Housing supply to slow down in 2015

The authorities have announced that public housing supply and land sales will slow down come 2015 as the market has showed signs of cooling and stablising after the many rounds of property cooling measures rolled out over the past year or two.

West Terra HDB Bukit BatokPhoto Credit: HDB

The Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has commented in a blog post that the supply of new HDB flats will slow by 25 per cent next year. There will only be 4 launches next year, compared to the usual 6 per year. Each launch usually puts out up to 4,000 new Build-to-order (BTO) flats. The rate of successful BTO flat applications has been on the rise as reflected in the few recent launches. More married couples achieve success in getting their new flats, and the authorities have been allowances for couples either opting to apply for a flat with their parents, or for one near their parents. In addition, parents who opt to apply for a flat in a non-mature estate to be near their married children, will also receive priority.

The slight shift in policies may ensure that families remain close-knit and are able to receive help when needed. It may also help with a shift in aging mature estates and introduce a more age-balanced population per HDB estate. Mr Khaw Boon Wan also hopes that the move will help newlyweds plan for a family more efficiently and in turn increase Singapore’s population with a higher birth rate.

In the private property sector, the number of land plots being sold for executive condominiums and private apartments has already been reduced this year, though the industry might see a further reduction come 2015. But will this mean a decline in the building, construction and property industries? Or has the previous land sales and launches been sufficient to keep the industry going for the next few years? Which part of the cycle is the property sector in at the moment and are we set for a boom or lull in the next year?

Private home sales down in Q3

Despite recent new launches, private home sales remained lacklustre as the third quarter registered  lowest sales figures since 2008. Only 1,596 new homes were sold in the last 3 months, though 648 units were sold in August alone, signifying a plausible comeback.
 Tre ResidencesSome of the more popular residential properties were the newer ones such as Highline Residences, Seventy St Patrick’s, Lakeville, Eight Riversuites, and some new launches from projects such as The Panorama. As per previous years, post Hungry Ghost Festival meant home buyers were once again eager for new deals and were actively seeking property purchase opportunities.

Across the board, 6,030 private properties were sold in the first 3 quarters of the year, almost half that of the same period last year. Much of the decline was due to weakening demand in the primary market, which could be a result of the tightening home loan limits implemented in June 2013.

Upcoming launches of Sophia Hills, Tre Residences and Symphony Suites might bring renewed activity into the market and possibly close the year on a high. But most of the attention will be in the executive condominium (EC) market as the drought of new launches in this sector welcome new launches of Lake Life, Bellewoods and Bellewaters.

Rise in HDB Resale flat sales

As HDB resale flat prices continue to decline for the eighth month in September, buyers are taking the opportunity to suss out the best deals. The number of sales transactions for HDB resale flats rose to the highest since April this year. A total of 1, 469 flats were sold in September, up 10.7 per cent from August and almost 20 per cent from the same month last year.

St George Towers

Photo credit: HDB

It comes as no surprise that the larger flats saw the largest fall in prices. Five-room HDB flat prices fell 1.6 per cent, followed by three- and four-room flats dipping 0.2 per cent and ECs (executive condominiums) 0.1 per cent. The recent numbers also revealed the fact that buyers are willing to accept a smaller price difference between the selling price and the average market value when previously, they had expected larger margins before committing to a deal.

Some of the factors contributing to the drop in HDB flat prices could be:

The first and last two factors in the list may have more lasting effects that expected. And it may change the value and purpose of HDB flats. But would the change be all that bad? Or will it help refocus investments into the private property market?

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.

Do upgraded HDB flats bring higher resale prices?

Given an older resale HDB flat in a prime location and a recently upgraded one in a less popular HDB estate, which would you choose?

HDB recently announced that they will be speeding up the Home Improvement Programme, the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and the Selective Lift Replacement Programme. Some sellers and property agents are putting a higher price tag on flats which have be selected for such programmes. But with caveats.

HDB MUPPhoto credit: HDB

Only HDB flats whose owners have already paid for the upgrading may have an edge in the resale market. As the upgrading is usually only billed and paid for after the work is completed, some buyers may find themselves having to foot the bill for the flat or estate’s upgrading work if the seller has not already done so. Though it may seem like a significant difference, property agents are saying that it will not affect resale prices on the whole. The most it will do is slow down the price decline.

