HDB rolls out new smartphone app function

Taking a walk around a HDB estate and see a block you wouldn’t mind calling home? Now you can instantly call up relevant information and data such as resale prices by just using your smartphone.

Mobile@HDB Screen GrabThe Mobile@HDB app was launched in 2011, but has just recently had a revamp on 7 Oct. The mobile app is free and the latest augmented reality function uses GPS to identify blocks within a 200m radius to help users find out resale transaction details within a 2-year period. Although there is a 20m to 100m degree of error, property agents and home seekers will still no doubt benefit from this real-time app function.

HDB is hoping to make the home-seeking and purchasing process easier with their website and app revamps. Besides the augmented reality function, the Mobile@HDB app also has a concierge function which allows users to get a queue number remotely (as long as they are within the HDB vicinity, e.g. at the Toa Payoh MRT station which is near the HDB Hub) and even get a push notification when their number is called; and also check on their HDB appointments. Now more can be done without having to physically be at the HDB service centres.

Since its most recent update, the concierge function has been used 300 times and the augmented reality function 5,000 times. Users can look forward to an easier and breezier home search, and hopefully HDB will continue to improve on their customer service.

Photo credit: HDB


Do upgraded HDB flats bring higher resale prices?

Given an older resale HDB flat in a prime location and a recently upgraded one in a less popular HDB estate, which would you choose?

HDB recently announced that they will be speeding up the Home Improvement Programme, the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and the Selective Lift Replacement Programme. Some sellers and property agents are putting a higher price tag on flats which have be selected for such programmes. But with caveats.

HDB MUPPhoto credit: HDB

Only HDB flats whose owners have already paid for the upgrading may have an edge in the resale market. As the upgrading is usually only billed and paid for after the work is completed, some buyers may find themselves having to foot the bill for the flat or estate’s upgrading work if the seller has not already done so. Though it may seem like a significant difference, property agents are saying that it will not affect resale prices on the whole. The most it will do is slow down the price decline.

In fact, some buyers may prefer not to purchase flats which have yet been upgraded as it may bring inconveniences such as dust and noise for a significant period of time. Only flats which have been completely upgraded can command a higher selling price. But buyers who are thinking ahead may consider these older flats for the potential they hold once upgrading has been completed. With elderly-friendly facilities, newer amenities, perhaps even more room, the future could be more promising than you think.

Luxury condominiums going at lower prices

$2,200 psf to $1, 800 psf.
$3.7 million to $3.4 million.

That’s how far lower the prices for high-end luxury apartment units are going for.

Perhaps it’s a case of when the going gets tough, the tough gets going, at lower prices. It’s no secret that while luxury properties are the creme de la creme for property agents and developers, when investment money is slow in coming, these are one of the hardest to sell.

Hallmark residencesAnd the going looks like it is going to be tough for quite some time more. Property developers are struggling to move unsold stock, and depending on whether their holding power is strong enough, they may be forced to make other moves sooner. There were news earlier on this month that developers are looking to convert condominiums into serviced apartments as the pressure of the deadline to sell looms closer.

At MCL Land’s Hallmark Residences in Bukit Timah, the uncompleted condominium development is already advertising sales of units at discounts of up to $300,000. A 969 to 990 sq ft 2-bedroom unit was originally priced at $2 million but is now at a lower $1.8 million. Since its release of the first 20 units in January, 5 have been sold. They are however planning for a proper launch sometime in the first half of 2014. At the 999-year leasehold St Regis Residences on Tanglin Road, prices have dropped from $4,653 to $2, 349 psf. Of the over 10,000 private homes still under construction in the prime districts 9, 10 and 11, nearly half remain unsold.

Once again the story of low demand versus high supply dogs the real estate industry. With the government’s many cooling measures, a bubble is unlikely to happen especially since loans are harder to get. It will be interesting to see how the property market plans for a rebound.

