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?

No halting Tanglin Halt resale HDB flats

Ever since the announcements of redevelopment plans for the Tanglin Halt HDB estate, prices of resale flats in the area have been heating up. And a good many flat owners are taking the chance to put their unit up for sale. There are about 30 units available on online property websites alone.

HDB flats in Queenstown

HDB flats in Queenstown

What did the announcements say? That the flat owners of the current units will be offered brand new flats in Dawson estate in Queenstown under the SERS (selective en bloc redevelopment) scheme. And since most property owners are aware of the popularity of Queenstown’s resale flats, the SERs scheme is the best way to secure a flat in the area. But first, you need to own a flat in Tanglin Halt. Hence the rise in interest of resale flats in the area. In Q2, the median price of a three-room resale HDB flat in Queenstown was $357,000.

Though most of the existing units in Tanglin Halt are two- and three-room flats, the replacement flats which will be provided by HDB will be four- and five-room ones. Although the authorities have placed a one-month freeze period for resale applications to allow owners to consider their options, the restriction has since been lifted and applications can now be submitted till 31 Aug 2015.

There are long-time residents who do wish to still hold on to their flats as long as possible, for memory, familiarity and convenience sake. And after all, they will receive a prime unit when the time comes for the move.

Jurong – the second CBD?

The central business district (CBD) may always retain its title as the  financial hub of the nation. But regional hubs are gradually becoming popular with businesses who are drawn by the cheaper rents and increasing flexibility of the suburbs.

The east has Marine Parade and the seaside, then there is Punggol and its new waterways, now Jurong will have its own lake and residents will soon be able to have waterfront living, working for a multi-national company just a couple of mrt stops away, and shop on the way home at the shopping malls. Connectivity and accessibility will soon no longer be a major consideration.

LakevilleThe building and expansion of infrastructure in Jurong has been going on for over a decade now and with a new Jurong Lake Gardens, the Science centre, MRT stations and bus interchanges, shopping malls and other commercial facilities choc-a-block in the district, the outlook for the once industrial estates is set for a big change. Not forgetting, the area will also have its own Ng Teng Foong hospital next year.

Sales and rental prices of HDB flats in the area are expected to rise by up to 20 per cent once the facilities are completed. Property analysts are likening it to some of the more popular HDB estates such as Bishan, where proximity to facilities and accessibility boosted home prices over the years.

Private properties in the Lakeside district also looks set to rise in price as it becomes an almost “exclusively private residential” district. Condominiums here fetch up to $1, 000 psf for new units and at the most recent launch of the Lakeville condominium, prices went up to $1, 300 psf.

The icing on the cake – The rail terminal which will connect Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The future looks exciting for Jurong.

HDB flat rentals stay low

The play between supply and demand never gets old. And the tug-and-push continues as rental demand for HDB flats remains lacklustre possibly for the rest of the year.

Immigration policies seem to be the main factor at play, keeping foreign workforce numbers low and thus affecting the demand for rental properties. According to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) figures, the HDB rental index has fallen 2.3 per cent.

But is this the deepest pit of the slowdown or will it continue? Industry experts are predicting this as only the beginning of the rental drop. Sales prices of HDB resale flats have already begun on their downhill journey and though the drop is not drastic, it is rather significant for the year. Most property analysts are expecting a 4 – 7 per cent drop by the end of 2014.

Woodlands HDBNaturally, areas which are further away from transport nodes such as bus stops, main expressways or MRT stations are most affected. HDB flats near MRT stations will continue to hold their prices, whether in sales or rent. Some of the flats fetching the highest rent are in the Central, Bukit Merah and Queenstown estates. Prices range between $2250 for a 3-room flat to $2, 900 for a 4-room flat.

Although Woodlands seems far to many, the area is favoured by many tenants, perhaps due to its proximity to the causeway. Rental prices of flats in the area is lower, between $1,700 to $2, 000 for a 3- or 4-room HDB flat, but demand is higher and the ease of finding will benefit flat owners in the area.

Another reason for the falling rental rates might be the increase in the number of properties available for rent across the board. With some private suburban condominiums reaching completion and some in popular HDB estates, the competition will definitely heat up. 2014 seems pretty set its way for now, but there is always 2015 to look forward to.

Toa Payoh’s facelift

As one of the oldest mature HDB estates in Singapore and HDB’s second satellite town, Toa Payoh has a past which evolved with the growth of the nation. As more new towns such as Punngol, Sengkang and even newer ones in the future such as Bidadari come up, older estates are welcoming timely upgrades.

And it is now Toa Payoh‘s turn as the popular estate saw an overwhelming response to the BTO HDB flats launch a couple of weeks ago. With it’s central location, full-fledge sets of amenities, MRT stations, bus interchange and established schools in its midst, it’s an estate which will stand its own for a long time to come.

TreVista in Toa Payoh Made up of mostly HDB flats, there has hardly been any new private homes launched in the district for almost three years now. However, a plot of land near  the MRT station has been put aside for development, and should a private property be launched in the spot, it will be sure to bring in the buyers and fetch high prices.

In the current market, resale flats sales have dipped from 25 to 15 per quarter, but rental prices and value appreciation of private properties in Toa Payoh has remained stable. Average prices stand between $1, 121 psf to $1, 460 psf with monthly rents currently between $3,60 to $4,10 psf. The private apartments in the area now are Trellis Towers, Oleander Towers and Trevista.

The years ahead hold great promise for the estate and its continued growth seems imminent.

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?

Pinnacle @ Duxton almost ready for resale market

50-storeys high with sky gardens and sitting at the top of an excellent location, the Pinnacle @ Duxton will soon be ready to enter the resale market as the five-year minimum occupation period (MOP) comes to an end in December this year. Will the peak of resale HDB flats prices be found in this exclusive public housing development? And how many of the flat owners will be looking to sell? In the current market lull, will more be looking to rent out their units instead?

It seems the resale market can ready themselves for some high prices. Ahead of time, one seller who has received special permission to sell the unit has had more than 50 viewings and offers of up to $830,000 for the 90 sq m four-room HDB flat.

Pinnacle @ Duxton was awarded the 2011 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Global Awards for Excellence. Image by HDB.

Pinnacle @ Duxton was awarded the 2011 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Global Awards for Excellence. Image by HDB.

With a total of 1, 848 units in the massive 7-block development, there will no doubt be competition, though most of the units being put up for sale now are four- and five-room flats. Prices nearing the million dollar mark will be expected. Even the Minister of National Development, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, has said that when units at the Pinnacle are ready to hit the market, “there will be many millionaires there”.

Those who are ready to sell may be those who are hoping to move into the private property market as the amount they might earn from the sales could be double, if not triple the amount they originally paid for the units. When they were sold in 2004, five-room flats were priced only at $345, 100 to $439,400 while the four-bedders cost $289,000 to $380,900. Considering the prime location of it being near MRT stations, new businesses, a hip area of cafes, restaurants and pubs, the bustling Chinatown stretch and the Central Business District, it’s not surprising that public housing in the area has continually received high-priced offers. Most five-room flats in the Tanjong Pagar and Cantonment Close area have fetched above $800,000.

The only thing that might stop buyers from coming would be the mortgage limits. But as the market awaits the day the regulations are relaxed or policies changed, flat owners may continue to hold on to their asking prices, at least at this iconic building.

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.