Increase in Foreign property purchases

The local property market is looking a little zestier as more foreign buyers picked up units in the first quarter. This affirms the continued popularity of properties in Singapore as compared to those in other major Asian cities, or global cities for that matter.

Kingsford HIllview PeakProperty prices in Singapore are still relatively affordable, and the number of purchases made by non-Singaporean residents rose by 5.4 per cent, while purchases made by permanent residents rose by 2.6 per cent in Q1. The Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) initially dampened sales, but as foreign property investors find themselves having similar, it not even higher, fees levied upon them in other markets, their return is not particularly surprising. While there are other emerging markets with even lower property prices, the stability and proven track record of Singapore’s properties has done the market justice.

Most of the properties foreign buyers hunt down are priced between $1.5 to $3 million. They bought 79 units at Cairnhill Nine and 38 units at Kingsford Hillview peak. Most of the foreign buyers were Mainland Chinese or Malaysians. Property analysts are keeping positive about the market’s prospects for the rest of the year despite the number of local buyers falling 18.2 per cent, though it could be due to the Chinese New Year holidays falling in the middle of Q1.

 

 

Prices of suburban properties dipping

Prices of new properties in the prime central districts have been rising, even as the market dulls. Suburban homes are feeling the strain put on the market by the influx of completed new homes this year.

The PanoramaBuyers seeking out properties in the suburbs tend to be more price-sensitive, and are often hampered by the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework and the additional buyers’ stamp duty (ABSD), leading to higher competition from an expanding pool of stock for a shrinking pool of ready buyers. Prices at The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio have fell 9.7 per cent since its launch to $1,213 psf and similarly in Clementi, units at The Trilinq are now priced around $1,408 psf, almost 9 per cent lower than its launch price.

In comparison, buyers of properties in the prime central districts are more affluent and are able to afford the prices properties here demand. For example at Robin Residences, selling prices are now hovering at $2,371 psf, 2.4 per cent higher than its launch-price. Buyers of centrally located properties also have stronger holding power and less likely to sell unless the price is right.

RObin ResidencesThe price gap between suburban and central district homes have been widening. Last year, CCR (core central region) new-home price premiums were 81 per cent over those in the OCR (outside central region). As more OCR homes hit the secondary market this year, how will smaller investors handle the competition?

 

Price drop in City fringe and Suburban properties

The global economic slowdown may have affected industries all around, as salaried employees whose jobs may even be in danger are now more prudent with their spendings. As these are the main target audience for suburban and city-fringe properties, these market sectors are a little worse for wear and both sales and rental prices have fallen.

A typical 3-bedder outside the central region may have fetch $3,800 in monthly rent a year ago, but now the going prices are hovering around $3,200. Competition in the resale market may also rise this year as investors who have purchase properties in 2011 will now be clear of stamp duties and may be putting their units into the market by the middle of this year.

Corals @ Keppel BayPhoto: Corals @ Keppel Bay

Luxury homes and central region properties may fare a little better, though resale private apartment prices have dropped 0.3 per cent in February this year. Most of the buyers of these high-end properties are high-net-worth individuals or funds who are capable of holding on to their properties through market troughs. Foreigners also make up a large proportion of the buyers here, with Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese forming majority of the group. As Singapore’s luxury properties are still considered value-buys in comparison with the other popular Asian city, Hong Kong, where prices are 30 per cent higher and most properties are leasehold, those with the cash will continue to pick up deals, more of which are to be had this year as developers begin to offload their unsold stock.

Lull in private home prices

Despite a projected lull in local private home prices this year, interest in Singapore’s property market remains steady as prime residential property prices are still 165 per cent and 92 per cent lower than those in Hong Kong and London respectively.

 Photo credit: Singapore Tourism Board

So despite property analysts predicting a 5 to 10 per cent fall in prime and mass market private property prices this year, the local property market’s core remains strong. 2010’s property cooling measures may have kept property prices 17 per cent lower than what it could have been. Private home prices have fallen 4 per cent last year, following a 3.7 per cent fall in 2014. In the luxury home market, prices have fallen 20 per cent since the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) was implemented in 2011.

China’s recent growth slump, plunging oil prices, the Federal Reserve interest rate hike and a general sense of a global recession looming, might consequently affect the property markets around the world. Businesses may reconsider their expansion plans, which could mean a fall in demand for office spaces and commercial properties. This in turn may affect the number of expatriates entering the country, which may also affect rental prices.

This year could prove tough for investors and property sellers, but not without glimpses of hope. 2016 may be the year to hang-in-there, but industry experts are expecting 2017 to take a turn for the better.

