Singapore gains traction as property investment safe haven

A little red dot, almost invisible in the huge map of the world. But as political and economic turmoil rock the majority, Singapore is increasingly considered by many global investors as a safe haven for foreign funds.

Asia SquareThe strength of the SingDollar, coupled with a relatively stable political climate has provided foreign investors with the assurance that their monies are well-protected. Thus far, $8.85 billion has reportedly been spent by foreign investment on Singapore property, a 62 per cent increase from last year, the highest in 9 years and making up 41.7 per cent of total property spending in 2016. In 2015, the total foreign monies invested in the local property market was $5.46 million and in 2014, $4.67 million. Qatar Investment Authority was a major foreign player this year, putting in $3.4 billion for Asia Square Tower One. Also in the Marina Bay area, a white site in Central Boulevard has been bid on and won by Wealthy Link of IOI properties at $2.57 billion. Projected to be up for sale next year are Jurong Point Mall and Asia Square Tower Two.

Though the commercial property rental market has dulled slightly, the lack of new office spaces being developed within the next 3 to 4 years might help the rental market eventually gain traction. 2020 might be the watershed year when the market is projected to rebound significantly and most investors are willing and able to financially wait out the next few years ahead.

marina-bay-suitesIn the residential market, a number of en bloc sales were successfully tendered this year, with Qingjian Realty’s $638 million for Shunfu Ville taking the spotlight. The sharp increase in interest this year could be the fact that other markets in Asia have been on the upturn in the past decade, and although Singapore has been priced out in terms of capital gains due to an economic slowdown during this time, she has more than made up for lost time with this year’s results.

 

Indian cities top in list of Asia’s property investment hotspots

India may not have previously come up as a potential goldmine for property investors, but real estate in some Indian cities have been creeping up the popularity charts and can now be viewed as some of Asia’s most prime investment real estate.

mumbaipropertyJust like in China, a huge country like India will no doubt have some cities which shine over the others. Mumbai and Bangalore have come up tops in a comparative table of 22 Asian markets. With many multi-national companies setting up regional headquarters or back offices in India, it comes as no surprise that commercial properties are key when it comes to real estate investment in India. The migration of locals from smaller cities and townships into these main cities and business hubs also mean a demand for rental properties are on the rise.

Singapore has fallen from its 11th place to 21st as residential property prices declined for 12 consecutive quarters. Even Tokyo, which topped the list at first place this year, have fallen to 12th place for next year as low interest rates see sellers holding on to their properties despite low vacancy rates. Japan’s declining economy also has a part to play in the market sentiments there.

newyorkapartmentThe mainland Chinese investors are some of the largest players in real estate markets across the globe, but they have begun to turn their attention away from Asia to markets further north such as London and New York. Property prices in China are soaring, and their yearning for foreign footholds and connections have brought them into both established markets in the West and emerging ones in the region.

Scope for property investment opportunities in Vietnam widen

As Singapore-based property developers deepen their foray into emerging Southeast Asian markets, the opportunities for investment are increasing. Not only are residential projects viable investment options, but commercial and industrial spaces are also added to the mix.

d1mensionPhoto credit: CapitaLand

CapitaLand for example, is investing US$500 million (S$713 million) into commercial property in Vietnam come 2017. They will also be looking into acquiring more residential development sites to add on to the 9 which they have already launched since they established their presence in Vietnam in 1994. Major wealth management funds are indicating interest in investing in Asian real estate and many of these emerging markets are untapped pools of potential.

d1mension2Photo credit: d1mension.co

One of the most recent developments is a residential project in Ho Chi Minh city named the D1mension, suitably so as it stands on prime district 1 land. The project will consist of a 102-unit residential block as well as a 200-unit serviced apartment block which will be operated under the Somerset brand. More than half of the 30 units launched in the residential tower have already been sold and more will be launched next month. Private residential properties in Vietnam have been selling well as the middle class grows and rapidly. CapitaLand has already sold more than a third of the 1,700 units they have in stock with total sales accumulating to $114 million. The rising suburban class and increased foreign business investment will mean a higher demand for housing.

CDL reports positive growth despite property lull

With a whooping 60.1 per cent spike in net profits in the third quarter, City Developments (CDL) seems to be shaking off the market gloom early. Their Q3 net profit rung in at $170.3 million.

gramercyparkPositive public response and strong sales from their properties, both local and international, have contributed to their recent success. At their latest launch, Forest Woods condominium, sales have hit the 70% mark at the considerable price of $1,400 psf. The project has a total of 519 units. They are fully sold at their 616-unit Jewel@Buangkok condominium development and almost all of its 40 units released at the 174-unit Gramercy Park have also been snapped up.

At the 944-unit Coco Palms condominium in Pasir Ris and the 638-unit The Brownstone executive condominium in Sengkang, they are also 91 and 80 per cent sold respectively. Such promising numbers considering the current global economic uncertainty will put them ahead of their competitors and help them pave a strong foundation for the journey ahead.

