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.

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?

Authorities not ready to ease property curbs

The property industry has been hoping for a respite from the several rounds of property cooling measures rolled out over this year and the last. But the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director, Ravi Menon, recently said that even though home prices has ease somewhat and has leveled the playing field slightly, there are still risk factors which prevents them to being able to release their hold on the reins.

Home prices have risen an astounding 60 per cent from 2009 and over the past year, it has only fallen 3.3 per cent. Though it is quite impossible for home prices to fall to the level before the 2009 boom, they are hoping nevertheless to keep the markets stable before easing the restrictions.

Singapore real estateThe measure which affected the market the most could be the mortgage loan curb. The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework has put many buyers hoping for a home loan out of reach of their desired property. This has indirectly caused developers to shake a little on their footing and prices of new properties dropped slightly over the last 3 quarters. But property prices are still relatively high and the fear is that any relaxation of the current rulings might cause an upward spiral process which might be more detrimental in the long run.

Battling inflation has been one of the key issues for the country’s rulers and with housing becoming an increasingly crucial factor of nation development, the property market here would be largely linked to policy-making.

Varied market response to declining property prices

Home prices in both the private and resale HDB markets have continued to dip in the second quarter of 2014. In the first three months of the year, the decline was 1.6 per cent. Perhaps buoyed by the increased number of launched in Q2, the rate of decline was somewhat less steep at 1.3 per cent the quarter past.

Rezi 3 TwoBuyers who have been on the lookout for opportunities such as this may be happy to find that more than a few property developments have been offering discounts. Though the overall number of sales have picked up in the second quarter, mostly due to new launches, the private homes market saw a more obvious slowdown in both the city centre and suburbs. The drop was 1.5 per cent in the city centre and 1.1 per cent in the suburbs. Properties in the city fringe fared better with a 0.6 per cent drop, an improvement considering the 3.3 per cent dive in the earlier part of the year.

But there are those who are concerned about the longevity of their investment should they purchase now. The question they may ask is, is this the lowest prices can go? If I were to buy now, will the prices continue to drop? Though property analysts are doubtful that the prices will bottom out anytime soon, they are expecting the maximum of a 5 per cent decline.

As long as the supply continues at a steady pace, prices will not vary far from the current levels. Perhaps true change will only come with a shift in policies. Considering the elections will be here in a couple of years’ time, the time leading up to that might be a period of uncertainty.

Property cooling measures will remain for now

Ever since the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework was implemented a year ago in June 2013, the home financing front has taken a big hit. But the authorities are not ready to loosen the reigns on the cooling measures just yet.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) is taking its role in “ensuring a stable and sustainable property market” very seriously indeed. Besides the debt servicing framework, it has also increased stamp duties on second and subsequent property purchases, coming down hard on speculative property-buying.

Eight RiversuitesConsidering the fact that home prices have almost doubled in just four years’ time, the word ‘inflation” does not even cover the extent of the increase. With the rate of increase, especially in mid-2009, the authorities may be rightfully wary of the reverse effect should the measures be lifted now. Prices might very well rocket even higher and then there will be no bringing it back down. And that may impact the social and economic tensile strength of the young nation.

On the other hand, the interest rates at the banks are low for now, and it is an incentive for taking out loans. But with the TDSR framework, how many qualify for these loans and will Singaporeans now look outside of Singapore to invest instead? How will that impact Singapore and her plans to become a global city?

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.

68% drop in private home sales

In comparison to 2013′s Q1 home sales figures, the chasm is deep. And so are moods in the real estate market.

Private home sales have been on the decline for some time now. And recent figures are not exactly uplifting. Buyer sentiments are pessimistic, as the loan curbs implemented last year takes its toll on buyers and sellers alike.

Hillford Retirement Home
It has become much harder for buyers to secure loans, with the Money Authority of Singapore’s Total Debt Servicing Ratio framework in place. Buyers can no longer loan as much as they would like, which may place them just out of reach of their target property. The lack of new property launches this quarter has also dampened the mood somewhat. And property developers have been slow in introducing new units into the market as they are now accutely aware of a softer market.

Some properties nevertheless have beat the odds and continued to enjoy brisk sales. Topping the list is the 281-unit The Hillford in Jalan Jurong Kechil. Since its launch in January, units have been completely sold. Next up are a couple of neighbouring properties in Sengkang – Rivertrees Residences and Riverbank @ Fernvale. Most of the units went for an average of $1,000 to $1, 100 psf. Industry analysts are wondering if this could signify that buying power for suburban private properties will now hover around this ceiling.

Rivertrees condoThe rest of the year may see a tussle of prices between new and resale properties. As developers cut prices to make sales, resale home sellers may be forced to face the competition head on.

Real estate market fluctuations hard to predict

It might be a matter of long and in-depth research. Or perhaps a intuitive touch to reading the markets. Maybe it’s a matter of luck. Whichever it is you possess, perhaps even a combination of all three, the property market has always been a delicate and somewhat temperamental creature to handle. As we reach the end of the first quarter of 2014, many may be wondering if this year of the horse may gallop into the horizon or merely trot on the spot. The three factors creating the most effect on the current real estate market are:

  • Property curbs
  • Weak demand
  • Oversupply of homes
Property-related rules may be updated often, thus it would be helpful to keep track of new or amended rulings.

Where are home prices headed?

For buyers looking for a place to live, it might be a good time to jump in. Those waiting for a market crash to scoop up the best deals may be waiting in vain as that is rather unlikely. Singapore’s growing population will make for a constant demand for housing, and since home buyers usually have a fixed idea of which areas they would rather live in, other factors such as location, proximity to transport and schools, may still determine the price they pay.

Property upgraders may find themselves in a good spot as well. As the private property market becomes increasingly competitive, the price difference between their current and desired property may be diminishing, thus in turn save them a rather substantial amount.

Property investors may be those finding themselves most in a bind as mortgage limitations and rising interest rates create boundaries which may hinder their progress. Analysts advice against hasty decisions as properties may not be the easiest to manage within an investment portfolio. They suggest that investors look at all possible angles when considering a property, such as the number of bathrooms, size and shape of the unit, hidden spaces which may not suit the taste of most buyers etc. All-in-all, investors need to plan for future interest rate hikes, the possible lack of tenancy, financial holding power and governmental policy changes.