Rents dip for Hong Kong’s luxury properties

The shaky global economic situation may have a wider effect than just the countries directly hit. The effects of cutbacks and job losses in the oil, gas and banking sectors have resounded worldwide. The flow of expatriates between countries have decreased and those who are still living overseas have found their housing allowances slashed considerably.

HKCEntralThis has in turn reduced the demand for property rental, mostly in the luxury sector. Besides  Singapore, Hong Kong is also feeling the effect of change. In Hong Kong, monthly rental budgets of expatriates have gone down to approximately HK$100,000 and below. Gone are the days when expats could easily afford a HK$300,000 per month rental. In fact, most are making do with HK$30,000 per month housing budget for individuals and HK$70,000 for families, which barely allows for a 550 sq ft apartment in the Central district.

Housing prices which have shot through the roof in September has since fallen 14 per cent and high-end properties at Victoria Peak have suffered the largest blow. Rental prices have fallen in some cases as much as 30 per cent. But considering the rise in property rents have risen steadily year by year for the past decade, it may not be as drastic as it seems.

HongKongPeakHowever, does this mean that smaller and middle-range private apartments are benefitting from the trickle-down effect? Are expats now looking at a whole new range of property types which could mean fatter pockets for landlords and developers willing to fit into their budget? In fact, some developers have already begin offering discounts in the form of offering a month’s rent for free.

Rational decline in private home rental prices

Instead of a wild and dangerous free fall, the price decline in the property rental market has been encouraging in its lack of acceleration.

Property analysts say the “sawtooth” pattern in the fall of rental prices is understandable and manageable. There was a spike in rental volume in March due to the influx of foreign talents after the Chinese new year festivities, followed by a level performance in April which indicated a higher rental volumes for both the private property and HDB rental markets though leases signed now tend to be shorter than 6 months.

TheSoundCondoRents in the Outside Central Region (OCR) fell 0.1 per cent in April while that in the core central region (CCR) remained unchanged and in the rest of the central region (RCR) rental prices rose 01. per cent. In a year-on-year comparison however, rental prices have been falling, with a 3.9 per cent dip for HDB flats in mature estates and 5.4 per cent for private condominiums.

The rental volume was however 10.5 per cent higher than in 2015 despite a 10.3 per cent fall from March. Many new completed units were included in the 3,953 units were leased last month. The continued influx of completed new homes entering the market this year may dilute the tenant pool even further and resale units may find it even tougher to secure tenants as the year moves on.

HDB flat and private condo rental prices evening out

The difference between renting a HDB flat and a private condominium unit used to be $1,000. Today, the difference stands at only $500. The gap between HDB flat and private property rental prices have narrowed considerably, due not to the rise in HDB flat rents but in the drop in private apartment rents.

Qbay ResidencesIn the past, renting a suburban condo would cost you $3,100 to $3,300 a month. Now, it is possible to rent a suburban unit at $2,700. HDB executive flat and 5-room flat rental prices have remained around the $2,200 to $2,400 range for the past 5 years now.

HDB flatMuch of the rental drop comes from the sudden increase in supply of new private condominium units, with more landlords now jostling for the same or shrinking tenant pool. Many HDB upgraders will also join the HDB rental pool as they seek to rent out their HDB flats.

Property analysts are putting it up to the shrinking apartment sizes. The psf rents have remained the same, but tenants are now getting less floor area than they used to for the same amount of money. They are however picky about location and may be willing to accept a smaller-sized accommodation in a central located as opposed to a larger one further away from their workplace or town.

As the gap narrows, will the HDB flat rental market take an indirect hit as tenants opt for private properties over public housing?

Private home prices dip for 10 consecutive quarters

The delicate balance between population growth, economy growth and housing provision is not an easy one to strike. And Singapore as a young nation, will have to learn quickly as land is limited but the number of completed units to enter the market in the next couple of years is set to reach 23,000.

Cairnhill Nine CapitaLand

Photo credit: Cairnhill Nine by CapitaLand

Private property prices have been dipping for 10 consecutive quarters now, and the market will be under even greater pressure in the months ahead as supply continues to increase while demand remains stagnant. Rental prices are expected to fall even faster than sale prices and the global economic situation does not seem to be helping. Prices have fallen 9.1 per cent since Q3 of 2013 and non-landed suburban properties in the OCR (outside of central region) fell the hardest.