Lower property tax for 8 in 10 home owners

8 in 10 private home owners and up to 80% of those who own a HDB flat will receive a christmas gift that keeps on giving. Due to the marked-down annual values of up to 260,000 homes, 80% of home owners will pay almost 3 to 20 per cent less property tax in 2016, according to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). The owners of 380,000 four-room HDB flats, 250,000 five-room HDB flats and 65,000 ECs (executive flats) will also see their taxes greatly reduced; some may not even have to pay any property taxes next year.

FOresta Mount Faber

Photo: The Foresta @ Mount Faber

Considering the IRAS has received $4 billion in property taxes in the 12 months leading up to March 31, it may be a small dent, but to the home owners, it may be truly happy news. As residential rents have been on the decline for sometime now, and with the expected supply boom next year, property owners may be facing some struggles when the onslaught of new private homes and BTO flats enter the market in 2016. Some of the effects can already be seen in the market in the latter half of 2015.

As property values are calculated based on the rental value of similar properties in the vicinity of a said property, the falling rental rates have no doubt been part of the reason for the tax cuts. Rents for private homes have fallen 3.3 per cent this year. Though a progressive tax system has already been implemented last year, with home owners who are living in their properties not having to pay taxes for the first $8,000 of their property’s annual value, this readjustment will help them save even more.

 

More for less – Smaller condo apartments

With the rising prices of land plots sold under the Government Land Sales programme and with developers taking into consideration how the property cooling measures have affected buyers’ purchasing power, private apartment sizes have been diminishing since 2010.

LakevillePhoto: Lakeville at Jurong West

More apparent in units in the city fringes, average sizes have shrunk from 1,051 to 810 sq ft. And in the suburbs, apartment sizes went from 878 sq ft to 811 sq ft; though the average sizes from new projects actually dropped from 1, 113 sq ft in 2006 to 667 sq ft in 2011 but rose again to 928 sq ft in 2014.

In 2012, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) put in place guidelines for the maximum number of units for condominium developments outside of the central area. Developers have since noticed that buyers are more sensitive to the total quantum price of a unit rather than per unit prices, especially since the implementation of loan curbs such as the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) and Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR), hence maximising the land area and total number of units would be the best way to go.

Symphony SUitesPhoto: Symphony Suites

There are some residential projects which chose to follow their own path however, including Lakeville and Symphony Suites. But as the population continues to grow, it seems that unit sizes will only continue to diminish. Resale units may then have an edge over the smaller-sized newer units, provided pricing is equally competitive when time comes.

Property auctions see more action

In light of the declining property market, more properties are finding themselves placed under the hammer at property auctions.

THeWaterlineLowered mortgage ratios, decreasing rental demand and increasing supply have all affected the property market. Most of the 180 units put up for auction in the 3 months up to 30 June have mostly been due to mortgagors defaulting on their mortgage payments. Industrial or residential properties alike have found it difficult to meet their mortgage payments if they were relying mainly on rents, especially as it has become harder to command leases at a level expected during the peak of the market.

Smaller private non-landed units such as studios or shoebox apartments were also facing some market pressure as their popularity waned. Supply of such units, or simply more private condominium apartments in general, has possibly exceeded demand and such units are now more commonplace. The next thing to budge would be rental and then sale prices.

Even as property loans become harder to secure, with the tight loan limits and hefty stamp duties implemented as part of the property cooling measures, the last hurdle that mortgagors have to cross would be the increasing interest rates.

For buyers and property investors, the proper might be a possible avenue to consider in their property search.

Home prices expected to decline further in 2015

This year, the rate of decline for private home prices is expected to exceed that of 2014. Last year’s drop was estimated at 4 per cent whereas this year, industry analysts project an 8 per cent drop. This new estimate for the private property sector will put it on par with resale HDB flats. In 2014, the public housing market reflected a 6 per cent drop in prices.

Some market factors from last year are here to stay:
1) Tightened credit market
2) Stricter immigration policies
3) Weakening demand
4) Increasing supply of new homes
5) Higher stamp duties

The Luxurie - near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

The Luxurie – near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

And while interest rates were at a low at a point in time last year, they are expected to rise this year, which makes for an even less favourable environment for a thriving buy-and-sell of residential properties in particular.

This may put a fair bit of pressure on home sellers, who may find themselves having to lower prices in order to make a sale. With developers competing for the same buyers with offers of discounts, rebates and other enticing options, resale private properties might struggle to stand out.

Landlords may also find that it’s a tenants market as an onslaught of homes become ready for occupation this year. The most recent residential projects to come into the market this year include the 622-unit The Luxurie and 590-unit The Riversound Residences in Sengkang.

Coupled with a number of new launches planned for this year, and fewer foreign buyers taking the bite, the only properties which may remain popular are mass-market homes in locations close to MRT stations, schools and shopping malls.