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.

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.

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.

Good class bungalows still in demand

The private property, and perhaps more so landed property sector, has been the doldrums for most of the year. But the niche market for Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) has been thriving.

e704119a11f840b8865a9fb67a23b14eA total of 26 Good Class Bungalows were sold this year, with the total sales figure coming up to a whooping $587.75 million. Though it is nothing compared to the 133 sold for $2.38 billion at the height of the industry in 2010, it is comparable to the 29 sold last year for $682 million. But the average sf prices for GCBs have risen this year to $1,454 sf as compared to last year’s $1,388 psf. The Belmont Park, Chatsworth Park, Chestnut Avenue, Dalvey Estate, Raffles Park and White House Park areas received the most attention in 2014.

There are only 2,700 GCBs over 39 designated areas in Singapore, though the number may have increased slightly in the 1980s when GCB areas were gazetted. This resulted in some sites entering the good class bungalow market even though they are smaller than the usual 1,400 sq m size.

But property experts have noticed that the drop in transactions for these high-end properties were largely due to the  MAS-imposed TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework and ABSD (additional buyers’ stamp duty). Most buyers of these properties are likely to already have existing properties and the increased stamp duties will total up to a rather substantial sum.

They are expecting this market to fare similarly next year as the property cooling measures remain. But with buyers’ consideration possibly turning into long term value appreciation, the Good Class Bungalow sector will certainly stand its own.

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?

Private resale property woes

Have buyers of private non-landed properties decided to take a hiatus? November’s sales figures for private resale condominiums seem to indicate a widening gap between buyers’ and sellers’ price expectations.

With the tough loan limit still in place, the number of buyers for private properties have shrunk, much more so for resale units. Some buyers could be holding back as they wait for newer launches or are simply wary about jumping onto the bandwagon too early as industry analysts have predicted a tipping of the supply and demand scale in the next couple of years.

RIse OxleyResale properties in some districts have however fared better, some selling up to $80,000 above the valued property price. In the prime district 9, buyers have responded positively to properties in the Cairnhill, Killiney, Leonie HIll, Orchard and Oxley areas. And far out in the western district 22 comprising of Boon Lay, Jurong and Tuas, the average above-valuation price buyers have been willing to fork out was up to $30,000. At the fringe of the city, in district 11 of Chancery, Bukit Timah, Dunearn and Newton, prices went to approximately $15,000 above the market value.

So it seems that despite  announcements that properties in the city centre may be loosing its clout, the recent  numbers seem to indicate otherwise. How are the suburban resale sector responding to this shift? Are they shifting their preference to public housing options such as executive condominiums?

South Beach – the 12-month reveal

It’s a little like the 12 days of Christmas. Except this is 12 months of slow reveal of the South Beach development heralded to be Singapore’s largest mixed-use development, and in the city centre to boot.

Situated opposite the iconic Raffles hotel, the 1.65 million sq ft South Beach project on Beach road will feature 2 towers of 34 to 45 storeys, housing a mixture of offices, retail spaces, luxury homes and a hotel designed by the renowned designer Philippe Starck.

South Beach ResidencesThe 190 residential units here at the South Beach Residences have arrived ahead of the other massive development on the site of the old Capitol Building just a few blocks away. And at 950 sq ft to 6,500 sq ft each, from two-bedders to exclusive penthouses with their own swimming pools, it looks like the area will be welcoming a wealthy crowd soon.

sb-poster-comingsoon-hotel

Photo credit: South Beach Consortium.

The South Beach hotel will open in April next year and is aptly connected to the Suntec City Convention Centre and Esplanade MRT station. It looks set to bring an onslaught of traffic through the area and perhaps spilling over to the Beach road and Bugis stretch. And despite the lacklustre property market, half of the office spaces have already been taken by an MNC, the TMF Group and Robobank; it will possibly reach 90 per cent take-up rate by early 2015.