Rougher terrain for local leasing market

Property owners with rental units at hand have been finding it increasingly difficult to find tenants.

MartinPlaceResidencesForeigners make up approximately 60 per cent of the rental demand in Singapore, and as the financial and oil and gas sectors take a hit, demand has declined with the foreign workforce diminishing due to companies moving out of the country or simply because housing budgets have been cut as the sluggish global economic drags out. As of mid-2016, vacancy rates stand at 8.9 per cent and there were about 30,310 units vacant. The sudden influx of completed new homes hitting the market this year could not have helped things as well. This year, the number of completed properties entering the market outgrew the influx of a foreign workforce. Immigration and labour policies have changed since the last general election.

Rental rates in the suburbs fell the hardest at 1.2 per cent, followed by 0.6 per cent in the city fringes. Rents of core central region properties however increase by 0.1 per cent.

cavenaghlodge2017 will see the completion of even more residential developments and analysts are expecting rental demand to fall even further, particularly in the suburbs. Rents have dipped by up to 8.8 per cent in the suburbs and 4.5 per cent in the central districts. Some landlords have even give discounts of up to 30 per cent, just to secure a tenant. Others have found themselves going months without finding a suitable taker on the unit. Smaller one- and two-bedroom apartment units are however still faring well, especially those in the Central Business District (CBD), Marina Bay, Orchard Road, and River Valley areas.


Home rental market softening

Rents for both HDB flats and private condominiums have been falling. The number of leases transacted per month have also dipped.

olina-lodgeThe weakening economic situation might be lengthening its stay as the job market remains soft and the hiring of expatriates is on the decline as well, indirectly affecting rental demand. The influx of new completed private condominium units and increase in number of HDB flats being sublet have also pushed rental prices and volume down in recent months.

In September, private non-landed property rental prices fell 0.6 per cent while HDB flat rents fell 0.3 per cent. In a year-on-year comparison, prices have fallen 4.6 and 4.5 per cent in the previously-mentioned property sectors respectively. Weak rental demand have also impacted property sales as resale private condominium prices have been reported to be shrinking, especially with added pressure from new completed units and new project launches.

hdb-flat-rentalStrangely however, core region property prices have increased despite the district leading the drop in condominium rents at 1.8 per cent. City fringe properties bucked the trend with a 0.2 per cent rise as the quantum rental might be more affordable to foreign tenants who also want to live in convenient and popular locales.

In the rest of 2016, the rental market may stagnant while in wait for the new year. As most of the completed projects were rolled out this year, 2017 may be the turning point for both the rental and resale markets. Property analysts are expecting rents to fall by a further 5 per cent before a possible rebound.

Resale apartment prices falling

If anyone has found it increasingly difficult to find buyers for their private apartment, they may not be alone. Falling resale private non-landed property prices have heightened market competition, aided by the increase in completed new units hitting the market and the presence of major new launches in the past quarter.

visioncrest-residenceThe weak rental market has not helped as well. Property experts are expecting the rental demand to remain stagnant till 2017. In August, 830 units exchanged hands while only 683 were transacted in September. The drop in transactions were particularly apparent in the suburbs, once again possibly fuelled by the influx of completed units since 2014. The only bright spark came from the core central region resale properties, with a 0.6 per cent rise from August.

The volatility of the economic outlook and impending interest rates hike has also caused some edginess and those who may not have been able to handle the financial burdens of servicing their home loans may also be in a hurry to sell, thus pulling home prices down. Private resale apartment prices have fallen once more in September, this time by 0.9 per cent. In a year-on-year comparison, prices were 1.5 per cent lower than in 2015. City fringe home prices fell 1.3 per cent.



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.

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.


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.

Lull in private home prices

Despite a projected lull in local private home prices this year, interest in Singapore’s property market remains steady as prime residential property prices are still 165 per cent and 92 per cent lower than those in Hong Kong and London respectively.

 Photo credit: Singapore Tourism Board

So despite property analysts predicting a 5 to 10 per cent fall in prime and mass market private property prices this year, the local property market’s core remains strong. 2010’s property cooling measures may have kept property prices 17 per cent lower than what it could have been. Private home prices have fallen 4 per cent last year, following a 3.7 per cent fall in 2014. In the luxury home market, prices have fallen 20 per cent since the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) was implemented in 2011.

China’s recent growth slump, plunging oil prices, the Federal Reserve interest rate hike and a general sense of a global recession looming, might consequently affect the property markets around the world. Businesses may reconsider their expansion plans, which could mean a fall in demand for office spaces and commercial properties. This in turn may affect the number of expatriates entering the country, which may also affect rental prices.

This year could prove tough for investors and property sellers, but not without glimpses of hope. 2016 may be the year to hang-in-there, but industry experts are expecting 2017 to take a turn for the better.

Private property prices remain level

The NUS Singapore Residentail PRIce Index (SRPI) showed a 0.1 per cent rise in private non-landed home prices in September. But property experts say it could simply have been a post-election response, when buyers might have held back to see if the property cooling measures would be removed. Now that the authorities have indicated the cooling measures are here to stay, at least for now, some buyers may have taken advantage of the already-lowered prices and closed some transactions.

The Scala condo Serangoon

Photo: The Scala condominium in Serangoon

The resale private home market in particular has benefited from the lack of new property launches in September. Non-central units rose 0.3 per cent while smaller units gained a 0.4 per cent footing. But as 2016 brings an onslaught of completed new properties, the resale market may have to brace itself for a bigger hit. Industry players are expecting home prices in the non-central regions to continue on a downward trend as the number of completed units there rise. Leasing may also prove difficult as there will be a huge leap in supply while immigration policies are now tighter, which implies a lower demand.

While recent figures point to tenants looking towards to the central regions for leasing prospects, high-end properties may be hitting a wall in both sales and leases as competition has lowered rental prices in the suburbs and more tenants are seeking options there. The property market seems to be reaching a standstill as the year draws close and the festivities take over, the real time to watch the market might be the first quarter of 2016, which will set the tone for the year ahead.