It’s an EC world

Executive condominiums are some of the hottest properties on the buying public’s radar this year. These rare hybrid private-public homes straddle the 2 markets in the best way possible. While they begin their journey as public housing, thus allowing qualifying buyers to make use of government subsidies and loans to secure a usually cheaper-yet-comparable alternative to private condominium units, they graduate after 10 years to the private property market and their values more often that not appreciate considerably.

WandervaleECOne of the first ECs to be launched this year include Wandervale and The Visionaire. The Parc Life will soon be launched. Even though the nearby 1-327-unit Sol Acres EC might have been competing for buyers , 320 out of the 534-unit Wandervale EC in Choa Chu Kang has been sold.  Most of the units popular with HDB ugpraders and young families were the 4-bedders. 82 were sold in total. Prices averaged at $755 psf with a 3-bedroom apartment starting at $655,000 and the larger 4-bedders going for more than $896,000.  The Wandervale’s proximity to the Choa Chu Kang MRT station could have added to its popularity.

Besides The Parc Life, other EC launches in the works include Treasure Crest in Sengkang, Northwave in Woodlands and another in Choa Chu Kang.

How deep is the property market well?

Property prices in Singapore have been falling since 2014, 10 consecutive quarters to be exact. In the first quarter of this year, HDB flat prices have stabilised at 0.1 per cent while private property prices have dipped 0.7 per cent. In 2015, HDB flat and private property prices fell an average of 0.4 and 0.9 per cent respectively.

Kingsford WaterbayPhoto: Kingsford Waterbay condominium 

HDB flat prices have begun to stabilise of late, though some property analysts are still expecting a further drop in the second half of the year as 25,000 new BTO flats reach completion this year. A good 30 per cent of these new-flat buyers are upgraders and home owners, not investors, which means they will be looking to sell their existing HDB flat in order to finance their new flat. This will bring a new slew of units into the resale HDB flat market. Though the demand for resale flats has not waned much, the rise in supply may put the ball in the buyers’ court.

 Photo: Clementi Gateway BTO flats

Similarly in the private property and EC (executive condominium) market, buyers will need to time their upgrading manoeuvre in order to manage cash flow, thus some may be in a rush to let go of their existing unit which could put further pressure on the market which will be seeing 21,906 new private condominium and 4,561 EC units enter its midst this year. How will the property sector perform in this crucial second quarter of 2016?

High vacancy rate hits property rental market

The days of brisk rental demand for private apartments could be going as the high number of vacant private property units in the market reached a record 10-year high at the end of 2015. Rents have fallen 4.6 per cent last year and analysts are predicting a 6 per cent drop this year.

Cassia EdgePhoto: Cassia Edge condominium

With the sheer number of new condominiums and smaller units introduced into the market in the last five to ten years, the opportunities for investors with varying financial capabilities have expanded vastly. Many of them have purchased smaller suburban units for investment purposes but 2016 may not bode well for those looking for a quick turnaround in terms of resale or rental of these units. The number of new condominium units hitting the market this year will mean increased competition for a diminishing tenant pool which will squeeze rental prices downwards. Many landlords are already finding it difficult to find tenants with the same asking prices as before, and have found it necessary to lower prices by 10 to 20 per cent.

Districts 19 and 20, which includes Bishan, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang, will have the highest number of new units in their midst this year – approximately 8,200. This is despite the fact that rental prices have not risen much in these districts over the past 3 years. Property experts are however positive about the huge redevelopment of the Seletar Aerospace park which may continue to provide the demand for rental units. In the eastern districts however, demand may be waning as expatriates working in the hard-hit financial and banking sectors could be leaving the country.

Foreign buyers favour luxury properties in Singapore

Private apartments up to the size of 506 sq ft, more popularly known as shoebox apartments, have been having a hard time finding new owners as prices of completed units fell 1.1 per cent. However, non-central region private apartment prices rose 0.3 per cent in February and central region units have fared surprisingly well.

St Regis ResidencesThe recent sale of a $15million St. Regis Residences penthouse may have given the owner in a $3.3 million profit margin and given last month’s figures a boost despite the low sales volume. Overall, private property prices rose 0.4 per cent last month, following a 0.2 per cent rise in January. The luxury property market has not been in the best of health last year, but things may be taking a turn for the better.

Though property analysts are conservative about their predictions of a market turnaround this year, it is nevertheless a glimmer of light. With rising home prices in London and Hong Kong, foreign buyers are taking a second look at properties here in Singapore for investment purposes. Approximately 92 per cent of the sales and subsales transactions registered in the core central region come from foreign buyers.

Sturdee-ResidenceProperty investors with less holding power may be pushed to sell their units, in particular the smaller ones as rental prospects have dimmed, as oil, gas and marine sectors wobble.

