High-risk mortgages prompt Hong Kong authorities to rethink cooling measures

Singapore authorities rolled out property cooling measures just 4 years ago and while it was not necessarily a welcomed move, it was certainly a prudent one. With restrictions placed on the loan-to-value and the debt servicing ratios, home prices were kept from escalating. Now Hong Kong could also be considering doing the same as their real estate market skyrockets. The worry is that property prices could become unsustainable and a property bubble could grow and subsequently burst with disastrous consequences.

hongkongpropertyThe rapidly increasing number of high loan-to-value mortgages taken out on properties have had the de facto central bank of Hong Kong concerned. Property developers and individual buyers alike, these high-value loans are creating a growing list of high-risk financial profiles. Some developers have even taken out mortgages worth 120 per cent of the project’s value. Developers such as Sun Hung Kai Properties and Cheung Kong Property have been offering incentives such as tax rebates and loan offers in attempts to attract buyers.

Despite the Hong Kong government implementing higher taxes on properties last November, property prices have continued to climb and increased home buyers’ borrowing costs. Many buyers have not only been putting all their assets into property purchases, but also their parents’ monies and all that will be at risk should the bubble burst. Some buyers have even been leveraging on their parents’ properties in order to fulfil residential deposits. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is keeping a close eye on the situation and may move to enforce new regulations on banks should there be any undue changes.

 

Condominium rents up, HDB rents down

A brieft respite in the rental market presented itself in January and February as increases in condominium rental rates were recorded for 2 consecutive months. HDB rents however slipped slightly.

Draycott8Condominium rents rose 1.1 per cent in February as demand from expatriates is usually high in the first few months of the year. Private residential properties in the prime districts were particularly in demand with a rise of 1.2 per cent in rental rates, while the city fringe and suburban sectors saw a 0.8 and 1.2 per cent rise respectively.

Property analysts are seeing an increase in leasing demand not only due to the influx of a foreign workforce in the beginning of the year, but also because rents are now at a affordable levels and more tenants may be willing to take on larger properties or properties in a more expensive location. Though rents are still 18.1 per cent lower than the peak in 2013, sales volume has increase by 12.6 per cent in comparison to the same period last year.

JurongWestCentralHDBFLatThe number of HDB flats being leased has also increased by 1.2 per cent with 1,477 units rented in February. HDB flat rents have however slipped by 0.8 per cent overall, falling 1.3 per cent in mature estates and 0.3 per cent in non-mature estates. Industry experts are expecting further decline in rents this year, while harbouring hope that 2017 will stabilise the market and bring about a recovery early next year.

Weak rental market not an obstacle for investors

While the weakening rental market may have been putting pressure on investors, the concurrent weakening private property prices are opportunities to some. While the leasing market has slowed down considerably, the property-purchasing market has been gaining speed, especially in the last quarter or so.

TRE ResidencesThe overall genial atmosphere in the private residential property market over the past few months have brought property investors back into the heat of things. As more newly completed properties enter the market and new projects such as The Clement Canopy and Grandeur Park Residences were launched to affirmative responses early in the year. Overall private home prices fell at the slowest rate in 3 years, which could point to an increasingly stabilising market.

It would be prudent however for investors to take into consideration that the property cooling measures have not yet been lifted, though some signs of relief have been provided earlier this month. In the past, profits of up to 60 per cent could be reaped in the short-term, but the long-term potential of a property, rather than quick turnarounds or a dependency on rental profits, will be at the heart of a good investment henceforth. Property analysts advise investors to consider cash-flow, calculate mortgage and maintenance costs carefully while keeping a portion aside for periods of negative cash flow when  the property is unable to be tenanted.

First private condominium launch in 2017 – Clement Canopy

Open for preview today is a new condominium in the west – on Clementi Avenue 1 to be exact. The 505-unit Clement Canopy is a joint venture between UOL Group and Singapore Land and the developers are hopeful about an uptick in demand, as shown by a pickup in new home sales last year.

The-Clement-Canopy-1Photo credit: http://clementcanopy.info

Situated in the Jurong Lake District – which is earmarked to be developed into the second Central Business District (CBD)– and with a number of schools such as the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science and the Yale-NUS College, this new condominium project will benefit from high rental demand. The 99-year leasehold development will consist of two 40-storey blocks holding a range of 2- to 4-room units. 194 out of the 505 units are 2-bedders sized between 635 to 732 sq ft and priced between $85,000 to $1 million. These smaller units are more palatable in terms of the total quantum price and also more in demand in the rental market.

The TrilinqOther bigger units include 3-bedders starting at $1.28 million and 4-bedders priced from $1.62 million. Selling prices are pegged between $1,340 to $1,360 psf. As a comparison, the neighbouring private residential condominiums, The Trilinq, is going for $1,400 psf but it is a tad nearer the Clementi MRT station; and Parc Riviera on West Coast Vale is selling at around $1,200 psf . There are no one-bedroom apartments at Clement Canopy and developers are hoping this will help differentiate their product from the rest of the market. Swimming pools and smart home features will be included in the project.

This year, the  would probably be all about timing. Launched at the right time, when demand is high and supply slow in stirring consumer interest, a new development could do very well indeed.

Luxury market makes for a suitable investment playground

Recent news of veteran banker and one of Singapore’s richest men, Wee Cho Yaw’s latest property purchase of 45-units at the luxury property, The Nassim for $411.6 million, may have reignited interest from potential buyers of high-end luxury apartment units.

