in prices. Five-room HDB flat prices fell 1.6 per cent, followed by three- and four-room flats dipping 0.2 per cent and ECs (executive condominiums) 0.1 per cent. The recent numbers also revealed the fact that buyers are willing to accept a smaller price difference between the selling price and the average market value when previously, they had expected larger margins before committing to a deal.

Some of the factors contributing to the drop in HDB flat prices could be:

The first and last two factors in the list may have more lasting effects that expected. And it may change the value and purpose of HDB flats. But would the change be all that bad? Or will it help refocus investments into the private property market?

EC options widen with new launches

Property market activity may be back on track as new EC launches inject some much-needed cheer. Bellewoods executive condominium in Woodlands just opened for applications last weekend. And this is after a year-long hiatus with the last major EC launch of Skypark Residences in Sembawang last September.

Bellewoods ECUnits at the Bellwoods were going at an average of $750 to $820 psf and industry experts are expecting prices to go up as construction and land costs increase. A change in policy earlier this year, with the authorities placing a 15-month time frame between the time a developer secures a land plot and the time they can begin selling. At the Lake Life executive condominium in Yuan Ching road, prices are expected to hover between $880 to $980psf. There is also worry that buyers who had originally intended to purchase an EC unit may by the end of 15 months, have received a pay raise and thus moving above the income ceiling which disqualifies him from being eligible to apply for one.

But despite these obstacles, developers remain ositive about the market response as pent-up demand may bring the crowd back despite the seemingly quiet market of recent months. There will also be another round of EC launches planned for the second quarter of 2015. Although there may be more options available, an oversupply seems unlikely as the government has reduced the supply of EC land this year. For the HDB upgrader, ECs now seems like it is truly fulfilling what it set out to do, to fill the gap between public and private housing.