Australia’s property and housing market feels the chill

Tighter loan restrictions and a supply glut – these issues may not be affecting only Singapore’s property market. It seems in Australia, the same has threatened to shake the markets.

SYdney PropertyPhoto: Sydney

Property prices which were soaring, especially in major Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, have now come down, as the approval for multi-unit properties have fallen 12.7 per cent last November. Developers of high-rise, multi-unit properties have found it harder to secure approvals as a supply glut looms in the near horizon.

The banks have also tightened their lending, and new regulations have made it more difficult for foreign investors to pick off large number of properties. This in turn has affect the construction industry in Australia, and have come at an most unfortunate time as the government has hoped it will plug the hole left behind by the lagging mining industry.

That said, there are still many considerable new properties which are highly valuable. Most importantly, they need to fit well with the investor’s or buyer’s needs and portfolio. Factors such as financial feasibility and longevity, short- and long-term leasing potential and margin of development of the district will continue to guide investors in making their purchasing decisions.

More buying into Southeast-Asian properties

Beside the usual countries in Asia such as Hong Kong and Japan, whose property industry has been flourishing for many years now, the market in Southeast-Asia (SEA)  is also increasingly on the up.

Vietnam has recently opened up their market to foreign buyers, and the effects are obvious as buying sentiment has largely increased over the last year. Foreigners were previously only able to purchase one property, and had to first have a work permit in order to do so. Now, they are allowed to buy, hold, occupy or lease out more than one property. Property developers are now allowed to also sell their properties outside of Vietnam, which increases the pool of potential buyers tremendously. Property analysts have since seen a rise in the number of foreign buyers, in particular from Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, most of whom work in Vietnam.


Photo credit: Keppel Land.

As with most major cities, the property market in Ho Chi Minh has benefitted from these legislative changes; properties in districts near International schools or Multi-National Companies (MNCs) are particularly popular. Developers have also been launching more units in Ho Chi Minh, with 10,114 new units in 26 projects launched in the last quarter alone.

For example, Keppel Land will be launching the second phase of its project in Ho Chi Minh City – Estella Heights, soon. Prices will be starting at $288 psf, which makes an $150,000 unit more than affordable for buyers or investors. As Vietnam continues to integrate globally, the potential for growth is immense, and investors taking the opportunity to enter the market early may be able to see yields soon.

Should the ABSD be removed?

ABSD – Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty. Though mentioned less this year as other property cooling measures take over in significance, this nevertheless is a rather big hump investors have to get over should they wish to purchase properties for investment purposes.

Implemented in 2011 by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), it applies to foreign investors, Singapore PRs (permanent residents) purchasing their second and subsequent properties and Singaporeans purchasing their third and subsequent properties. This and other property cooling measures have successfully curbed the blossoming of a potential housing bubble which threatened to grow in 2009 and 2010. Combined with the Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD), of up to 16 per cent, property speculation is significantly lower than before. The highly affluent are rarely affected but it has helped keep individuals relatively debt-free.

SantoriniAnother positive that came out of the previous couple of years of policy adjustments is more transparent industry practices. Developers are now required to submit weekly transaction data to the Controller of Housing, including incentives provided to buyers such as furniture vouchers, cash rebates, stamp fee or legal fees absorption and sales volume. That will help project a truer image of how the industry is fairing and what are the actual market prices and keep pricing more realistic.

The restrictive loan-to-value limit has perhaps affected the industry a tad more as it has brought prices down and maintained a level playing field. Whether the government has brought property prices to a level affordable for majority of Singaporeans is yet to be seen clearly, but with the recent election just over, all eyes could be on the new government to see what else they can or will do.

Rising property market – Vietnam

With a communist government, most would not have considered Vietnam potential ground for a thriving real estate market. Their property market suffered a severe blow about 4 years ago when property bubble burst, leaving banks in debt and buyers and developers defaulting on their loans.


Photo Credit: Phuoc Thanh Construction

But 4 years on, the government has injected stimulus into the real estate sector of up to US$1.4 million and has also restructured their banking sector to ensure history does not repeat itself. In fact, they have gone even further to relax rules on foreign investment money coming through their borders. Foreign firms, individual buyers as well as Vietnamese who have left the country during the war in 1975 – the Viet Kieu, are now able to purchase properties in Hanoi. And response has been overwhelming. One developer, Vingroup, reported a whooping 112 deposits on apartments within 2 hours of their launches specifically targeting foreigners and Viet Kieu.

Most foreign firms are keen to purchase properties to house their foreign staff. Intel and Samsung, which are situated in the Saigon Hi-Tech Park, are just a couple of the many international firms snapping up properties. Average prices of high-end apartments in the southern commercial hub go up to as much as US$1,800 per sq m. In the capital, prices are around $1,600, a number familiar to the property players before the last housing crisis. With a market value of US$21 billion, Vietnam’s real estate sector still has a way to go compared to Singapore’s US$241 billion, but that difference could be what most attracts investors.

