HDB property market – Has balance been struck?

The last four years saw aggressive moves by the Housing Development Board to release and build new HDB flats. In 2014 alone, 51, 598 new HDB flats were added.

Has this supply of new flats been effective in stabilising the property market? Is the supply and demand scale now balanced? Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has mentioned that the increased supply has helped move the selling price of HDB flats down, yet at a gradual pace and margin which buyers are still able to stomach.

WEst Rock HDB FlatFrom this year on, the number of new HDB flats will begin to decrease, from 50,796 this year to 38,316 in 2018. Which could mean that this year might be the watershed year for the HDB market. Will buyers be taking the opportunity to purchase before supply becomes tighter once more? Or will the number of HDB flats which have been released thus far be able to provide for a stable resale market, keeping a level playing field between buyers and sellers?

As Singapore grows in population size, and global and domestic economies fluctuate, all this would also be tightly linked to population and immigration policies. With the election possibly coming our way next year, buyers may take the chance to look out for opportunities to upgrade property-wise this year, or perhaps wait and see what the post-election changes may bring.

Competitive pricing will help Property developer move units quicker

Home mortgage interest rates look set to rise sometime this year, and while new properties continue to come into the market, buyers will be spoiled for choice with executive condominiums, resale private apartments and new condominium units all competing for their attention.

Trilive KovanPricing might then be the differentiating factor in the current property market which is still finding its footing. In January, Symphony Suites in Yishun proved to be one of the best sellers in the non-landed private property market. Prices averaged at $1,010 psf, which was not considered to be on the higher end of the price spectrum. Most suburban properties fared better, making up 62 per cent of the total sales numbers last month. City fringe properties followed behind with 28 per cent and city centre homes took up only 10 per cent.

The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) continues to be the main obstacle for buyers as the loan amounts they are now able to receive have been largely reduced. However, developers are unlikely to make drastic price reductions as land prices have been high for the past two years.

Contrary to concerns that new properties may outshine previous older launches and resale properties, some older developments have fared well in the last month. Trilive in Kovan sold 22 units at a $1,562 psf median price while 20 units in Jurong West’s Lakeville also exchanged hands at the average selling price of $1, 378 psf.

While the influx of new units and restrictive loan limits may be the way things go for the year ahead, the demand for residential properties may not necessarily have disappeared altogether. It may simply be a matter of buyers taking longer to weigh their options.

City fringe properties – Sales versus Rental prices

Despite a steep drop in prices of non-landed properties in the city fringes, rental prices in these districts seem to be holding up well. In 2014, sale prices in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) fell 5.3 per cent, more than the 4.1 in the central region and 2.2 per cent in the suburbs. Sale prices between city fringe and suburban properties are narrowing, especially with the large number of new city fringe properties introduced last year, paired with the increased ABSD (additional buyers’ stamp duty) and TDSR framework (Total debt servicing framework).

Sims Urban OasisExpatriates may be steering towards the city fringe regions with their exclusivity, proximity and more price-friendly options. Rental prices in the city fringes are around $3.50 to $4.50 psf, compared to $5 sf in the city centre and $3 psf in the suburbs.

With city fringe homes becoming more affordable, and rental prices still considerably high, these properties may be a good investment as resilience in demand and rental seem consistent. One of the latest city fringe residential development to go on sale is the Sims Urban Oasis, just a stone’s throw away from Aljunied MRT station and the future Paya Lebar Central Sub-regional Centre. Prices are starting at $628,000 for a 440 sq ft one-bedder to $1.55 million for a 990 sq ft four-bedder. Other properties in various city fringe districts include TRE Residences in Geylang, Eight Riversuites in Whampoa East, Highline Residences in Tiong Bahru and Sky Vue and Sky Habitat in Bishan.

Low sales for resale homes in January

With city centre homes leading the way, resale home prices seemed to be walking down the same path as the month before, with a dip of 1.7 per cent. Suburban homes’ decline was slightly less steep at 1.1 per cent and across the board, resale homes saw a 0.2 per cent drop in prices. On the bright side, city fringe properties did fairly well, with a 1.5 per cent gain.

The number of transactions were part of the reason for the drop. In January, only 282 private properties were sold, down from 363 in December last year. Other reasons include the loan restrictions and overall lower buying sentiments. With the festive season coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, the numbers for February may not see a drastic pick-up, but from March onwards, the figures will be telling of the year’s property market prospects.

6DeryshireAs the year goes on, industry experts are expecting buyers to pick up on the softening home prices and keep a quick eye out for serious sellers who may have potentially value-worthy offers. There are sellers out there who are still holding on to their asking prices as they wait out 2015. The year could be a tussle between the these two groups. Any extreme asking prices on both ends will be unlikely to do anyone any favours.

Currently, areas with the highest resale home value (Measured by the amount buyers were overpaying or underpaying) of $60,000 are Watten Estate, Novena and Thomson. In Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang, the prices were a negative $31,000.

A major shift in dynamics this year could be caused by the higher interest rates which are likely to happen this year. Buyers may take that into consideration, together with the tightened loan limits, which does not give them much leeway in negotiations. Sellers who are eager to make a sale will do well to consider these limitations as well and understand that it will not be easy for their buyers to easily fork out additional cash.

Property market cooling in Malaysia as well?

Singapore aside, it seems the property market is cooling just across the border as well.

