Weaker UK pound drives up property market interest

Following Brexit, the Sterling pounds to Singdollar exchange rate have fallen from S$1.85 to S$1.7437 as of last Friday. The 16 per cent fall, since the pound started at S$2.0847 in the beginning of 2016, may be the reason behind a sudden spike in interest in British properties, especially those in London and Manchester.

Photo credit: OrangeTee.  Downtown Apartments in Manchester, UK.

Photo credit: OrangeTee.
Downtown Apartments in Manchester, UK.

Real estate agencies have understandably began to market British residential properties, with a few new launches coming up. These include JLL‘s London City Island apartments and Atria in Slough, and OrangeTee’s Downtown apartments and Property Group’s Affinity Living Riverview apartments in Manchester.

JLL’s London City Island apartments, which is jointly developed by Ecoworld and Ballymore and situated near Canning Town Station, will be launched soon, on 27 and 28 Aug. Also in London, but towards the west, is the 108-studio apartment development Atria, in which Oxley Holdings has a 20 per cent stake. Over the Manchester, buyers will have a couple of options to choose from with the 368-unit Downtown or 318-unit Affinity Living Riverview residential projects. With a variety of apartment types including studio, one-, two- and three-bedders to whet their appetite, buyers may wish to research property and rental potential, neighbourhood popularity, transport convenience and financial longevity before closing a deal.

Property experts caution against the risks of overseas property investment, in particular currency exchange fluctuations and maintenance costs. Despite the lure of the weaker pound, there may also be corresponding concern about the future of UK’s economy and the effect it has on property sales and rental prices.

China’s property market on road to recovery

Following the recent blip in China’s economy, which has affected economies across the globe, investor confidence and expectations have dipped considerably.

Home prices have also fallen but are now on the road to recovery as the authorities have eased measures to help regions, in particular smaller cities, in danger of a supply glut. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has helped to keep the yuan steady after allowing it to fall rather drastically in the beginning of the year. It has reduced interest rates 6 times since November 2014 and also lowered repayment requirements to allow buyers to borrow more for their first and second homes. Home prices have risen in 37 cities over the last month. In the more touristic cities such as Hangzhou and Xiamen, home prices have grown 1.1 and 1.3 per cent respectively over November last year. In a year-on-year comparison, a growth of 5.6 and 6.4 per cent was recorded.

PikShaRoadPhoto: Pik Sha Road property in Hong Kong

China‘s government seems determined to keep the economy afloat though sharp rebounds may be unlikely. Economists are expecting the authorities to play a more supportive role this year, with one of their main tasks this year being the reduction of home inventory, thus investors and market players are expecting further easing of measures this year.

Cities which are also business hubs, such as Shenzhen and Shanghai, have seen the quickest pace of home prices recovery. New home prices in Shenzhen and Shanghai have increased by 3.2 and 1.9 per cent respectively, followed by 0.4 and 0.7 per cent in Beijing and Guangzhou. Most of the positive activity in the property market remains centred around a small market segment, and some less popular cities are still seeing a market decline.


Sell now or later?

In real estate, it is often a timing game. How do you exactly know when to sell and when to buy? If you’re currently looking to sell your property, what should you be looking at for when making your decision of whether to sell now or later?

Just like buying a home, you first have to figure out why exactly you are selling. Is it to finance a new home upgrade, to invest in another property, or because you need the money urgently? The push factors are often stronger than you think when it comes to how much and how quickly you are willing to sell for.

KingsfordWaterbayAnother important question to ask yourself is “How much is my property worth?” Aside from getting a trustworthy real estate agent and valuator, spending a bit of time doing your own market research will help you determine where your property stands. A quick look at property websites, some of which provide tools to help you keep track of property trends and transacted property prices, or checking out resale HDB flat prices from the HDB website as well as attending property talks and seminars are just a few of the many ways to hone your pricing skills.

Market competition is also an important factor which affects pricing. Have a look at how other properties similar to yours are currently prices for a guide to pricing your property. But that said, if you know what qualities your property has above others in the market, list them. These may help you price above the market median. You do however have to be prepared to justify these premium prices and once you are confident the edge your property has, you will have a relatively easy time asking for higher prices. Location and proximity to transport nodes or schools are often a big plus; and sometimes the configuration of rooms, quality of renovation and age of the property could also be added to your property’s calling cards.


Malaysian banks tighten loan rules

Even as news of the possibility of a property supply glut in the Iskandar regions break, Malaysian banks are beginning to tighten their rules about lending on property in these areas.

Since the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has implemented their Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) Framework, it has been harder for Singaporeans to secure loans. Some have turned to foreign banks, on the back of the strong SingDollar, as repayment is lower should the exchange rate be in the lender’s favour. It used to be possible to secure loans of up to 90 per cent of the purchase price of a property. But that may soon also prove more difficult as Malaysian banks are increasingly becoming more selective in lending to foreigners.

PonderosaWOods JohorNot only are the consumers feeling the heat of a possibly oversupply, competition is high in the developer, building and construction industries as well. Construction costs have increased, and the number of foreign developers and building firms competing for projects are also on the rise.

Despite a slight dip in interest from buyers since the announcement of a delay for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail to 2020, some buyers remain positive about the potential of their Iskandar property, banking on a possible rise in the number of retirees and Singaporean families who may want to own a retirement or holiday home in Malaysia.

