The future of Singapore’s property market – Looking outwards or inwards?

The property industry experts are hoping that the Government will take crucial and timely steps to aid the country’s property and construction sector should trouble loom.

8scape Malaysia property

Photo: 8scape Residences in Malaysia.

Redas (Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore) president, Mr Chia Boon Kuah recently mentioned that the impact on the property sector could similarly transfer to an impact on the country’s overall economy. The vacancy moving forward is expected to hit 10 per cent as the number of new properties reach 68,000 in the next few years. Transaction volume has declined by half of last year from 18,000 to 9,000.

There were also talks about the languishing luxury property market here. The stricter measures and higher taxes may be reasons for wealthy investors looking elsewhere in the region for property investment opportunities and even draw Singaporeans away from investing within their own country.

However, with possible interest rates hikes and stimulus slowdown in the United States, interest in overseas property investment may be waning. As the local property market cools, and prices start coming down, some may also choose to take the wait-and-see stance, possibly holding their horses for a good future run in the local markets. How will the market fare in 2015 and will buyers be drawn to local or foreign properties?

Marina Bay home sales show positive signs

Private home sales in the suburbs have been showing sign of strain as the increasing number of new completed condominium units compete for the increasingly limited number of buyers, which could be further limited due to loan limits, a downtown project seemed to be bucking the trend and pulling in sales in the luxury apartment sector.

Marina One Residences in the Marina Bay precinct secured half of the total number of home sales in October alone. But that could also be due to the fact that it was the only new launch in the month. 334 units of the 1,042-unit condominium were sold at the average selling price of $2,228 psf. However, sales were still lagging behind its initial preview launch when earlybird discounts were given, and sale prices hovered between $1,960 and $3,100 psf.

Marina ONe iprop watermarkDevelopers are finding it harder to attract the buying crowd and have found they are now more sensitive to pricing as it became more difficult to secure bank loans. Though the price fight is not evident yet, as buyers are still willing to fork out a considerable amount for properties in good locations, it may only be a matter of time before the cracks show. Especially since 2015 and 2016 will see an even bigger influx of completed private homes in the market.

For now, developers are focusing their efforts on selling remaining units at previously launched projects such as DUO Residences, Coco Palms and Lakeville condominium, thus holding back on new launches. Will this drive consumers towards other property types such as executive condominiums (ECs) and resale HDB flats or will they continue to seek better deals with the existing private property market?

Glimmer of hope for Private resale homes?

Although the total number of private resale homes sold were lower in October than September, prices have begun to rise slightly. According to latest data, non-landed private home prices rose 0.4 per cent in last month. In suburban districts often popular with buyers such as Bishan, Toa Payoh, Little India, Geylang and Queenstown, prices rose 0.6 per cent. Transactions and prices of prime district properties however remained quiet, falling in fact by 0.3 per cent.

Okio Residences in Balestier.

Okio Residences in Balestier.

Have overall property prices fallen sufficiently? And have they reached the lowest point of the property cycle? If so, how long will this low point last? Private property prices have been low for quite some time now, maintaining a steady level in terms of pricing and transaction volume for almost half a year. The government has said that they will not relax the cooling measures anytime soon, perhaps in fear of a huge and quick rebound which may bring prices up even higher than before the curbs were put in place. They could also be giving the measures a bit more time to sink in, to further bring down home prices and getting the industry and public used to these measures.

Property experts are expecting prices to decline even further in the short term. Would this be the best time to invest? And how would you go about investing? Is it best to move away from residential property into commercial property? Or are there certain property types with hidden long term value?

Almost all Lake Life EC units sold

At $799 to $930 psf with starting average prices of $685,000 for a 2-bedder to close to $1 million for a 3-bedder, units at the Lake Life EC in Jurong flew of the shelves over the weekend. Only 12 out of its 546 units  were available as of yesterday.

Lake Life ECThe palatable quantum prices of units at the executive condominium (EC) by Evia Real Estate could be the main draw. With a lower loan limit and other cooling measures in place, property buyers are now on the lookout for properties with a lower total selling price rather than focusing on per-square-foot prices. Evia Real Estate has done their homework well, and projected that the deepest pockets of buyers for the Lake Life, according to the demographics of the Jurong district, would be not more than $1.1 million. The pent-up demand for ECs may also have accounted for much of the rush for units in this quickly developing region. The Jurong and Jurong Lake district looks set to be one of the newest and busiest areas for development under the government’s island-wide growth plans.

