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?

Drop in government land supply

And this will happen come 2014. As numbers in both public and private property markets signal a soon-to-be oversupply, developers are cutting back on the number of land plots they bid for, and the authorities are getting the hint and hence cutting back on the supply of land.

A wise move perhaps to prevent a property bubble, though the first major move could be the tightening of loan limits implemented middle of the year. Only enough land for 11,600 new homes will be released in Q2 of 2014. That is 17.3 per cent lower than Q2 of 2013. The warning signal came in November from the Real Estate Developers’ Association (Redas) and it seems the Ministry of National Development (MND) has kept their ears open and made an announcement on Wednesday regarding the reduction.

THe CrestEven so, the market can expect 65,000 new residential properties to enter the market within the next 3 years. And this is expected to fulfill the housing demands of the population without sacrificing sales figures. 8 plots of land will be put up for sale in the first half of next year, and most of them will be in suburban areas such as Yishin, Sembawang, Sengkang and one at Prince Charles Crescent in Redhill next to The Crest. These plots will also yield some 2, 2000 executive condominiums (ECs).

The market will see the building of more executive condominiums, which may slow the private property market down a little, but still keep the number of new homes in the black. However, these hybrid homes will become available in the open market in 5 years’ time and this slowing down of supply in this sector may be a well-timed move.

More smaller HDB flats to be built

Though the supply of HDB flats may be reduced starting next year, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has said that these may apply only to the larger four- and five-room flats. Smaller two-room and studio flats will still be steadily supplied in the coming year or two.

5,000 new two-room flats are targeted for 2014, and since response from singles applying for new HDB flats have been overwhelming, with 58 applicants for 1 unit since the scheme began in July this year, this will be greeted with much cheer.

Photo Source: Ministry of National Development.

Some larger HDB flats will also be made available to second-time applicants. But this shift in supply is to balance out demand for BTO (build-to-order) flats between singles and families. And since demand from families have mostly been met, the shift to releasing smaller units will allow for more success from other applicants such as singles, divorced families and young couples.

Is this halt to releasing larger HDB flats an effective way to adjusting the dynamics in the housing market? Will there be a kickback reaction in the private property market? What is the percentage of the population who are able to afford private housing and will that percentage increase five years down the road or will the building of HDB flats continue to dominate much of the nation’s housing supply?

Foreign property buyers not biting

National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan has announced a significant drop in the number of foreign buyers of property in Singapore, from 17 per cent in 2011 to only 7 per cent in Q3 of this year. From 1, 400 transactions per quarter in 2011, it’s now down to 330 transactions last quarter.

Was the high in 2011 reason for the government implementing the 10% Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) in December of the same year, and is the current drop the intended goal of that exercise? Sub-sales, which are an indication of the property speculation level in the market, has decreased by 3 per cent. It stood at 7.6 per cent in 2011.

The Creek in Bukit Timah.

The Creek in Bukit Timah.

This year, there were a few rounds of property cooling measures, including a new debt-servicing framework and also caps of loan limits. Increase in the ABSD percentage may have also put a bitter taste in the mouths of some investors. The luxury market has been quiet for awhile, but property developers seem to be hopeful about next year, with some holding back on launches, waiting out the year-end festive period which is usually a lull period for the property market.

Moving forward, Mr Khaw says regulatory policies will need to remain nimble in order to deal with a fluctuating and ever-changing industry. Although many other countries have had stricter property-buying rules for foreign buyers, such as in Australia, it does not necessarily mean the property market is entirely stable. They are in fact experiencing signs of a property bubble and thus being able to react to market response is a skill the authorities will have to hone. Perhaps also with some good luck on the side.

There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing properties in Hong Kong. Will investors turn their attention there instead? A comprehensive listing of properties for sale and rent are available at

There are now increasing restrictions on foreigners purchasing properties in Hong Kong. Will investors turn their attention elsewhere instead? A comprehensive listing of properties for sale and rent are available at

In Hong Kong, the government is already imposing a 50% down payment on properties. With the minimum sum raised six times over less than three years, they seem determined to find ways to make homes more affordable. The Singapore government has not resorted to such drastic measures yet, but in future, will we go down the same road? Will more Singaporeans be able to afford their own homes then?

204, 500 properties to be completed by 2016

At 6,508 more units than the 197,566 units projected earlier this year, there will be 204,500 executive condominium and private apartment units built by 2016, according to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Completed condominium units are increasing in number as developers pour fresh new stock into the market mix. Despite having held back on some major launches as the year-end lull draws close, the number of properties available in the market continues to rise. Industry experts are however expecting developers to lower their launch prices in order to boost sales.

