More for less – Smaller condo apartments

With the rising prices of land plots sold under the Government Land Sales programme and with developers taking into consideration how the property cooling measures have affected buyers’ purchasing power, private apartment sizes have been diminishing since 2010.

LakevillePhoto: Lakeville at Jurong West

More apparent in units in the city fringes, average sizes have shrunk from 1,051 to 810 sq ft. And in the suburbs, apartment sizes went from 878 sq ft to 811 sq ft; though the average sizes from new projects actually dropped from 1, 113 sq ft in 2006 to 667 sq ft in 2011 but rose again to 928 sq ft in 2014.

In 2012, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) put in place guidelines for the maximum number of units for condominium developments outside of the central area. Developers have since noticed that buyers are more sensitive to the total quantum price of a unit rather than per unit prices, especially since the implementation of loan curbs such as the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) and Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), hence maximising the land area and total number of units would be the best way to go.

Symphony SUitesPhoto: Symphony Suites

There are some residential projects which chose to follow their own path however, including Lakeville and Symphony Suites. But as the population continues to grow, it seems that unit sizes will only continue to diminish. Resale units may then have an edge over the smaller-sized newer units, provided pricing is equally competitive when time comes.

Property market and Economy = Cause and Effect ?

It has always been thought that the economy, both local and global, has a big part to play in the performance of the local property market. But it seems a recent study by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has shown that the link is not all that obvious.

The study has shown that Singapore’s economy may be affected more so by external factors such as exports, rather than our property market’s ups and downs. The latter, in turn, is more attuned to its own internal factors, mainly by how developers choose to hold back or release units during the property market’s flow and ebb.

Although news about Singapore’s economy may not be all that positive at the moment, the effect of that on the property market may be weaker than expected. Thus Singapore’s property market, despite slightly lowered prices and sales volume, may not be in such a bad place after all. The housing cycle’s rise and fall takes a longer route as compared to the overall economy and business sectors’, and is more often than not, caused by factors such a developers managing their inventories to preserve profit margin and mismatched expectations between buyers and sellers. These in turn cause a kink in the demand and supply chain, which in turn affects housing prices.

In short, it takes quite a huge change in sales volume of new and resale properties here before a significant adjustment in the property market can be seen.

The private home gentle wave

It’s an up and down ride for the private non-landed property market for more than a year now. Across the board, non-landed resale home prices dropped 6.2 per cent last year. Prices of homes in the central districts dipped an average of 7 per cent last year, though there were good months when some segments managed to bounce back slightly before falling again. That could mean that things were mainly level though there are outliers.

Duchess ResidencesResale private apartment prices fell 0.2 per cent last month, with a 3.9 per cent fall compared to the same month last year. But some city fringe properties bounced back with an average price rise of 0.4 per cent. Part of the yoyo-ing in prices could be due to the Chinese New Year period in February and buyers were just coming back into the fray in March.

The second quarter of this year would be a crucial point in almost determining how the rest of the year will flow, at least up to just before the Hungry Ghost month. Though the ride has been more a gentle wave of price fluctuations rather than a roller coaster ride, property experts are however not expecting a drastic change in prices unless there are major policy changes or a major interest rates hike.

The year could be a relatively quiet one with bright sparks and dull moments along the way, but the basics of good location and lowered total quantum prices will still move units.

Competitive pricing will help Property developer move units quicker

Home mortgage interest rates look set to rise sometime this year, and while new properties continue to come into the market, buyers will be spoiled for choice with executive condominiums, resale private apartments and new condominium units all competing for their attention.

Trilive KovanPricing might then be the differentiating factor in the current property market which is still finding its footing. In January, Symphony Suites in Yishun proved to be one of the best sellers in the non-landed private property market. Prices averaged at $1,010 psf, which was not considered to be on the higher end of the price spectrum. Most suburban properties fared better, making up 62 per cent of the total sales numbers last month. City fringe properties followed behind with 28 per cent and city centre homes took up only 10 per cent.

The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) continues to be the main obstacle for buyers as the loan amounts they are now able to receive have been largely reduced. However, developers are unlikely to make drastic price reductions as land prices have been high for the past two years.

Contrary to concerns that new properties may outshine previous older launches and resale properties, some older developments have fared well in the last month. Trilive in Kovan sold 22 units at a $1,562 psf median price while 20 units in Jurong West’s Lakeville also exchanged hands at the average selling price of $1, 378 psf.

While the influx of new units and restrictive loan limits may be the way things go for the year ahead, the demand for residential properties may not necessarily have disappeared altogether. It may simply be a matter of buyers taking longer to weigh their options.