Seascape at Sentosa Cove.

Seascape at Sentosa Cove.

Although property prices have fallen last year, the rate of decline has slowed and the luxury market has fared considerably better than the other property segment. Prices of high-end properties in prime districts, particularly in the Central Business District, Orchard road and Tanglin areas, have fallen 1.2 per cent last year. But the fall is still lesser than the 2.8 and 3.4 per cent in the city fringe and suburbs respectively. This segment also clocked more transactions last year, an increase of 48.7 per cent from 2015. Home sales in the city fringe and suburbs rose by 27.2 and 3.7 per cent.

Meyer Road Bunaglow2Property analysts are confident that the luxury market will find its footing more firmly this year as the supply of high-end properties will increase in the next few years. Though rents have fallen, those who have the holding power will come out tops in the long run, when the property cooling measures are relaxed. Most sellers put a 15 to 20 per cent premium on the value of freehold properties. Property auctions and en bloc sales could be activities to watch this year, especially for those with cash to spare and the financial endurance to last through at least the next few years.

 

Consumer confidence in property market improving

Though gradual, the property market seems to be coming out of a long hibernation and there are some bright sparks to make 2017 a warm one.

VIIOThe supply and inventory stock is gradually diminishing, by 8.4 per cent at the end of last year, aided by the restriction in land supply by the government last year, the key word being gradual. Fortunately, the decline in home and rental prices have also been gradual, with no sudden collapse. Last year’s rate of decline of overall private home prices was at a 3-year low, at 3.1 per cent. The 2 years before saw a 3.7 and 4 per cent decline, counting backwards.

QuinterraBy now, consumers and investors are used to the price decline, which has been a regular occurrence since 2013 when the property cooling measures began to kick in. In the current market, any news of slower price declines will be good news, and of stabilisation, even better news. Private home prices have finally landed on a level where an increasing number of buyers find affordable and investment-worthy, which explains the boost in new home sales from 7,440 in 2015 to 7,972 last year.

Properties in the core-central region fared the best in the second half of 2016, while non-landed homes in the city fringe and suburbs registered 2 and 0.6 per cent drops respectively. Landed properties fared unexpectedly well with a 0.8 per cent price increase in Q4. Property analysts are expecting property prices to bottom out this year, which could the year when the property market bottoms out. The authorities do not yet seem to show any signs of easing the property cooling measures, at least not in the first half of the year.

Continued decline of private resale condo prices expected

2017 has arrived and the question on every property owner, seeker and investor’s mind may be how the year will fare for them. Will interest rates rise and how will that affect their financial sustainability? Will vacancy rate fall and will there be an increase in resale units hence affecting price competitiveness?

casabellaThe last couple of months of 2016 has shown a continued decrease in resale condo prices. In November, overall resale condominium prices have fallen 0.7 per cent, following a 0.2 per cent in October from September. While central region private non-landed residential properties have regained some favour with foreign buyers, prices have dipped despite a rise in sales volume. Property analysts are expecting a market stagnation at best for 2017 as a quick rebound seems unlikely due to the continued slow economic growth and global political uncertainty.

The increase in sales volume is however a sign of hope for the property sector, as the rate of price decline may cease after a period of increased activity. Most sellers who are listing their units under the current market conditions are more likely than not serious sellers as most investors will try to hold on to their units and tide over the market lull. Thus buyers are increasingly aware of this change in tide and are negotiating for lower prices.

seletar-springsThe segment most affected could be the small suburban condominium apartments as the number of resale units are on the rise and also facing competition from HDB flats. While official figures are yet to be computed, analysts are expecting private property prices to have fallen by approximately 3.5 per cent last year.

Singapore gains traction as property investment safe haven

A little red dot, almost invisible in the huge map of the world. But as political and economic turmoil rock the majority, Singapore is increasingly considered by many global investors as a safe haven for foreign funds.

Asia SquareThe strength of the SingDollar, coupled with a relatively stable political climate has provided foreign investors with the assurance that their monies are well-protected. Thus far, $8.85 billion has reportedly been spent by foreign investment on Singapore property, a 62 per cent increase from last year, the highest in 9 years and making up 41.7 per cent of total property spending in 2016. In 2015, the total foreign monies invested in the local property market was $5.46 million and in 2014, $4.67 million. Qatar Investment Authority was a major foreign player this year, putting in $3.4 billion for Asia Square Tower One. Also in the Marina Bay area, a white site in Central Boulevard has been bid on and won by Wealthy Link of IOI properties at $2.57 billion. Projected to be up for sale next year are Jurong Point Mall and Asia Square Tower Two.

Though the commercial property rental market has dulled slightly, the lack of new office spaces being developed within the next 3 to 4 years might help the rental market eventually gain traction. 2020 might be the watershed year when the market is projected to rebound significantly and most investors are willing and able to financially wait out the next few years ahead.

marina-bay-suitesIn the residential market, a number of en bloc sales were successfully tendered this year, with Qingjian Realty’s $638 million for Shunfu Ville taking the spotlight. The sharp increase in interest this year could be the fact that other markets in Asia have been on the upturn in the past decade, and although Singapore has been priced out in terms of capital gains due to an economic slowdown during this time, she has more than made up for lost time with this year’s results.