Cluster landed homes – The next goldmine?

Landed homes have always been known to be one of the most expensive properties in land-scarce Singapore and understandably so. And most would think that properties with individual land titles will always be a step ahead of leasehold properties. But apparently strata landed properties, or more commonly known as cluster landed homes, have seen the fastest price rise over recent years.

The four types of landed properties in Singapore are:

  • Leasehold non-strata landed homes
  • Freehold non-strata landed homes
  • Leasehold strata landed homes
  • Freehold strata landed homes

Casa FidelioAnd the last one on the list above have seen speedy rise in value of 77.3 per cent from 2004 to 2008. And the third on the list have been even more popular since 2009, with the fastest rise in capital value of 20.1 per cent a year. This could be due to the fact that most of these cluster homes have been built in the last decade or so, and have better floor planning and a larger floor area due to the fact that they are often built up to at least two storeys. Some older freehold landed properties may come with a land deed, but often extensive renovation have to be done, which raises the cost for the buyer.

Hillcrest-VillaPhoto credit: MCL Land

Examples of the price rise in freehold cluster housing properties can be seen at the Casa Fidelio in Siglap. In 2004, a terraced house cost only $760,000 and by 2008, it was sold for $1.18 million. In 2007, the launch of the Hillcrest Villa in Bukit Timah also pushed prices of cluster landed homes up by almost $1.5 million. Though landed properties are one of the highest profit-earning tickets out there, the cost of such properties in today’s market will require a healthy bank balance and deep pockets. What options are there out there for buyers who wish to invest in such properties? 


2015 – Outlook for Asia’s property market?

2015 is nearly here, and there has been talk that come next year, the property scene in Asia might experience some changes.  Investment interest in Asia property looks to be on the rise as portfolios which have yet to establish a presence in this continent consider it time to do just that.

ScottsSkyParkIt is probable that some governments might ease up on property cooling measures, thus making it easier for foreign investors. China-based investors have already been buying properties within and out of Asia. And as sellers lower their expectations and prices, they look set to continue doing so, if not more voraciously.

In Singapore alone, the outlook for office space looks extremely positive as supply remains low. With many more developmental and redevelopment opportunities arising within the next few years, the demand for office space is likely to rise, thus supporting commercial property prices and rents.

On the residential front, property prices are expected to see a drop of up to 10 per cent as the full impact of the large and fast increase of new properties finally hit the market. However, the luxury home market may see an influx of new investment money, especially properties will good long-term value.

Property cooling measures will remain for now

Ever since the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework was implemented a year ago in June 2013, the home financing front has taken a big hit. But the authorities are not ready to loosen the reigns on the cooling measures just yet.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) is taking its role in “ensuring a stable and sustainable property market” very seriously indeed. Besides the debt servicing framework, it has also increased stamp duties on second and subsequent property purchases, coming down hard on speculative property-buying.

Eight RiversuitesConsidering the fact that home prices have almost doubled in just four years’ time, the word ‘inflation” does not even cover the extent of the increase. With the rate of increase, especially in mid-2009, the authorities may be rightfully wary of the reverse effect should the measures be lifted now. Prices might very well rocket even higher and then there will be no bringing it back down. And that may impact the social and economic tensile strength of the young nation.

On the other hand, the interest rates at the banks are low for now, and it is an incentive for taking out loans. But with the TDSR framework, how many qualify for these loans and will Singaporeans now look outside of Singapore to invest instead? How will that impact Singapore and her plans to become a global city?

Luxury apartments – Leased instead of Sold?

As the property market lull continues, developers of luxury properties are finding the going all the tougher. As the number of unsold units loom large in the horizon, some property developers have considered turning their private condominiums into serviced apartments instead.



The only other options are for those with deeper pockets to hold off their launches till the market turns around, or to offer steep discounts. Ardmore Residences is just one of the possible few luxury residential developments whose launch has been held off. Wealthy investors do not seem to be keen on hopping on the market for now, probably in lieu of the tightening measures placed around the housing and finance sectors. Since its completion last year, developers have chosen instead to lease out units at the Ardmore Residences for approximately $25, 000 per month. The Sculptura Ardmore condominium nearby has also not been launched.

Sculptura ArdmorePhoto credit: SC Global.

Although some marketing has been done for the iLiv @ Grange apartments in Grange road, it has not been officially launched as well. At its unveiling in 2010, developers were targeting selling prices of $3, 000 psf. But in the current market, that figure might be unrealistic. There has been talk of the developer, Heeton Holdings, possibly selling the units in bulk to a single buyer at $2, 200 to $2, 300 psf. Developers generally have a window of 2 years after completion of the project to sell off the units. Remaining units are not allowed to be rented out. Since Singapore may require more hotels and short-term accommodation, it may be a new venture should these luxury residential projects near the city centre to be converted into serviced apartments.