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?

EC options widen with new launches

Property market activity may be back on track as new EC launches inject some much-needed cheer. Bellewoods executive condominium in Woodlands just opened for applications last weekend. And this is after a year-long hiatus with the last major EC launch of Skypark Residences in Sembawang last September.

Bellewoods ECUnits at the Bellwoods were going at an average of $750 to $820 psf and industry experts are expecting prices to go up as construction and land costs increase. A change in policy earlier this year, with the authorities placing a 15-month time frame between the time a developer secures a land plot and the time they can begin selling. At the Lake Life executive condominium in Yuan Ching road, prices are expected to hover between $880 to $980psf. There is also worry that buyers who had originally intended to purchase an EC unit may by the end of 15 months, have received a pay raise and thus moving above the income ceiling which disqualifies him from being eligible to apply for one.

But despite these obstacles, developers remain ositive about the market response as pent-up demand may bring the crowd back despite the seemingly quiet market of recent months. There will also be another round of EC launches planned for the second quarter of 2015. Although there may be more options available, an oversupply seems unlikely as the government has reduced the supply of EC land this year. For the HDB upgrader, ECs now seems like it is truly fulfilling what it set out to do, to fill the gap between public and private housing.

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?

More vacant EC units left in the market

Executive Condominiums (ECs) used to be the cream of the public housing crop. But now, one in eight EC units are left unoccupied in the market. What are the reasons behind this change?

Belysa Executive Condominium in Pasir Ris is not yet available on the resale market for foriegn purchase. But it will be in 10 years' time.

Belysa Executive Condominium in Pasir Ris.

One of the main factors could be the increasing number of completed units whose owners have yet to renovate or move into. Some of these EC developments include Esparina Residences in Sengkang, Belysa in Pasir Ris and Riverparc Residence in Punggol. ECs are particularly attractive to young families as they are poised to help them move in the private property market eventually. A hybrid between public and private housing, buyers of executive condominiums are able to utilize the public housing grants for the initial purchase, and after 10 years, the property becomes privatized and owners can then reap the profits from selling the units in the private property market.

There are also a number of home owners who have purchase units to make use of the public housing grants they are eligible for, but do not yet need to live in them. They may opt instead to rent out their units after the 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP).

As the overall property market weakens and the HDB resale market remains flat, HDB upgraders who may have planned for a move are finding themselves unable to find a buyer for their existing flat, thus have yet to move into their new ECs.

Is the EC market softening? And will it continue to do so? Currently vacancy rates are at 6 per cent according the URA figures and thus far 739 units have been left vacant. What does this signify for 2014 as the year makes its way into the last quarter?

HDB flat rentals stay low

The play between supply and demand never gets old. And the tug-and-push continues as rental demand for HDB flats remains lacklustre possibly for the rest of the year.

Immigration policies seem to be the main factor at play, keeping foreign workforce numbers low and thus affecting the demand for rental properties. According to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) figures, the HDB rental index has fallen 2.3 per cent.

But is this the deepest pit of the slowdown or will it continue? Industry experts are predicting this as only the beginning of the rental drop. Sales prices of HDB resale flats have already begun on their downhill journey and though the drop is not drastic, it is rather significant for the year. Most property analysts are expecting a 4 – 7 per cent drop by the end of 2014.

Woodlands HDBNaturally, areas which are further away from transport nodes such as bus stops, main expressways or MRT stations are most affected. HDB flats near MRT stations will continue to hold their prices, whether in sales or rent. Some of the flats fetching the highest rent are in the Central, Bukit Merah and Queenstown estates. Prices range between $2250 for a 3-room flat to $2, 900 for a 4-room flat.

Although Woodlands seems far to many, the area is favoured by many tenants, perhaps due to its proximity to the causeway. Rental prices of flats in the area is lower, between $1,700 to $2, 000 for a 3- or 4-room HDB flat, but demand is higher and the ease of finding will benefit flat owners in the area.