Downturn for Downtown homes

The luxury property market has taken a downturn as homes in the downtown areas take a hit. Transactions were still taking place, and there were homes being resold, but an increasingly number of them at a loss. Recent transactions show a $60,000 loss in the resale of a Marina Bay Residences unit just last month. One of the largest differences came from a $342,000 loss from a subsale of a Robinson Suites unit.

eMuch of the competition comes from unsold stock from developers, a dipping rental market and a diminishing expatriate population. The first factor could be the most hurtful to investors as some developers have begun adjusting prices downwards, and even renting out unsold units instead of selling them. This puts up fierce competition for buyers who have originally planned for their properties to earn them the monthly sustenance through rental. Even small apartments and and one-bedders are meeting similar fate.

Downtown home prices have fallen 8 per cent, and properties in the prime districts 9 and 11 have fallen 5 per cent. Ultimately, it may come down to holding power. And learning some tricks of the trade through property seminars and talks could be the best way to safeguard yourself from bad investments.

Overseas property – New frontiers

Malaysia. Australia. London.

There are the usual hotspots for Singaporean property investors. But have you ever wondered what else is out there for the taking? Which other markets have green pastures providing long-term fodder for the profit-hungry?

Dubai, which once saw plummeting real estate prices when a bubble burst, is recovering well and once again housing prices are on the rise. To catch the property on its up cycle would be every investor’s dream. The Dubai authorities have since tightened up regulations, targeting in particular speculators. Their Real Estate Regulatory Agency, a regulatory arm of the Dubai Land Department, has rolled out a rental index which is updated every four months. As Dubai continues to expand as a commercial hub, the stream of expatriates who will be looking for rental units keep investors happy for now.

Vida Residence DubaiPhoto Credit: Emaar

Besides commercial properties, some of the most sought-after residential real estate in the Emirates are in popular communities and districts such as Downtown Dubai, Dubai Marina, Arabian Ranches and Emirates Living.  The 57-storey Vida Residence in Downtown Dubai with 320 serviced apartments are selling one-bedders for approximately S$660, 000.

Japan, which most would regard as one of the countries with the highest standard living, surprising has some good property investment opportunities. The low yen has no doubt helped. In the highly populated Tokyo for example, properties in Shinjuku and Shibuya, the 2 most popular shopping districts, are popular with investors. Since Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympics, interest in properties near the proposed Olympic stadium in Harumi have also gained momentum. These include the freehold Harumi Tower with prices starting at S$900 psf. Just 800m away from the Tokyo Tower is the 13-storey Concieria Mita, a freehold property with studio apartments going at a surprisingly competitive S$436, 000.

Conciera Mita condo

Photo Credit: ECG

So it might truly be worth the time and effort to look beyond the usual suspects for investment opportunities which might be more profitable than fighting for those closer to home.

Get help investing in Iskandar properties

The next time you’re thinking about investing in properties in Malaysia, don’t just sit there and surf the net and wonder about all the possibilities from the couch. Property developers are increasingly aware of the growing interest in Malaysian properties, especially those in Iskandar Malaysia, and are organizing regular trips to allow potential investors a more in-depth peek into the workings and actual environment of the properties just across the border.

Meridin Suites in Malaysia.

Meridin Suites in Malaysia.

Ascendent Assets, for example, offers weekend training courses which provides the participant with tips and tricks about investing in Malaysian properties. There is quite a lot of know as the rules and regulations change quickly and new updates are always available. And unlike investing in a property close to home, foreign property purchases have a bigger risk factor, which can be cut down by finding out all you can before putting your hard-earned money into the pot. One of the pluses about this course is the meeting of Iskandar Regional Development Authority officials and the ability to visit and inspect the actual sites. Getty Goh, Ascendent Assets’ Director advises investors against leaping into the deep end with the idea that the property market in Malaysia is as fertile as in Singapore.

Malaysian property developer, Mah Sing, holds similar weekend excursions and is experienced with buyers interested in their Medini-based development, The Meridin @ Medini. Most of them are drawn to the urban-style living which comes with the corresponding convenience of hotels, shops and hospitals nearby, but increasingly the development of EduCity which will feature international universities have also proven to be a strong pull factor.

Developers also provide an option for experienced investors who are familiar with foreign property purchases but may be shopping around for the best deals. Property clubs, usually run by real estate agents, allow a group of like-minded individuals to get together and explore different markets and network with relevant individuals in the Malaysian market.

So there is help out there if you are willing to look hard enough. And unlike before when it’s like stepping out into the dark, there is now many beacons to help guide you on your way.

Private property rents may drop

Many property investors count on rental yields, immediate or future, to boost profits. However, with the sheer number of new homes being built and launched, raking in immediate profits may be tougher than before. As population growth slows and immigration policies tighten, finding a suitable tenant may not be easy.

In fact, if you’re thinking of selling your property, resale prices may also suffer because of the surge in the supply of new properties, private and public. By 2017, the market is projected to have an entry of 100,000 new private non-landed homes and 123, 000 HDB flats. At a 7 to 8 per cent increase in annual landed home supply, this may be the quickest that new non-landed properties have grown thus far.

One Eighties ResidencesWhat this means for landlords may be lowered asking rental prices as competiton heats up and tenants have more options to choose from. Based on previous market cycles, when vacancy rates push the 7 per cent mark, rental prices tend to correct and passing the effect down the chain, resale prices will also be affected.

Some industry experts are expecting a 10 to 15 per cent drop in rental and selling prices between now and 2016. However, others are expecting a gentler drop of 5 to 10 per cent as most of the new units are HDB flats which cannot be sold in the open market within the first five years, thus reducing the actual number of available units for sale. In addition, a number of these new homes may be occupied by home-owners rather than merely purchased for rental purposes, thus once again taking a chunk away from available rental units.

Either ways, this may be a time to be smart about spotting value-for-money, investment-worthy properties which have longer legs and can withstand hard knocks from global and local policy influences. Seeking advice from experienced property investors, analysts and attending property seminars are a good way to get started.