2015 – A year of the property buyer

Following the footsteps of 2014, this year seems like it will continue to be a buyer’s market. Some property hotspots have sprung up over the course of last year, as new MRT stations and areas of redevelopment were announced.

Twin Fountains Executive Condominium in Woodlands.

Twin Fountains Executive Condominium in Woodlands.

For buyers looking for a good deal, there will be sellers out there who are willing to let go of their property as not all are able to have the holding power to last out the year. Many HDB upgraders who are moving to private properties may have to sell their HDB flats, and due to a mortgage restriction, some private residential property investors may also be looking to move units in exchange of a healthier bank balance.

For buyers looking for immediate to medium term property returns, areas near upcoming MRT stations may be their ticket. These include those along the North-East Line (NEL) and Eastern Region Line. Other further flung districts which are experiencing an influx of amenities and new properties such as the Jurong Lake district, Woodlands Central, Buona Vista and Paya Lebar, may also pique the interest of investors. And for those who are not in a hurry to reap the benefits from their property purchase, property analysts are expecting districts which have not been included in previous upgrading and redevelopment plans, to get a major face lift within the next decade or so. Woodlands could be the next area to watch.

Thomson MRT Line's alignment. Are you already area-spotting for the best property investment?

Thomson MRT Line’s alignment. Are you already area-spotting for the best property investment?

Starting from the second quarter of the year, sales are expected to pick up, and industry experts’ advice for buyers are to keep a clear idea of what they are looking for, search for sellers who are sincere about selling, and hit the iron while it’s hot.

Executive Condominiums – Now’s the time

If you are a second-time HDB property buyer, and are looking at upgrading from a HDB flat to an executive condominium (EC) – the time may be now. Before the resale levy really kicks in.

The TerraceImplemented in Dec 2013, the levy applies to ECs launched after Dec 9 the same year and as most of the EC launches from now on will be for units launched after Dec 2013, a levy of $15,000 to $50,000 will apply. And that’s no small sum to scoff at.

Executive condominiums have long been the way to move from public to private housing for most middle-class Singaporean families. As young couples now see this as one of the best ways to start their families, competition for the same properties have never been fiercer. As a hybrid between public and private housing, ECs will become private properties following a ten-year period. There is a income ceiling for applicants however, of a combined household income of $12,000.

As bids for EC land plots dip, mostly due to a saturation of launches in the last few months, prices and sales volume may not hold as well moving forward. Currently, ECs which just escape this resale levy include Bellewoods, Bellewaters, The Terrace, Lake Life and The Amore. They each boast their own unique selling point, with unblocked views at The Terrace, basement carparks at The Amore, nature-inspired landscapes at Bellewoods and resort-living lifestyle atmosphere at Bellewaters. Combined with options of units such as penthouses and condominium facilities, it’s the only logical step up for HDB upgraders.

Interest in Executive Condominiums wane

Just awhile ago, the interest in executive condominiums (ECs) was red hot as pent up demand for these sought-after properties was released after a long hiatus. In areas such as Jurong, which had not seen a new EC launch for 17 years, the response was promising.

This interest has however diminished very quickly. In the latest EC launch, only 18 per cent of the units launched have been sold. Out of the 378 units in The Amore EC in Edgdale Plains, only 70 were sold at its launch last weekend. Prices averaged at $800 psf. A similar property nearby, The Terrace executive condominium, which was launched earlier last month, has only had approximately 20 per cent of its 747 units sold at a median of $812 psf.
TheAmoreEC_1Photo Credit: www.amore-ec.com

Bellewaters EC in Sengkang and Bellewoods EC in Woodlands fared similarly, with the only development bucking the trend being The Lake Life EC in Jurong West. Most of the units at The Lake Life sold within the weekend of its launch in November 2014. The sudden demise of interest in ECs came unexpectedly as even within last year alone, there was a good 9-month wait before any new EC development was launched and a rise in sales figures after a long wait is the norm.

Property analysts are putting this slowdown on the increase supply of BTO (Build-to-order) HDB flats, declining resale prices which have made resale HDB flats more affordable and the 30 per cent Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR) which was implemented in December 2013.

Moving ahead in 2015, 10 more new EC launches are expected and sales may be slow as future ECs will require a resale levy tax and competition heats up within the same location. As seen by recent numbers, areas with a higher concentration of ECs tend to fare more poorly in terms of sales volume.

City fringe homes find their footing

Filling in the gap between luxury and mass-market homes are the city fringe properties. But sitting in this position means being more exposed to market forces such as a lull in the luxury property market, which may be a good thing as buyers may be looking at cheaper options. But a wider and possibly cheaper pool of options pop up in the suburbs in the form of mass-market suburban homes, this might be the first sector to suffer a backlash.

Sky Habitat condominium in Bishan.

Sky Habitat condominium in Bishan.

There has been a recent drop in city fringe home prices as developers are offering discounts to help boost sales. As the supply of these home increase, about 2,411 new units were launched in 2014, so will the urgency to move units. City fringe homes registered a 5.3 per cent price drop, as compared to 4.3 per cent in the luxury homes market and 2.2 per cent in suburban private homes.

Projects where prices were lowered include The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio, Sky Habitat in Bishan and D’Leedon on Farrer road. Though luxury homes hogged the headlines last year with their decline in sales volume, property analysts are confident that the price decline will be minimal as most owners of city-centre homes will have the holding power to hang on to their properties.