In fact, some buyers may prefer not to purchase flats which have yet been upgraded as it may bring inconveniences such as dust and noise for a significant period of time. Only flats which have been completely upgraded can command a higher selling price. But buyers who are thinking ahead may consider these older flats for the potential they hold once upgrading has been completed. With elderly-friendly facilities, newer amenities, perhaps even more room, the future could be more promising than you think.

Private property out of reach for HDB Upgraders?

If home prices are falling, most would think that the upgrade from public housing or HDB flats to the private home market should be getting easier. But it seems the opposite is true.

Prices of HDB flats and a private condominium apartment are perhaps softening at around the same rate, or that of HDB flats possibly even quicker. This creates a widening price gap between resale HDB flats and private condominiums, and HDB sellers can no longer depend on the sales proceeds of their HDB flats to balance out the price of their new private condominium.

BellewoodsECPhoto Credit: Bellewoodsec.com

Does this also mean that more HDB flat owners will now be forced to stay put and thus decrease the number of HDB flats available in the resale market? What about those who may have already purchase a private property and have a limited time period within which to sell their HDB flats? WIll they be pushed to sell at lower prices hence suffering the growing amount they need to top up?

Property experts are expecting ECs or executive condominiums to be the bridging properties between these two markets. As a hybrid between public and private housing, buyers qualify for public housing subsidies but after a 10-year period, can sell their units as private properties.  There is also the question of home sizes, will HDB upgraders be willing to settle for lesser space and a higher psf price to make the leap from HDB to private home?

Blooming Balestier

Although it has had the reputation of being a red-light district, albeit a less infamous one compared to the likes of Desker road and Geylang, its proximity to the Novena medical hub and being on the city fringe has brought the value of its properties up. With a new round of property launches and mixed-use properties such as hotel-parks like the Zhongshan Mall, Zhongshan Park, the Days and Ramada hotels, the Balestier area looks set to be the next property hot spot.

Viio BalestierWith its fair share of pre-war preservation shophouses and a quaint, historical feel, just the right amount of new condominiums, hotels and malls has breathed some new life into the area without taking away too much of its original facade. This, coupled with expatriates’ diminishing housing packages, means an increasing interest in rental and sales of properties here.

One of the latest residential projects, Viio @ Balestier, has launched its two-bedders at $1, 600 psf. At Ascent @ 456, prices hovered around $1,477 psf. Cosmo Loft, yet another freehold property in the district sold 5 units at $1, 775 psf. Prices of new launches in the area have risen over the past 2 years alone, up by almost 10 per cent.

Though property owners who had bought into the area early may not be reaping the profits yet as resale property sales and rental demand has dipped across the board, property experts are expecting things to turn around in another 7 years or so.

New private homes – Sales lacklustre

The hungry ghost month and the lack of new property launches during that time have affected new home sales in August. Sales were down 15% and only 432 units were sold although 351 units in previously-launched developments were put up for sale.

The PanoramaMost of the sales came from suburban properties, especially from newer launches such as The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio and Coco Palms in Pasir Ris. Median selling prices at the former was $1,249 psf and $1,046 psf at the latter. Whilst Eight Riversuites launched around the same time as Coco Palms in May 2012, the Whampoa East property fared better with average prices at $1, 345 psf. Positive sales at these few developments could be due to the lower prices at its re-launch. The Panorama for example saw sales picking up once median prices were lowered during its relaunch in May. It was official launched in January this year.

But in the upcoming months, home sales may see a rebound as new launches in the pipeline bring a surge of buying interest. New launches include Marina One Residences, Highline Residences, Seventy St Patrick’s., and a few executive condominium developments such as Bellewoods and Bellewaters EC.

Property analysts are however cautious about the amount of increase in home sales, and the overall sales figures for 2014. The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework and other property cooling measures such as stamp duties for additional properties, may keep the numbers suppressed. Some developers could also be holding their launches for next year in wait of any policy or market shifts.