Get help investing in Iskandar properties

The next time you’re thinking about investing in properties in Malaysia, don’t just sit there and surf the net and wonder about all the possibilities from the couch. Property developers are increasingly aware of the growing interest in Malaysian properties, especially those in Iskandar Malaysia, and are organizing regular trips to allow potential investors a more in-depth peek into the workings and actual environment of the properties just across the border.

Meridin Suites in Malaysia.

Meridin Suites in Malaysia.

Ascendent Assets, for example, offers weekend training courses which provides the participant with tips and tricks about investing in Malaysian properties. There is quite a lot of know as the rules and regulations change quickly and new updates are always available. And unlike investing in a property close to home, foreign property purchases have a bigger risk factor, which can be cut down by finding out all you can before putting your hard-earned money into the pot. One of the pluses about this course is the meeting of Iskandar Regional Development Authority officials and the ability to visit and inspect the actual sites. Getty Goh, Ascendent Assets’ Director advises investors against leaping into the deep end with the idea that the property market in Malaysia is as fertile as in Singapore.

Malaysian property developer, Mah Sing, holds similar weekend excursions and is experienced with buyers interested in their Medini-based development, The Meridin @ Medini. Most of them are drawn to the urban-style living which comes with the corresponding convenience of hotels, shops and hospitals nearby, but increasingly the development of EduCity which will feature international universities have also proven to be a strong pull factor.

Developers also provide an option for experienced investors who are familiar with foreign property purchases but may be shopping around for the best deals. Property clubs, usually run by real estate agents, allow a group of like-minded individuals to get together and explore different markets and network with relevant individuals in the Malaysian market.

So there is help out there if you are willing to look hard enough. And unlike before when it’s like stepping out into the dark, there is now many beacons to help guide you on your way.

Home buyers get more time to decide

It used to be, see the showflat, book a flat, pay a deposit all within a day or two. Or otherwise miss your chance altogether, what with so many buyers competing for the same unit.

THE Quinn

But now, it seems developers are lengthening their preview launch periods to allow buyers more time to work out their sums before their big commitment. All this in reaction to the recent restrictions on loans, which may have caused buyers to be more cautious about how much they can afford and how much of a loan they can actually receive. Mental sums may not cut it, and developers are making certain that marketing agents are readily at hand to provide assistance and information, even going as far as to provide a “thinking corner” which is free from the pressure of agents to allow buyers a quiet space to consider their potential purchases.

The Tembusu condominium for example was launched only on 13 August, but two weeks before the official launch date, showflats were already open and available for viewing but not purchases. Buyers could have the luxury of time to browse and consider whether their budget matched the indicative pricing. It also allows for a more thorough research and comparison of short and long-term goals and financial considerations.

The MaisonsBanks are also held to the new total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) rules when calculating property buyers’ loan applications, thus the approval waiting period is also longer. It used to take three days to process an application, but now it could take up to a week.
At The Quinn and The Maisons private apartments, buyers not get two days leeway to think things through when previously a blank cheque is required as an expression of interest should they wish to reserve a unit. This has certainly tipped the scale towards buyers as they now have more time to contemplate their purchases and there might be a higher chance of rejection for the developers. How will this affect the overall private property prices?

HDB rental on the rise

HDB flat owners are less willing to sell their flats because it would stop them from buying resale flats again, especially if they already own a private property. Many who have upgraded to a private condominium have kept their HDB flat to earn rental income which may go to pay for their private home.

Yishun HDB FlatComparing the number of rental transactions from the second quarter of last year to this year’s showed a 15 per cent hike. The Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) revealed that 1, 760 HDB flats were rented out in July, 25 per cent increase from almost a year ago.

A new rule was set three years ago which stipulates that private property owners need to sell their private property should they wish to purchase a resale HDB flat. But it does not apply the other way around. Thus, if you own a resale HDB flat and wish to also purchase a private property, that is possible. In fact, many are investing in the property market in this manner. Once the HDB flat owner has fulfilled the flat’s minimum occupation period, he can then purchase a private property and hold both simultaneously.

