Private property prospects for the next 2 years?

The Singapore General Election may be coming up in the next year and a half, and that leaves most wondering about possible policy shifts and how that would affect the country’s economy. Since the last election, immigration and loan policies have changed rather substantially, both of which have impacted the property industry in a number of ways.

Melrose VilleOn the financial front, the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework has been effective in slowing down property demand. With the likelihood of interest rates here rising in tandem with US rates, it seems unlikely that this policy will be removed or relaxed anytime soon as it aims to help households and borrowers build a clearer structure around their long-term financial stability.

A decrease in immigration numbers have also affected the property rental industry, with vacancy rates possibly hitting 10 per cent at the end of 2015. Coupled with a growing number of completed new units made available within these 2 years, the supply could majorly outweigh the demand. Property experts suggest that the only way to slow down the property prices and demand decline is to reduce the speed and quantity of new properties, and an adjustment of the TDSR. There is no sign of change for the moment, but would next year bring about a fresh wave of changes?

Rebound in resale private non-landed property market?

If sales volume are anything to go by, signs of the resale private property market rebounding could be imminent.

Since the fall of prices of resale units to equivalent of or lower than new private non-landed properties, the number of transactions have increased significantly. Within the first 4 months of 2015, transaction volume has seen a 20.7 per cent increase. Resale properties are often ready for immediate occupancy and rental, thus buyers tend to favour these units to new ones in order to skip the wait of building and construction. The rental opportunities to be had within the few years it takes to build a new residential property could be quite substantial. And oftentimes, resale units tend to have a bigger floor area.

PebbleBayCondoThough the number of transactions, 1,411 from January to April this year, is still lower than the 2,203 in a year-on-year comparison with the peak in 2013, property analysts are upbeat about the market as the year moves on. It could show that buyers are finally getting used to the cooling measures, in particular the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework, and realising that the market could be reaching a plateau. Sentiments could be that this is the time to buy, before prices and interest rates start climbing again.

The promising signs could be seen across the island, though more markedly in Districts 5, 10, 15 and 23. Some of it could be due to the fall in prices over the past year, and some the potential of having the future Downtown MRT line in close proximity. Even the Central region’s luxury properties have seen a recent boost in sales numbers of 24.2 per cent, most evident in Districts 9 and 10.

 

Private resale home prices stabilising

With minimal fall in prices over the previous couple of quarters, could this be a sign that resale private property prices are stabilising? Could buyers be getting used to the current home prices and are coming back to pick up deals before a possible rise? Will the predictions of a 4 to 8 per cent drop in property prices this year continue on its track or will buyers buck the trend?

Botanique@BartleyThe NUS Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) has indicated a 2.2 per cent fall in resale condominium prices over the last 12 months. But since the first quarter of 2015, the fall has been more gradual and marginal, considering the expected 5 per cent year-on-year fall in prices per month in the last quarter of 2014. The next couple of months could be the watershed for the property market. A slow and small drop in prices could indicate a possible bottoming out of the market.

Part of the reason for last month’s 0.1 per cent fall in April could also be due to the high transaction volume. The recent new property launches of Botanique at Bartley and Northpark Residences may also have had a trickle-down effect on the resale market, in particular properties in the proximity of these 2 launches. Another promising bit of news is the 0.4 per cent rise in the prices of small apartment units up to 506 sq ft. A much untested market, particularly in the suburbs, as more commercial businesses move out of the central region and into the heartlands, the demand for these units may change in the next few years.

Rise in private condominium rental

Could the market be turning on its heels, headed up the charts? Vacancy rates have been falling as the number of rental properties finding tenants have been on the rise.

Property analysts are however not positive about the numbers. They have attributed it to statistics more than the actual market sentiment. Rental rates have instead fallen 1.7 per cent in Q1, which could show that the number of new occupant-ready properties entering the market last and this year may have shaven a chunk off the property rental pie. From now to 2018, almost 67,300 new units will flood the market, giving a possible indication of how the market will react in the months or even years to come.

AstoriaParkCondoLocation nevertheless still has the ability to bring rental prices up a significant notch. At the Astoria Park condominium near Kembangan MRT station for example, rents have risen for the first 3 months of the year. Older condominiums may have a battle at hand as newer properties offer fresher facilities; though the proximity to amenities, transport nodes and schools may put the former right back on the tenants’ maps. Landlords of older developments may also have an upper hand in their option of coming down on prices since they may have purchased the units at a lower cost.

As more new residential properties come into the fold in the months ahead, the symbiotic relationship between rental and sale prices could become more obvious and things may seem a lot clearer then.

 

New properties on a fresh new ride

And hopefully it will be an upwards ride.

May 2014 was a good month for the new private home market. Mostly due to the large number of properties launched, 1,487 units were sold. But after that huge spike, sales have held steady at around 300 to 400 units sold per month, with December’s showing a little lower due to the festive season.

