Market not ready for property cooling measure to be lifted

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has said that it is still too early for the property cooling measures to go away. Unlike the car financing sector, the housing sector has yet to achieve the intended levels. The authorities are cautious about a sudden forward surge in the market should the measures be prematurely lifted.

c22aa9c3d5354ad6858cc5cec7ca1854Household debt levels have become more manageable as the debt servicing ratio helped keep new loans portfolios realistic and banks are feeling a reduction in the percentage of non-performing loans. The ultimate aim is a sustainable pathway for the property market – a balance between growth and affordability.

Though the market feels like it has been slowing down for quite a few quarters now, the numbers tell another story. Property prices have fallen 9.4 percent since it’s peak in Q3 of 2013, but between 2009 and 2013, prices rose 60 percent while income rose only 30 percent. Clearly the numbers are disproportionate and it will be some time yet before the market reaches a comfortable equilibrium.

Moving forward, the private resale market is showing signs of bottoming out, and investors who have been sitting in the sidelines may come back into the fold as long as interest rates remain low and home prices steady.

 

Signs of property market bottoming out?  

Though the vacancy rates of private residential properties are currently 1.4 percent higher in Q2 and at a 16-year record high, and property prices 9.4 percent lower than the 2013 peak, property analysts remain positive about the outlook as these could be signs that the property market is reaching the bottom of its cycle.

7478d455d05b4f2aa26fd1e5a8ce7bd2There were 30,310 vacant private homes in the second quarter, that is 5,391 units more than in Q1. As the number of completed properties rise, with almost 11,400 new units entering the market in the first half of 2016, the rates are seemingly modest. Property prices have also been stabilizing, and as long as interest rates remain at their current level, most households will be likely to be able to hold on to their properties over the down season.

More property buyers are now making home purchases for their own use instead of pure investment purposes and many are taking the opportunity to seal deals during this quieter time. In a year-on-year comparison, sales volume has risen 11 per cent and the luxury property market in particular is enjoying a spike in buying interest as prices have fallen sufficiently, luring buyers back into the high-end property market.

 

 

 

Property cooling measure not going away

Yet. For now, as long as global circumstances continue to destabilise, growth slows and home prices remain high, the local government is unlikely to loosen the noose on the property market and the property cooling measures look set to stay.

Thomson Impressions2Property analysts say only a drastic and sudden market plunge will move the authorities into action as they focus their energy into repositioning Singapore as research and development investment-worthy. Though a complete reversal of the sudden market boom between 2008 and 2013 seems unlikely, the property cooling measures rolled out by the government over the past few years have effected a slow and gradual decline in property prices.

More households are saving up for their first home or to invest in a second, and putting away less for research, education, entrepreneurship and development. And as high home prices also mean higher wage expectations and thus higher labour costs, the high property prices here may be detrimental to Singapore’s overall growth over the next few years. In the near future, it seems unlikely that the property cooling measures will be lifted, until such time when a balance between national growth, competitiveness and housing needs is struck. Or till a sudden fall in property prices. Would a prolonged period of suppressed property market be any less damaging to the local economy?

Singapore home prices remain muted

As long as the property cooling measures are here to stay and global economics remain shaky, home prices may hover at the current levels.

ArdmoreIIIAnd as the government continues to roll out more new build-to-order (BTO) flats while keeping the loan ratio capped at 30 per cent, demand for resale HDB flats may continue its lacklustre run. Although there was a 0.1 per cent rise in HDB prices in Q2, prices were mainly flat and private home prices dipped further by 0.4 per cent, that is following a 0.7 per cent fall in Q1. Some property players have viewed the private property market as possibly reaching the bottom of the cycle.

Since the last market peak in 2013, HDB and private home prices are now 9.8 per cent and 9.4 per cent lower respectively. There have been some signs of recovery in Q2 as private property prices in the core central region (CCR) rose 0.2 per cent. Developers have also been actively seeking out sales by offering creative payment schemes and keeping sales volume to a respectable level.

Considering the average length of a property lull being 8.4 quarters, this cycle may already have reached the end of its run. Will a prolonged cycle mean an even sharper and more drastic rebound when the measures are loosened? How will the market then respond to that and will there be any drawbacks?

