HDB flat and private condo rental prices evening out

The difference between renting a HDB flat and a private condominium unit used to be $1,000. Today, the difference stands at only $500. The gap between HDB flat and private property rental prices have narrowed considerably, due not to the rise in HDB flat rents but in the drop in private apartment rents.

Qbay ResidencesIn the past, renting a suburban condo would cost you $3,100 to $3,300 a month. Now, it is possible to rent a suburban unit at $2,700. HDB executive flat and 5-room flat rental prices have remained around the $2,200 to $2,400 range for the past 5 years now.

HDB flatMuch of the rental drop comes from the sudden increase in supply of new private condominium units, with more landlords now jostling for the same or shrinking tenant pool. Many HDB upgraders will also join the HDB rental pool as they seek to rent out their HDB flats.

Property analysts are putting it up to the shrinking apartment sizes. The psf rents have remained the same, but tenants are now getting less floor area than they used to for the same amount of money. They are however picky about location and may be willing to accept a smaller-sized accommodation in a central located as opposed to a larger one further away from their workplace or town.

As the gap narrows, will the HDB flat rental market take an indirect hit as tenants opt for private properties over public housing?

Rental market bodes well for HDB flats

The rental market has been on the downhill slip as a fresh crop of completed new private homes hits the market this year. Competition for an increasing limiting tenant pool will prove to be tough for private property landlords, but HDB flat rental prices are holding out well despite the softening rental market.

Paterson SuitesCore central region private apartments seem to be suffering the most with the global finance, oil and gas sectors in turmoil. Expatriates working here and their families have been moving out of the country, scaling the tenant pool for luxury and high-end prime properties down even further. For example, a 3-bedder in a 1,600 sq ft unit in Paterson Suites which would have tenanted at $7,000 in January is now offering $5,800 in rent.

Serangoon HDB flatPrivate property rental prices fell 1 per cent in March, while HDB flat rents fell just 0.1 per cent. Changes in immigration policies have reduced the foreign workforce in Singapore and those remaining may have to work around a smaller housing allowance, hence many private properties may be out of their rental budget. HDB flats are a fair and affordable option. For locals or HDB upgraders who have to rent a home while waiting for their new BTO flat or condominium to be built, private units often prove to be too expensive as well. Will the positive rental yields for the HDB flat market boost the sales figures for this sector?

 

 

High vacancy rate hits property rental market

The days of brisk rental demand for private apartments could be going as the high number of vacant private property units in the market reached a record 10-year high at the end of 2015. Rents have fallen 4.6 per cent last year and analysts are predicting a 6 per cent drop this year.

Cassia EdgePhoto: Cassia Edge condominium

With the sheer number of new condominiums and smaller units introduced into the market in the last five to ten years, the opportunities for investors with varying financial capabilities have expanded vastly. Many of them have purchased smaller suburban units for investment purposes but 2016 may not bode well for those looking for a quick turnaround in terms of resale or rental of these units. The number of new condominium units hitting the market this year will mean increased competition for a diminishing tenant pool which will squeeze rental prices downwards. Many landlords are already finding it difficult to find tenants with the same asking prices as before, and have found it necessary to lower prices by 10 to 20 per cent.

Districts 19 and 20, which includes Bishan, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang, will have the highest number of new units in their midst this year – approximately 8,200. This is despite the fact that rental prices have not risen much in these districts over the past 3 years. Property experts are however positive about the huge redevelopment of the Seletar Aerospace park which may continue to provide the demand for rental units. In the eastern districts however, demand may be waning as expatriates working in the hard-hit financial and banking sectors could be leaving the country.

Rental market’s little dipper

The stars may be a little misaligned for the property rental market this year, as rental volume and prices were down last month for both the private condominium and HDB flat segments.
Wateredge Condo RentalPhoto: Water Edge condominium

Suburban property sales and rental prices have already been sliding this year thus the market remains on edge as there will be about 21,000 new private residential units coming onto the market this year, most of which will be in the suburbs. Most of the rental transactions registered this year were lease renewals instead of newly-signed leases. Private property leases fell 17.5 per cent from the 3,389 units in January to 2,797 in February.

The HDB flat rental market is not spared either, with rental prices falling for the 6th consecutive month now. There was a slight increase in January but that may have just been a general pickup from the post-festive period in December. 5-room flats suffered the largest fall in rents, with a 1.8 per cent drop while 4-room flats saw a 0.1 per cent rise. 3-room flats and executive flats rental prices dropped 0.6 and 0.8 per cent respectively.

Sengkang ECPhoto: Executive condominium in Sengkang

With the pendulum swinging in the way of tenants, landlords may find themselves having to contend with competition from newer units and also having to match in terms of pricing, lease periods and amenities provided. Tenants are more likely to go for shorter leases even if rents are slightly higher rather than having to commit to a long lease period.