The Brownstone ECCDL also has properties overseas which are doing well, including the Hanover House project in Reading, Britian. The group is also expanding their suite of investments into other areas such as hotel operations, investment properties and management. Moving forward, investors can looking forward to more international properties being added to the list of potential investment opportunities.

New Vietnam properties hook buyers

It seems a few private residential ‘townships’ are coming up in Vietnam, and at the welcome of investors and those seeking a place to call home.

palm_cityOne of Singapore’s major developers, Keppel Land has been developing massive properties in Ho Chi Minh, where the expatriate population is growing and the rental demand for housing has increased by leaps and bounds in the last decade. 3 of Keppel Land’s major developments in the mamking are – Empire City, Palm City and Riviera Point.

Palm City on its own is already quite a force to be reckoned with. Jointly developed by Keppel Land and Tien Phuoc and Tran Thai, it covers a good 30 hectares of waterfront land, essentially an entire township itself. In Phase 1 of its development, all 135 landed terrace and detached houses have already been fully spoken for in their July preview. Now in Phase 2, they have launched the 816-unit Palm Heights apartments, with 570 units already booked at the average price of 32.6 million Vietnamese dong (S$2,017) per sq m.

riviera-pointOver at the 518-unit The View private apartments at Riviera Point, almost 33% of the 345-units launched have been sold. The selling price average at 37 million dong (S$2,302) per sq m. The developments in Ho Chi Minh seem be all be larger-sized high-rise ones. Yet another 500-unit private residential condominium project will be coming up within the year – Empire City, also a waterfront development in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area.

Rougher terrain for local leasing market

Property owners with rental units at hand have been finding it increasingly difficult to find tenants.

MartinPlaceResidencesForeigners make up approximately 60 per cent of the rental demand in Singapore, and as the financial and oil and gas sectors take a hit, demand has declined with the foreign workforce diminishing due to companies moving out of the country or simply because housing budgets have been cut as the sluggish global economic drags out. As of mid-2016, vacancy rates stand at 8.9 per cent and there were about 30,310 units vacant. The sudden influx of completed new homes hitting the market this year could not have helped things as well. This year, the number of completed properties entering the market outgrew the influx of a foreign workforce. Immigration and labour policies have changed since the last general election.

Rental rates in the suburbs fell the hardest at 1.2 per cent, followed by 0.6 per cent in the city fringes. Rents of core central region properties however increase by 0.1 per cent.

cavenaghlodge2017 will see the completion of even more residential developments and analysts are expecting rental demand to fall even further, particularly in the suburbs. Rents have dipped by up to 8.8 per cent in the suburbs and 4.5 per cent in the central districts. Some landlords have even give discounts of up to 30 per cent, just to secure a tenant. Others have found themselves going months without finding a suitable taker on the unit. Smaller one- and two-bedroom apartment units are however still faring well, especially those in the Central Business District (CBD), Marina Bay, Orchard Road, and River Valley areas.

 

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.

 

Ready to invest in properties overseas?

The attraction of investing in a plum overseas property may be strong but while the yields may be high, so too could be the risks.

Prudent research and risk-calculation prior to taking the plunge is of course essential. And some of the very real and future-determining factors to take into consideration are:

chonburi-thailandproperty

1. Foreign ownership regulations

It almost goes without saying that this would be what any discerning buyer first finds out – what governs their purchase and whether they are eligible. Newer markets, in particular South-east Asian ones such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, could have more relaxed rules as their immediate interest lie in attracting investments while markets with a longer history of foreign investment such as Australia and Thailand may have more rules in place in reaction to previous market movements. In some markets such as Australia and Malaysia, there are also restrictions on the resale of foreign-owned properties, and for buyers who do not have strong holding powers, having to hold on to properties in a economic downturn with only a niche target audience could be stressful in all senses of the word.

2. Currency exchange

Though currency fluctuations are inevitable, property analysts encourage buyers to seriously consider the market or country’s political and economic states. Markets where the local currency have been fairly stable for a prolonger period of time are generally lower-risk options, though even then, it would be wise to engage the services of a lawyer or accountant to help in long-term financial planning.

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3. Rental potential

The location and type of property, the track record of the property developer and the rental demand for the property are all instrumental to the make or break of an investment decision. The property size should also be taken into consideration as larger albeit rarer properties may not be as quick to find a tenant as say, a smaller-sized unit at a more palatable quantum price. Industry experts also advice investors to first have a target audience in mind as expatriates may come from different industries and have differing housing budgets.

4. Payment schedules and options 

Singapore’s property market may veer to the stricter side in terms of payment schedules as they work on a progressive payment scheme. Many overseas markets however offer a deferred payment scheme, for example where a buyer puts down a 10% down-payment deposit and only pay the rest of the 90% upon completion of the projects. That could be a plus for some buyers, but it would mean a change in financial plans.  With overseas property investments, there are also more lending options, some of which could offer higher levels of flexibility such as dual currency switching and mortgages with the possibility of off-setting interest.