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.

Less investing in private homes

Overall home prices have been losing steam, with significant signs showing in the last quarter of 2013. Mass market private home prices have begun to soften and investors are generally shying away from private properties. Upmarket luxury properties however might be the hardest hit as big funders who had previously purchased units in bulk choose to wash their hands of their investments early. Newton Imperial condominium is one example, with 21 units being put up for bulk sale earlier this month.

Hillford Retirement HomeSome investors may however choose to hold on to their properties and tide over the property cooling period. On the ground, city centre home prices have already fallen, and city fringe homes may follow suit. Individual buyers may be waiting for further price cuts or discounts from developers, thus widening the void in the market. But the market can hardly stagnate as activity will no doubt continue, though at a slightly more subdued level.

Some analysts are predicting the ebb and flow of the private property market this year to be highly dependent on the type and number of new property launches. As that too may be lower in number, one may wonder if 2014 might be a dull year for the real estate industry. But the first quarter of the year may bring about some positive change. The launch of The Hillford at Jalan Jurong Kechil earlier this month for example, sold out within its launch day with prices averaging $1, 100 psf.

Resale flats still awaiting buyers

Despite the fact that resale HDB flat prices have been on the downward slide for 2 quarters now, the number of resale flat transactions have not yet picked up. One might think the lowered COV prices might bring in the buyers, but perhaps it might be time sellers reconsider their asking prices.

Resale flats in the newer towns such as Sengkang and Punggol have seen the lowest COV prices thus far, with some sellers even willing to sell under valuation, with the lowest being $5,000 below valued selling price in December last year. The highest COV was for a unit in Marine Parade, with a COV of $40,000. Popularity of the unit, plus many other environmental factors, condition of the flat, and competition from buyers all determine how much cash over valuation the seller could demand.

Queenstown-HDBThe first half of 2014 might see a delicate tango between resale HDB flat sellers and buyers as buyers hold off in wait of possibly further reduction in market prices, and sellers doing the same as they wait for lowered prices in the private property market and to see if demand picks up in the later half of the year. As 2013 was the year of announcements, with new MRT stations and bus routes being planned, new redevelopment areas and township rejuvenations, much of the hype might be past. Is 2014 the year where the dust settles and the property market solidifies pockets of positive and negative performers?

Home prices down all around

Landed. Non-landed. Private. Public. Across the board, prices of all residential properties seem to have taken a hit in the last quarter.

Prices have dipped, some sectors more than the others, but signs are pointing to a possible slowdown in the market due to governmental curbs and the increased number of new property launches over the last 2 years. With the last price decline registered in 2005, resale HDB flat prices have been on the downhill slope for 2 quarters now. Private property prices have also suffered albeit to a lesser degree, with the lowest prices since 2009.

Mon JervoisMight it truly be the buyers’ market this year? Will this prompt more buyers to jump on the opportunity or are there other factors which might keep them away from the cash register? The tighter loan restrictions such as shorter loan periods, lower debt-to-income limits, and higher stamp duties may still be an obstacle to some buyers, thus sellers eager to cash in on their properties may find themselves having to wait a little longer for a good deal to come by.

Location usually still trumps all, though considerations such as space, amenities and living environment all have a part to play in the final selling price. With more new private condominium launches and new HDB flats pushing their way into the market this year, competition on the rental front is proving tough as well. Buyers now have more options for comparison and may be tempted to wait for prices to drop even further or wait it out for the best deal.

Even prices of suburban private homes, which have been the main stalwart of the property market last half of the year, have slipped 0.6 per cent. And as resale HDB flat prices drop, so have the number of HDB upgraders who may require the cash from the sale of their flats to purchase private homes. In turn, demand for mass-market suburban homes may fall.

Will it be a sombre year for Singapore’s residential property market?

2013 closed with weak demand for resale homes

Although a 0.1% rise was registered, the last quarter of last year saw a resale private home market which was relatively quiet, and where demand was low. But industry experts were none too ecstatic about the rise, with most recognizing that this might be a mere “technical rebound” which will not be sustained.

The Montana1Homes in the central region which sold above the median market prices could have accounted for this rise in numbers. A few units at The Montana in Jalan Mutiara for example, sold at $1, 832 to $2, 130 psf. The market prices were at an average of $1, 600 to $1, 800 psf. Another high-floor unit at The Orchard Residences also went at $4, 312 psf, above the $3,600 psf market price, possibly due to the rarity of the unit.

The largest dip came from the shoebox apartments sector. For these small apartments of less than 500 sq ft, which were the best sellers of earlier in the year, a 0.6 per cent drop could signify a saturation of the market with these types of units, and where rental demand may not yet make up for the sheer number in existence. As new non-landed residential developments flaunt their remaining units, resale units in the suburbs may be forced to lower seller expectations. Will 2013 purely be a buyers’ market?

Homes, homes, homes galore

204,461 in 2016. And a good lot of it will be in the private property market. The number of HDB flats remain the same but there will be an increase in the number of private properties and executive condominiums (ECs) come 2016. One might question if Singapore really does need that many homes or is it a case of having enough homes but at prices not many can afford?

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

In 2013 alone, 15, 824 private homes will be built come end December. In the public and private hybrid housing (EC) market, the number this year is 1,659 and counting. Over the next 3 years, buyers can expect 1, 355 executive condominium and 4,884 new private properties to enter the fold. Sales of private residential homes have already begun to dip, will this increase in supply signify a further price drop over the next 3 years? Or will the supply glut dissipate quickly and redirect interest into the resale and rental markets?

Sales of new properties plummeted 46 per cent with only 2,430 units sold in Q3. 1,340 resale units were sold, at a 35 per cent drop. Overall, private property prices still rose though at only 0.2 per cent. Most of sales came from suburban condominiums. City centre home prices dropped 0.3 per cent but city fringe homes suffered a 1.1 per cent decline.

But despite recent lulls, a rise was registered in the rental front, at an increase of 0.2 per cent . Has the make-up of Singapore’s population shifted, with a larger percentage of temporary residents or has the population’s property purchasing habits changed and more are willing to simply rent rather than purchase a permanent home? Which way is the nation headed and are we becoming more like the bigger cosmopolitan cities in the world?

Q3 spells trouble for Singapore’s real estate market

Suburban, city fringe, prime districts, city centre. All around, property prices and transactions were on the way down. Possibly at its lowest since 2009, only 2, 200 to 2, 400 new homes were sold in the last 3 months. Less than 100 new homes were sold in the city centre an less than 150 in the city fringes. In the suburban areas, the number was almost halved from 1, 050 units in H1 to less than 600 in July and August.

Sky VueProperty agents and industry experts are putting the drop down to the new TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework which the Monetary Authority of Singapore implemented in June this year. But with the recent new launches, the numbers may improve marginally, especially as foreign buyers return after the initial pauses caused by stamp duty hikes earlier in the year. Executive Condominium (EC) Waterwoods and Skypark Residences, The Skywoods, Sky Vue and Thomson Three private apartments were some of the latest offerings on the home buyers’ plates.

As the year draws to an end, there are almost 2 more months for the property market to respond. Will developers sense the lull and boost sales with discounts and other offers? Or will buyers realise the opportune time to come back and snap up units at the latest launches?