Authorities not ready to ease property curbs

The property industry has been hoping for a respite from the several rounds of property cooling measures rolled out over this year and the last. But the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director, Ravi Menon, recently said that even though home prices has ease somewhat and has leveled the playing field slightly, there are still risk factors which prevents them to being able to release their hold on the reins.

Home prices have risen an astounding 60 per cent from 2009 and over the past year, it has only fallen 3.3 per cent. Though it is quite impossible for home prices to fall to the level before the 2009 boom, they are hoping nevertheless to keep the markets stable before easing the restrictions.

Singapore real estateThe measure which affected the market the most could be the mortgage loan curb. The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework has put many buyers hoping for a home loan out of reach of their desired property. This has indirectly caused developers to shake a little on their footing and prices of new properties dropped slightly over the last 3 quarters. But property prices are still relatively high and the fear is that any relaxation of the current rulings might cause an upward spiral process which might be more detrimental in the long run.

Battling inflation has been one of the key issues for the country’s rulers and with housing becoming an increasingly crucial factor of nation development, the property market here would be largely linked to policy-making.

City Fringe wins once more

From Marine Parade to Novena to Kampong Glam, areas surrounding the busy city centre and central business districts are some of the best spots for property investments and this has hardly changed over the years.

The mixed-use development DUO at Ophir road was one of the latest offerings late last year. This year, another similar residential-cum-commercial project join their ranks – the City Gate on Beach road. But before these giant developments came into play, the Concourse Skyline condominium apartments were already in place. This 360-unit property was priced at $1, 590 psf at its 2008 launch. Despite 101 of its units remaining unsold, existing units have gone for as much as $2, 075 psf in the last quarter of 2013.

CIty GateWith the large number of incoming units from City Gate, which is targeting a price range of $1,900 to $2, 000 psf, these remaining units at the Concourse Skyline may be up for some fierce competition. Developers, Hong Fok Land, may experience some pressure to lower prices in order to meet the “All sold” status.

City Gate will sit on the site of the former Keypoint and will feature 188 commercial units and 311 apartment units ranging from one- and two-bedders to the increasingly popular dual-key units. Penthouses will vary in size, from 484 sq ft one-bedders to 1, 819 sq ft four-bedders. The wide variety of units will draw buyers with different intentions in mind, but with such a prime location, the only thing that might stop consumers in their tracks is the strict loan limits.

Smaller apartments gaining popularity once again

Just a couple of years ago, there were debates about whether homes were becoming too small for comfort as the 500 sq ft studio apartments or shoebox units took the market by storm. Some shunned small units, preferring instead to go for larger ones with a lower psf price.

But now as loan limits are truly showing their might, buyers are favoring smaller apartments once again due to their lower quantum prices and the ease of rental. Though not all are flocking to shoebox units, after all, young families do need a reasonable amount of space, the average home size has dropped to 947 sq ft from June last year. And for HDB upgraders, their chances to move onto the private property market might have become slimmer, especially if size is a major consideration. The average 4-room HDB flat is around 969 sq ft.

CIty GateOne- and two-bedders have increasingly become more popular with buyers as they are usually within their budget and investors find them easier to rent out. URA figures in fact also showed that new residential properties have also featured smaller units, with the average size being 753 sq ft. But this hardly comes as a surprise as home size has been shrinking since 2009.

The other popular property  type is the dual-key apartment which provides the atmosphere of having two separate living spaces within the same home. Some of these units share the same entrance but separate facilities such as kitchens and toilets, while others share the same facilities but have separate entrances, providing privacy for bigger families and offering more rental options.

As we progress into the second half of the year and the market evolves in reaction to buyers demand and supply of land, will developers be quick to re-strategize and cater to the majority?

$1 million sweet spot for home prices

The average affordability ceiling for properties have dropped by almost $200,000 ever since the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) placed curbs on loans. The average price home buyers can now afford, or are willing to fork out, is $1 million. Properties between the total quantum range of $800,000 to $1. 2 million generally sit better with buyers. The range used to be wider, with homes reaching $1.4 million selling just as well.

LakevilleDevelopers have been quick to realize the shift and have been offering considerable discounts or competitive pricing for new launches. Smaller units such as studio apartments and one- or two-bedders have also performed better than their larger counterparts. About 8,254 homes priced between $700,000 and $1.2 million were sold during the last year. Properties which were offering more affordable units, such as the Coco Palms in Pasir Ris which launched units at $980 psf, were able to garner more sales.

And for buyers hoping to secure a home below $500,000 there are now more available, and more sold. In the last year, 291 units below $500,000 were sold from June 2013 to June 2014. Comparing to the year before, only 61 units were sold within the same time frame. Buyers consider smaller units easier for both occupier and rental purposes, plus most HDB upgraders rate affordability of homes as between $900,000 to $1 million.