The CreekFrom the looks of the recent Inflora condominium launch, selling prices, of new properties at least, may indeed be on the slippery slope. But that perhaps might be good news for those looking to invest. Properties in the prime city centre spots are dropping by as much as 0.5 per cent whereas city fringe and suburban areas enjoy continued growth, however slight.

Over the next 3 years, 4, 884 more private homes will be built as National Development Minister, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan considers it “making good progress in our ramp-up of the home-building programme”. The number of HDB flats to be built will remain the same as projected. 1, 355 executive condominiums will be ready within the same time frame. What does this heightened supply mean for Singapore’s housing market and will the population growth be a reflection of a cause of this increased property growth?

New Property Loan Rules

Over the weekend, new loan rules were put in place. Tougher rules targeted at reining in property investment, according the Minister for  National Development, Khaw Boon Wan. These new rules look set to be a permanent fixture in the financial landscape as the government looks to stablising Singapore’s real estate market.

money-imageAs such, they are refraining from calling it a cooling measure. It is structured in a way to better stablise the property market here as the current low interest rates are not sustainable. Implemented by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), banks now have to follow the new guidelines when assessing the property buyer’s loan eligibility.

Should the monthly repayments of a buyer’s total debt obligations exceed 60 per cent of his gross monthly income, the bank will have to decline his loan application. Mr Khaw says that these new rules will not affect buyers truly looking for a home, since it will essentially apply for those looking to purchase their second or third properties. The inability to afford rising mortgage as interest rates fluctuate, which then results in a more rapid rate of asset liquidation may be what they are attempting to catch before the wave happens.

Besides property investors, these new rule will also help banks better understand and manage the potential changes as interest rates eventually bounce back up. Is this an effective and timely move by the Singapore Government to curb a potential housing bubble? How will this affect the upcoming property launches?

Changes to Exec Condo housing scheme?

2013 might be the year of housing policies shockwaves. Earlier in the year, news of singles being about to purchase new HDB flats directly from housing board stirred the market a little, then there were the limits placed on dual-key apartments which are now only available to multi-generational families. A cap was also put on the size of executive condominium (EC) units, at 160 sq m. ECs have been put under the microscope of late, with some questioning the amount of subsidies buyers are receiving from the government.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Certain members of public have questioned whether EC buyers should receive any government subsidies at all, since they are able to or willing to afford million-dollar units in both new and resale developments. The executive condominium scheme was initially set up by the government in 1996 to help families transit between public and private properties. But as the price gap between ECs and private properties now draw close, there has been a niggling thought about whether changes should be made to this scheme.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan recently highlighted that there might soon be changes in the EC scheme and buyers and developers are poised to react. Forestville, the next EC to launch in June this year, might benefit from increased response since buyers might be leaping at what may very well be their last chance to secure a unit under the current conditions. EL Development‘s Lim Yew Soon has this to say: “Whenever policies change or are alikely to, the immediate launches will have the biggest benefits. There’s a good change that buyers may snap up existing ECs to ensure they still receive the grant.” Will resale ECs also benefit from this rush?

Should there be a drastic adjustment in government subsides, the most affected might be first-time buyers. Buyers and owners of existing ECs are imploring the authorities and public to see things from their point of view. Engineer Eddy Lau, 40, said, “It’s not right to just look at the profit we make. We also pay more in interest over the years for the EC. For us who are sandwiched, ECs are the only option to upgrade.”

Ultimately, the question that probably begets the Government is, what defines “sandwiched class” and what are the housing schemes actually meant to do. And perhaps only honest answers will help everyone fully understand and accept Singapore’s future housing situation.

February’s amazing new home sales

Amazingly low, that is. With figures not seen for more than a year, it looks like the Chinese New Year general pausa and January’s cooling measures have hit the private property market hard. For now.

February saw a 65 per cent fall in the number of home sales. 2, 016 home were sold in January while only 708 were sold in February. Some of the condominiums which fared well were D’Leedon at a median price of $1, 540 psf and Q Bay Residences in Tampines at $1, 041 psf.

How will Singapore's private property market react to the recent housing policy changes?

But the developers are back with more offers, and dangling attractive discounts and partial absorption of stamp duty to bait buyers back into the market. With the way response was over last weekend’s new property launches, March’s numbers could very well bounce back double.

Buyers seem to be ditching their wait-and-see attitude and as long as there are no further property curbs, they will be back before you can say “uncle”. Head of research at SLP International Mr Nicholas Mak, is expecting private home sales to run between 3, 000 to 5, 000 units a quarter. That is 12, 000 to 20, 000 private homes in 2013.

Though new launches in March and HDB’s regulation overhauls might effect a U-turn and drag numbers up once more, it may be months before results show.