Stamp Duty changes bring cheer to real estate market

With the recent Sellers’ Stamp Duty (SSD) changes, the real estate market is beginning to feel more upbeat all around.

PLQThe most significant changes were the SSD rates and the fact that sellers who let go of their properties after 3 years will no longer have to pay the sellers’ stamp duty. The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) threshold has also been relaxed for properties with  loan-to-value (LTV) limits of 50% and less. The latter move is aimed at helping retirees monetise their properties as many could be sitting on their assets while having trouble with cash-flow or liquidity. Some property owners may wish to cash out on their properties in order to start businesses or send their children for overseas education but find themselves unable to loan enough as the TDSR framework limits the borrower only to amounts totalling up to 60 per cent of their gross income.

All these changes will give buyers a higher sense of security, knowing that they will have more flexibility in managing their finances without having to hold on to their properties should they urgently require liquidity. The crowds at the Paya Lebar Quarter’s (PLQ) residential project – Park Place Residences a couple of weekends ago were a positive affirmation of the improving sentiments in the property market. Property agents reckon that the SSD changes will motivate more people to buy as they now have less restrictions to take into consideration.

 

Weak rental market not an obstacle for investors

While the weakening rental market may have been putting pressure on investors, the concurrent weakening private property prices are opportunities to some. While the leasing market has slowed down considerably, the property-purchasing market has been gaining speed, especially in the last quarter or so.

TRE ResidencesThe overall genial atmosphere in the private residential property market over the past few months have brought property investors back into the heat of things. As more newly completed properties enter the market and new projects such as The Clement Canopy and Grandeur Park Residences were launched to affirmative responses early in the year. Overall private home prices fell at the slowest rate in 3 years, which could point to an increasingly stabilising market.

It would be prudent however for investors to take into consideration that the property cooling measures have not yet been lifted, though some signs of relief have been provided earlier this month. In the past, profits of up to 60 per cent could be reaped in the short-term, but the long-term potential of a property, rather than quick turnarounds or a dependency on rental profits, will be at the heart of a good investment henceforth. Property analysts advise investors to consider cash-flow, calculate mortgage and maintenance costs carefully while keeping a portion aside for periods of negative cash flow when  the property is unable to be tenanted.

Winds of change in local property market

A decade or so ago, owning a second or third property might be the fastest way to secure your retirement funds or to even accumulate a tidy little kitty. Investment properties were considered a surefire way of earning additional income, but in the climate of today, property owners and investors have much more factors to consider and competition to battle against.

SunshinePlazaResidencesWith the rental market weakening, property agents are finding that it takes twice as long and also many more viewings before a property is successfully tenanted. And even then, for much less than before. Some property owners have had to reduce rents by almost half. Leaving the units empty are simply not an option for some investors as the rents go towards the mortgage or mortgages of their properties. It is after all better to have less help than none at all.

SerangoonHDBflatFor new investors looking to enter the market, the environment is a lot tougher than before. Considerations such as whether there is a large pool of HDB flats available for rental nearby, the long-term potential of the property, competition from other new launches or even within the same property, whether the local and global economy will affect businesses and commercial hubs nearby thus reducing the pool of foreign tenants, and so forth.

Before the market makes a complete recovery, a possibly lengthy period of stabilisation will ensue, despite the governments having made some allowances in the are of the property cooling curbs.

Property cooling curbs working in China

Many Asian-pacific countries have placed property cooling curbs on their housing and real estate industry as prices climbed rapidly within the past half a decade. Cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore are facing not only space and housing issues but also rapid inflation and increasing property prices.

Aerial view of suburban neighborhood, Wuhan, Hubei, China on 11th March 2016. (Photo by Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images)

Aerial view of suburban neighborhood, Wuhan, Hubei, China on 11th March 2016. (Photo by Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Chinese government has been placing curbs upon curbs on their real estate industry, with perhaps conflicting sentiments as the sector accounts for a large part of the country’s economic growth. But housing prices have been skyrocketing at an alarming rate and for the first time in the past few years, the measures seem to be taking effect.

In Shenzhen, currently the country’s hottest market for new homes, property prices have fallen 0.5 per cent after consecutive dips over the past 4 months. In Shanghai, prices fell by 0.1 per cent, also following a 3-consecutive-month decline. While prices remained unchanged in Beijing, the stabilisation is a start to possible price deflation. News of a possible reduction of land release by more than 3 times that released in 2016 could further reign in price increase.

Park yoho venezia Hong Kong propertyThe price-increase in January was reflected in the smallest number of cities in a year. Home prices have fallen in 20 cities while 45 out of 70 cities saw a gain in prices, down from 46 in December last year. Part of the reason could be the curbs placed not only on buyers but also on banks. Some bank branches in major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing have recently increased mortgage rates for first-time buyers. China’s central bank is likely to have even stricter restrictions on credit and housing loans put in place, in particular targeting developers and households, in order to prevent a property bubble.

