Property market slump continues

Resale home sales and rental prices have continued to soften as we reach the middle of Q3. July proved to be rather quiet for the resale private home market as prices reached a 21-month low, according to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) figures.

LakevilleAs more new private properties reached their completion dates and entered the rental market, the number of units for rent increased, which caused the rental market to become more competitive. And as immigration rules tightened, the supply and demand scale tipped in favor of tenants. Rental prices were at a 38-month low last month. And the blow is felt not only in the private property market but also the HDB resale market with prices dropping to a 30-month low in July.

The areas with the largest price decline is the city center, with prices dropping 4 per cent. This is followed by the city fringe areas with a 1.1 per cent dip and the suburban districts with a 0.6 per cent drop. Property experts say that the drop in rental prices could be one of the reasons contributing to the slipping resale prices.

With property prices so closely linked to immigration policies in this small nation, how will the authorities balance the issues of housing and population?

Deflating rental prospects hurt home sales

Buying a property and collecting rent used to be one of the most popular ways to start your investment journey. Usually the case for cosmopolitan cities, the situation may have changed in this developing country. Rental rates have continued to deflate as immigration policies were adjusted.

According to URA data, vacancy rates have reached the highest point since 2006. City centre and luxury homes have been hardest hit as expatriates are now choosing to live further away from the city with more and cheaper housing options. And as sentiments go, the less lived in a property, the less others will want to live in it. And it’s a cycle which if not arrested soon, may be detrimental to the market.

But most of the unsold units reside in the prime districts 9, 10, 11. Further away in Sentosa, the Cape Royale is 100 per cent unsold with its 302 units still on the market. It was completed last year. Developers IOI and Ho Bee are going with the decision to rent the units out instead of trying to sell them.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

And as more developments were finished in 2014, the number of unsold homes in completed projects continues its climb. Some of these include The Interlace at Depot road, Starlight Suites in River Valley, TwentyOne Anguilla Park and Concourse Skyline on Beach road.

Developers have been steadily offering discounts or cutting prices in order to bring the buyers and tenants back into the market. As shown by recent sales at The Vermont, where slashing the prices have sold 30 of its 37 unsold units. From $2,400 psf, it dropped to just a little over $2, 000 psf.

Up and coming district – Jalan Besar

As properties in the city centre become increasingly out of reach for the average investor hoping to gain a footing in the property industry, more are turning to the city fringe areas such as Marine Parade, Kampong Glam and Novena. Now, the Jalan Besar and King George’s Avenue districts could also be attracting buyers.

CitronThough the private homes market in the area has softened in the past year due to mortgage limits, its proximity and increasing popularity with the young and hip crowd and potential connectivity with future MRT lines in its midst, has renewed interest from investors. An area in King George’s Avenue has also been gazetted for future HDB blocks. One completed condominium apartment block in its vicinity is the City Square Residences, which during its launch drew huge crowds looking to purchase smaller units for rental purposes. Other private residential properties include Parc Somme and Kerrisdale.

Buyers waiting for new options can keep an eye out for private residential properties such as The Citron Residences on Marne road. Property experts are positive about the potential rental yields of smaller apartment units in the area as the district continues to bring in a variety of new businesses. Currently rents for smaller apartments in the area go for as much as 4 per cent more.

$1 million sweet spot for home prices

The average affordability ceiling for properties have dropped by almost $200,000 ever since the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) placed curbs on loans. The average price home buyers can now afford, or are willing to fork out, is $1 million. Properties between the total quantum range of $800,000 to $1. 2 million generally sit better with buyers. The range used to be wider, with homes reaching $1.4 million selling just as well.

LakevilleDevelopers have been quick to realize the shift and have been offering considerable discounts or competitive pricing for new launches. Smaller units such as studio apartments and one- or two-bedders have also performed better than their larger counterparts. About 8,254 homes priced between $700,000 and $1.2 million were sold during the last year. Properties which were offering more affordable units, such as the Coco Palms in Pasir Ris which launched units at $980 psf, were able to garner more sales.

And for buyers hoping to secure a home below $500,000 there are now more available, and more sold. In the last year, 291 units below $500,000 were sold from June 2013 to June 2014. Comparing to the year before, only 61 units were sold within the same time frame. Buyers consider smaller units easier for both occupier and rental purposes, plus most HDB upgraders rate affordability of homes as between $900,000 to $1 million.

Orchard road’s West end revamp?

A little off the main stretch, but nearer the exclusive Botanic gardens and Tanglin stretch of sprawling private homes and foreign embassies, the West end of Orchard road looks set for a revamp as MRT stations and other area redevelopment plans are in the works for this spot.

The TomlinsonA MRT stop which is part of the latest Thomson Line is planned just next to the Camden Medical Centre and targeted to be ready by 2021. Now may be the time developers will consider expanding or redeveloping land and older properties around the area. There have been movements in the recent years, with the latest property being St. Regis Residences. Sales at this luxury property has not always been positive however. Prices of $4, 653 psf in 2007 have since almost halved to $2, 399 psf.