Executive Condominium take the market

Closing the year on a high note for developers, were the latest EC launches in the market, in particular the Lake Life EC in Jurong.

Only 412 private condominium units were sold in November, while more than double the number of EC units were sold at 855 at last count. This could be partly due to developers’ decision to hold back on new condo launches and the pent-up demand for EC units.

Bellewoods EC533 units at the Lake Life executive condominium project were sold at an average of $869 psf. Comparatively, the private condominium Lakeville sold 30 units at $1, 374 psf. Over at Bellewaters EC in Sengkang, 170 units were sold, followed by 79 units in Bellewoods at Woodlands. The only new private property launches last month were TRE Residences and Sophia Hills Residences which sold 52 and 9 units respectively.

Could this response be a sign that buyers’ affordability range is narrowing and many prefer the opportunities and subsidies public housing options provide? Or is it merely a knee-jerk reaction to the pent-up sentiment of holding back new EC releases for almost 7 years in the Jurong district? What does this mean for the private property market and are ECs proving more competition for the private market than expected?

Yishun – Old town Rising

It used to be a faraway place which many shunned because of the lack of accessibility and amenities. But over the years, Yishun, previously a new town, and now perhaps an older estate recently revamped to include new private condominiums, hospitals and integrated developments, may be standing out for different reasons.

Besides the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital which was completed in 2010, another Yishun Community Hospital is being built and it may even trump other older estates such as Bishan or Ang Mo Kio because of its proximity to healthcare. And with Northpoint City, an integrated mixed-use development coming up in 2018, Yishun might not be so secluded anymore.

Northpoint City YishunPrivate condominiums in the area which will be ready within the next few years include North Park Residences and Nine Residences, Skies Miltonia and Symphony Suites. And some 5,000 new HDB flats have been released in Yishun over the last couple of years, including the rare dual-key units for extended families.

Though property analysts are yet unsure about how investing in residential properties in this area may profit the buyer through rental yields, the value of properties here may be stronger than once considered, as its proximity to outdoor and lifestyle amenities such as the Seletar Reservoir and Orchid Country Club may attract young families and professionals. Businesses may also be looking into buying units here as the Seletar Aerospace hub is just a stone’s throw away.

Thus the once sleepy town may not be so quiet anymore. For good reasons.

New private condos threaten Rental Market

As more new private condominiums in the suburbs attain their occupation-ready status, the number of apartments available for rental has increased significantly and fierce competition has brought rental prices down. Though concentrated mainly in the suburbs, where most of the new condominiums are situated, the decline has dragged the rental market down by 1.5 per cent.

FOresta Mount FaberAnd as most of these new condominiums are in close proximity to HDB flats, the HDB rental market has also been affected somewhat as tenants now realised they may be able to afford a private condo after all and instead choose this option over HDB flats. And as this pressure is exerted on the HDB market, some HDB flat owners may consider jumping over to the private property market and the HDB resale flat sector may see some shifting as a result of the spillover effect.

From January to September of this year, there were a total of 6,621 condominium units entering the market in the suburbs alone. This has pushed rental prices down 5.3 per cent and a 1.3 drop in the number of rental deals signed in September alone. However, a year-on-year comparison with 2013 showed an increase of 11.8 per cent in terms of the number of units leased. This could signify a shift of tenants leasing private properties as opposed to HDB flats as the price gap narrows.

Eight RiversuitesMoving forward, 2015 and 2016 may see a vacancy rate of 10 per cent and more if immigration policies remain the same and if rental prices become even more competitive with up to 20,000 new units reaching completion annually. Is this a sign that the cooling measures have worked? Or is it merely a sign that investing in residential property may have to take a different slant, to focus on long-term profits through property appreciation rather than on short-term rental profits? How does that then change the criteria for property selection?

New properties lower overall rent

Though the government has reduced land sales in the second half of the year, a fresh new crop of properties reaching their point of maturity in the next year may have some effect on the rental prices of private properties across the board. In 2013 alone, 16,000 new non-landed properties entered the market and 25,000 more are expected to flood the market by 2016.

Shore Residences on Amber Road

Shore Residences on Amber Road

Tenants will have more rental options ranging from units in brand-new condominium to those at older private apartments as a large supply of condominiums enter the market next year. And as most tenants in a new development receive keys to their units at the same time, they may face competition from one another as they put up their units for rent at the same time. Older neighbouring properties as well as HDB flats may also face the same competition as tenants opt for newer choices. Rental prices may waver and some landlords may find themselves having to lower the rent to secure a suitable tenant.

Landlords may find themselves competing for the same and somewhat decreasing tenant pool, especially with concurrent restrictions placed on the foreign workforce. Diminishing expatriate housing allowances may also mean tenants may be looking out of the city centre for rental options. And though most of the new properties are situated out of the central region, the sheer supply may overshadow the demand.

Take the Katong, Joo Chiat and Amber road district for example. In that small area, there is The Shore Residences, Silversea, The Meyerise amongst other older properties. And in the up-and-coming Punggol and Sengkang regions, there is a good mix of ECs and private condominiums such as A Treasure Trove, The Luxurie and the latest launch of Bellewaters. It could very well be the battle between the new and newer in time to come as many new homes are erected in already-new clusters of private homes.