Singapore home prices down last quarter

Across the board, property prices have dipped again last quarter, but resale HDB flat prices may be stabilising. Following the first quarter decline of 1 per cent, resale HDB flat prices dipped only 0.4 per cent last quarter, possibly signifying a bottoming out of this market.

Optima condominium at Tanah Merah.

Optima condominium at Tanah Merah.

Nudged by the lowered mortgage servicing ratio cap from 35 to 30 per cent and reduction in the number of new BTO (build-to-order) and SBF (sale of balance flats) units, HDB resale flat prices have fallen for a few quarters now. Property analysts are expecting a stabilising of the market, or at least a rise in demand for resale units as HDB plans to increase the income ceiling for BTO flats, which may replenish the pool of potential resale HDB flat buyers.

Private home prices are however expected to fall further this year, especially as resale HDB flat prices have fallen so quickly the gap between private suburban homes and the former have widened. Some HDB upgraders may think twice about selling their HDB flat to purchase a private condominium unit and others may turn to resale flats instead of private homes. The expectation of a rush of new private apartment units to hit the market in the later half of this year may have also put a damper on market prices.

In the first quarter, private home prices fell 1 per cent, and the fall remained steady in the second quarter at 0.9 per cent. Moving ahead, prices of private non-landed homes are expected to fall 4 to 6 per cent by the end of the year.

 

Private property prospects for the next 2 years?

The Singapore General Election may be coming up in the next year and a half, and that leaves most wondering about possible policy shifts and how that would affect the country’s economy. Since the last election, immigration and loan policies have changed rather substantially, both of which have impacted the property industry in a number of ways.

Melrose VilleOn the financial front, the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework has been effective in slowing down property demand. With the likelihood of interest rates here rising in tandem with US rates, it seems unlikely that this policy will be removed or relaxed anytime soon as it aims to help households and borrowers build a clearer structure around their long-term financial stability.

A decrease in immigration numbers have also affected the property rental industry, with vacancy rates possibly hitting 10 per cent at the end of 2015. Coupled with a growing number of completed new units made available within these 2 years, the supply could majorly outweigh the demand. Property experts suggest that the only way to slow down the property prices and demand decline is to reduce the speed and quantity of new properties, and an adjustment of the TDSR. There is no sign of change for the moment, but would next year bring about a fresh wave of changes?

Smaller private homes popular with HDB Upgraders

Whether for occupation or investment, HDB dwellers moving into the private property market are setting their sights on smaller units below 100 sqm priced between $750,000 and $1.05 million. Median sizes of purchased non-landed homes have fallen to 85 sq m.

This could be a good indicator for developers and resale private condominium sellers of the pricing sweet spot in upcoming launches. Prices of completed transactions of non-landed homes have fallen 5.4 per cent. But private property owners who are purchasing within the market are snapping up bigger units of up to 110 sq m. This could be due to the fall in prices since 2013 and the affordable total quantum pricing.

Pollen&BleuThe number of foreign property buyers have also decreased slightly, with most now targeting luxury homes tagged above $5 million. In addition to Singapore’s political and economic stability, established infrastructure and education standards, value-for-money property options continue to draw foreign investors despite increased stamp duties.

As the market acclimatises itself to the new dynamics of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework, increased stamp duties and other property cooling measures, the buyers may gradually re-enter the market. With the promise of new launches coming up in then next few months, the numbers could see a turnaround soon.

Fewer new private property launches

Despite lower sales of new private home last month, the percentage of sales based on the number of units launched, was positive.

The lower sales figure was mainly due to the lack of new property launches. But the take-up rate of the 499 units launched was at a happy 128 per cent in May. The take-up rate was only 84 per cent in May this year, compared to 82 per cent in April 2014. Considering the 21 per cent fall in sales in the first 5 months of this year, the leap last month is a promising sign.

HighparkResidencesLeading the sales were suburban launches at Botanique at Bartley, Northpark Residences in Yishun and The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio. Median selling prices were $1,232 psf at The Panorama, $1,292 psf at Botanique at Bartley and $1,397 psf at Northpark Residences. Competitive pricing may have lowered prices on some newer launches and this could have attracted buyers back into the market. There were even reports of private funds or group of investors who have picked up 16 units at 111 Emerald Hill.

In the months ahead, the number of new property launches will remain low, which may in turn affect figures. But instead of looking at across-the-board figures, sussing out potential deals in previous launches which are re-launchning new units could be the way to get ahead of the pack. Upcoming launches to look forward to are Gramercy Park in Grange Road and High Park Residences in Fernvale.

Rebound in resale private non-landed property market?

