Banking on rents to cover mortgages increasingly risky

As the rental market strains against the backdrop of a general economic slowdown and job security wobbles on its feet, the old ways of banking on rental yields to cover mortgage loans and other outlays on invested properties may no longer be a sure thing.

Alexis @ Alexandra CondoThe imbalance may be getting dangerously so even as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has publicly warned investors against the risks of putting all their eggs in the property basket. They mentioned both property and corporate bonds as emerging risks, especially as growth is weak and the political situations across the globe is uncertain.

Rising vacancy rates and declining rental demand are the more concrete and obvious factors investors should consider before closing a deal simply because the total quantum prices are too good to be true. Before investing in overseas properties, currency fluctuations and political stability are also serious considerations, not to mention the strength and longevity of property and rental demand in a country not in close proximity.

la-rivere-2Although MAS has noted that most households here are able to weather an economic storm, if it does occur, those who have bitten off more than they can chew may want to reconsider their financial holding power and set their sights in the long-term rather than counting on their eggs hatching early.

3 City fringe properties exchange hands for $190 million

3 residential properties in the city fringes – owned by 1 group of 3 investment holding firms and sold to 3 different developers fetching $190.5 million in total. Quite the sale, it seems. These 3 sites, situated in Grange Road, Cuscaden Walk and Hullet Road, were launched for sale in October for $185 million and from the interest it drew before the sale closed on November 2, developers and investors seem upbeat about the future of high-end luxury residential projects and serviced apartments or hospitality-based properties in Singapore.

urban-suitesThe luxury property market may have shrunk slightly in the past 3 to 4 years, but buyers are coming back into the market, after letting the effects of the additional buyers’ stamp duty sink in. Despite the authorities being unlikely to budge on the property cooling measures for now, interest is once again growing, with central region properties sales on the rise this last quarter.

The site on Hullet Road with a total strata area of 18,428 sq ft was sold to Hullet Development for $38.2 million. The consortium led by Mr Patrick Kho of Lian Huat Group have plans to build a high-end development in the site, leveraging on its location right in the centre of town. The biggest of the 3 sites on Cuscaden Walk with a land area of 21,560 sq ft, was bought by a consortium led by Sustained Land for $103.8 million. The other plot on Grange Road was purchased by Roxy-Pacific Holdings for $48.5 million.

boulevard-vueThese new sales may ultimately see the introduction of some choice luxury apartment units in and about town, by the time they are launched or built, the market may or may not provide a suitably soft landing for these new properties.

Property cooling measures likely to remain

The economic slowdown and diminishing growth rates are causes for concern not only for the Singapore government, but also for consumers and businesses.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong has recently spoken about the property cooling measures which were implemented in succession over the past three years. He has mentioned that they are likely to remain at this time of uncertainty as a response to “global context and environment”.

Kingsford HIllview PeakProperty prices have fallen 10.8 per cent since Q3 of 2013 and prices fell 1.5 per cent in the third quarter of this year, bringing it to the 12th consecutive quarter of price decline. The real estate industry currently faces stagnation and though interest rates are low, many are looking for higher yields. He has warned against creating an environment rife with property speculation and has said that capital inflow might create a volatile and highly-speculative atmosphere which will result in property market fluctuations.

With the high number of completed units entering the market this year, and with unsold inventory rising, the property cooling measures may be helpful in keeping the delicate market balance. As of Q2 this year, there were 21,500 unsold and uncompleted private homes, the lowest ever recorded, indicating a possible shift of influence from the seller to the buyer. The government has also held back on the launch of land sites earlier this year.

Meyerise2Property analysts are not surprised by the government’s move to keep the property curbs in place, though sudden pace changes and steeper declines might prompt the government to reconsider relaxing the rules sooner.

Private homes sales show slow and steady improvement

Twin-Peaks3Private non-landed property prices have been rising for 2 consecutive months now, a positive sign considering the recent market lull. Though values and volume are still lacking behind that during the peak of 2012 and 2013, any slight improvement is something to cheer for.

In April, the jump in non-landed homes sold was 17.6 per cent, a considerable 28.1 per cent higher on a year-on-year comparison with 2015. A total of 689 non-landed private units were sold last month. Property analysts are happy with the recent progress as it shows that the market is not completely dismal, and buyers will still bite if the prices are right. Resale private home prices similarly rose for 2 months straight, though the percentage were more modest with a 0.1 and 0.5 per cent increase in March and April respectively.

The residential developments which showed the most positive uptick were Twin Peaks in Leonie Hill, A Treasure Trove, D’Leedon, Double Bay Residences, Parkview Apartments, Thomson 800 and Carribean at Keppel Bay. The highest rise in home prices were in the core and central regions with a 1.3 per cent increase, while resale home prices in the suburbs fell 0.2 per cent.