In lieu of this, some singles have moved out of the HDB flat they share with their parents, perhaps into a shoebox apartment, leaving an empty room behind which then can be rented out. Some families have even rented out entire HDB flats, for example when the parents move in with their children who have purchase private properties. Median rental prices for an entire flat currently stands at $2, 400.

Kensington SquareForeigners are now wising up and often opting to rent public flats as they cost a fair amount lesser than private properties of the same size. On the other hand, it may not be as easy looking for a suitable tenant. Depending on the location of the HDB flat, often the tenants work in the surrounding areas, thus limiting the specific profile type HDB flat owners are looking for. Property agents report that it now takes up to two months to find a suitable tenant whereas in the past it may have only taken two weeks. Though more owners are now renting out their rooms or flats, the supply may still be lagging behind demand. And since they are not exactly ‘beggars’ in this respect, they can afford to be choosy. But for how long? Will immigration policies change and how will that affect the rental market?

Suburban condos getting pricier

The possibility is high. Just by the looks of how high bidding went at recent government land auctions. Upcoming private condominium launches are looking to speed past the $1,200 psf threshold as land prices increased sharply with developers remaining hopeful of the bullish property market.

Thomson ThreeTwo such properties were Thomson Three in Bright Hill Drive and Skywoods in Dairy Farm Road. Property agents reported more than positive sales, with some units selling beyond $1,200 psf. 10 sites were sold under the Government Land Sales Programme since the start of the scheme last year, and it seems suburban apartments may be getting expensive, depending on their location. New sites which have been sold at New Upper Changi Road, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 2 and Yishun Ring Road have a high projected launch price of above $1,400 psf.

And one of the condominium launches which started this trend off was J Gateway at Jurong, where the medina price was $1, 486 psf and Urban Vista in Tanah Merah at $1,503 psf. Despite property cooling measures aimed at tightening buyers’ pockets, buyers appetite for suburban homes may continue its voracious streak. Developers have a way of keeping total prices down by selling smaller units at higher psf prices. Apartments of $1.5 million may now be the new normal.

J GatewayAs a side dish, executive condominiums (ECs) are benefiting from this rise in private property prices, as more buyers may opt for a cheaper but not necessarily less promising home address. Executive condominiums are usually below $800 psf but it may not be too soon to expect a quick, corresponding hike.

Iskandar Property data – True or False?

With current buying activity at the Iskandar Malaysia development red hot, it makes one wonder if the prices are ringing true. Overseas property investment seems lucrative at first glance, but unfamiliarity with the foreign property market and the lack of transparency of information makes it difficult to ensure you are putting your money in the right place.

Afiniti Residences in the Medini area of the Iskandar development. Photo by afiniti.com.my.

Afiniti Residences in the Medini area of the Iskandar development. Photo by afiniti.com.my.

With previous instances of foreign investments drawing blanks, it is only wise to cover all grounds when looking for potential overseas properties. Unlike Singapore where current transacted prices of properties can be easily attained online, statistics about the Iskandar property market is yet unchartered waters. Although the Iskandar Regional Development Authority has set up resources to answer queries from industry professionals and the media, the information is not readily available to the public in an accessible manner.

Property agents based in Singapore may not be well-versed enough, or posses sufficient knowledge of the situation in the Iskandar region, thus most buyers currently rely on online forums or blogs. Malaysia-based property agents have access to data compiled by the government agency, the Valuation and Property Services Department. CBRE Malaysia‘s associate director of estate management Kevin Goh has warned investors against unscrupulous agents and developers who use the lack of information as a loophole in making false claims about the properties they are selling.

And as the selling progresses, and as new becomes resale, the lack of information may prove dangerous for potential investors, especially as properties will no longer come only from developers but from individual sellers or property agents. iProperty.com however does provide regular property investment seminars and are currently offering a discount on a book written about investing in the Iskandar region. Their links with their Malaysian counterparts also provide an essential leverage with the easy search of properties in Malaysia.