 

More condo developments offering deferred payment plans

As the number of completed private home units in the market rise without the same exponential reaction from buyers, developers are finding it increasingly difficult to move remaining units.

peak-cairnhillMore developers have been seen to offer incentives such as a deferred payment scheme in order to entice buyers. One of the latest to hop on the bandwagon is TG Development‘s The Peak @ Cairnhill II. Following good response to their previously-launched deferred payment scheme, CapitaLand has added Sky Habitat to their other 2 properties, d’Leedon and The Interlace, offering the same incentive. Their stay-then-pay option allows Singaporean buyers to make a 10 per cent down payment (15 per cent for foreign buyers) within 8 weeks to exercise the option to purchase and the other 90 per cent within a year from that even while living in the unit.

Some other properties such as One Balmoral are offering sweeteners such as direct discounts. The freehold 91-unit condominium in prime district 10 has offered a 13 per cent discount on all their units with prices averaging at $2,150 to $2,200 psf. Over at the waterfront-style Corals at Keppel Bay, the developer is offering $50,000 off selected units with average prices working out to be around $1,850 psf.

threebalmoral the increasing number of unsold units in the market, industry experts are not yet concerned about new launches coming up this year. New blood will likely inject active browsing and buying sentiments into a stabilising market, and with prices holding steady buyers are likely to take the bait, and the effect may very well trickle down to the secondary and other sectors.

Will current property bright spots continue to shine in 2017?

Private home prices have continued to fall in 2016, and while that may have coloured the market atmosphere somewhat grey, bright spots are beginning to shine through the gloom, with 3 sectors performing particularly well this year.

Miro condo on Lincoln Road, just off Novena at the City Fringe districts.

Miro condo on Lincoln Road, just off Novena in the city fringe.

The luxury residential property, commercial office and collective sales segments have all shone this year. And industry players are no doubt hoping that the positive streak will continue in 2017. In this year alone, 3 en bloc sales were closed. Only 1 such transaction was recorded for 2015 and none in 2014. Even for the private home market, sales volume has risen 9.8 per cent this year despite 10.8 and 10.7 per cent fall respectively in sale prices and rents in 12 consecutive quarters.

Some property analysts however consider the fall in property prices a good thing, as this has enticed more buyers back into the market. Buyers who may have previously stayed away from the market due to the increased stamp duties and fees implemented by the authorities in the past few years to attempt to cool the market, have now returned and are now swiftly closing transactions.

2 RVG condo apartment in River Valley

2 RVG condo apartment in River Valley

In the prime districts of 9, 10 and 11, private home transactions were already 42.6 per cent higher than the total in 2015. 2,601 deals were sealed in the Orchard, River Valley, Bukit Timah and Novena areas as of mid-December. With more land allocated under the Government Land Sales (GLS) scheme and developers on the lookout for smaller prime location sites, the market may see a lot more activity quite soon.

New private home sales figures on track for H4

Though there was a 31.4% fall from October’s record sales of 1,253 units, the year is nevertheless set to end on a cheerful note, as spirits in the new private home market are buoyed by a 13.3% year-on-year spike last month with developers selling 860 units in November alone (excluding the 250 new executive condominium units sold). The fourth quarter has clocked a 2,500-unit sales figure thus far and property analysts say the projected market figures are are on track as the year-end is usually a quieter time for the property sector.

parcriviera2Even before numbers for December are consolidated, the number of new homes sold this year have already crossed 7,769, which is already more than the total of 7,440 homes sold last year. The lowered private property prices have attracted a considerable market audience, with most going for units with lower quantum prices. Most buyers are hoping to score a good deal before prices bounce back up, and have shown interest in smaller one- and two-bedders. The demand for larger units are slightly lacking in comparison.

queenspeak2Units at the newly launched Queens Peak condominium development in Queenstown and Parc Riviera in West Coast Vale were the month’s best sellers. Most of the units sold were priced under $1 million with 185 such units sold at Queens Peak and 110 of the sme at Parc Riviera. A positive outlook on the private home market next year seems likely with a projected 8,000 number of new homes sold by end of 2016.

Resale private condo prices up by 0.3%

Resale private non-landed property prices have inched up slightly in November with a 0.3 per cent increase following a 0.7 per cent fall in October.

teresavilleHowever on a year-on-year comparison, prices were 1 per cent lower than November 2015. As more new units enter the market and demand wanes, more sellers have put their properties up for sale below estimated market values. In districts 22 and 27 of Boon Lay, Jurong, Tuas, Sembawang and Yishun, private condominium units have been sold at around $20,000 below the market norm.

But in district 4 which includes Mount Faber, Telok Blangah and Habourfront, condominium prices have been consistent with some buyers even paying up to $25,000 above market value. On a positive note, the margin between the market value and the average selling prices of resale condominiums have been narrowing, as more buyers get used to the stamp duty requirements and additional fees involved and are rather actively seeking good deals.

pebblebaySales volume of resale condo units has also improved 21.3 per cent from last November with the 581 transactions recorded for the month. In the prime districts, prices rose by 2.3 per cent while those in the city fringe dipped 1.5 per cent. Suburban resale private condos fared least well with a 2.6 per cent fall in prices. Analysts are watching the market closely for signs of how it will fare in 2017, and have raised concerns about prices possibly lowering further as more unsold homes seep into the market.