Older properties in the same area, such as Cuscaden Residences and The Tomlinson, however fetch a lower sales price, and may be more palatable to those seeking an investment. But due to the relatively large size of most apartment units in the area, it also narrows the target audience. Those who are able or willing to purchase properties here will be limited as it may be more difficult to rent out. At The Tomlinson, the average resale price is $1, 896 psf.

Will the new MRT line bring refresh the market even as luxury homes sales are on a decline? Will the possibility of future collective sales of older condominiums be an incentive to purchase now?

Bijou – Far East Organization’s first Dual-key SOHO

Whether you’re looking for a place to call home or seeking out the best property investment deal, location and design are often top of the consideration list. Thus, when something comes along that has both, savvy buyers will naturally gravitate towards it. The latest property by Far East Organizrtion – the freehold Bijou, is one such property.

Though dual-key apartments have been in the limelight for sometime now, most units have a separate smaller area with its own entrance but without its own facilities such as a kitchen and toilet. Bijou’s dual-key apartments however, are designed much like the much-desired maisonette, with one entrance but entirely distinct living spaces upstairs and downstairs, each with their separate kitchen and toilet. It’s extremely suited for rental since it maintains your and your tenant’s privacy. It’s almost as good as buying one condominium unit but owning two, without having to pay additional stamp duty and taxes.

Bijou1Combined with their french-inspired garden landscapes and rooftop garden views of the city, this exclusive 5-storey residential development only has 24 of these dual-key units in its 120-unit, which makes it all the rarer. Entering the market as the first dual-key SOHO, the freehold Bijou is located in one of the fastest-rising areas under URA’s latest Master Plan 2014. With the development of the Greater Southern Waterfront and the regional commercial hubs in the Pasir Panjang district, the influx of a burgeoning workforce seems more than likely. Traveling to the Marina Bay Financial Centre will also be much quicker, and as a mixed-use development, Bijou will also have retail and dining options right at its doorstep.

As the Singapore landscape changes in big ways, so will the property market and areas which have once been put on the back burner will not come into the forefront.

CBD Living on the rise

Despite restrictions in the property market and decreasing sales in the private property sector, more buyers are looking to purchase apartments in the CBD (Central Business District).

Tanjong Pagar CentreLiving just a walk away from the office has its positives. But recent interest has dawned from the promise of change. New mixed-use developments such as GuocoLand’s Tanjong Pagar Centre, will bring live into the sleepy after-hours districts of Shenton way, Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar and change the fact that CBD living often comes with its fair share of inconveniences such as not having schools, supermarkets or shopping centres which open beyond the normal office hours in the vicinity.

Tanjong Pagar Centre will feature Grade A office spaces, luxury serviced apartments – Clermont Residences and other commercial businesses. It will be linked to the Clermont Singapore Hotel. Just a little way off are other residential options – the Marina One residences. This project will go on sale later this year, and prices are expected to start at $2, 800 psf. There are other new private apartment developments in the pipeline, giving this city-nation a new meaning to city-living. Skysuites @ Anson, 76 Shenton and Altez, just to name a few of the many which have come up in the last 10 years.

76 ShentonWith news of the Southern Waterfront development under URA’s draft masterplan 2013, the area looks set to be booming with activity within the next decade. Considering the fact that rental yields now are already at 4 to 4.5 per cent, higher than the island-wide average of 3.8 per cent, it will be no wonder what the future will bring.

Kovan and Dual-key apartments – A Perfect Match

Dual-key apartments were a relatively new property type just a couple of years ago, but now, they are all the rage, especially with big families and property investors who are looking for prime property to rent out. And the latter could have found their perfect match with dual-key properties.

Trilive KovanThese dual-key apartments are unique for its 2 entrances within one unit. And this helps investors rent out the same unit they live in, while still keeping their privacy, all the while avoiding the ABSD (additional buyers’ stamp duty). If you own more than 1 property, subsequent properties will mean higher taxes and duties.

Developers are quickly picking up on buyers’ keen response to dual-key apartments and are including more of them in new launches. A new condominium development, Trilive in Kovan, will feature 88 dual-key units , that’s almost 80% of its total 124 units. To be launched later this year in June, dual-key units will start from its 614 sq ft two-bedders. Prices have yet to be released but are expected to be similar to that of the nearby The Tembusu, at $1,400 to $1,500 psf.

Kovan is an up and coming area for high rental take-up rates as rents there are relatively affordable for its convenient location and surrounding amenities. It has one of the highest rental yields in Singapore. It’s proximity to areas such as Hougang and Serangoon also means it is close to a number of schools, various modes of transport and just a few stops away from the city center.

The road ahead for the property market could be spiced up with the introduction of more dual-key units in future launches. Buyers will undoubtedly be interested to see how these new properties provide an edge up from what is currently in the markets.