Investors’ loss may be end-users’ gain

With headwinds brewing in the property market, many private property owners and investors have already been or may be seriously considering letting go of their properties, in particular high-value luxury ones at below market prices. Investors with strong financial backing and holding power may be more willing to sell below market value, as long as the offer is reasonable, as they may want to release the money for investment elsewhere and make higher returns with a quicker turnaround.

TurquoisePhoto: Turquoise condominium

Smaller investors however may find themselves having to put their property in auction, in particular those who have had to suffer a loss of income. The days of old may have seen them relying on their passive income from rental of properties to supplement their income, but as the rental market is rapidly weakening, this iron rice bowl may not be so solid after all. For property owners who are in a rush to sell, they may even find themselves doing so at a loss as they would have had to put in monies for legal fees, stamp duties and mortgage loan interests in the years following their purchase.

Last year alone saw 400 secondary market transactions making a loss, four times more than the 100 in 2014; and 31 of these non-landed properties made more than $1million loss, that is more than thrice the number in 2014. Most of these were in the luxury property segment, with units at the Seascape making the largest loss of $5.2 million in the resale market. Some of the other projects with units exchanging hands at below-market prices include St. Regis Residences, Turquoise and The Orchard Residences.

More resale condominiums falling under affordable price range

Not so long ago, prices of private condominiums were creeping beyond the $1 million mark, but with new units bursting into the scene and the competition in the private property market heating up, developers and sellers alike have had to find a new pricing sweet spot.

CityLightsBuyers have become more aware and sensitive to market prices ever since market data and statistics became more readily available from URA and other property news and research sources. Now, it is not unlikely to find resale private properties available at below $1 million. And some are reasonably-sized units too. Previously only shoebox apartments or one-bedders are likely to fall below the $1 million mark.

Most of the the developments with such affordable resale units are in the city fringes, including Citylights in Jalan Besar, Domus and The Tier in Novena, Wilkie 80 in Dhoby Ghaut, RiverBay in Bendemeer and RV Edge in Tanglin.

Despite the weaker property market, resale properties are still selling at 20 to 25 per cent above the prices of new units and sellers can still look forward to some long-term value appreciation. Property analysts however advice buyers to be aware of their financial commitment as buying resale properties mean the property mortgages kick in immediately and with a softening rental market, the yields may not come in as quickly or as much as projected.

 

More bulk property and auction sales

The year ahead may be a bumpy one for property developers who have a large inventory of unsold stock and for investors who may have overstretched themselves.

A good many unsold properties may be making their rounds within the local market as sellers, buyers, investors and developers bid against one another to see who gets the best deal. There will be those who need or want to sell, and those who are able to buy when the price is right despite a market slowdown.

Hua Guan Gardens House

Photo: House in Hua Guan Gardens for sale

As more buyers are defaulting on their mortgage as interest rates rise and the market lulls, more homes are going under the hammer in mortgage sales. Last year saw the number of units put up for auction almost double from 47 to 87. Comparing this to 2012, when only a mere 9 units were put up for auction, the numbers have leapt considerably over the past 5 years. Given the quietening rental market and a global economic tossup, some owners are finding it difficult to service their loans. What does this signify? Will private home prices fall this year or will the number of new units coming into the market simply place more options out there for buyers?

The mortgage-sales properties were mostly larger apartments or private landed homes. Though this may mean the market for these properties have shrunk, it is good news for buyers who have been waiting and are ready to buy purchase these rare properties. One such property is a cluster bungalow in Hua Guan Avenue, just off Dunearn road, attractive for its rarity, 4,219 s q ft size, and location. It is situated near King Albert Park MRT station. Other potential money-makers include 2 maisonettes and one former-HUDC unit all sized around 1,600 sq ft and a steal at possibly below $1 million.

Tenants calling the shots

Tenants are now calling the shots in the private apartment rental market. From lower rental prices and shorter leases to property renovations, some are even demanding specific furniture, new utensils and linen.

SeaHorizonEC

Photo: Sea Horizon executive condominium in Pasir Ris

Property rental prices have been coming down, especially as property prices have fallen over the last few years, and supply have increased substantially. Landlords are now finding it harder to find tenants willing to sign the standard 2-year leases which were commonplace in the past. Now most tenants are asking for shorter leases of 6 months as they know they are able to secure another place at a cheaper price should they wish to do so after the lease period. Private property rents have fallen 4.6 per cent in 2015, with rents in the outside central region (OCR) feeling the heat more with a 5.6 per cent fall. Rental prices of city fringe properties fell 4.9 per cent.

Property experts are expecting a 9 to 10 per cent vacancy rate this year, with rental prices falling 8 per cent. There will be approximately 26,467 new private property and executive condominium units made available this year, pushing supply up to an record high. Coupled with the authorities clamping down on immigration and a weak global economy, the prospects may seem a little dim. With investors and landlords not able to secure rental yields, the market may see an influx of units being sold; mortgage auctions may also find themselves having quite a few more units at hand.