Toa Payoh’s facelift

As one of the oldest mature HDB estates in Singapore and HDB’s second satellite town, Toa Payoh has a past which evolved with the growth of the nation. As more new towns such as Punngol, Sengkang and even newer ones in the future such as Bidadari come up, older estates are welcoming timely upgrades.

And it is now Toa Payoh‘s turn as the popular estate saw an overwhelming response to the BTO HDB flats launch a couple of weeks ago. With it’s central location, full-fledge sets of amenities, MRT stations, bus interchange and established schools in its midst, it’s an estate which will stand its own for a long time to come.

TreVista in Toa Payoh Made up of mostly HDB flats, there has hardly been any new private homes launched in the district for almost three years now. However, a plot of land near  the MRT station has been put aside for development, and should a private property be launched in the spot, it will be sure to bring in the buyers and fetch high prices.

In the current market, resale flats sales have dipped from 25 to 15 per quarter, but rental prices and value appreciation of private properties in Toa Payoh has remained stable. Average prices stand between $1, 121 psf to $1, 460 psf with monthly rents currently between $3,60 to $4,10 psf. The private apartments in the area now are Trellis Towers, Oleander Towers and Trevista.

The years ahead hold great promise for the estate and its continued growth seems imminent.

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?

Deflating rental prospects hurt home sales

Buying a property and collecting rent used to be one of the most popular ways to start your investment journey. Usually the case for cosmopolitan cities, the situation may have changed in this developing country. Rental rates have continued to deflate as immigration policies were adjusted.

According to URA data, vacancy rates have reached the highest point since 2006. City centre and luxury homes have been hardest hit as expatriates are now choosing to live further away from the city with more and cheaper housing options. And as sentiments go, the less lived in a property, the less others will want to live in it. And it’s a cycle which if not arrested soon, may be detrimental to the market.

But most of the unsold units reside in the prime districts 9, 10, 11. Further away in Sentosa, the Cape Royale is 100 per cent unsold with its 302 units still on the market. It was completed last year. Developers IOI and Ho Bee are going with the decision to rent the units out instead of trying to sell them.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

And as more developments were finished in 2014, the number of unsold homes in completed projects continues its climb. Some of these include The Interlace at Depot road, Starlight Suites in River Valley, TwentyOne Anguilla Park and Concourse Skyline on Beach road.

Developers have been steadily offering discounts or cutting prices in order to bring the buyers and tenants back into the market. As shown by recent sales at The Vermont, where slashing the prices have sold 30 of its 37 unsold units. From $2,400 psf, it dropped to just a little over $2, 000 psf.

Up and coming district – Jalan Besar

As properties in the city centre become increasingly out of reach for the average investor hoping to gain a footing in the property industry, more are turning to the city fringe areas such as Marine Parade, Kampong Glam and Novena. Now, the Jalan Besar and King George’s Avenue districts could also be attracting buyers.

CitronThough the private homes market in the area has softened in the past year due to mortgage limits, its proximity and increasing popularity with the young and hip crowd and potential connectivity with future MRT lines in its midst, has renewed interest from investors. An area in King George’s Avenue has also been gazetted for future HDB blocks. One completed condominium apartment block in its vicinity is the City Square Residences, which during its launch drew huge crowds looking to purchase smaller units for rental purposes. Other private residential properties include Parc Somme and Kerrisdale.

Buyers waiting for new options can keep an eye out for private residential properties such as The Citron Residences on Marne road. Property experts are positive about the potential rental yields of smaller apartment units in the area as the district continues to bring in a variety of new businesses. Currently rents for smaller apartments in the area go for as much as 4 per cent more.

Smaller apartments gaining popularity once again

Just a couple of years ago, there were debates about whether homes were becoming too small for comfort as the 500 sq ft studio apartments or shoebox units took the market by storm. Some shunned small units, preferring instead to go for larger ones with a lower psf price.

But now as loan limits are truly showing their might, buyers are favoring smaller apartments once again due to their lower quantum prices and the ease of rental. Though not all are flocking to shoebox units, after all, young families do need a reasonable amount of space, the average home size has dropped to 947 sq ft from June last year. And for HDB upgraders, their chances to move onto the private property market might have become slimmer, especially if size is a major consideration. The average 4-room HDB flat is around 969 sq ft.

