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.

Private resale homes – Dip in sales volume and prices continue

The number of resale transactions of private properties have dipped across the board and that in turn has affected the pricing index reflected by the SRPI (Singapore Residential Property Index). SRPI figures showed a 0.7 per cent drop in September, despite hopes that the market will rebound after the Hungry Ghost Festival.

STeven SuitesProperty analysts are reporting an imbalance in the expectations of home sellers and buyers. Stronger holding power of home sellers have meant that fewer properties were exchanging hands and they have instead opted to hold on to their properties till the market turns around. With the exception of shoebox apartments it seems. There was a price gain there of 0.4 per cent. This could be a clear indication of the preferences of buyers in the current market situation and perhaps provides an inkling of the months ahead.

One of the most affected property sectors are the luxury homes. Although buyers and investors of these high-end properties may not be detoured by the additional levies and loan limits, they may be deterred by the buying restrictions. And as the number of unsold luxury properties increases, developers are now offering discounts to entice them back into the fold.

As 2014 draws to an end, many may be wondering how the property market will fare in 2015. As the government has recently announced that the property cooling measures are not likely to ease in the near future, property analysts are expecting a 8 to 10 per cent decline. What will that mean for the overall market and will any particular property type stand out? Will the drop in private home prices mean a similar drop in HDB resale flat prices or will the demand for resale flats rise as more turn towards this less expensive option?

When will property cooling measures cool off ?

The past two years have seen the implementation, and perhaps effects, of a series of property cooling measures. From increased stamp duties to revised subsidies and the strictest of which, the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework, restrictions have certainly risen the heat on the property industry.

Singapore still has some way to go before the property market achieves the sophistication it requires to reach new heights. Economist are estimating the second half of 2015 as the earliest the authorities are likely to cool off with the cooling measures. That is when most households would have managed to reduce their debt levels. However, property prices can be expected to fall by more than 10 per cent in the first half of next year, or at least show a substantial decline before curbs are removed. In fact, by 2016, property prices are expected to fall by up to 20 per cent due to the oversupply at that time.

Prices have stablised somewhat since the implementation of the property cooling measures, but the fall has only be about 3 per cent, which means the authorities could be waiting for a significant fall in figures, or a recession, before amending the rules. The fear could be the sudden upward rebound of prices which may far surpass the watershed of 2009. With the elections coming in 2016, 2015 seems like the turning point for the market and buyers and sellers alike may be watching closely to catch any opportunities  they can before things change once more.

Could 2015 be the year for home buyers? How will landlords, developers and sellers fare?

Home prices down all around

Landed. Non-landed. Private. Public. Across the board, prices of all residential properties seem to have taken a hit in the last quarter.

Prices have dipped, some sectors more than the others, but signs are pointing to a possible slowdown in the market due to governmental curbs and the increased number of new property launches over the last 2 years. With the last price decline registered in 2005, resale HDB flat prices have been on the downhill slope for 2 quarters now. Private property prices have also suffered albeit to a lesser degree, with the lowest prices since 2009.

Mon JervoisMight it truly be the buyers’ market this year? Will this prompt more buyers to jump on the opportunity or are there other factors which might keep them away from the cash register? The tighter loan restrictions such as shorter loan periods, lower debt-to-income limits, and higher stamp duties may still be an obstacle to some buyers, thus sellers eager to cash in on their properties may find themselves having to wait a little longer for a good deal to come by.

Location usually still trumps all, though considerations such as space, amenities and living environment all have a part to play in the final selling price. With more new private condominium launches and new HDB flats pushing their way into the market this year, competition on the rental front is proving tough as well. Buyers now have more options for comparison and may be tempted to wait for prices to drop even further or wait it out for the best deal.

Even prices of suburban private homes, which have been the main stalwart of the property market last half of the year, have slipped 0.6 per cent. And as resale HDB flat prices drop, so have the number of HDB upgraders who may require the cash from the sale of their flats to purchase private homes. In turn, demand for mass-market suburban homes may fall.

Will it be a sombre year for Singapore’s residential property market?