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.

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.

Private property out of reach for HDB Upgraders?

If home prices are falling, most would think that the upgrade from public housing or HDB flats to the private home market should be getting easier. But it seems the opposite is true.

Prices of HDB flats and a private condominium apartment are perhaps softening at around the same rate, or that of HDB flats possibly even quicker. This creates a widening price gap between resale HDB flats and private condominiums, and HDB sellers can no longer depend on the sales proceeds of their HDB flats to balance out the price of their new private condominium.

BellewoodsECPhoto Credit: Bellewoodsec.com

Does this also mean that more HDB flat owners will now be forced to stay put and thus decrease the number of HDB flats available in the resale market? What about those who may have already purchase a private property and have a limited time period within which to sell their HDB flats? WIll they be pushed to sell at lower prices hence suffering the growing amount they need to top up?

Property experts are expecting ECs or executive condominiums to be the bridging properties between these two markets. As a hybrid between public and private housing, buyers qualify for public housing subsidies but after a 10-year period, can sell their units as private properties.  There is also the question of home sizes, will HDB upgraders be willing to settle for lesser space and a higher psf price to make the leap from HDB to private home?

New private homes – Sales lacklustre

The hungry ghost month and the lack of new property launches during that time have affected new home sales in August. Sales were down 15% and only 432 units were sold although 351 units in previously-launched developments were put up for sale.

The PanoramaMost of the sales came from suburban properties, especially from newer launches such as The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio and Coco Palms in Pasir Ris. Median selling prices at the former was $1,249 psf and $1,046 psf at the latter. Whilst Eight Riversuites launched around the same time as Coco Palms in May 2012, the Whampoa East property fared better with average prices at $1, 345 psf. Positive sales at these few developments could be due to the lower prices at its re-launch. The Panorama for example saw sales picking up once median prices were lowered during its relaunch in May. It was official launched in January this year.

But in the upcoming months, home sales may see a rebound as new launches in the pipeline bring a surge of buying interest. New launches include Marina One Residences, Highline Residences, Seventy St Patrick’s., and a few executive condominium developments such as Bellewoods and Bellewaters EC.

Property analysts are however cautious about the amount of increase in home sales, and the overall sales figures for 2014. The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework and other property cooling measures such as stamp duties for additional properties, may keep the numbers suppressed. Some developers could also be holding their launches for next year in wait of any policy or market shifts.

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.