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.

Will adjusting HDB income ceiling help “Sandwich class” own a home?

As earning power climbs, the combined household income for an increasing number of families now fall just above the income ceiling for public housing. This puts them just out of reach of a new HDB flat yet still quite a distance away from being able to afford a private property, especially as inflation and the financial stress of providing for a family kick in.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

The combined household income ceiling for a new HDB flat currently stands at $10,000 while the same for an executive condominium (EC) is $12,000. The income ceiling was last raised in 2011, from $8,000 to $10,000 for HDB flats and $10,000 to $12,000 for ECs. Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in the number of couples and families falling into the “sandwiched class” of middle-income households in Singapore. Especially as Singaporeans now tend to marry late in life, when the husband and wife’s earning capabilities are at a certain level which puts them just beyond qualifying for a new HDB flat might be facing the most headaches.

Is there a way around it as public housing was originally aimed at helping those in need. But since there might always be a section of the population who will find public housing out of reach and private housing too much of a financial burden or risk, will raising the income ceiling really help elevate their circumstances only to be a burden to yet another group of citizens? What other options are available for these middle class families? Will they be looking at resale HDB flats as the only viable and affordable option?

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?

EC prices look set to maintain current level

Recent low winning bids on land parcels may not be enough to lower executive condominium (EC) prices, at least not in the near future.

Most of the ECs which are being built or are nearing their TOP (temporary occupation permit) status are situated on land which were purchase by developers at high prices. Combined with rising construction costs and declining private home prices, prices of ECs may also face pressure. Property experts are expecting a similar 5 to 8 per cent fall in EC prices this year, similar to the prediction for HDB resale market and also the private property market.

TheTerraceECAs the price gap between ECs and private properties narrow, buyers may be swayed to the latter which allows them to immediately sell or rent. ECs, being a hybrid of public and private property, are still subjected to public housing rules which includes a minimum occupation period of 5 years before being allowed to sell. After 10 years, executive condominiums do become private properties.

In addition, developers who have secured land at lower prices may still wish to peg their units to current market levels instead of lowering it at first instance. This gives them the allowance of offering discounts later on.

Buyers who have been holding out for much lower prices may have a long wait.

Low sales for resale homes in January

With city centre homes leading the way, resale home prices seemed to be walking down the same path as the month before, with a dip of 1.7 per cent. Suburban homes’ decline was slightly less steep at 1.1 per cent and across the board, resale homes saw a 0.2 per cent drop in prices. On the bright side, city fringe properties did fairly well, with a 1.5 per cent gain.

The number of transactions were part of the reason for the drop. In January, only 282 private properties were sold, down from 363 in December last year. Other reasons include the loan restrictions and overall lower buying sentiments. With the festive season coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, the numbers for February may not see a drastic pick-up, but from March onwards, the figures will be telling of the year’s property market prospects.

6DeryshireAs the year goes on, industry experts are expecting buyers to pick up on the softening home prices and keep a quick eye out for serious sellers who may have potentially value-worthy offers. There are sellers out there who are still holding on to their asking prices as they wait out 2015. The year could be a tussle between the these two groups. Any extreme asking prices on both ends will be unlikely to do anyone any favours.

Currently, areas with the highest resale home value (Measured by the amount buyers were overpaying or underpaying) of $60,000 are Watten Estate, Novena and Thomson. In Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang, the prices were a negative $31,000.

A major shift in dynamics this year could be caused by the higher interest rates which are likely to happen this year. Buyers may take that into consideration, together with the tightened loan limits, which does not give them much leeway in negotiations. Sellers who are eager to make a sale will do well to consider these limitations as well and understand that it will not be easy for their buyers to easily fork out additional cash.

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.