Completed private home prices fall further

Completed resale private non-landed property prices have dipped further in May, following a slight increase the month before. The muted sales could have also been a reflex response to the recent Brexit vote though in the long term, property analysts are not expecting the fallout to be too drastic.

FulcrumPrice decline of apartments in the central region were the lowest, with prices falling only 0.5 per cent last month, almost evening out with the 0.4 per cent rise in April. Properties here have the location advantage and will be unlikely to see a sudden price depression anytime soon. Astute buyers are however still out for the hunt and are likely to look towards properties in this areas for good deals. In the current market, buyers who lack holding power may find themselves having to let go of their properties within a time period, and may be more open to price negotiations.

As more new properties were launched in the last couple of months, activity from this segment may have also stimulated the resale private property sector and the spillover effect of positive market sentiments could have caused a slight blip in April’s price rise. Small apartments below 506 sq ft saw the steepest fall of 1.1 per cent as competition in the rental market heats up and prices continue to fall with high supply against lower demand.

 

Singapore prime properties considered reasonably priced 

Singapore properties are expensive. But compared to other major global cities such as London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, perhaps they are simply reasonably priced, particularly in the category of prime district properties. The government-implemented property cooling measures might have helped keep prices down.

Marina One ResidencesAccording to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Financial Stability Review from November 2015, Singapore’s home prices very well could have been 17 per cent higher than they are now if not for the property curbs implemented since 2010. The ratio of home prices to income for Singapore is now 5.6 per cent, lower than the 8 to 9 per cent for most major cities. Mortgage rates (at between 1.6 to 2 per cent) are approximately the same as average rental yields for prime properties, which are currently at 1.8 per cent.

Average luxury prime district home prices are hovering around $1,991 psf at the moment, about 20 per cent lower than the segment’s peak in 2011. Though sales volume has been low in the past year, as the year moves ahead, property analysts are expecting rental rates to increase after this year as the supply of prime properties dwindle. For savvy investors, the time to purchase may be soon, before property curbs are lifted and demand rises once more.

 

Private home prices on the rise?

Twin-Peaks3Prices of completed private condominium units rose 0.3% in April, though analysts are putting it up to a technical rebound. After a relatively good start to the year, private home prices have fallen 1.1% in March based on the Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI).

Some completed residential projects have seen promising signs of buying activity. The recent upward price adjustments could have been due to higher pickup rates of central region private homes such as units at OUE Twin Peaks and Ardmore Three.

Although the rise of home prices this year has been tentative, across the board prices have increased by more than 50% since 2009. Small apartment units lead the way with a 62.8% rise, followed by a 57.7% increase in non-central region units. Central region home prices are now 30.9% higher taking March 2009 as a point of comparison.

Ardmore THreeLast year saw a dip in luxury, prime district properties while this year, the increased supply of new completed private apartment units have pushed prices of units in the non-central regions down. Buyers remain cautious in their purchasing approach and are more price-sensitive though projects in prime locations and whose developers offer fresh new incentives will continue to bring in sales.

No signs of weakening China property market

Shanghai and Shenzhen – both super cities for properties. Home prices in these 2 top-tier cities have not waned despite China’s government tightening rules on the property market.

Savannah Hong KongIn April this year, home prices in Shanghai and Shenzhen continued to rise 2.3 and 3.1 per cent respectively. Though the numbers are slightly lower than March’s 3.7 and 3.6 per cent, in light of economic instability in other countries, this is a good sign. Even within China, where internal restructuring, higher global competition and weakening demand have began to put the brakes on their economy, the property sector continues to enjoy the momentum of growth.

Just over a year, home pieces in Shanghai  have risen a whooping 62.4 per cent and that in Shenzhen have grown 28 per cent. Across 70 cities in China, home prices are now 6.2 per cent higher, a further increase from the 4.9 per cent in March. Besides buying in the mainland, Chinese investors are also buying up properties in various other international cities such as Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong; and countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand.

Canada HouseEven while property prices in first- and second-tier countries continue to accelerate, third-tier cities are also beginning to post positive growth after a period of declining interest and sales. Policy makers are however concerned about the excessive lending and rising debt levels and may be prompted to tighten lending rules and implement further measures.