URA Jurong Lake District

Photo credit:URA

In fact, some of the buyers were originally considering private properties in the area but decided instead to go for the EC options instead. Many saw it as a good investment even though they were purchasing units to live in for the moment. Executive condominiums are a hybrid between public and private property and can be sold after a 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP) in the open market. After 10 years, it will become a private property and may fetch even higher prices.

The other 2 ECs entering the market at the same time are Bellwoods and Bellewaters, developed by Qingjian Realty.

Price reduction at the Lake Life

Just launched not long ago, the latest kid on the block – Lake Life EC in the Jurong Lake district is already offering units at prices lower than its initial estimation. Prior to its launch, the price tag was expected to hover between $880 to $890 psf. But it seems the average is now around $857psf.
lakelife ECThis could be due largely to the loan limits and subsidy caps for executive condominium buyers. Before the cooling measures went into full force last year, prices were much higher as buyers could apply for larger loan amounts. In comparison to its neighbouring private condominium, Lakeville, prices at the EC are much lower. Lakeville units are selling at the medina of $1, 328 psf. Considering the fact that ECs will eventually become private condominiums, which may mean a wider profit margin in the long run. Executive condominiums (ECs) are a hybrid between public and private housing, and buyers can sell them in the market after 5 years, and after 10 years, the development will become a private residential property.

Reacting to the smaller loans which buyers can now receive, developers are adjusting their strategies to offer units prices at a lower quantum prices as compared to lower psf prices. At the Lake Life, 84 per cent of the units have been priced below $1.1 million. A few townships away in Woodlands, and over in the north of the island, the launch of Bellewoods and Bellewaters executive condominiums this weekend may fan the EC fire and buyers will have more fodder for comparison. Prices, expected to be set between $750 to $820 psf, will be competitive. What will buyers be looking out for?

Commercial properties – Promising future?

As the noose tightens around the residential property market, investors may consider shifting their focus onto commercial properties, in particular office spaces. Q3 figures have shown that selling prices and rental of office spaces have been growing at a record pace.

In land-scarce Singapore, the growing number of businesses means the demand for office space will continue to rise. And as space decreases, prices increase. In Q3 alone, office space rental prices rose by 1.6 per cent. Part of the reason could be that major buildings such as the NOL Building and Havelock II have been undergoing renovation and thus the office space crunch has led to businesses having to look for alternative spaces within a short time period.

Havelock 2 OfficeDespite luxury properties in the downtown and CBD areas faring poorly of late, Grade A office rents in these areas have been travelling the opposite direction – upwards. Office spaces in the central region have been more in demand than rentals in other regions despite the higher rental prices. Central districts office rentals have risen 2.8 per cent while those at the fringe of the city have risen 1.9 per cent.

Retail space however, is another creature altogether. As most retail space income comes also from the tenant’s sales and margins have been narrow due to higher operating and labour costs. And with the introduction of many more mixed-use developments come 2016, supply may overtake demand and reduce the rarity of these spaces. Especially as online shopping takes off in a big way locally, retail spaces, unless in high traffic areas or exclusive trendy enclaves, may find themselves fighting for the same audience.

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?

What carrots do Property developer dangle?

With competition heating up in the property scene, developers are finding it increasingly difficult to find ready buyers. The stakes are now higher and thus the incentives offered have been interestingly varied. From discounts to free furniture, rental guarantees, holiday and travel memberships; and even sports-car discounts and diamonds! The “carrots” may now be actual “carats”!

Mon JervoisQingjian Realty has recently offered one-carat diamonds in a lucky draw for Bellewoods executive condominium (EC) e-applicants. 20 diamonds for that matter. Buyers of the Highline Residences in Kim Tian road can look forward to a 3-year “lifestyle membership” which includes limousine rides and complimentary golf privileges at the Ria Bintan Golf Club. Most of the developers are offering these incentives as a way to market and spur renewed interest in their previous launches. These offers help protect their selling prices whilst balancing the expectations of buyers who may
have purchased units in the initial phases. Would this holding back on offers affect the response during first-phase launches? Whilst some may rest a little on their laurels and wait for possible offers in future launches, buyers who are keen to select their prime units may still prefer to strike while the iron is hot and go for first releases to ensure they get a unit they truly want.

At the Infinium cluster-homes in Kovan, IG |Development was offering a $200,000 Mercedes to the first 3 buyers but later withdrew the offer in place of price discounts of $100 psf on their first 3 units sold. That would mean savings of up to $500,000. But if it’s a vehicle you’d like, UIC and SingLand are partnering with Aston Martins to provide discounts on their cars for buyers of three-bedders and bigger units at Mon Jervois.

But as the supply of new homes may trickle come 2015, will developers continue to dangle these incentives or will the property market make a U-turn and head up the charts on selling price alone?