KingsfordWaterbayThe numbers have however increased significantly in March this year, from 390 units sold in February to 613 last month. The results are promising, but there has been a few recent launches of new units at previously launched developments and also a release of pent-up demand after the Chinese New Year festivities, which could account for some of the positive vibes.  Most of the sales came from Kingsford Waterbay with 155 units sold and Sims Urban Oasis with 107 units sold. New launches are pulling out all the stops to get buyers’ attention. Competition will be high as more launches are planned for the year, thus getting first dibs with the buyers’ pool is crucial for developers.

Suburban properties are often priced below city fringe and central district properties; at 22 per cent lower than city fringe and 43 per cent lower than central region homes. Lower quantum prices seems to be the factor helping to close deals, as the property cooling measures do not work in favour of most middle-income buyers. The Skywoods and Symphony Suites projects seemed to stacked up better, but sales at Northpark Residences and Botanique @ Bartley may very well give them a run for their money soon, looking at the response from the public.

The outlook for the market this year seems spotted, with possible glimmers of hope but also tough restrictions which may put a damper on sales volume and prices.

 

The private home gentle wave

It’s an up and down ride for the private non-landed property market for more than a year now. Across the board, non-landed resale home prices dropped 6.2 per cent last year. Prices of homes in the central districts dipped an average of 7 per cent last year, though there were good months when some segments managed to bounce back slightly before falling again. That could mean that things were mainly level though there are outliers.

Duchess ResidencesResale private apartment prices fell 0.2 per cent last month, with a 3.9 per cent fall compared to the same month last year. But some city fringe properties bounced back with an average price rise of 0.4 per cent. Part of the yoyo-ing in prices could be due to the Chinese New Year period in February and buyers were just coming back into the fray in March.

The second quarter of this year would be a crucial point in almost determining how the rest of the year will flow, at least up to just before the Hungry Ghost month. Though the ride has been more a gentle wave of price fluctuations rather than a roller coaster ride, property experts are however not expecting a drastic change in prices unless there are major policy changes or a major interest rates hike.

The year could be a relatively quiet one with bright sparks and dull moments along the way, but the basics of good location and lowered total quantum prices will still move units.

Good Class Bungalows prices peak

Against all odds, the Good Class Bungalows (GCB) sector of the luxury property market has reached a price peak last month. Amidst the general market slowdown, luxury homes have been hit the hardest with a decline in sales volume and prices.

The average price for GCBs rose to $1,428 psf from the $1,405 psf in 2012. The rarity of these properties, plus their equally rare price tags, make them fodder for only the rich and wealthy. With their deep pockets, they may not be as affected by the recent property market slump as the everyday joe. There are only 3,900 Good Class Bungalows in Singapore, and they are located in gazetted areas. Only Singaporeans are allowed to purchases these properties.

GoodwoodResidencesWith the lack of foreign buying of local property due to the 15 per cent Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) levied in 2013, the luxury home market has been on the downward slide for sometime. In Sentosa, where anyone, local and foreigner alike are able to purchase a property, only 3 bungalows were sold last year at a 20% price drop. Even with the lower prices, average selling price was at $1, 676 psf.

Non-landed luxury apartments also did not fare well last year. The most number of units sold were at Goodwood Residences. 41 units were sold at a median of $2,461 psf at this Bukit Timah Road property. This may be due to high competition in the market with 7 luxury condominium developments completed last year, including Ardmore 3, Le Nouvel Ardmore, Sculptura Ardmore, Tomlinson Heights, Hana, Nouvel 18 and TwentyOne Anguillia Park.

Property market cooling in Malaysia as well?

Singapore aside, it seems the property market is cooling just across the border as well.

Similarly, higher interest rates are expected for the year ahead, and with weaker buying sentiments and a possible market saturation, property experts are saying that the property developers’ expectations and pricing will be the main factor determining a slowdown (or not) or sales this year. There was an increase in the Real Property Gains Tax rates and the minimum purchasing price for foreign buyers in October 2013, which have affected those investing in properties in the region.

Cypress Villa PenangHome prices in Malaysia have been rising faster than incomes. Could a bubble be slowly forming? How will this affect investors? In the past, it may have been easier and cheaper for foreign buyers to purchase a property in Malaysia, but when it comes to rental and future resale possibilities, the prospects may be slightly dimmer now as locals may not be able to afford and there are rules against selling the properties to other foreign buyers. Without a constant rental yield, the property could become an empty shell.

When purchasing overseas properties, selecting a good location may help shield you against some of these risks. And doing as much research as possible, finding a reputable agent, attending investment seminars and talks, will give you the tools to do just that. Home prices in Johor for example, are still on the rise, with a 5.44 per cent growth in Q3 of last year, albeit a drop from 10.93 per cent in Q1. There are still a reasonable pool of middle-income home buyers who are still looking for prime properties in this state, as well as select others such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang. Singaporean investors may have the strong Singapore dollar as an advantage but a keen eye for spotting good launches and a sense of the right timing are what makes a worthy investment.