Singapore property market on the mend?

Is Singapore’s property market finally bottoming out? Are current property prices the lowest they can go?

WhitehavenHong Kong and Singapore are 2 of Asia’s most expensive residential property markets, and while both countries’ governments have implemented property cooling measures to help abate the tension, prices remain high. Though Singapore’s property price spike of 92 per cent in the decade between 2003 and 2013 was not as drastic as Hong Kong’s 370 per cent in the same time period, housing cost has increased considerably and was much fodder for debate during the past 2 elections. While home prices have fallen 1.2 percent in Singapore and 13 per cent in Hong Kong since September 2015, the fall will have to be much more drastic for the situation to return to what it was before 2003.

Taking inflation, economic growth and global economics into consideration, property analysts feel that Singapore’s property cycle has almost reached its bottom or turning point as it is in a much more advanced state than Hong Kong’s. Considering the gentle slope of decline in Singapore’s property prices, a sharp rebound seems unlikely. Will there however be a glimmer of hope for a gradual increase upon policy changes and changes in the demand and supply scale?

Promising year ahead for landed properties?

At least in the Good Class Bungalow (GCB) segment apparently. Property analysts are predicting a 5 per cent price growth this year following promising response in the first quarter alone.

Despite economic slowdown and stock market volatility earlier in the year, this luxury landed property sector has seen a pick-up in sales volume as Singaporean investors are turning their sights on home ground once more, after a few seasons of investing in overseas propeties. Property agents have reported buyers making serious offers as compared to just a quarter ago in the latter part of 2015.

Leedon Road GCBRecent sales of GCBs included one at Swettenham Close at $1,354 psf. A total of 33 GCBs were sold in 2015, a similar number is expected for this year. Perhaps property owners have lowered their expectations and asking prices, and buyers are also enticed by the rarity and land area these bungalows provide. Many are upgraders or investors while sellers tend to be those whose children have flown the coop and are looking to downsize to more manageable properties. Rental yields for these large-sized properties have been diminishing, and these properties also tend to have higher property taxes and maintenance requirements.

Buyers may be more willing to take the bite this year as prices have already fallen 15 per cent since its peak in 2013, and further price declines will be unlikely. As these landed properties are also far and few in between, they may be quicker to pounce on a deal as it will not be easy finding similar options.

Resale HDB market sees rise in sales

The number of resale HDB flats exchanging hands in April rose by 10.3%, a positive sign despite prices remaining level. The last time sales volume exceeded the 1,800-unit mark was in October 2012. 1,828 units were sold in April this year.

Though property analysts are wary about calling this a market rebound, the increase in transactions could mean an eventual decrease in the number of resale flats available. Depending on how far the price gap between private property and resale HDB flats goes, the diminishing stock of resale flats in the market may entice buyers to purchase sooner rather than later. And the increase in rarity could also mean the increase in prices.

Serangoon HDB flatFor the moment however, the buyers may still have the upper hand as most are buying only after having waited for prices to fall. The cash-over-valuation prices are almost all gone, and with the purchasing process adjusted, buyers are less likely to fork out additional monies above the valuation price. In addition, data pertaining to resale flat prices can now be more easily accessed, thus buyers are seldom willing to succumb to sellers’ high asking prices.

HDB flat prices have stagnated for almost a year now, though the fluctuation either ways has not been drastic. Last month for example, 3-room flat prices rose by 0.6 per cent though 5-room flat prices fell by 0.9 per cent. This could be an indication of what the buyers are now looking for. As the population and policies shift, the property market will also need to adapt quickly to their changing needs.

843 new private homes sold in March

And that is a 8-month high, especially since the last new property launch was 4 months ago – The Poiz Residences in November 2015. That could be the glimmer of hope the local property market has been waiting for, though some analysts are still cautious about a obvious rebound as the government has tightened their grip on land supply this year.

WIsteria YishunThe rise in transactions of new units last month could be partly due to the pent up demand over the Chinese new year lull in February and the lack of new launches in the first 2 months of the year. Only 209 units were launched in February while the number more than tripled to 682 in March. The number of units sold doubled from 303 in February to 843 in March. The 2 new launches in March were Cairnhill Nine and The Wisteria.

Although the government has announced that they will be unlikely to ease up on the property cooling measures anytime soon, some buyers who may have been waiting in the sidelines for better deals may be coming to realise that prices will not be falling drastically this year and may have finally made the purchase move last month.

Overall, market sentiment is picking up and buyers are picking off bargains and affordable units before the winds change. New mass market suburban properties are capturing eyeballs and wallets.

How deep is the property market well?

Property prices in Singapore have been falling since 2014, 10 consecutive quarters to be exact. In the first quarter of this year, HDB flat prices have stabilised at 0.1 per cent while private property prices have dipped 0.7 per cent. In 2015, HDB flat and private property prices fell an average of 0.4 and 0.9 per cent respectively.

