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.

 

Bungalow of Tan Tock Seng’s descendant sold for $145 million

Is paying $145 million for a landed house over the top? Well, there is a first for everything.

The recent sale of a 25,741 sq ft freehold bungalow at 9 Cuscaden road is the first foray into Singapore’s property market for Hong Kong tycoon, Stanley Ho who has made billions through the gambling industry. The bungalow was put up for sale by Tan Tock Seng’s descendants and the site is zoned for hotel redevelopment with a plot ratio of 4.2. The bungalow was originally the family home of Tan Tock Seng’s great-grandson, Tan Hoon Siang and was put up for sale for between $160 to $170 million just last month. Named Villa Marie, it was presumably named after Mr. Tan’s second wife, Marie Windsor.

BungalowsStanley Ho’s Shun Tak Holdings paid $145 million for the prime site, the highest ever paid for a landed property and at $2,145 psf, it is all eyes on what is eventually built. Because of how it was zoned, the transaction was made sans the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD), which could be a real positive, considering how much the deal cost. Though zoned for hotel redevelopment, there is also the possibility of building residential units up to 20 storeys high. Could Orchard road be seeing a new residential block or hotel in its midst? Will other landed properties possibly be seeing more activity soon?

 

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.

Top reductions on Top-end London properties

As the number of new high-end luxury properties in London‘s prime and popular fringe districts such as Central London, Nine Elms and Earls Court climb, developers are feeling the pressure of a slump in demand and international investments.

London ApartmentDevelopers are finding that they now have to pursue overseas buyers more actively than before. They are also looking outside for cheaper development loans as there has been a 13 per cent fall in international buyers last year, and sales have fallen 19 per cent. Funding for some developments may be running into trouble and developers are looking at offering discounts for bulk purchases in order to secure monies for the construction process.

London Apartment2Higher property taxes have dulled some of the shine of high-end London apartments and land values have fell 1.1 per cent by the last quarter of 2015, compared to a 6.4 per cent gain in the earlier part of the year. What will this year hold for the industry? Property analysts are hoping developers find the funds they need to finance more extensive fringe projects. There are however doubts about whether bulk buyers willing to take up more than 100 units will be easy to find as most of these newer projects are not designed for the rental market.

Resale HDB flat prices up again

HDB resale flat prices have risen for 2 consecutive months this year, with a 0.2% rise in February. More than a distinctive market rebound, property analysts are embracing the slight adjustments as a sign of market stabilisation.

JurongEast HDB FlatIn fact, the market has been stable for the past year and a half, with less than 1 per cent fluctuation. It is still however, the buyers’ market. The number of resale HDB flat transactions have fallen, which could mean that demand is slowly waning, and the price point may be what the buyers are focused on. With the transparency of transaction data and statistics, more options made available such as singles now being able to apply for 2-room flats directly from HDB, and the injection of 9,000 new BTO flats into mature estates this year, buyers are more savvy and will only take the bait if the deal is truly good.

1,200 resale flats exchanged hands last month, down from 1,286 in January but still up from 1,148 last year though the lull could have been due to the year-end festivities. Industry experts are expecting resale HDB flat prices to remain flat this year, with an increase of transactions up to July when a fall in activity is expected during the Hungry Ghost Festival month.

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.

When investing in properties overseas …

There are a number of things to look out for when investing in properties. And even more so in properties overseas. It may be familiar ground if you know your stuff, but otherwise it could be a rather risky affair.

Balmain ColgatePhoto: Apartment in Balmain, NSW, Australia.

Every country’s investment environment varies, sometimes quite drastically, and while brochures and presentations may look sleek and professional, the ins-and-outs of the local economic infrastructure may speak the same language. Thus finding out more about the legal and tax systems of the country in which the property is located would be one of the first and most important steps. The Council of Estate Agencies (CEA) has good advice for investors in their consumer guide for foreign property investments. Some countries have restrictions on the type of property foreigners can purchase, and also on whom they can eventually sell it to and the about of taxes or stamp duties they have to pay. In Australia for example, foreigners purchasing property have to seek approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board; whereas in Cambodia, where the market is just opening up, the restrictions are not as limiting.

Similar to how you would plan for any major investment, doing the groundwork and sums will help you financially. It is wise to know what your options are should there be a need to sell, and how long it would take you to do that would depend on the political and economic situation. Make the effort to find out the developer’s track record, and even take a trip down to look at the properties. After-sales property management could sometimes make or break your bank account and familiarising yourself with the legal systems of the country could ensure you are well-covered in unexpected circumstances. Having a solid point-of-contact in the country, such as a property agency or management agent could also reduce the risk and make the investment experience a smooth-sailing one.

Fewer launches More sales

Despite property developers rolling out fewer new property launches last year, sales of new private homes rose 2.9 per cent from 2014, to ring the tills at 7,529 transactions in 2015. The number of new homes launched last year was in fact 8.2 per cent lesser than that of 2014. Buyers may have realised that property prices are stabilising and will not decline much more, and thus are returning to the market to pick off already-better deals.

The Trilinq
Photo: The Trilinq

759 new private property units were sold in November alone last year, buoyed by the launch of The Poiz Residences. In December, there were 384 transactions recorded, 154 more in a year-on-year comparison with December 2014. Though 2013’s peak saw 14,948 new home sales, almost double that of last year’s, the signs are more positive than expected. Property investors may also be picking up real estate as the stock market remains volatile. Perhaps declining property prices have also managed to strike a chord with investors. At The Trilinq for example, which first launched at prices of $1,545 psf in 2013, have since trimmed their prices to $1,329 psf.

Market activity this year will await to be seen as the interest rates hikes and loan restrictions combined, and the reduction of land sites sold this year, may deter buyers and lower demand. Industry analysts are however remaining positive, projecting 8,500 new private home sales this year. They are expecting lower overall quantum prices to be the draw of this years’ property market.