What carrots do Property developer dangle?

With competition heating up in the property scene, developers are finding it increasingly difficult to find ready buyers. The stakes are now higher and thus the incentives offered have been interestingly varied. From discounts to free furniture, rental guarantees, holiday and travel memberships; and even sports-car discounts and diamonds! The “carrots” may now be actual “carats”!

Mon JervoisQingjian Realty has recently offered one-carat diamonds in a lucky draw for Bellewoods executive condominium (EC) e-applicants. 20 diamonds for that matter. Buyers of the Highline Residences in Kim Tian road can look forward to a 3-year “lifestyle membership” which includes limousine rides and complimentary golf privileges at the Ria Bintan Golf Club. Most of the developers are offering these incentives as a way to market and spur renewed interest in their previous launches. These offers help protect their selling prices whilst balancing the expectations of buyers who may
have purchased units in the initial phases. Would this holding back on offers affect the response during first-phase launches? Whilst some may rest a little on their laurels and wait for possible offers in future launches, buyers who are keen to select their prime units may still prefer to strike while the iron is hot and go for first releases to ensure they get a unit they truly want.

At the Infinium cluster-homes in Kovan, IG |Development was offering a $200,000 Mercedes to the first 3 buyers but later withdrew the offer in place of price discounts of $100 psf on their first 3 units sold. That would mean savings of up to $500,000. But if it’s a vehicle you’d like, UIC and SingLand are partnering with Aston Martins to provide discounts on their cars for buyers of three-bedders and bigger units at Mon Jervois.

But as the supply of new homes may trickle come 2015, will developers continue to dangle these incentives or will the property market make a U-turn and head up the charts on selling price alone?

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?

Private home sales down in Q3

Despite recent new launches, private home sales remained lacklustre as the third quarter registered  lowest sales figures since 2008. Only 1,596 new homes were sold in the last 3 months, though 648 units were sold in August alone, signifying a plausible comeback.
 Tre ResidencesSome of the more popular residential properties were the newer ones such as Highline Residences, Seventy St Patrick’s, Lakeville, Eight Riversuites, and some new launches from projects such as The Panorama. As per previous years, post Hungry Ghost Festival meant home buyers were once again eager for new deals and were actively seeking property purchase opportunities.

Across the board, 6,030 private properties were sold in the first 3 quarters of the year, almost half that of the same period last year. Much of the decline was due to weakening demand in the primary market, which could be a result of the tightening home loan limits implemented in June 2013.

Upcoming launches of Sophia Hills, Tre Residences and Symphony Suites might bring renewed activity into the market and possibly close the year on a high. But most of the attention will be in the executive condominium (EC) market as the drought of new launches in this sector welcome new launches of Lake Life, Bellewoods and Bellewaters.

EC options widen with new launches

Property market activity may be back on track as new EC launches inject some much-needed cheer. Bellewoods executive condominium in Woodlands just opened for applications last weekend. And this is after a year-long hiatus with the last major EC launch of Skypark Residences in Sembawang last September.

Bellewoods ECUnits at the Bellwoods were going at an average of $750 to $820 psf and industry experts are expecting prices to go up as construction and land costs increase. A change in policy earlier this year, with the authorities placing a 15-month time frame between the time a developer secures a land plot and the time they can begin selling. At the Lake Life executive condominium in Yuan Ching road, prices are expected to hover between $880 to $980psf. There is also worry that buyers who had originally intended to purchase an EC unit may by the end of 15 months, have received a pay raise and thus moving above the income ceiling which disqualifies him from being eligible to apply for one.

But despite these obstacles, developers remain ositive about the market response as pent-up demand may bring the crowd back despite the seemingly quiet market of recent months. There will also be another round of EC launches planned for the second quarter of 2015. Although there may be more options available, an oversupply seems unlikely as the government has reduced the supply of EC land this year. For the HDB upgrader, ECs now seems like it is truly fulfilling what it set out to do, to fill the gap between public and private housing.

Private property out of reach for HDB Upgraders?

If home prices are falling, most would think that the upgrade from public housing or HDB flats to the private home market should be getting easier. But it seems the opposite is true.

Prices of HDB flats and a private condominium apartment are perhaps softening at around the same rate, or that of HDB flats possibly even quicker. This creates a widening price gap between resale HDB flats and private condominiums, and HDB sellers can no longer depend on the sales proceeds of their HDB flats to balance out the price of their new private condominium.

