Condominium prices wavering

It may be a year of fluctuations for the private non-landed property market. Condominium sales have been slow, though it picked up slightly in February.

Both new and resale private condominiums were affected by the market slowdown, much of it attributed to the TDSR (Total debt servicing ratio) framework set by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). But some property analysts are also connecting the dots between the lowered Cash-Over-Valuation (COV) prices of resale HDB flats. When COVs were high, potential HDB upgraders were able to leverage on these to leap into the private property market by using the COVs as part of the cash down payment for their new private homes. With the lack of this financial impetus, more are finding themselves in between an rock and a hard place when it comes to scaling up.

Sims Urban OasisWeaker buyers may find themselves having to hold back for now while those with the financial abilities will still be able to well afford what the market currently offers, and perhaps even more so as prices have been coming down for sometime now.

There has however, been a shift of interest from newer units to resale ones, in favour of larger floor area. HDB buyers have been purchasing units with an average of 926 sq ft in size, while private buyers leaned towards units averaging 1,119 sq ft in size. The sweet spot of affordability is now between $1.28 million to $1.46 million for private buyers and $950,000 to $1,09 million for HDB upgraders.

New condominiums not spared from 2014’s lull

The stream of new homes entering the market has been continuous and more will be coming our way in 2015, with up to 2,500 units within the next two months. Larger new residential projects ready for occupation soon include the Sims Urban Oasis and Northpark residences.

Sims Urban OasisThis sudden increase in supply may not necessary affect sales prices, but the number of transactions may drop as buyers hold out in wait of what the rest of the year brings. In the last month of 2014, sales were lacklustre, with the best seller being Lakeville condominium with 16 units sold. This is followed by 13 units sold at Rivertree Residences and 12 at The Panorama. All are suburban mass-market private homes. Even the executive condominium market slacked a little with only 128 units sold at the 747-unit The Terrace in Punggol.

But the later half of 2015 may hold some promise as property prices may have corrected by more than 10 per cent and property cooling measures may then be lifted. Sellers may find themselves having to lower prices as competition heats up and buyers wait out as long as they can. It is just a matter of waiting for that sweet spot to hit the markets.

Developers offer more direct discounts

If you’re looking for a good property deal, you could be hitting the market at the right time as developers are now preferring to offer direct discounts instead of indirect ones such as renovation and furniture vouchers and the likes. And the buyers seem to prefer that too.

In a bid to attract buyers back into the property market, developers have realised that with the prevailing property cooling measures, especially the tighter loan limits, it’s the final number that counts. Defraying the total costs through offers of furniture and renovation may no longer seem as attractive to buyers who are now keeping a keen eye on the total quantum prices.

HomeReno1Home buyers are more discerning and aware of how these indirect discounts affect the final sale price and more importantly, the total loan quantum they are able to receive from the banks. Though the rule which states that all discounts, even indirect ones such as renovation discounts and furniture vouchers, have to be declared when applying for a loan were in place since 2002, the banks have only recently been stricter about their checks. What this means for the buyer could be a lesser loan quantum as the amount give in indirect discounts are taken off from the final sale price of the unit, before consideration is given on how much the bank is able to loan.

Now, what developers are doing instead of offering renovation and furniture discounts, are to refurbish unsold units and selling them at a lower price than if the buyer were to purchase the furnishings themselves. Thus, the buyer gets a fully renovated unit at a slightly higher price than an unfurnished one, but at a lower price than if they were to renovate and furnish it themselves. This may be more cost-effective for buyers who are looking to rent out the unit as it saves them money and time.

Home prices expected to decline further in 2015

This year, the rate of decline for private home prices is expected to exceed that of 2014. Last year’s drop was estimated at 4 per cent whereas this year, industry analysts project an 8 per cent drop. This new estimate for the private property sector will put it on par with resale HDB flats. In 2014, the public housing market reflected a 6 per cent drop in prices.

Some market factors from last year are here to stay:
1) Tightened credit market
2) Stricter immigration policies
3) Weakening demand
4) Increasing supply of new homes
5) Higher stamp duties

The Luxurie - near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

The Luxurie – near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

And while interest rates were at a low at a point in time last year, they are expected to rise this year, which makes for an even less favourable environment for a thriving buy-and-sell of residential properties in particular.

This may put a fair bit of pressure on home sellers, who may find themselves having to lower prices in order to make a sale. With developers competing for the same buyers with offers of discounts, rebates and other enticing options, resale private properties might struggle to stand out.