Part of the reason for the falling figures could be the cutback on land sales by the government and the consequent lack of new launches. Only 953 units were launched in Q1, but property players are expecting the momentum to pick up as the year moves on.

It the first quarter’s numbers were anything to go by, with sales rising 7.2 per cent to 2,847 units, volume may have increased across both the new and resale private home markets.

 

Rental market bodes well for HDB flats

The rental market has been on the downhill slip as a fresh crop of completed new private homes hits the market this year. Competition for an increasing limiting tenant pool will prove to be tough for private property landlords, but HDB flat rental prices are holding out well despite the softening rental market.

Paterson SuitesCore central region private apartments seem to be suffering the most with the global finance, oil and gas sectors in turmoil. Expatriates working here and their families have been moving out of the country, scaling the tenant pool for luxury and high-end prime properties down even further. For example, a 3-bedder in a 1,600 sq ft unit in Paterson Suites which would have tenanted at $7,000 in January is now offering $5,800 in rent.

Serangoon HDB flatPrivate property rental prices fell 1 per cent in March, while HDB flat rents fell just 0.1 per cent. Changes in immigration policies have reduced the foreign workforce in Singapore and those remaining may have to work around a smaller housing allowance, hence many private properties may be out of their rental budget. HDB flats are a fair and affordable option. For locals or HDB upgraders who have to rent a home while waiting for their new BTO flat or condominium to be built, private units often prove to be too expensive as well. Will the positive rental yields for the HDB flat market boost the sales figures for this sector?

 

 

Investors’ loss may be end-users’ gain

With headwinds brewing in the property market, many private property owners and investors have already been or may be seriously considering letting go of their properties, in particular high-value luxury ones at below market prices. Investors with strong financial backing and holding power may be more willing to sell below market value, as long as the offer is reasonable, as they may want to release the money for investment elsewhere and make higher returns with a quicker turnaround.

TurquoisePhoto: Turquoise condominium

Smaller investors however may find themselves having to put their property in auction, in particular those who have had to suffer a loss of income. The days of old may have seen them relying on their passive income from rental of properties to supplement their income, but as the rental market is rapidly weakening, this iron rice bowl may not be so solid after all. For property owners who are in a rush to sell, they may even find themselves doing so at a loss as they would have had to put in monies for legal fees, stamp duties and mortgage loan interests in the years following their purchase.

Last year alone saw 400 secondary market transactions making a loss, four times more than the 100 in 2014; and 31 of these non-landed properties made more than $1million loss, that is more than thrice the number in 2014. Most of these were in the luxury property segment, with units at the Seascape making the largest loss of $5.2 million in the resale market. Some of the other projects with units exchanging hands at below-market prices include St. Regis Residences, Turquoise and The Orchard Residences.

More bulk property and auction sales

The year ahead may be a bumpy one for property developers who have a large inventory of unsold stock and for investors who may have overstretched themselves.

A good many unsold properties may be making their rounds within the local market as sellers, buyers, investors and developers bid against one another to see who gets the best deal. There will be those who need or want to sell, and those who are able to buy when the price is right despite a market slowdown.

Hua Guan Gardens House

Photo: House in Hua Guan Gardens for sale

As more buyers are defaulting on their mortgage as interest rates rise and the market lulls, more homes are going under the hammer in mortgage sales. Last year saw the number of units put up for auction almost double from 47 to 87. Comparing this to 2012, when only a mere 9 units were put up for auction, the numbers have leapt considerably over the past 5 years. Given the quietening rental market and a global economic tossup, some owners are finding it difficult to service their loans. What does this signify? Will private home prices fall this year or will the number of new units coming into the market simply place more options out there for buyers?

The mortgage-sales properties were mostly larger apartments or private landed homes. Though this may mean the market for these properties have shrunk, it is good news for buyers who have been waiting and are ready to buy purchase these rare properties. One such property is a cluster bungalow in Hua Guan Avenue, just off Dunearn road, attractive for its rarity, 4,219 s q ft size, and location. It is situated near King Albert Park MRT station. Other potential money-makers include 2 maisonettes and one former-HUDC unit all sized around 1,600 sq ft and a steal at possibly below $1 million.

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.