Double Bay Residences SimeiAs the mid-year closes in, these 2 months may set the tone for the rest of the year, though much still hinges on how both local and global economies fare. Buying abilities and sentiments may follow suit.

More resale condominiums falling under affordable price range

Not so long ago, prices of private condominiums were creeping beyond the $1 million mark, but with new units bursting into the scene and the competition in the private property market heating up, developers and sellers alike have had to find a new pricing sweet spot.

CityLightsBuyers have become more aware and sensitive to market prices ever since market data and statistics became more readily available from URA and other property news and research sources. Now, it is not unlikely to find resale private properties available at below $1 million. And some are reasonably-sized units too. Previously only shoebox apartments or one-bedders are likely to fall below the $1 million mark.

Most of the the developments with such affordable resale units are in the city fringes, including Citylights in Jalan Besar, Domus and The Tier in Novena, Wilkie 80 in Dhoby Ghaut, RiverBay in Bendemeer and RV Edge in Tanglin.

Despite the weaker property market, resale properties are still selling at 20 to 25 per cent above the prices of new units and sellers can still look forward to some long-term value appreciation. Property analysts however advice buyers to be aware of their financial commitment as buying resale properties mean the property mortgages kick in immediately and with a softening rental market, the yields may not come in as quickly or as much as projected.

 

Private condominium prices hold steady

The fall in completed private condominium prices was gentler last year at 3.5 per cent, compared to the 5.7 per cent from the year before. Prices are expected to hold steady this year as a dip in supply of properties in this sector bring prices to a plateau.

Jewel CDL

Photo: Jewel @ Buangkok

Demand for smaller apartments of up to 500 sq ft in size, have been weakening as their numbers, especially in the suburbs, have been on the rise in the past couple of years. Investors have found them more difficult to rent out in the dulling leasing market and those outside the central region or further from regional business hubs may find themselves competing for the same tenant pool. Tenants now prefer units with larger floor spaces with just slightly higher rents.

Sale prices of completed private properties within the central regions however have fallen more sharply as they usually come with a higher total quantum price. Compared to the many newer properties which have found a sweet spot with their total selling price, units in these central or prime districts see fewer overall transactions.

As the volume of unsold completed condominium stock diminishes and with the fewer launches expected this year due to cutbacks on land supply, resale properties could expect a happier year ahead.

When investing in properties overseas …

There are a number of things to look out for when investing in properties. And even more so in properties overseas. It may be familiar ground if you know your stuff, but otherwise it could be a rather risky affair.

Balmain ColgatePhoto: Apartment in Balmain, NSW, Australia.

Every country’s investment environment varies, sometimes quite drastically, and while brochures and presentations may look sleek and professional, the ins-and-outs of the local economic infrastructure may speak the same language. Thus finding out more about the legal and tax systems of the country in which the property is located would be one of the first and most important steps. The Council of Estate Agencies (CEA) has good advice for investors in their consumer guide for foreign property investments. Some countries have restrictions on the type of property foreigners can purchase, and also on whom they can eventually sell it to and the about of taxes or stamp duties they have to pay. In Australia for example, foreigners purchasing property have to seek approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board; whereas in Cambodia, where the market is just opening up, the restrictions are not as limiting.

Similar to how you would plan for any major investment, doing the groundwork and sums will help you financially. It is wise to know what your options are should there be a need to sell, and how long it would take you to do that would depend on the political and economic situation. Make the effort to find out the developer’s track record, and even take a trip down to look at the properties. After-sales property management could sometimes make or break your bank account and familiarising yourself with the legal systems of the country could ensure you are well-covered in unexpected circumstances. Having a solid point-of-contact in the country, such as a property agency or management agent could also reduce the risk and make the investment experience a smooth-sailing one.

Buyers picked up properties worth $102.27 million at auction

Rising interest rates and restricted loan options may have amounted in more properties going under the hammer this year. Though the number was not drastically different from last year’s, the total property value fetched at the auctions was much higher. The total value of properties sold at auctions this year is currently at $102.27 million, the highest in these past 5 years. Last year’s total auction value was $72.5 million.

LuckyHeightsBungalowPhoto: Bungalows at prime locations could have high projected values.

Residential properties were the main draw at these auctions. And figures have been on the rise since 2009. A total of 34 properties were sold at the auctions this year, and out of that 26 were private homes. That is almost double of the 46 per cent of private properties in auction in 2013. Property analysts are expecting the list of residential mortgagees to grow next year as the combined effect of a dampened rental market, increase in supply of completed homes, interest rate hikes, prevailing property cooling measures and a general sense of a slowing economy, sinks in.

One of the largest sales this year includes $16.3 million single-storey bungalow at Branksome Road. The projected value of its redevelopment may have made it a bargain buy, even at the hefty price. For developers and investors hunting for a worthy investment, these mortgage sales may be fertile ground.