Fewer resale flats entering HDB market

A good number of new HDB flats have reached or will soon reach the end of the minimum occupation period (MOP), and despite the expected slew of relatively new resale HDB flats entering the market, the situation is contrary.

CIty View Boon KengPhoto: City view @ Boon Keng (credit: Hoi Hup Realty Pte Ltd)

Some units in prime locations and prime developments such as the Pinnacle @ Duxton and City View @ Boon Keng may have fetched record prices, but most owners are not in a rush to put their units up for sale as the resale market is currently slow.

In 2010, 1,338 units were sold within a year of reaching their MOP, about 13.7% of the number of newly eligible flats. By last year, there were only 388 such transactions, at about 6%. Though private property prices have fallen, the gap between public and private housing remains considerable; and with a slowing market, resale flats may not be able to command the prices of before.

Pinnacle @ Duxton was awarded the 2011 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Global Awards for Excellence. Image by HDB.

Pinnacle @ Duxton. Image by HDB.

The upperhand-tussle between buyers and sellers have been ongoing for the past 4 to 5 years, and the undercurrent uncertainty of late have not aided the situation. It may be a matter of “who blinks first” as buyers and sellers both wait out this iffy period. More flat owners are instead beginning to sublet their flats after meeting the MOP. The next big move which might shake things up would be possible changes to the property cooling measures.

Price drop in City fringe and Suburban properties

The global economic slowdown may have affected industries all around, as salaried employees whose jobs may even be in danger are now more prudent with their spendings. As these are the main target audience for suburban and city-fringe properties, these market sectors are a little worse for wear and both sales and rental prices have fallen.

A typical 3-bedder outside the central region may have fetch $3,800 in monthly rent a year ago, but now the going prices are hovering around $3,200. Competition in the resale market may also rise this year as investors who have purchase properties in 2011 will now be clear of stamp duties and may be putting their units into the market by the middle of this year.

Corals @ Keppel BayPhoto: Corals @ Keppel Bay

Luxury homes and central region properties may fare a little better, though resale private apartment prices have dropped 0.3 per cent in February this year. Most of the buyers of these high-end properties are high-net-worth individuals or funds who are capable of holding on to their properties through market troughs. Foreigners also make up a large proportion of the buyers here, with Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese forming majority of the group. As Singapore’s luxury properties are still considered value-buys in comparison with the other popular Asian city, Hong Kong, where prices are 30 per cent higher and most properties are leasehold, those with the cash will continue to pick up deals, more of which are to be had this year as developers begin to offload their unsold stock.

Investors’ loss may be end-users’ gain

With headwinds brewing in the property market, many private property owners and investors have already been or may be seriously considering letting go of their properties, in particular high-value luxury ones at below market prices. Investors with strong financial backing and holding power may be more willing to sell below market value, as long as the offer is reasonable, as they may want to release the money for investment elsewhere and make higher returns with a quicker turnaround.

TurquoisePhoto: Turquoise condominium

Smaller investors however may find themselves having to put their property in auction, in particular those who have had to suffer a loss of income. The days of old may have seen them relying on their passive income from rental of properties to supplement their income, but as the rental market is rapidly weakening, this iron rice bowl may not be so solid after all. For property owners who are in a rush to sell, they may even find themselves doing so at a loss as they would have had to put in monies for legal fees, stamp duties and mortgage loan interests in the years following their purchase.

Last year alone saw 400 secondary market transactions making a loss, four times more than the 100 in 2014; and 31 of these non-landed properties made more than $1million loss, that is more than thrice the number in 2014. Most of these were in the luxury property segment, with units at the Seascape making the largest loss of $5.2 million in the resale market. Some of the other projects with units exchanging hands at below-market prices include St. Regis Residences, Turquoise and The Orchard Residences.

Wander-ful Wandervale

The year is starting off strong for the executive condominium (EC) segment as the latest addition to the market. The 534-unit Wandervale EC in Choa Chu Kang is already half sold within the first weekend of its launch last week.

Photo credit: Sim Lian

The average price is currently at $755 psf and response has been overwhelming, with a record-high subscription rate and first-weekend-conversion for over a year. Wandervale will join the other Choa Chu Kang EC, Sol Acres and 2 more are expected to join their ranks by the end of the year. Sol Acres was launched last August and also sold well at $780 psf, with 247 units sold within the launch weekend.

The demand for executive condominiums have remained steady, with a almost-certain potential of value appreciation as they qualify for public housing grants on the initial purchase but become valuable private properties after a 10-year period. Location however could play a big part in determining the sales success. Since its launch in September last year, Criterion EC in Yishun has only sold 76 units at a median price of $807 psf. The Signature, also in Yishun, has sold 116 units at $768 psf as of January this year. Some of the more popular EC projects launched last year included The Brownstone on Canberra Drive, Westwood Residences and The Vales.