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.

More vacant EC units left in the market

Executive Condominiums (ECs) used to be the cream of the public housing crop. But now, one in eight EC units are left unoccupied in the market. What are the reasons behind this change?

Belysa Executive Condominium in Pasir Ris is not yet available on the resale market for foriegn purchase. But it will be in 10 years' time.

Belysa Executive Condominium in Pasir Ris.

One of the main factors could be the increasing number of completed units whose owners have yet to renovate or move into. Some of these EC developments include Esparina Residences in Sengkang, Belysa in Pasir Ris and Riverparc Residence in Punggol. ECs are particularly attractive to young families as they are poised to help them move in the private property market eventually. A hybrid between public and private housing, buyers of executive condominiums are able to utilize the public housing grants for the initial purchase, and after 10 years, the property becomes privatized and owners can then reap the profits from selling the units in the private property market.

There are also a number of home owners who have purchase units to make use of the public housing grants they are eligible for, but do not yet need to live in them. They may opt instead to rent out their units after the 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP).

As the overall property market weakens and the HDB resale market remains flat, HDB upgraders who may have planned for a move are finding themselves unable to find a buyer for their existing flat, thus have yet to move into their new ECs.

Is the EC market softening? And will it continue to do so? Currently vacancy rates are at 6 per cent according the URA figures and thus far 739 units have been left vacant. What does this signify for 2014 as the year makes its way into the last quarter?

New Thomson MRT Line will benefit East Coast residents

Not only will property owners in the North reap the benefits of the new stations of the up-and-coming Thomson MRT line, but those in the East Coast will also see the value of their properties rise in the long run as the new MRT stations run through Tanjong Rhu, Katong Park, Marine Terrace, Siglap, Bayshore, Bedok and Sungei Bedok.

LTA - TELPhoto credit: Land Transport Authority (LTA)

The Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) will connect more areas in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country to the city centre and cut travel time considerably. There are a number of exclusive and boutique private residential properties in the East as it has been a popular area for expatriates, but a boost is expected when the TEL commences service in 2019. Property analysts are already expecting a 5 to 10 per cent rise in property prices, if the response to the North-east Line (NEL) stations are anything to go by. And upon completion of the MRT line, they foresee a rise of up to 12 per cent.

Some of the properties which may enjoy the most out of the announced realignment of the TEL includes condominium developments in the Tanjong Rhu area such as Casuarina Cove, Tanjong Ria, Meyer Residence, The Belvedere and Water Place. Properties nearer the already existing Bedok and Tanah Merah mrt stations may not see as significant a change.

Marine BlueNearer Siglap and Bayshore are private apartments such as Lagoon View, Laguna Park, Elliot at East Coast, Bayshore Park, The Bayshore and Costa Del Sol. Cote D’Azur, The Palladium and The Seaview along Marine Parade could also see a rise in home prices in the future.

How will developers price new properties in the area which have yet to launch? Will they release units are higher prices or will they keep to the current market values? New launches coming up include the 124-unit Marine Blue and 109-unit Amber Skye.

HDB flat rentals stay low

The play between supply and demand never gets old. And the tug-and-push continues as rental demand for HDB flats remains lacklustre possibly for the rest of the year.

Immigration policies seem to be the main factor at play, keeping foreign workforce numbers low and thus affecting the demand for rental properties. According to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) figures, the HDB rental index has fallen 2.3 per cent.

But is this the deepest pit of the slowdown or will it continue? Industry experts are predicting this as only the beginning of the rental drop. Sales prices of HDB resale flats have already begun on their downhill journey and though the drop is not drastic, it is rather significant for the year. Most property analysts are expecting a 4 – 7 per cent drop by the end of 2014.

Woodlands HDBNaturally, areas which are further away from transport nodes such as bus stops, main expressways or MRT stations are most affected. HDB flats near MRT stations will continue to hold their prices, whether in sales or rent. Some of the flats fetching the highest rent are in the Central, Bukit Merah and Queenstown estates. Prices range between $2250 for a 3-room flat to $2, 900 for a 4-room flat.

Although Woodlands seems far to many, the area is favoured by many tenants, perhaps due to its proximity to the causeway. Rental prices of flats in the area is lower, between $1,700 to $2, 000 for a 3- or 4-room HDB flat, but demand is higher and the ease of finding will benefit flat owners in the area.

Another reason for the falling rental rates might be the increase in the number of properties available for rent across the board. With some private suburban condominiums reaching completion and some in popular HDB estates, the competition will definitely heat up. 2014 seems pretty set its way for now, but there is always 2015 to look forward to.

Toa Payoh’s facelift

As one of the oldest mature HDB estates in Singapore and HDB’s second satellite town, Toa Payoh has a past which evolved with the growth of the nation. As more new towns such as Punngol, Sengkang and even newer ones in the future such as Bidadari come up, older estates are welcoming timely upgrades.

And it is now Toa Payoh‘s turn as the popular estate saw an overwhelming response to the BTO HDB flats launch a couple of weeks ago. With it’s central location, full-fledge sets of amenities, MRT stations, bus interchange and established schools in its midst, it’s an estate which will stand its own for a long time to come.

TreVista in Toa Payoh Made up of mostly HDB flats, there has hardly been any new private homes launched in the district for almost three years now. However, a plot of land near  the MRT station has been put aside for development, and should a private property be launched in the spot, it will be sure to bring in the buyers and fetch high prices.

In the current market, resale flats sales have dipped from 25 to 15 per quarter, but rental prices and value appreciation of private properties in Toa Payoh has remained stable. Average prices stand between $1, 121 psf to $1, 460 psf with monthly rents currently between $3,60 to $4,10 psf. The private apartments in the area now are Trellis Towers, Oleander Towers and Trevista.

The years ahead hold great promise for the estate and its continued growth seems imminent.