BellewoodsECPhoto Credit: Bellewoodsec.com

Does this also mean that more HDB flat owners will now be forced to stay put and thus decrease the number of HDB flats available in the resale market? What about those who may have already purchase a private property and have a limited time period within which to sell their HDB flats? WIll they be pushed to sell at lower prices hence suffering the growing amount they need to top up?

Property experts are expecting ECs or executive condominiums to be the bridging properties between these two markets. As a hybrid between public and private housing, buyers qualify for public housing subsidies but after a 10-year period, can sell their units as private properties.  There is also the question of home sizes, will HDB upgraders be willing to settle for lesser space and a higher psf price to make the leap from HDB to private home?

Blooming Balestier

Although it has had the reputation of being a red-light district, albeit a less infamous one compared to the likes of Desker road and Geylang, its proximity to the Novena medical hub and being on the city fringe has brought the value of its properties up. With a new round of property launches and mixed-use properties such as hotel-parks like the Zhongshan Mall, Zhongshan Park, the Days and Ramada hotels, the Balestier area looks set to be the next property hot spot.

Viio BalestierWith its fair share of pre-war preservation shophouses and a quaint, historical feel, just the right amount of new condominiums, hotels and malls has breathed some new life into the area without taking away too much of its original facade. This, coupled with expatriates’ diminishing housing packages, means an increasing interest in rental and sales of properties here.

One of the latest residential projects, Viio @ Balestier, has launched its two-bedders at $1, 600 psf. At Ascent @ 456, prices hovered around $1,477 psf. Cosmo Loft, yet another freehold property in the district sold 5 units at $1, 775 psf. Prices of new launches in the area have risen over the past 2 years alone, up by almost 10 per cent.

Though property owners who had bought into the area early may not be reaping the profits yet as resale property sales and rental demand has dipped across the board, property experts are expecting things to turn around in another 7 years or so.

New private homes – Sales lacklustre

The hungry ghost month and the lack of new property launches during that time have affected new home sales in August. Sales were down 15% and only 432 units were sold although 351 units in previously-launched developments were put up for sale.

The PanoramaMost of the sales came from suburban properties, especially from newer launches such as The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio and Coco Palms in Pasir Ris. Median selling prices at the former was $1,249 psf and $1,046 psf at the latter. Whilst Eight Riversuites launched around the same time as Coco Palms in May 2012, the Whampoa East property fared better with average prices at $1, 345 psf. Positive sales at these few developments could be due to the lower prices at its re-launch. The Panorama for example saw sales picking up once median prices were lowered during its relaunch in May. It was official launched in January this year.

But in the upcoming months, home sales may see a rebound as new launches in the pipeline bring a surge of buying interest. New launches include Marina One Residences, Highline Residences, Seventy St Patrick’s., and a few executive condominium developments such as Bellewoods and Bellewaters EC.

Property analysts are however cautious about the amount of increase in home sales, and the overall sales figures for 2014. The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework and other property cooling measures such as stamp duties for additional properties, may keep the numbers suppressed. Some developers could also be holding their launches for next year in wait of any policy or market shifts.

Lakeside Wonder

Things in the West are heating up, especially with the launch of a number of private residential properties, announcements of a new Jurong Lake Gardens, a new retail and commercial hub Jurong Gateway and new transport lines. It’s a whole new township blossoming.

Prices of properties at Lakeside, a largely residential district, has been on the rise, significantly more so since 2009. Lakeholmz condominium apartments were only priced at $440psf in 2003. In 2009 and 2010 respectively, relatively properties such as The Caspian and Lakefront Residences were already costing buyers $580 psf and $1, 020psf. That is almost double in just a year’s time.

LakevilleOne of the newer launches is the Lakeville condominium and current median prices of properties in the area range at $1, 300 psf. Over the past 12 months, prices have ranged between $706psf for older establishments such as Lakepoint condominium to $1,263 psf at Lakefront Residences.

The new malls, businesses and regional offices setting up shop in the area has also brought along with it a new flow of tenants. Thus rental prospects are promising, especially for newer properties. Rental prices above $3 psf and at least 10 leases are signed at each residential property per month.

With a new land parcel up for bids in December, buyers looking to enter the market in the west side of the country could possibly have something to look forward to.