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?

HDB rental market stable

The rental demand for HDB flats has remained stable for most of the year. Though there was a slight rise in February and March, the take-up rate has sbeen sliding since August last year. But since April, demand has remained stable for the next three months.

Yishun HDB FlatRent prices for whole HDB flats now hover around $2, 300 per month. And since most tenants are fresh graduates or foreign students, they are likely to want to sublet to make rent. How then has the subletting quota affected tenants who wish to rent out part of their rented HDB flats? In January, rules were set to restrict the “formation of foreigner enclaves in HDB estates”. But figures have shown that hardly any HDB block has gone over the quota. With the exception of those nearer MRT stations and town centres. Tenants can search online for the quota of the specific HDB block they are interested in renting a unit in.

With more new flats being rolled up quarterly, what worries the industry more is the oversupply of flats for rent. Though prices of private properties are flat-lining, home loans are proving equally, if not more, difficult to secure. This means HDB upgraders may now re-think their plans to sell, instead, keeping their flats and renting out rooms to pick up profits which may go towards funding their targeted private property purchase.

As the year edges past the halfway mark, the balance between seller and buyer remains delicate. Which way will the scales tip?

Kovan Haven

Once upon a time, Kovan was a place no one really knew about. Now it’s a little of a wonderland, especially for young families and property investors seeking a good deal.

As an area considered to be exclusive with mostly landed homes and private properties, any new condominium would be greeted with eager arms from HDB upgraders in the surrounding estates such as Hougang and Serangoon. One of the latest offerings in Kovan is the Trilive condominium on Tampines road. With up to 80 per cent of its 222 units being dual-key apartments, it is expected to be exceedingly popular with large families or buyers looking to rent out part of their property while still occupying it, yet without sacrificing their privacy. Units are expected to sell at around $1, 350 to $1, 400 psf.

Trilive KovanAt the neighbouring The Tembusu, units have been selling at an average of $1, 541 psf. It’s wide range of property options, from one- to four-bedders as well as dual-key apartments and penthouses have enhanced their ability to draw in a varied buying crowd.

Other popular properties on the Kovan menu are Bliss@Kovan, Kovan Residences and Kovan Melody. The Heartland Mall and Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre are already in its midst, and the area is steadily adding amenities and facilities to their township, with an upcoming commercial hub in the nearby Serangoon Sub-Regional Centre. Apartments in this area could be looking at potential rental yields in the near future.

Resale HDB flats prices dip

The number of resale HDB flat buyers is diminishing. At its two-year low last month, the number of flats which exchanged hands in May was 1, 320. In April, 1, 484 resale flats were sold. Prices also fell 1.2 per cent in May, the lowest since April 2012 according to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange’s (SRX) price index.

Marsiling Greenview BTO HDB FlatThe most common reason for the drop was the loan curbs. This has prevented many buyers from securing a desired loan amount, thus unless they have a large enough cash reserve, it usually puts a resale flat out of sight. The number of transactions in March and April were more positive but that could be due to the pent out demand following the festive season in January and February. Other possible reasons for May’s drop could be the release of new BTO and SBF (sale of balance) flats by HDB in the same month. The latter SBF flats are usually more popular with location- and price-conscious buyers as they are cheaper than resale flats but yet are situated in mature estates.

But what about HDB upgraders who are have purchased private properties? Unlike private property owners who are not allowed to purchase HDB flats, HDB flat owners are allowed to purchase private properties. But as buyers play the waiting game, resale flat owners are now simply willing to wait, if they can, or rent out their HDB flats. This in turn keeps rental supply high, but that also means they will be likely to compete with private property rentals. As the supply of tenants are kept stable, this could also mean there will be a price-war in the rental market.

How long will the resale market remain weak? Will it be a tough uphill climb?

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.