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?

More private non-landed homes left unsold

The industry continues to experience the effect of the tightening noose that is the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework. The latest property cooling measure, though launched a year ago, continues to takes its toll on the property market as developers are finding it harder to move units.

SantoriniThe three biggest residential developments with unsold units are The Santorini in Tampines, Kingsford at Hillview Peak and The Skywoods at Dairy Farm. At The Santorini, 81 per cent or 484 out of the 597 units remained unsold. Kingsford at Hillview Peak remains 69 per cent unsold, with only 160 out of its 512 units sold. With 101 units sold at The Skywoods, 319 remained unsold of its 420 units. Most of these properties however are larger developments and might be close to other newer homes or property launches.

It is becoming harder to entice buyers as they may now expect discounts and add-ons to sweeten the deal, especially as new properties continue to enter the market and take the attention away from older launches. But projects with a better location will still win hands down, as proximity to MRT stations and schools and other amenities will bring the asking price up a notch.

Landed housing gets a boost

Through semi-detached homes. Apparently prices of these landed properties have risen 4.2 per cent in the last 3 months, contrary to what most people would expect of a dimming property market. Usually the first property sectors to show significant decline are landed and luxury homes, followed by mass market suburban non-landed properties and resale HDB flats. But this rare glimmer of hope in the landed property sector has brought a little cheer to the otherwise gloomy industry.

semi-detached houseThe psf prices of semi-detached houses are now comparable to that of bungalows. But the rise could be due to the popularity of these property types with the rising group of buyers who are able to upgrade to landed properties but not yet able to afford the high quantum prices of a big landed home with a high overall land area. Add the group of buyers who may have originally been looking at bungalows but now find themselves strapped down by the property cooling measures, and there is a ready pool of potential customers for the sector.

Bungalows, being the rare commodity they are, will naturally continue to command high asking prices, which is unlikely to come down anytime soon as most owners have a strong holding power and are willing to wait out any industry recessions. However, property experts are quick to point out that the rise could be temporary and does not mean that landed property prices are on the rise per se. As the property cooling measures continue to restrict, the market will need to show significant adjustments before any change in policy will happen, which may then signify the start of a new era for the industry.

Authorities not ready to ease property curbs

The property industry has been hoping for a respite from the several rounds of property cooling measures rolled out over this year and the last. But the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director, Ravi Menon, recently said that even though home prices has ease somewhat and has leveled the playing field slightly, there are still risk factors which prevents them to being able to release their hold on the reins.

Home prices have risen an astounding 60 per cent from 2009 and over the past year, it has only fallen 3.3 per cent. Though it is quite impossible for home prices to fall to the level before the 2009 boom, they are hoping nevertheless to keep the markets stable before easing the restrictions.

Singapore real estateThe measure which affected the market the most could be the mortgage loan curb. The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework has put many buyers hoping for a home loan out of reach of their desired property. This has indirectly caused developers to shake a little on their footing and prices of new properties dropped slightly over the last 3 quarters. But property prices are still relatively high and the fear is that any relaxation of the current rulings might cause an upward spiral process which might be more detrimental in the long run.

Battling inflation has been one of the key issues for the country’s rulers and with housing becoming an increasingly crucial factor of nation development, the property market here would be largely linked to policy-making.

City Fringe wins once more

From Marine Parade to Novena to Kampong Glam, areas surrounding the busy city centre and central business districts are some of the best spots for property investments and this has hardly changed over the years.

The mixed-use development DUO at Ophir road was one of the latest offerings late last year. This year, another similar residential-cum-commercial project join their ranks – the City Gate on Beach road. But before these giant developments came into play, the Concourse Skyline condominium apartments were already in place. This 360-unit property was priced at $1, 590 psf at its 2008 launch. Despite 101 of its units remaining unsold, existing units have gone for as much as $2, 075 psf in the last quarter of 2013.

CIty GateWith the large number of incoming units from City Gate, which is targeting a price range of $1,900 to $2, 000 psf, these remaining units at the Concourse Skyline may be up for some fierce competition. Developers, Hong Fok Land, may experience some pressure to lower prices in order to meet the “All sold” status.

City Gate will sit on the site of the former Keypoint and will feature 188 commercial units and 311 apartment units ranging from one- and two-bedders to the increasingly popular dual-key units. Penthouses will vary in size, from 484 sq ft one-bedders to 1, 819 sq ft four-bedders. The wide variety of units will draw buyers with different intentions in mind, but with such a prime location, the only thing that might stop consumers in their tracks is the strict loan limits.

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.

Orchard road’s West end revamp?

A little off the main stretch, but nearer the exclusive Botanic gardens and Tanglin stretch of sprawling private homes and foreign embassies, the West end of Orchard road looks set for a revamp as MRT stations and other area redevelopment plans are in the works for this spot.

The TomlinsonA MRT stop which is part of the latest Thomson Line is planned just next to the Camden Medical Centre and targeted to be ready by 2021. Now may be the time developers will consider expanding or redeveloping land and older properties around the area. There have been movements in the recent years, with the latest property being St. Regis Residences. Sales at this luxury property has not always been positive however. Prices of $4, 653 psf in 2007 have since almost halved to $2, 399 psf.

Older properties in the same area, such as Cuscaden Residences and The Tomlinson, however fetch a lower sales price, and may be more palatable to those seeking an investment. But due to the relatively large size of most apartment units in the area, it also narrows the target audience. Those who are able or willing to purchase properties here will be limited as it may be more difficult to rent out. At The Tomlinson, the average resale price is $1, 896 psf.

Will the new MRT line bring refresh the market even as luxury homes sales are on a decline? Will the possibility of future collective sales of older condominiums be an incentive to purchase now?