If sales volume are anything to go by, signs of the resale private property market rebounding could be imminent.

Since the fall of prices of resale units to equivalent of or lower than new private non-landed properties, the number of transactions have increased significantly. Within the first 4 months of 2015, transaction volume has seen a 20.7 per cent increase. Resale properties are often ready for immediate occupancy and rental, thus buyers tend to favour these units to new ones in order to skip the wait of building and construction. The rental opportunities to be had within the few years it takes to build a new residential property could be quite substantial. And oftentimes, resale units tend to have a bigger floor area.

PebbleBayCondoThough the number of transactions, 1,411 from January to April this year, is still lower than the 2,203 in a year-on-year comparison with the peak in 2013, property analysts are upbeat about the market as the year moves on. It could show that buyers are finally getting used to the cooling measures, in particular the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework, and realising that the market could be reaching a plateau. Sentiments could be that this is the time to buy, before prices and interest rates start climbing again.

The promising signs could be seen across the island, though more markedly in Districts 5, 10, 15 and 23. Some of it could be due to the fall in prices over the past year, and some the potential of having the future Downtown MRT line in close proximity. Even the Central region’s luxury properties have seen a recent boost in sales numbers of 24.2 per cent, most evident in Districts 9 and 10.

 

HDB resale prices – Upwards soon?

With property prices on the decline since almost a year ago, have HDB resale flat prices finally bottomed out?

Buyers seems to have caught on with the price drop and have been back on the hunt for units as the number of transactions in May this year indicated a 20 per cent rise compared to the same month last year. Prices have also shown a 0.2 per cent increase in March and have held steady in April.

Resale 5-room HDB flat on King George's Avenue with asking price of more than $700,000.

The property cooling measures rolled out by the government seem to have finally taken full effect since their implementation over the past couple of years. Since its peak in 2013, HDB flat prices have fallen 11 per cent.  Property analysts are expecting resale HDB flat prices to reach it’s bottom by the end of the year. Minister for National Development, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, has previously mentioned a possible single digit fall in HDB flat prices this year.

How long the lower prices will be maintained is largely dependant on policy changes and buyers’ sentiments, but also on the private property market and the options made available to the buying public. It could be that the prices may remain stable for awhile with the number of sales transactions increasing as buyers take advantage of this window of opportunity.

 

Small private condominium units popular again

 

NeemTreeIt seems the 2 most recent new condominium launches got buyers all hot and happy, snapping up 526 units at the 920-unit Northpark Residences and 254 in Botanique at Bartley. Most of the buyers were HDB upgraders, with private buyers and foreigners making up one third.

Contrary to previous figures which showed a dip in interest in smaller units, the studio, one- and two-bedders went the fastest at Northpark Residences. The average selling prices were between $1, 300 and $1,400 psf. Smaller units may be increasingly in demand, and perhaps upcoming launches may expect to see a similar trend.

Over at Botanique @ Bartley, the median selling price was at $1,290 psf. Close to 85 per cent of its units sold were below $1.2 million in total quantum price. Some of the other launches which continued to sell well were Sims Urban Oasis and City Gate.

Were these bigger developments more popular with buyers? A much smaller new property, the 84-unit Neem Tree in Balestier, seemed to have trailing in the wake of these 2 larger launches. They have yet to sell any of the 24 units they put out for sale. Property experts have read this recent leap in new property sales cautiously, as most of the sales were from only 2 launches which were priced to suit buyers’ current expectations of lowered prices.

Rise in private condominium rental

Could the market be turning on its heels, headed up the charts? Vacancy rates have been falling as the number of rental properties finding tenants have been on the rise.

Property analysts are however not positive about the numbers. They have attributed it to statistics more than the actual market sentiment. Rental rates have instead fallen 1.7 per cent in Q1, which could show that the number of new occupant-ready properties entering the market last and this year may have shaven a chunk off the property rental pie. From now to 2018, almost 67,300 new units will flood the market, giving a possible indication of how the market will react in the months or even years to come.

AstoriaParkCondoLocation nevertheless still has the ability to bring rental prices up a significant notch. At the Astoria Park condominium near Kembangan MRT station for example, rents have risen for the first 3 months of the year. Older condominiums may have a battle at hand as newer properties offer fresher facilities; though the proximity to amenities, transport nodes and schools may put the former right back on the tenants’ maps. Landlords of older developments may also have an upper hand in their option of coming down on prices since they may have purchased the units at a lower cost.

As more new residential properties come into the fold in the months ahead, the symbiotic relationship between rental and sale prices could become more obvious and things may seem a lot clearer then.