Another reason for the falling rental rates might be the increase in the number of properties available for rent across the board. With some private suburban condominiums reaching completion and some in popular HDB estates, the competition will definitely heat up. 2014 seems pretty set its way for now, but there is always 2015 to look forward to.

More smaller HDB flats to be built

Though the supply of HDB flats may be reduced starting next year, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has said that these may apply only to the larger four- and five-room flats. Smaller two-room and studio flats will still be steadily supplied in the coming year or two.

5,000 new two-room flats are targeted for 2014, and since response from singles applying for new HDB flats have been overwhelming, with 58 applicants for 1 unit since the scheme began in July this year, this will be greeted with much cheer.

bto-families-ft-st-b2
Photo Source: Ministry of National Development.

Some larger HDB flats will also be made available to second-time applicants. But this shift in supply is to balance out demand for BTO (build-to-order) flats between singles and families. And since demand from families have mostly been met, the shift to releasing smaller units will allow for more success from other applicants such as singles, divorced families and young couples.

Is this halt to releasing larger HDB flats an effective way to adjusting the dynamics in the housing market? Will there be a kickback reaction in the private property market? What is the percentage of the population who are able to afford private housing and will that percentage increase five years down the road or will the building of HDB flats continue to dominate much of the nation’s housing supply?

Singapore Re-zoned for homes

In the next decade, be prepared for half a million new homes as land everywhere around the island will be re-zoned to home Singapore’s growing population. With plans for most of them to be in the Paya Lebar and Greater Southern Waterfront areas. In the Holland Village, Kampong Bugis and Marina South areas alone, 14, 500 new homes are expected to take root.

Tampiens North

In the greater scheme of things, 3 other major districts are expected to see a boom in residential properties, both public and private:

And planning even further ahead past 2030, the Paya Lebar area will welcome up to 500, 000 new homes as there are plans to move the Paya Lebar airbase to Changi East, yielding 800ha of land for re-zoning purposes.

BidadariThis shift of land use and rearrangement of population across the island is all part of a growing country’s historical progress, and depending very much on how Singapore’s economy performs in light of the global situation will determine other policies which may in turn affect the direction property growth takes. But in the meantime, prospects seem positive and for a quick investment turnaround, shoebox apartments in the suburbs are still considered one of the most profitable investments.

COV prices no more?

In fact, some sellers are even letting their HDB flats go at below valuation. Once a highly-debatable amount, these cash-over-valuation (COV) prices are now almost all gone, or miniscule at the least. Although these amounts are set by the seller, above the HDB valued selling price, it is usually a good indication of how popular a unit is, and whether the seller was looking to earn some bucks from the sale. But recent mortgage rules have affected the demand for resale HDB flats and according to HDB, in October alone 105 units were sold at less than their HDB appraised price. This is a significant number, especially as its a good 6.7 per cent more than the earlier half of the year. .

Book Lay View HDBThe mid-year announcements by MAS of stricter mortgage terms such as the introduction of the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) and shorter loan periods have left many buyers reconsidering their property purchase more carefully. In addition, Singapore permanent residents now have a 3-year wait before being able to purchase a resale HDB flat. In January, the median COV stood at $35, 000. In October, it has fallen to $12, 000. Many sellers who have held on to their COV asking prices, have had a long wait, and some have given up and reduced their COV prices.

Areas where a larger amount of new HDB flats are being launched, such as Punggol, Sengkang and Chao Chu Kang, are harder hit as the buyers of resale flats in these areas will be diverted. BTO (build-to-order) flats are considerably cheaper than their resale companion. As singles and young couples are now hampered by a lower loan percentages, 30 per cent of their gross monthly income, many are no longer able to afford high COVs, even if they truly liked the unit. And as the building of new HDB flats are happening in quicker cycles, many BTO flats which are now eligible to be placed on the resale market after their 5-year MOP (minimum occupation period) tenure, will have to compete with more new flats nearby. As some families are keen to move to be near their children’s schools or because of family situations, there may be more resale flats going at or below valuation. How does this impact the HDB flat market in 2014?