HDB resale prices – Upwards soon?

With property prices on the decline since almost a year ago, have HDB resale flat prices finally bottomed out?

Buyers seems to have caught on with the price drop and have been back on the hunt for units as the number of transactions in May this year indicated a 20 per cent rise compared to the same month last year. Prices have also shown a 0.2 per cent increase in March and have held steady in April.

Resale 5-room HDB flat on King George's Avenue with asking price of more than $700,000.

The property cooling measures rolled out by the government seem to have finally taken full effect since their implementation over the past couple of years. Since its peak in 2013, HDB flat prices have fallen 11 per cent.  Property analysts are expecting resale HDB flat prices to reach it’s bottom by the end of the year. Minister for National Development, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, has previously mentioned a possible single digit fall in HDB flat prices this year.

How long the lower prices will be maintained is largely dependant on policy changes and buyers’ sentiments, but also on the private property market and the options made available to the buying public. It could be that the prices may remain stable for awhile with the number of sales transactions increasing as buyers take advantage of this window of opportunity.

 

More go for Clementi HDB flats

HDB launches in mature estates have always been popular with applicants. And in their May launch this year, applicants are heading straight for the new BTO flats in Clementi. The application rate for 5-room flats in this HDB estate was at 13.1 per unit. 2,047 buyers vied for just 156 units. All this despite the Clementi flats being the priciest ones of the entire launch. 5-room units had price tags starting from $566,000. Property analysts have however expected such fervent response as the new flats were situated close to the MRT station and other amenities.

ClementiCrestHDB

Photo credit: HDB

But waterfront units at Punggol Northshore received quite a bit of attention as well, as the new town sees more development and potential growth. These flats featured the latest products by HDB – smart-technology HDB homes. Although not quite reaching the 13.1 rate for the Clementi flats, the 2.8 application rate for the Punggol flats (double the 1.3 rate for the last Punggol flat launch) already showed an marked increase in interest for flats in this area.

Overall, the recent launch had an application rate of 3.7 per cent, making it the most oversubscribed launch since July last year. Since HDB has reduced the number of launches this year, could future launches have similar reactions? How will that change the demand for resale HDB flats in the areas or estates surrounding the launch?

More singles going for new BTO flats

With a major sales launch by the HDB putting out more than 9,000 new BTO flats yesterday, the response from applicants has been strong, especially for 2-room flats and units in specific HDB estates.

ClementiCrestSince July last year, when singles became eligible for new BTO flats, albeit with restrictions, the demand for new 2-room HDB flats has been overwhelming. This may have pushed the authorities to release more 2-room flats this round. For flats in Punggol, where HDB launched their new smart-tech flats, there were 1.4 applicants for each 2-room unit. In Sembawang, the response was even more fervent with 2.1 applicants for every 2-room unit.

Over at Clementi Crest, the only new launch in a mature estate, the response was understandably higher with 2.5 applicants for every 5-room unit. There were only 156 units available. The main attraction could be its proximity to the Clementi town centre and Clementi MRT station.

Will the policy shifts eventually change the landscape for resale HDB flats, in particular the 3- and 4-room flats? Previously, demand for these smaller units could be said to have come mainly from singles and smaller families as well as Permanent residents. Resale flats selling under HDB’s sale of balance flats scheme were not as popular as before, with only 19 applicants for 127 units in the popular mature estate of Queenstown and 29 applicants for 3-room flats in Toa Payoh.

The next new BTO flats launch will be in August, at Punggol Northshore and Bidadari.

 

Resale HDB flats – Sales go up as prices do down?

2014 saw a record low number of HDB resale flats exchanging hands. It could be due to the effects of the property cooling measures, in particular the TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio) framework set by the Monetary Authority of Singapore,  just starting to kick in. Buyers were more wary and more careful in weighing their options while sellers were still unwilling to lower prices. The tussle was just beginning.

SeaHorizonECBut this year, it seems one side is starting to give, slightly; especially for those who need to sell their current flat within the stipulated time of collecting the keys to their new flat, or face forfeiting their deposit. Prices of resale HDB flats have dropped 0.8 per cent in March this year, and the number of transactions increase from 1,148 to 1,349., As the number of new BTO (Build-to-order) HDB flats which will be launched this year decrease, buyers may also begin turning to resale flats to fulfil their needs. Prices of four- and five-room flats fell the most at 1.1 per cent and prices have been dropping since a year ago.

Property experts continued to stick to their forecast of a 5 to 6 per cent drop in resale flat prices this year, and hope for a higher sales volume than last year. It all depends on how the market fares from now till June, just before the traditional lull period of the Hungry Ghost Month.

Prices of rare HDB flats such as ECs (executive condominiums) remained high however, in fact showing a rise of 1 per cent last month.