Orchard road’s West end revamp?

A little off the main stretch, but nearer the exclusive Botanic gardens and Tanglin stretch of sprawling private homes and foreign embassies, the West end of Orchard road looks set for a revamp as MRT stations and other area redevelopment plans are in the works for this spot.

The TomlinsonA MRT stop which is part of the latest Thomson Line is planned just next to the Camden Medical Centre and targeted to be ready by 2021. Now may be the time developers will consider expanding or redeveloping land and older properties around the area. There have been movements in the recent years, with the latest property being St. Regis Residences. Sales at this luxury property has not always been positive however. Prices of $4, 653 psf in 2007 have since almost halved to $2, 399 psf.

Older properties in the same area, such as Cuscaden Residences and The Tomlinson, however fetch a lower sales price, and may be more palatable to those seeking an investment. But due to the relatively large size of most apartment units in the area, it also narrows the target audience. Those who are able or willing to purchase properties here will be limited as it may be more difficult to rent out. At The Tomlinson, the average resale price is $1, 896 psf.

Will the new MRT line bring refresh the market even as luxury homes sales are on a decline? Will the possibility of future collective sales of older condominiums be an incentive to purchase now?

Varied market response to declining property prices

Home prices in both the private and resale HDB markets have continued to dip in the second quarter of 2014. In the first three months of the year, the decline was 1.6 per cent. Perhaps buoyed by the increased number of launched in Q2, the rate of decline was somewhat less steep at 1.3 per cent the quarter past.

Rezi 3 TwoBuyers who have been on the lookout for opportunities such as this may be happy to find that more than a few property developments have been offering discounts. Though the overall number of sales have picked up in the second quarter, mostly due to new launches, the private homes market saw a more obvious slowdown in both the city centre and suburbs. The drop was 1.5 per cent in the city centre and 1.1 per cent in the suburbs. Properties in the city fringe fared better with a 0.6 per cent drop, an improvement considering the 3.3 per cent dive in the earlier part of the year.

But there are those who are concerned about the longevity of their investment should they purchase now. The question they may ask is, is this the lowest prices can go? If I were to buy now, will the prices continue to drop? Though property analysts are doubtful that the prices will bottom out anytime soon, they are expecting the maximum of a 5 per cent decline.

As long as the supply continues at a steady pace, prices will not vary far from the current levels. Perhaps true change will only come with a shift in policies. Considering the elections will be here in a couple of years’ time, the time leading up to that might be a period of uncertainty.

No rise in private property market sales yet

Though the dip in private home sales is not as drastic as expected, with a 1.3 per cent decline in the first half of 2014, industry experts are expecting the same rate of decline for the remaining half of the year.

The restrictive home loan situation was the main deterrent as it has meant that buyers may no longer be able to loan as much as before and that has limited their possible property purchases. The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) limits the total monthly debt repayment to 60 per cent of the borrower’s gross monthly income. For buyers who are already servicing a home loan or other loans, the amount they are able to loan will be lesser as well.

CIty GateThe smaller and more affordable units will seem more attractive than before. Or units such as dual-key apartments which allow bigger families to stay together may be more affordable should the cost be shared. As June was a relatively quiet month for new launches, figures from the next quarter will be more telling. In the first half, less than 5, 000 private homes were sold. Buyers can look forward to a few more launches in the coming months, including mixed-use development, City Gate at Beach road, The Crest in Prince Charles Crescent, Highline Residences in Tiong Bahru and Marina One in Marina Bay. Indicative prices of units at City Gate will range from $1, 900 to $2, 200 psf.

Will there be a surprise market rebound? Or will it decline further?

Property launches may trickle

As transaction volume of luxury homes remains below par this year, property developers are holding back on their new launches. The last big launch was in October last year, of the freehold Goodwood Grand and Liv on Wilkie.  There are apparently up to 12 new projects on hold.

The one high-end residential project which went on sale this year was The Rise @ Oxley Residences near Orchard road. So far only 8 units of the 120-unit project has been sold, at a median price of $2,452 psf. Sales have been slow since November last year. Goodwood Grand has sold 22 of its 73 units as of May this year, at a $2,323 psf average. The availability of smaller apartments at Liv on Wilkie has helped with sales as they are more affordable for investors and may have longer legs to run.

The Rise @ OxleyWhat have developers been busy with these few months? Cutting back on their losses by offering discounts on existing stock, it seems. And as some may be in a hurry to sell as deadlines loom, the discounts are more attractive than usually expected of the property market.

But for those who are willing to wait, new projects yet-to-be launched include New Futura in Leonie Hill Road and Gramercy Park on Grange road. Once again the waiting game is being played. And though it was the buyer’s game earlier this year, the ball now remains in mid-air. In whose court will it land?