Developers offer more direct discounts

If you’re looking for a good property deal, you could be hitting the market at the right time as developers are now preferring to offer direct discounts instead of indirect ones such as renovation and furniture vouchers and the likes. And the buyers seem to prefer that too.

In a bid to attract buyers back into the property market, developers have realised that with the prevailing property cooling measures, especially the tighter loan limits, it’s the final number that counts. Defraying the total costs through offers of furniture and renovation may no longer seem as attractive to buyers who are now keeping a keen eye on the total quantum prices.

HomeReno1Home buyers are more discerning and aware of how these indirect discounts affect the final sale price and more importantly, the total loan quantum they are able to receive from the banks. Though the rule which states that all discounts, even indirect ones such as renovation discounts and furniture vouchers, have to be declared when applying for a loan were in place since 2002, the banks have only recently been stricter about their checks. What this means for the buyer could be a lesser loan quantum as the amount give in indirect discounts are taken off from the final sale price of the unit, before consideration is given on how much the bank is able to loan.

Now, what developers are doing instead of offering renovation and furniture discounts, are to refurbish unsold units and selling them at a lower price than if the buyer were to purchase the furnishings themselves. Thus, the buyer gets a fully renovated unit at a slightly higher price than an unfurnished one, but at a lower price than if they were to renovate and furnish it themselves. This may be more cost-effective for buyers who are looking to rent out the unit as it saves them money and time.

City fringe homes find their footing

Filling in the gap between luxury and mass-market homes are the city fringe properties. But sitting in this position means being more exposed to market forces such as a lull in the luxury property market, which may be a good thing as buyers may be looking at cheaper options. But a wider and possibly cheaper pool of options pop up in the suburbs in the form of mass-market suburban homes, this might be the first sector to suffer a backlash.

Sky Habitat condominium in Bishan.

Sky Habitat condominium in Bishan.

There has been a recent drop in city fringe home prices as developers are offering discounts to help boost sales. As the supply of these home increase, about 2,411 new units were launched in 2014, so will the urgency to move units. City fringe homes registered a 5.3 per cent price drop, as compared to 4.3 per cent in the luxury homes market and 2.2 per cent in suburban private homes.

Projects where prices were lowered include The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio, Sky Habitat in Bishan and D’Leedon on Farrer road. Though luxury homes hogged the headlines last year with their decline in sales volume, property analysts are confident that the price decline will be minimal as most owners of city-centre homes will have the holding power to hang on to their properties.

Home prices expected to decline further in 2015

This year, the rate of decline for private home prices is expected to exceed that of 2014. Last year’s drop was estimated at 4 per cent whereas this year, industry analysts project an 8 per cent drop. This new estimate for the private property sector will put it on par with resale HDB flats. In 2014, the public housing market reflected a 6 per cent drop in prices.

Some market factors from last year are here to stay:
1) Tightened credit market
2) Stricter immigration policies
3) Weakening demand
4) Increasing supply of new homes
5) Higher stamp duties

The Luxurie - near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

The Luxurie – near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

And while interest rates were at a low at a point in time last year, they are expected to rise this year, which makes for an even less favourable environment for a thriving buy-and-sell of residential properties in particular.

This may put a fair bit of pressure on home sellers, who may find themselves having to lower prices in order to make a sale. With developers competing for the same buyers with offers of discounts, rebates and other enticing options, resale private properties might struggle to stand out.

Landlords may also find that it’s a tenants market as an onslaught of homes become ready for occupation this year. The most recent residential projects to come into the market this year include the 622-unit The Luxurie and 590-unit The Riversound Residences in Sengkang.

Coupled with a number of new launches planned for this year, and fewer foreign buyers taking the bite, the only properties which may remain popular are mass-market homes in locations close to MRT stations, schools and shopping malls.

2015 – Outlook for Asia’s property market?

2015 is nearly here, and there has been talk that come next year, the property scene in Asia might experience some changes.  Investment interest in Asia property looks to be on the rise as portfolios which have yet to establish a presence in this continent consider it time to do just that.

ScottsSkyParkIt is probable that some governments might ease up on property cooling measures, thus making it easier for foreign investors. China-based investors have already been buying properties within and out of Asia. And as sellers lower their expectations and prices, they look set to continue doing so, if not more voraciously.

In Singapore alone, the outlook for office space looks extremely positive as supply remains low. With many more developmental and redevelopment opportunities arising within the next few years, the demand for office space is likely to rise, thus supporting commercial property prices and rents.

On the residential front, property prices are expected to see a drop of up to 10 per cent as the full impact of the large and fast increase of new properties finally hit the market. However, the luxury home market may see an influx of new investment money, especially properties will good long-term value.