Tenants calling the shots

Tenants are now calling the shots in the private apartment rental market. From lower rental prices and shorter leases to property renovations, some are even demanding specific furniture, new utensils and linen.

SeaHorizonEC

Photo: Sea Horizon executive condominium in Pasir Ris

Property rental prices have been coming down, especially as property prices have fallen over the last few years, and supply have increased substantially. Landlords are now finding it harder to find tenants willing to sign the standard 2-year leases which were commonplace in the past. Now most tenants are asking for shorter leases of 6 months as they know they are able to secure another place at a cheaper price should they wish to do so after the lease period. Private property rents have fallen 4.6 per cent in 2015, with rents in the outside central region (OCR) feeling the heat more with a 5.6 per cent fall. Rental prices of city fringe properties fell 4.9 per cent.

Property experts are expecting a 9 to 10 per cent vacancy rate this year, with rental prices falling 8 per cent. There will be approximately 26,467 new private property and executive condominium units made available this year, pushing supply up to an record high. Coupled with the authorities clamping down on immigration and a weak global economy, the prospects may seem a little dim. With investors and landlords not able to secure rental yields, the market may see an influx of units being sold; mortgage auctions may also find themselves having quite a few more units at hand.

Lull in private home prices

Despite a projected lull in local private home prices this year, interest in Singapore’s property market remains steady as prime residential property prices are still 165 per cent and 92 per cent lower than those in Hong Kong and London respectively.

 Photo credit: Singapore Tourism Board

So despite property analysts predicting a 5 to 10 per cent fall in prime and mass market private property prices this year, the local property market’s core remains strong. 2010’s property cooling measures may have kept property prices 17 per cent lower than what it could have been. Private home prices have fallen 4 per cent last year, following a 3.7 per cent fall in 2014. In the luxury home market, prices have fallen 20 per cent since the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) was implemented in 2011.

China’s recent growth slump, plunging oil prices, the Federal Reserve interest rate hike and a general sense of a global recession looming, might consequently affect the property markets around the world. Businesses may reconsider their expansion plans, which could mean a fall in demand for office spaces and commercial properties. This in turn may affect the number of expatriates entering the country, which may also affect rental prices.

This year could prove tough for investors and property sellers, but not without glimpses of hope. 2016 may be the year to hang-in-there, but industry experts are expecting 2017 to take a turn for the better.

Home prices along Downtown Line go to town

As expected, the newly completed Downtown MRT stations have brought much cheer not only the commuters but also to owners of properties in their vicinities.

The SkywoodsPhoto credit: Skywoods.com.sg

Since the Downtown Line began operating some of its stations last December, prices of properties near these stations have already seen an increase in interest, units sold and also rental prices. Private apartment prices have risen from $1,523 psf to $1,592 in the last quarter, up 4.5 per cent from the previous quarter. Out of the 18 stations now operating include long-awaited ones along Bukit Timah and Upper Bukit Timah such as Tan Kah Kee, King Albert Park, Sixth Avenue, Beauty World, Cashew, Hillview and also Bugis, Little India and Rochor stations along Rochor Canal and Sungei Road.

The price increase can be observed at private apartment projects such as Eco Sanctuary, where 9 per cent more units were sold by December. The development is now 91 per cent sold. Kingsford Hillview Peak condominium also saw a 3 per cent increase in sales and The Skywoods almost doubled their in the number of units sold.

With the effect MRT stations have on property prices, it would not be surprising to find prices of homes along upcoming Downtown and latest Thomson-East Coast line appreciate in the near future.

US rates hike’s effect on Singapore’s property industry?

The United States Federal Reserve recently announced a 0.25 per cent hike in interest rates, its first increase since 2006. Though it may affect the Singapore interbank offered rate (Sibor), property analysts are not too worried about a sudden or sharp effect on the local property market.

Aeropolis Indonesia propertyPhoto: Aeropolis in Tangerang, Indonesia.

Though interest rates will indeed increase come 2016, the rise may not be as sharp as expected, especially since the SingDollar has been gradually weakening against the greenback. The economy in general may be more subdued as household earnings are deflected to pay of debts and loans, but the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has indicated it will take a more prudent stance in managing the local economy and inflation. As most Asian currencies are expected to weaken against the US dollar, it may be worth considering a redirection of focus to regional properties instead.

Property buyers with home loans and mortgages pegged to the Sibor may see a rise in their monthly mortgage payments, though the increase may be gradual. Analysts are expecting the Sibor to reach 2 per cent by end of next year and the more volatile Swap offer rate (SOR) may rise to 2.3 per cent. Currently the 6-month Sibor is at 1.18900 while the SOR was at 1.59358. While most buyers count on rental yields covering their property loans, the more worrisome trend for next year might be a competitive rental market as more homes reach completion and enter the market.