Similarly, higher interest rates are expected for the year ahead, and with weaker buying sentiments and a possible market saturation, property experts are saying that the property developers’ expectations and pricing will be the main factor determining a slowdown (or not) or sales this year. There was an increase in the Real Property Gains Tax rates and the minimum purchasing price for foreign buyers in October 2013, which have affected those investing in properties in the region.

Cypress Villa PenangHome prices in Malaysia have been rising faster than incomes. Could a bubble be slowly forming? How will this affect investors? In the past, it may have been easier and cheaper for foreign buyers to purchase a property in Malaysia, but when it comes to rental and future resale possibilities, the prospects may be slightly dimmer now as locals may not be able to afford and there are rules against selling the properties to other foreign buyers. Without a constant rental yield, the property could become an empty shell.

When purchasing overseas properties, selecting a good location may help shield you against some of these risks. And doing as much research as possible, finding a reputable agent, attending investment seminars and talks, will give you the tools to do just that. Home prices in Johor for example, are still on the rise, with a 5.44 per cent growth in Q3 of last year, albeit a drop from 10.93 per cent in Q1. There are still a reasonable pool of middle-income home buyers who are still looking for prime properties in this state, as well as select others such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang. Singaporean investors may have the strong Singapore dollar as an advantage but a keen eye for spotting good launches and a sense of the right timing are what makes a worthy investment.

Resale HDB flats – The 2015 outlook

Across the board, property prices dipped slightly last year, and it was the same in the resale HDB flat market. The last month of 2014 showed a 10 per cent fall in prices, and the Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has mentioned an estimated single-digit drop in prices this year.

SeaHorizonECResale flats in mature estates are however holding their own. Prices remained resilient mainly due to the rarity of units in these saturated estates and good locations. In non-mature estates such as Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong East, Jurong West, Punggol, Sembawang, Sengkang, Woodlands and Yishun; resale flat prices fell 0.9 per cent in December, while a rise of 0.2 per cent was reflected in the mature estates sales figures.

The price decline was mainly attributed to stricter mortgage servicing ratio limits and a tightening of immigration  policies. Singapore permanent residents are now required to wait 3 years before being allowed to purchase resale flats.

But it were the larger four- and five-room flats which experienced the fall more than three-room resale flats whose prices remained level. And on the higher end of the public housing spectrum, executive flats prices rose 1.8 per cent. As a rare commodity, a hybrid which crosses smoothly from public to private housing, executive condominiums are much sought after. Though the recent close launches of a few EC projects are the same time may have reduced the percentage of uptake per development.

Industry experts are expecting sales to remain low in the first 2 months of 2015, and pick up after the Lunar New Year, perhaps even a slight rebound in the later half of the year.

2015 – A year of the property buyer

Following the footsteps of 2014, this year seems like it will continue to be a buyer’s market. Some property hotspots have sprung up over the course of last year, as new MRT stations and areas of redevelopment were announced.

Twin Fountains Executive Condominium in Woodlands.

Twin Fountains Executive Condominium in Woodlands.

For buyers looking for a good deal, there will be sellers out there who are willing to let go of their property as not all are able to have the holding power to last out the year. Many HDB upgraders who are moving to private properties may have to sell their HDB flats, and due to a mortgage restriction, some private residential property investors may also be looking to move units in exchange of a healthier bank balance.

For buyers looking for immediate to medium term property returns, areas near upcoming MRT stations may be their ticket. These include those along the North-East Line (NEL) and Eastern Region Line. Other further flung districts which are experiencing an influx of amenities and new properties such as the Jurong Lake district, Woodlands Central, Buona Vista and Paya Lebar, may also pique the interest of investors. And for those who are not in a hurry to reap the benefits from their property purchase, property analysts are expecting districts which have not been included in previous upgrading and redevelopment plans, to get a major face lift within the next decade or so. Woodlands could be the next area to watch.

Thomson MRT Line's alignment. Are you already area-spotting for the best property investment?

Thomson MRT Line’s alignment. Are you already area-spotting for the best property investment?

Starting from the second quarter of the year, sales are expected to pick up, and industry experts’ advice for buyers are to keep a clear idea of what they are looking for, search for sellers who are sincere about selling, and hit the iron while it’s hot.

Executive Condominiums – Now’s the time

If you are a second-time HDB property buyer, and are looking at upgrading from a HDB flat to an executive condominium (EC) – the time may be now. Before the resale levy really kicks in.

The TerraceImplemented in Dec 2013, the levy applies to ECs launched after Dec 9 the same year and as most of the EC launches from now on will be for units launched after Dec 2013, a levy of $15,000 to $50,000 will apply. And that’s no small sum to scoff at.

Executive condominiums have long been the way to move from public to private housing for most middle-class Singaporean families. As young couples now see this as one of the best ways to start their families, competition for the same properties have never been fiercer. As a hybrid between public and private housing, ECs will become private properties following a ten-year period. There is a income ceiling for applicants however, of a combined household income of $12,000.

As bids for EC land plots dip, mostly due to a saturation of launches in the last few months, prices and sales volume may not hold as well moving forward. Currently, ECs which just escape this resale levy include Bellewoods, Bellewaters, The Terrace, Lake Life and The Amore. They each boast their own unique selling point, with unblocked views at The Terrace, basement carparks at The Amore, nature-inspired landscapes at Bellewoods and resort-living lifestyle atmosphere at Bellewaters. Combined with options of units such as penthouses and condominium facilities, it’s the only logical step up for HDB upgraders.