HDB property market – Has balance been struck?

The last four years saw aggressive moves by the Housing Development Board to release and build new HDB flats. In 2014 alone, 51, 598 new HDB flats were added.

Has this supply of new flats been effective in stabilising the property market? Is the supply and demand scale now balanced? Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has mentioned that the increased supply has helped move the selling price of HDB flats down, yet at a gradual pace and margin which buyers are still able to stomach.

WEst Rock HDB FlatFrom this year on, the number of new HDB flats will begin to decrease, from 50,796 this year to 38,316 in 2018. Which could mean that this year might be the watershed year for the HDB market. Will buyers be taking the opportunity to purchase before supply becomes tighter once more? Or will the number of HDB flats which have been released thus far be able to provide for a stable resale market, keeping a level playing field between buyers and sellers?

As Singapore grows in population size, and global and domestic economies fluctuate, all this would also be tightly linked to population and immigration policies. With the election possibly coming our way next year, buyers may take the chance to look out for opportunities to upgrade property-wise this year, or perhaps wait and see what the post-election changes may bring.

Housing supply to slow down in 2015

The authorities have announced that public housing supply and land sales will slow down come 2015 as the market has showed signs of cooling and stablising after the many rounds of property cooling measures rolled out over the past year or two.

West Terra HDB Bukit BatokPhoto Credit: HDB

The Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has commented in a blog post that the supply of new HDB flats will slow by 25 per cent next year. There will only be 4 launches next year, compared to the usual 6 per year. Each launch usually puts out up to 4,000 new Build-to-order (BTO) flats. The rate of successful BTO flat applications has been on the rise as reflected in the few recent launches. More married couples achieve success in getting their new flats, and the authorities have been allowances for couples either opting to apply for a flat with their parents, or for one near their parents. In addition, parents who opt to apply for a flat in a non-mature estate to be near their married children, will also receive priority.

The slight shift in policies may ensure that families remain close-knit and are able to receive help when needed. It may also help with a shift in aging mature estates and introduce a more age-balanced population per HDB estate. Mr Khaw Boon Wan also hopes that the move will help newlyweds plan for a family more efficiently and in turn increase Singapore’s population with a higher birth rate.

In the private property sector, the number of land plots being sold for executive condominiums and private apartments has already been reduced this year, though the industry might see a further reduction come 2015. But will this mean a decline in the building, construction and property industries? Or has the previous land sales and launches been sufficient to keep the industry going for the next few years? Which part of the cycle is the property sector in at the moment and are we set for a boom or lull in the next year?

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?

Apply caution when investing in overseas property

Managing a property portfolio is becoming increasingly popular, and those with considerably less cash to spare are looking out of Singapore especially in Malaysia.

As marketing and sales of properties in the Iskandar region ramps up, it also becomes more difficult to cut through all the industry speak and potential dangers of over-promising agents and developers. Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, the National Development Minister, has warned Singaporeans not to ignore the additional regulatory and legal restrictions that come with the low prices.

D'inspire JohorThe Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) will be stepping up efforts to regulate the industry, and also provide general tips. They have release an online guide which will help investors tick against a checklist before making the decision:

  • Motivation behind the investment
  • Financial assessment to ascertain affordability
  • Hidden costs such as legal fees, stamp duties, taxes, maintenance fees
  • Total loan amount
  • Monthly Mortgage repayments

One point which many investors may forget to consider is the currency risk. Even though it may seem cheaper on the onset to purchase property in Malaysia, it may also be harder to sell and should the ringgit weaken, the loss may be comparable to the initial savings.

Ultimately, the crucial question to ask could be “Why am I buying this?” And if the practicalities balance out with the value, then the answer might be clear.

BTO supply shrink

2013 was the year for new properties, private and public. Bumper crops of new BTO HDB flats were launched almost every two months and an average of 4,190 units were offered up at each launch. In the first launch this year, the number was a reduced 3,139 units.

Although smaller in number, HDB is happy to offer eco-friendly features in their latest launch such as motion-sensor lighting and recycling chutes. New BTO flats were offered across Bukit Batok, Jurong West, Punggol, Woodlands and Serangoon. Prices ranged between $73, 000 for 2-room flats to $433, 000 for 3-Gen units. 3-Generation flats are mainly four-room HDB flats reserved for married applicants submitting purchase requests with their parents.

Bukit Gombak Vista

Photo source: HDB

National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has announced last year that BTO supply will be reduced this year as demand has been mostly satisfied. The authorities are however considering offering more 2-room flats as singles aged 35 and above are now eligible to apply for new HDB flats. Previously they were only allowed to purchase off the resale market.

As expected, Wednesday’s launch saw the most activity in the 2-room flats department. 5, 000 of these smaller units will be made available through out this year. 455 studio apartments in Jurong West were also included in the current launch. There will be a decrease in the number of three- to five-room flats however.  It seems the authorities are working hard to cover all ground and assuring citizens a fair chance at owning a home.

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?

Reduced BTO launches will not affect resales market

2013 was a year of new BTO HDB flats. With a sales launch almost every couple of months, it may have taken the shine off resale HDB flats. Coupled with the decreasing COV prices, will this mean a a weakening resale market?

National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan recently announced that starting 2014, HDB’s “massive construction programme” will slow as the pent-up demand for public housing units have been largely elevated by the continuous supply of BTO flats over the past 3 years. Industry analysts are not expecting the resale market to be overly affected by this announcement, especially since the pool of buyers usually have different motivating factors. Most BTO flat applicants are young families and first-time buyers. Now that application rates have fallen from 5.3 to 2 in 2 years’ time, there seems reason enough for the authorities to put the brakes on the building programme.

East Lawn Canberra HDB FlatIn comparison, the resale market has suffered slightly, with stricter loan limits, competition from the private property market, and recent COV prices have come to show for it. With the median at an all-time low, many are wondering if the cease of supply of new HDB flats will once again bring resale flat prices up. But this may be unlikely, at least for the next half year or so. As long as the loan limits and private residential options remain and especially since demand has been largely fulfilled,

It will be an interesting year for Singapore’s real estate sector. Which way will the wind blow?