CIty GateOne- and two-bedders have increasingly become more popular with buyers as they are usually within their budget and investors find them easier to rent out. URA figures in fact also showed that new residential properties have also featured smaller units, with the average size being 753 sq ft. But this hardly comes as a surprise as home size has been shrinking since 2009.

The other popular property  type is the dual-key apartment which provides the atmosphere of having two separate living spaces within the same home. Some of these units share the same entrance but separate facilities such as kitchens and toilets, while others share the same facilities but have separate entrances, providing privacy for bigger families and offering more rental options.

As we progress into the second half of the year and the market evolves in reaction to buyers demand and supply of land, will developers be quick to re-strategize and cater to the majority?

$1 million sweet spot for home prices

The average affordability ceiling for properties have dropped by almost $200,000 ever since the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) placed curbs on loans. The average price home buyers can now afford, or are willing to fork out, is $1 million. Properties between the total quantum range of $800,000 to $1. 2 million generally sit better with buyers. The range used to be wider, with homes reaching $1.4 million selling just as well.

LakevilleDevelopers have been quick to realize the shift and have been offering considerable discounts or competitive pricing for new launches. Smaller units such as studio apartments and one- or two-bedders have also performed better than their larger counterparts. About 8,254 homes priced between $700,000 and $1.2 million were sold during the last year. Properties which were offering more affordable units, such as the Coco Palms in Pasir Ris which launched units at $980 psf, were able to garner more sales.

And for buyers hoping to secure a home below $500,000 there are now more available, and more sold. In the last year, 291 units below $500,000 were sold from June 2013 to June 2014. Comparing to the year before, only 61 units were sold within the same time frame. Buyers consider smaller units easier for both occupier and rental purposes, plus most HDB upgraders rate affordability of homes as between $900,000 to $1 million.

Bijou – Far East Organization’s first Dual-key SOHO

Whether you’re looking for a place to call home or seeking out the best property investment deal, location and design are often top of the consideration list. Thus, when something comes along that has both, savvy buyers will naturally gravitate towards it. The latest property by Far East Organizrtion – the freehold Bijou, is one such property.

Though dual-key apartments have been in the limelight for sometime now, most units have a separate smaller area with its own entrance but without its own facilities such as a kitchen and toilet. Bijou’s dual-key apartments however, are designed much like the much-desired maisonette, with one entrance but entirely distinct living spaces upstairs and downstairs, each with their separate kitchen and toilet. It’s extremely suited for rental since it maintains your and your tenant’s privacy. It’s almost as good as buying one condominium unit but owning two, without having to pay additional stamp duty and taxes.

Bijou1Combined with their french-inspired garden landscapes and rooftop garden views of the city, this exclusive 5-storey residential development only has 24 of these dual-key units in its 120-unit, which makes it all the rarer. Entering the market as the first dual-key SOHO, the freehold Bijou is located in one of the fastest-rising areas under URA’s latest Master Plan 2014. With the development of the Greater Southern Waterfront and the regional commercial hubs in the Pasir Panjang district, the influx of a burgeoning workforce seems more than likely. Traveling to the Marina Bay Financial Centre will also be much quicker, and as a mixed-use development, Bijou will also have retail and dining options right at its doorstep.

As the Singapore landscape changes in big ways, so will the property market and areas which have once been put on the back burner will not come into the forefront.

HDB rental market stable

The rental demand for HDB flats has remained stable for most of the year. Though there was a slight rise in February and March, the take-up rate has sbeen sliding since August last year. But since April, demand has remained stable for the next three months.

Yishun HDB FlatRent prices for whole HDB flats now hover around $2, 300 per month. And since most tenants are fresh graduates or foreign students, they are likely to want to sublet to make rent. How then has the subletting quota affected tenants who wish to rent out part of their rented HDB flats? In January, rules were set to restrict the “formation of foreigner enclaves in HDB estates”. But figures have shown that hardly any HDB block has gone over the quota. With the exception of those nearer MRT stations and town centres. Tenants can search online for the quota of the specific HDB block they are interested in renting a unit in.

With more new flats being rolled up quarterly, what worries the industry more is the oversupply of flats for rent. Though prices of private properties are flat-lining, home loans are proving equally, if not more, difficult to secure. This means HDB upgraders may now re-think their plans to sell, instead, keeping their flats and renting out rooms to pick up profits which may go towards funding their targeted private property purchase.

As the year edges past the halfway mark, the balance between seller and buyer remains delicate. Which way will the scales tip?