Landlords may also find that it’s a tenants market as an onslaught of homes become ready for occupation this year. The most recent residential projects to come into the market this year include the 622-unit The Luxurie and 590-unit The Riversound Residences in Sengkang.

Coupled with a number of new launches planned for this year, and fewer foreign buyers taking the bite, the only properties which may remain popular are mass-market homes in locations close to MRT stations, schools and shopping malls.

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.

Decline of home prices not reflective of cooling measures’ power

It all boils down to holding power. Of both buyers with their mortgages and home loans; and developers with their unsold units. Despite a year of seemingly repressed property market growth, the actual decline in home prices as a direct effect of the property cooling measures may not be as steep as it feels like. In fact, URA figures show only a 3.9 per cent drop in prices since Oct 1 of 2013 to 30 Sept of this year.

TheVermontCairnhillSince the property boom of 2009, home prices have increased 65 per cent till the end of 2013. Whereas the drop this year is a mere 4 per cent. Which means, property prices are still more than double of what they were before 2009.

Though the average total quantum price of homes may have dropped, the psf prices are maintained at a reasonable level as the main change comes from the diminishing property sizes. Though buyers’ affordability now ranges between $1million to $1.3 million, figures which have held steady for the past 5 years; the median sizes of new homes have fallen from 1, 195 sq ft in 2009 to 753 sq ft in 2014. This is a sure sign that developers are still holding on to their asking prices while giving less in terms of liveable space.

Resale homes are holding up better than new homes however, with a 3 per cent drop as compared to a 6 per cent drop of the latter. This is largely due to developers’ offers of discounts on unsold units. Examples of these can be seen at The Vermont At Cairnhill, and also at Sky Habitat, where more units were moved after a 10 to 15 per cent cut in prices.

Moving into the new year, property analysts are expecting sales volume of next year to be similar to 2014’s, though home prices are unlikely to experience a drastic drop. Rather, a gentle decline into a comfortable equilibrium is what most experts are prone to agree on.

No rise in private property market sales yet

Though the dip in private home sales is not as drastic as expected, with a 1.3 per cent decline in the first half of 2014, industry experts are expecting the same rate of decline for the remaining half of the year.

The restrictive home loan situation was the main deterrent as it has meant that buyers may no longer be able to loan as much as before and that has limited their possible property purchases. The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) limits the total monthly debt repayment to 60 per cent of the borrower’s gross monthly income. For buyers who are already servicing a home loan or other loans, the amount they are able to loan will be lesser as well.

CIty GateThe smaller and more affordable units will seem more attractive than before. Or units such as dual-key apartments which allow bigger families to stay together may be more affordable should the cost be shared. As June was a relatively quiet month for new launches, figures from the next quarter will be more telling. In the first half, less than 5, 000 private homes were sold. Buyers can look forward to a few more launches in the coming months, including mixed-use development, City Gate at Beach road, The Crest in Prince Charles Crescent, Highline Residences in Tiong Bahru and Marina One in Marina Bay. Indicative prices of units at City Gate will range from $1, 900 to $2, 200 psf.

Will there be a surprise market rebound? Or will it decline further?

Bidadari – Property with longevity?

Where bustling and ever-so popular Bishan stands,used to be cemetery land. When it was first redeveloped in the early 80s, no one would have imagined the boom it enjoys today.

BidadariPhoto credit: HDB

Now it could be Bidadari’s turn. Already the new HDB flats to be built have garnered buyers’ interest and private landed residential properties in the area are also welcoming the attention. Surrounded by the quiet and exclusive atmosphere of Bartley, Mount Vernon, Sennett Estate and Upper Serangoon, Bidadari has been slated for development into a public housing precinct and a private property enclave.

Nearby Potong Pasir and Bendemeer have already seen their share of new properties coming up. HDB is planning 10,000 new homes in the area under the HDB Master Plan 2014, and up to 1,000 new private homes are expected to secure their place by end of 2015.

Nin residences at Bartley

Nin residences at Bartley

Considering the age and population density in the estate, there is a huge space for development, which could also mean potential for properties. So far, private condominium sales have been brisk. New developments in the area include Nin Residences, Bartley Residences, The Venue Residences, 8@Woodleigh. There are already some schools in close proximity, such as St. Andrew Junior College, Maris Stella High School and Stamford American International School. A new retail development, Market Square, is also on it’s way up.

Though demand for properties here may not seem to be as high as the neighbouring Bishan or Toa Payoh, one must not forget Bishan’s history. Their day will come, and perhaps it is just a matter of time.