Dual key apartments rising in popularity

The latest property type on the block has been gathering an increasing crowd of fans. Not surprisingly, since they offer the space and the privacy for larger, multi-generational families, giving them the option of having their family members close, but not too close for comfort.

The concept began with the Housing Development Board and their “Granny flats” in 1986 and the first private properties to pick up on that were the Caspian and 8@Woodleigh. And now, new properties actively set aside a number of units as dual key apartments.

Boathouse ResidencesSome of the latest market offerings to include these units include Seventy Saint Patrick’s, Northpark Residences, Riverbank@Fernvale and Botanique @ Bartley. Older properties with these options include Coco Palms, and The Santorini at Tampines. At the latter, there are 144 dual key units. Most of the dual key units include a two- or three-room unit attached to a studio apartment, with two separate entrances.

In addition to providing privacy, these units also provide a cheaper alternative to buyers who are running an office out of their home. It gives them a separate entrance to their business and a physical separation from their living quarters while saving on transport costs and time.

Plus, it is easier to rent out these smaller units. For longterm investment considerations, these units could also be sold as it is or as a normal unit with the separating structures reconfigured.

Coming up later this year, the Boathouse Residences, developed by Frasers Centrepoint Limited, will also feature dual key apartments.

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.

More foreign private home buyers

The number of Singaporean buyers of private properties have fallen last year. Possibly overshadowed by the increase in number of foreign buyers since rules have changed for Permanent Residents (PRs) buying HDB flats. New PRs must now wait 3 years before they are able to purchase from the public housing market. The rules have been in place since August 2013.

Marina ONe iprop watermarkThe percentage of PRs purchasing private properties in Singapore have risen from 15 to 18 per cent in 2014. But the number of Singaporean buyers have dipped almost by half. In 2013, 16, 789 homes were sold to Singaporeans while in 2014, Singaporeans only purchased 8,707 private homes.

Most of the foreign buyers were made up of Chinese nationals, Malaysians, Indonesians and Indians. 229 units were sold to Chinese nationals in the last quarter of 2014, up from 214 units in the third quarter. With the launch of the Marina One Residences, which is a joint venture between Malaysia and Singapore governments, Malaysian buyers were also active in the private property scene here. Over the course of last year, some 119 units were purchased by US citizens and 58 by Britons.

The number of PR and foreign buyers have remained steady for the past couple of years. Should this be a promising sign for the road ahead? And how can local private property buyers leverage on this?

Fall in resale private property prices

Buyers and property investors are becoming increasingly wary of the influx of new properties into the market, rising interest rates, the unchanged Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) and the Total Debt Ratio Framework (TDSR). Resale private non-landed home sales figures indicated a 1.6 per cent drop in January.

Although buyers are still buying properties, demand and selling prices may not be as high as before. Smaller units seem to be more popular as the total quantum prices of these compact apartments are usually more palatable.

According to the SRPI (Singapore Residential Price Index) compiled by the National University of Singapore Sims Urban Oasis1(NUS), prices of non-landed private homes in the central area were hit the hardest with a 1.9 per cent decline. However, this could mean that the price gap between homes in the central and suburban areas are closing, the rate of decline for the former may be less steep.

Despite the popularity of smaller units with buyers of late, shoebox apartment sales fell 0.6 per cent in February. Developers are also aware of buyers’ preferences for a new unit over a resale one especially with buyers who are intending to purchase a private property for own-occupation purposes.

Moving ahead, property analysts are expecting resale non-landed private property prices to drop by 5 to 7 per cent this year.

Private suburban properties faring better

 

For the resale private property market, condominiums in the suburbs seem to be faring better than those in the city fringe and city centre. While prices of city fringe and city centre apartments fell 1.2 and 1.1 per cent respectively last month, suburban resale properties rose 0.5 per cent. The sales volume also remained the same as November despite the expected lull due to the festive season.
Tre ResidencesBuyers are sharpening their skills at spotting good deals, and are going for units which will benefit them the most in terms of location and future value appreciation. Some buyers have even managed to secure purchases at $10,000 less than the market value of earlier transactions in the same development.

What are buyers looking for now? With the property cooling measures in place, the final selling price tag, including taxes and duties, makes or breaks the deal. Buyers are looking for lower price quantums, good locations and potential for future development in the district. Most HDB upgraders are also most likely to search for these suburban homes to stay close to their previous homes.

As 2015 moves along, and more homes become ready for occupation, will the interest for resale properties in the suburbs continue to burn brightly? Or will the spark wane and the market focus shift to other sectors?

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.

Marina Bay home sales show positive signs

Private home sales in the suburbs have been showing sign of strain as the increasing number of new completed condominium units compete for the increasingly limited number of buyers, which could be further limited due to loan limits, a downtown project seemed to be bucking the trend and pulling in sales in the luxury apartment sector.

Marina One Residences in the Marina Bay precinct secured half of the total number of home sales in October alone. But that could also be due to the fact that it was the only new launch in the month. 334 units of the 1,042-unit condominium were sold at the average selling price of $2,228 psf. However, sales were still lagging behind its initial preview launch when earlybird discounts were given, and sale prices hovered between $1,960 and $3,100 psf.

Marina ONe iprop watermarkDevelopers are finding it harder to attract the buying crowd and have found they are now more sensitive to pricing as it became more difficult to secure bank loans. Though the price fight is not evident yet, as buyers are still willing to fork out a considerable amount for properties in good locations, it may only be a matter of time before the cracks show. Especially since 2015 and 2016 will see an even bigger influx of completed private homes in the market.

For now, developers are focusing their efforts on selling remaining units at previously launched projects such as DUO Residences, Coco Palms and Lakeville condominium, thus holding back on new launches. Will this drive consumers towards other property types such as executive condominiums (ECs) and resale HDB flats or will they continue to seek better deals with the existing private property market?

Glimmer of hope for Private resale homes?

Although the total number of private resale homes sold were lower in October than September, prices have begun to rise slightly. According to latest data, non-landed private home prices rose 0.4 per cent in last month. In suburban districts often popular with buyers such as Bishan, Toa Payoh, Little India, Geylang and Queenstown, prices rose 0.6 per cent. Transactions and prices of prime district properties however remained quiet, falling in fact by 0.3 per cent.

Okio Residences in Balestier.

Okio Residences in Balestier.

Have overall property prices fallen sufficiently? And have they reached the lowest point of the property cycle? If so, how long will this low point last? Private property prices have been low for quite some time now, maintaining a steady level in terms of pricing and transaction volume for almost half a year. The government has said that they will not relax the cooling measures anytime soon, perhaps in fear of a huge and quick rebound which may bring prices up even higher than before the curbs were put in place. They could also be giving the measures a bit more time to sink in, to further bring down home prices and getting the industry and public used to these measures.

Property experts are expecting prices to decline even further in the short term. Would this be the best time to invest? And how would you go about investing? Is it best to move away from residential property into commercial property? Or are there certain property types with hidden long term value?