Kingsford WaterbayPhoto: Kingsford Waterbay condominium 

HDB flat prices have begun to stabilise of late, though some property analysts are still expecting a further drop in the second half of the year as 25,000 new BTO flats reach completion this year. A good 30 per cent of these new-flat buyers are upgraders and home owners, not investors, which means they will be looking to sell their existing HDB flat in order to finance their new flat. This will bring a new slew of units into the resale HDB flat market. Though the demand for resale flats has not waned much, the rise in supply may put the ball in the buyers’ court.

 Photo: Clementi Gateway BTO flats

Similarly in the private property and EC (executive condominium) market, buyers will need to time their upgrading manoeuvre in order to manage cash flow, thus some may be in a rush to let go of their existing unit which could put further pressure on the market which will be seeing 21,906 new private condominium and 4,561 EC units enter its midst this year. How will the property sector perform in this crucial second quarter of 2016?

Post lunar new year property market – What to expect?

The first half of February might have been duller for the property market, as expected what with the calendar year just beginning and preparations for the Lunar new year in the way. But now that festivities are almost over, what can we expect for the rest of the year?

South BeachPhoto: South Beach Residences

Property analysts are predicting a year of stabilisation for the market, with most of the worst almost over, though it may be too soon to expect a market recovery. January’s slight rise in resale private property prices and 2015’s increase in transaction volume may boost market sentiments.

They are however expecting the HDB resale market to fare better compared to their privately-owned counterparts. As the volume of these public housing are closely monitored by the government and are often considered the minimal living requirement (aside from those in the rental market), resale HDB flats will find potential buyers, though the wait may be longer than before. Resale flats with low or no COV (cash-over-valuation) can now more readily find buyers. HDB resale flat prices have fallen only 1.5 per cent last year, compared to 3.7 in the private property market.

This year, sellers of properties near the newly-opened Downtown Line mrt stations can expect more interest while buyers seek or hold out for private property bargains in the market as developers try to sell off unsold stock. With a much-depressed luxury property sector, buyers would be wise to keep an eye out for good deals in the prime-districts and central regions in developments such as South Beach Residences, New Futura and Paterson Collection.

 

 

Who’s the most expensive of them all?

Hong Kong. When it comes to housing affordability. According to Demographia, a United States-based urban planning research unit, Hong Kong has emerged as one of the most expensive cities out of 367 metropolitan areas in 9 countries. Second on the list was Sydney, followed by Vancouver, Melbourne and Auckland. Singapore was 5th on the list.

Hong Kong property

Photo: Apartment in Viking Garden, Hong Kong 

In Hong Kong, median home prices are almost 19 times the median annual gross household income. It is the largest year-to-year increase in pricing over the 12 years in which the research was conducted. A small shoebox apartment below 500 sq ft would cost almost US$75,000 (or S$1.1million) in Hong Kong. That is almost double the price of such an apartment unit in Singapore. In the United States, only 9 metropolitan registered highly affordable housing prices, with San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego being some of them. 14 other cities in the United States remained under the affordable level, with Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Rochester tied in first place.

SF FlatPhoto: San Francisco apartment

With the US interest rates rising this year however, property analysts are expecting some change in the global property markets. Hong Kong’s property bubble may burst should the authorities do good on their promise to meet housing supply demand.

In Singapore, housing prices are 5 times that of the median annual gross household income. Although still considered ‘severely unaffordable’ under Demographia’s rating scale, HDB has been making efforts in the last couple of years to increase supply and reduce demand for public housing. For now, the price of a new HDB flat is still $150,000 to $180,000 lesser than a resale unit in the same area.

 

2016 – Property cooling measures to stay

Remember those days of astounding COV (cash-over-valuation) prices? Those days may be but a shadow of the current market environment today. More than half of resale HDB flats sold now are selling at prices close to market value and prices are now comparable to those of 2011.

Tampines HDB flatPhoto: Resale HDB flat for sale in Tampines.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong has however said that it may be too early to lift the property curbs, most of which were implemented in 2013, during the peak of the property market. Since then, HDB resale flat prices have fallen about 10 per cent, according to the HDB resale price index.

Some of the most impactful measures include the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) and Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework. For HDB loans, the mortgage servicing ratio was tightened to 30 per cent of the loan applicant’s gross income.

With the property cooling measures here to stay, this year’s resale flat prices may remain level, with some fluctuations should there be economic or interest rate changes. HDB’s announcement of their expected 18,000 new BTO units this year may dilute demand for resale HDB flats, though prices are not expected to fall much as most buyers will be those who do not wish to or are unable to wait 3 to 4 years for the new BTO flats to be built. The motivating factors for selling or buying a resale unit may be what lays the foundation for the final transacted price.