Tenants’ market as rents dip

Tenants looking for a private apartment with a good location may now have more options as more properties enter the rental pool.

Property analysts have noticed that while rental rates have fallen 5.6 per cent since 2014, the number of private properties leased have risen 17.7 per cent. Shorter 12-month leases instead of the usual 24-months are also now more in demand. Tenants are taking the opportunity to move around more, in search for better units. More are now looking inwards to the Central region, as they tend to consider these city centre units better value-for-money. Landlords are also now more willing to negotiate as they begin to recognise that competition will only continue to heat up in the months ahead. Now $4,000 may be able to get you a two- or three-bedder in an older establishment in the city centre when it would have cost you $5,000 before.

Oliv Balmoral

Photo: The Oliv @ Balmoral

In the suburbs, as more new properties reach completion, rental prices may continue to dip. Private property rentals are expected to fall 4 to 5 per cent this year.

In the HDB rental market, as the number of rental HDB flats rise due to more HDB flat owners moving into their ready-for-occupation new suburban homes, leaving their empty units available for subletting; there are now an increasing number of four- and five-room flats available for rent. Rental rates for HDB flats have fallen 3.2 per cent this year. As the year-end draws near, overall property prices seem to indicate a stabilising market but as rental demand and prices continue to fall, will it inherently affect next year’s prospects?

August shows fluctuations in property rental market

 

OneDusanIn July, private property rentals have fallen 0.3 per cent, and now August has reflected a further 0.4 per cent drop. The number of new units entering the market no doubt has made competition tougher. Most of the fall in prices were for properties in the city centre. Rental prices of city fringe units fared better, with a 0.8 per cent rise. Overall, the number of units rented out decreased slightly compared to the month before, but rose 13.8 per cent in a year-on-year comparison.

What does the future hold for the residential rental market? 2016 seems to point towards a further influx of new properties. It used to be normal to rely on rental yields from one property to fund mortgages on another, but now the investment path may not be as easy. Spotting the right investment opportunity would take practice and a lot of market research, though there are advice out there to be had. Attending regular property seminars and talks will help you gain useful insights to what’s available out there and the potential of differing property options.

HDBrentalThe market is currently seeing a circular migration of tenants and they move from property to property in search of better rental rates. But this ensures a fairly stable rental volume level, though rental leases favoured now are the shorter 12-month ones as opposed to previous 24-month norms.

While the private property rental market faces strong competition, the HDB rental market will maintain a strong showing as rental rates are more palatable and has a strong tenant base.

Resale private property prices inch up

Positive news for the resale non-landed private property front as prices inched up slightly by 0.2 per cent last month. Though not a massive leap, any shifts in the right direction is a good sign indeed.

Archipelago private condominium project in Bedok.

Properties in the fringe of the city in particular had a good showing with a 7.1 per cent increase from a year ago. This is quite impressive considering prices have fallen 6.2 per cent in the last year for units in the central region and 2.9 per cent in the suburbs. The year-end festivities usually mean a slight slow-down in the property market, but between then and after the Hungry Ghost Festival, a number of new property launches are expected to help buoy the resale property market. Some new launches include Principal Garden in Prince Charles Crescent and Thomson Impressions in Sin Ming.

A recent change in immigration policies announced by the Ministry of Manpower in July may affect the demand for investment properties and rental units. The minimum monthly salary ceiling for Employment Pass (EP) holders who are bringing their families with them will be raised to $5,000 from $4,000. This may deter existing EP holders from following through with their plans or potential EP holders looking to relocate. However, this may only mean a dip in demand for larger units. Could smaller studio or one- and two-bedder units continue to benefit from the change?

 

 

Competition heats up in suburban rental market

As the number of new condominiums reaching completion in the suburbs increase, more owners and landlords are feeling the heat of the competition, especially if many units within the same establishment are in the market for tenants.

Tenants are becoming more savvy and picky with their rental choices, and are more aware of the choices and rental prices available. Though rents are not dipping anytime yet, competition may eventually push it downwards. Older resale condominium developments may also feel the squeeze more as proximity no longer plays a part in differentiating rental prices. When placed near each other, newer private apartment units will command higher prices in comparison, as their facilities are newer and may need lesser maintenance.

WaterfallGardensThe size of the property will then come into play. Smaller suburban developments without amenities at the scale at which larger establishments offer may lose out slightly. At D’Leedon for example, rental prices were at a monthly median of $4, 288 whereas at the nearby older Waterfall Gardens, median prices were at $8,600 per month. That could however be due to the larger apartment sizes of units at Waterfall Gardens, which does not have smaller studio or one-bedders.

With diminishing expatriate housing budgets, landlords may be looking at tenants with the spending power of $3,000 to $6,000 per month. But as centrally-located apartments have rental price tags closer to $10,000 per month, suburban units may still garner some attention. It may merely be a matter of how thinly spread out the tenant pool will be.