2016’s demand for properties level with last year’s

Though it may seem like the property market took a turn for the worse this year, figures have shown that the level of demand has remained similar to last year’s.

peak-cairnhillProperty prices have fallen 10.8 per cent since the 2013 peak and perhaps it is precisely this decline of home prices that have kept buyers coming to the table, more so this year than the previous few which have been dull partly due to the property cooling measures implemented since 2013. Some property agents have in fact reported up to a 50 per cent increase in sealed deals this year, indicative of increased buyer’s interest and number of project launches.

The market inertia in terms of the property cooling measures and interest rates may also have been push factors in enticing buyers back into the market. Resale property sales have been strong with 5,587 transactions closed in the first 3 quarters of this year, up 18 per cent from 2015. Developers have also been pricing new units more competitively this year, giving the resale market a run for their money.

the-crestCity fringe and central region resale properties were particularly popular with buyers though some may still be waiting for better deals.  And as property analysts predict a further 3 to 3.5 per cent drop in prices for the rest of the year, the market seems primed for owner-occupiers though those considering investing in properties should wait a little more to get the most out of their buck.

 

Consumer awareness crucial for property industry

The local property industry landscape has been changing quite a bit over the past few years, in particular for the consumer. The authorities have been working on transparency and consumers now have more information at their finger tips, and perhaps even more as net prices of de-licensed projects’ will soon be available as well.

singapore-property-authoritiesCurrently, the Housing Development Board (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) both provide property statistics and data on their websites. The Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Institute of Real Estate also provides month-on-month transaction-based information for private non-landed residential properties.

ardmorethreeThere are however some caveats to take into consideration. URA’s quarterly price index for example, does not include the discounts and incentives which developers sometimes provide. Only the net-price will be recorded, thus consumers will do well to take this into consideration when viewing statistics and median monthly transaction prices. The change will take effect this month, which means the price index may have some downward pressure put on it as current figures may be inflated. De-licensed projects which have obtained their Certificate of Statutory Completion and thus do not come under the Housing Developers Rules, such as OUE Twin Peaks and Ardmore Three, are known to provide incentive schemes to their buyers such as 15% discounts and Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rebate.

A recent case of a property agent who handled and misappropriated cash handed to him by his client also brings to light that consumers may not be entirely aware of what they are entitled to or what their agents are allowed and disallowed to do. In brief, it is against the law for property agents to handle any cash on behalf of their clients.

The A-Bi-Cs of mature HDB estates

Bishan and Bidadari. Both mature estates and both in popular demand. The only difference might be that Bishan is more established while Bidadari is a new foundling in the already-mature estate of Toa Payoh.

The recent buzz around the centralised Bidadari estate has prompted many to call it the “next Bishan”. How exactly do these 2 estates compare?

BidadariPhoto credit: HDB

As far as history goes, Bishan was one of the first model HDB towns 30 years back. And now Bidadari, which means “angel” or “fairy” in Malay, seems to be taking its place as the next big thing. Both B-word towns have good city-fringe locations and are built on land which were once cemeteries. Bidadari will have the luck of having Bishan run its course with the stigma of living on cemetery land. Buyers of today are no longer as affected by this fact.

Even though property agents and analysts say they are unsure how resale prices and infrastructure in this new estate will pan out, the initial response is very positive. Both its November 2015 and February 2016 launches were about 23 times oversubscribed despite the more expensive sales tags. Its proximity to the city centre plus the 3 MRT stations (Potong Pasir, Bartley and Woodleigh) serving it, Bishan makes up for the difference only by its direct access to its own shopping mall, park and amenities such as sports facilities, library, community centre, offices and business facilities. The Bishan MRT station is also an interchange station between the North-South and Circle MRT lines.

Bishan HDB estatePhoto credit: HDB

Resale HDB flats in Bishan can go up to $730,000 for a 5-room flat. While the new BTO flats in Bidadari were launched at prices between $544,000 and $625,000, they look set to reach possibly higher resale prices once they are available in the resale market.

 

Property DIY – Buy and sell Resale HDB flat on your own

Ready and planning to buy or sell your HDB flat? Finding a good agent is the next big step, and an important one. But if you have the energy and time to do it yourself, the option and resources are available.

Queenstown-HDB
HDB regularly runs resale seminars in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil to educate buyers and sellers about the resale process. On their website, they have a clearly mapped out 9-step process complete with links to resources. Sellers could also do the marketing and selling of the flat themselves but engage an agent only to assist with the paperwork.

The entire resale transaction, minus the open houses and home viewings, commonly takes between 6 to 8 weeks. Before all that, sellers and buyers are advised to check their eligibility to sell or buy a flat, plan their finances and either approach banks or apply for a HLE (HDB loan eligibility) letter before looking for a flat. HDB also has an online tool that helps you compute a rough estimate of your loan type and amount.

HDB websiteUpon finding a flat you wish to purchase or when someone is ready to purchase your flat, the seller will then need to grant the buyer an OTP (option to purchase) which costs up to $1,000 and the ball is then in the buyer’s court whether or not to exercise the option within 21 days. If the buyer wishes to purchase the flat, both parties are required to submit resale applications via HDB’s e-Resale service. There are additional legal, administrative, insurance and valuation fees to consider in the entire process. Agent or DIY, having a firm idea of what is required will only be helpful in making the entire resale flat search and purchase process a smoother one.

 

How likely is the China property bubble?

Buying properties in China could be risky business though the authorities are beginning to plug loopholes in the system such as property agencies acting as intermediaries in housing transactions. When your property agent or agency in China offers you a loan for your down payment, know that it is illegal.

beijing-tongzhouPhoto credit: Beijing Tongzhou integrated development by Perennial Real Estate.

As the population shift from countryside to cities, first- and second-tier cities are becoming more crowded and home prices are sky-rocketing. Money stimulus policies which began in November 2014 may have contributed to the boom, especially in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Home prices in Shenzhen for example, have climbed 52 per cent in a year. The Chinese government has however been implementing cooling measures to curb or at the very least slow down the sharp rise and are positive that a property bubble similar to that in Japan in the 1980s will not happen.

While the top-tier cities are enjoying the benefits of the nationwide population shift and influx of foreign investment monies, smaller third- and fourth-tier cities are suffering from a pressurising load of unsold inventory. Reports of ‘ghost towns’ were not uncommon from more than a year ago and stock has only increased since then. In fact, 70 per cent of the 739 million sq meters of China’s home inventory comes from these smaller cities. The lack of consumer interest in these cities could mean a downward spiral for the property markets in these lower-tier cities as the potential for value appreciation becomes narrower. Despite the government’s projected minimum annual growth of 6.5 per cent from now till 2020, market regulations may have to be tweaked to boost specific sectors in order to shine the spotlight on more than just the top-tier cities.

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.