Could lower resale HDB flat prices be a good thing?

Although HDB resale prices have dipped 0.6% last month, sellers could  turn the seemingly negative into a positive as this may mean that more buyers will see the market as flattening and be willing to purchase from the resale market instead of applying for a new one directly from HDB.

As HDB has been active in rolling out a massive number of new BTO and EC flats in the past few years to comply to demand from citizens, especially young families and multi-generational families. Even singles now have an option of buying new 2-room flats directly from HDB. Previously they could only purchase from the resale market. The increased supply of HDB flats has meant that more families and young couples have been successful in securing their new HDB flat, leaving less buyers for the resale market.

DoverHDB flatBut may sellers find themselves unable to raise their asking prices by too much as most buyers will be restricted by the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) line which banks now have to toe. Loans will now be capped at 30 per cent of the gross monthly income. Part of last month’s drop in sales volume and prices could be due also to the Chinese New Year festive season.

Industry experts are expecting prices to drop further or maintain its status quo at least for awhile more. Any rise will be short-lived and a temporary anomaly. It may only be a question of how soon the buyers will return to the market. Are they waiting for prices to lower even further? What will make them change their mind and give them the push to purchase now?

EC prices look set to maintain current level

Recent low winning bids on land parcels may not be enough to lower executive condominium (EC) prices, at least not in the near future.

Most of the ECs which are being built or are nearing their TOP (temporary occupation permit) status are situated on land which were purchase by developers at high prices. Combined with rising construction costs and declining private home prices, prices of ECs may also face pressure. Property experts are expecting a similar 5 to 8 per cent fall in EC prices this year, similar to the prediction for HDB resale market and also the private property market.

TheTerraceECAs the price gap between ECs and private properties narrow, buyers may be swayed to the latter which allows them to immediately sell or rent. ECs, being a hybrid of public and private property, are still subjected to public housing rules which includes a minimum occupation period of 5 years before being allowed to sell. After 10 years, executive condominiums do become private properties.

In addition, developers who have secured land at lower prices may still wish to peg their units to current market levels instead of lowering it at first instance. This gives them the allowance of offering discounts later on.

Buyers who have been holding out for much lower prices may have a long wait.

Higher success rates with HDB priority schemes

More BTO (build-to-order) HDB flat applicants have been successful in securing their units of choice at recent HDB sales launches. Under the Parenthood priority scheme, the number of married parents applying for a unit have dropped from 10,000 to 8,000 last year.

BuangkokParkVista_HDBWhat could this mean for the resale HDB flat market? As property prices drop, more HDB flat buyers may widen their options here, instead of heading straight for the new HDB flats. Some may have location considerations, especially if they have elderly parents or young children preparing to enter specific primary or secondary schools.

In 2013, 26, 494 new HDB flats were released.  But as the supply of BTO flats decrease, dropping to 16, 900 this year, and as most first-time HDB flat applicants successfully receive their flats in time for family-planning; the number of applications under these priority schemes look set to fall as well. Many of these new flats could be in non-mature estates. But as mature estates reach a saturation and before these non-mature estates reach maturation, will resale HDB flats  and private properties be the way to fill in the gaps for buyers looking to live nearer their workplaces, elderly parents or children’s schools? Will temporary rental of condominium apartments or even HDB flats be a stop-gap for this group of home seekers; and will that be an opportunity for investors and landlords of properties near schools and MRT stations?

Applying for a HDB loan – Do it early

If you’ve been waiting for ages to qualify and apply for a HDB flat, the housing development board has advised against last minute loan applications.

Not only does the process help you get a firm grip on your finances, it also helps give you a better idea of how to plan for the future. A HDB loan eligibility letter will tell you how much you are able to loan from the Housing Development Board (HDB) should that option be your mortgage financier of choice. Some buyers may opt for a bank loan instead.

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Photo credit: HDB

But if you’re buying a BTO flat directly from HDB, they will require a HDB loan eligibility letter when booking a flat. This is to prevent buyers finding themselves in a bind, unable to acquire sufficient loans after they have already booked a flat. Previously, they were only required to have the HDB loan eligibility letter when signing the Agreement for Lease which could be a number of months after booking a flat.

Though this may not affect those looking to purchase a resale HDB flat, some buyers who may original be considering a BTO flat may change tracks and also consider resale options should they qualify for a higher loan quantum. Will this then be a boost for the resale HDB flat market?

The latest BTO launch in February consists of flats, including larger 3Gen (3-generation) flats, in non-mature estates such as Bukit Batok, Housing and also the mature estates of Geylang. The new McPherson Spring flats in Geylang are situated near the MacPherson MRT station and may be the first to be booked up. For singles who are now able to purchase 2-room BTO flats directly from HDB, those in Housing may be hot property. Applications will close on Tuesday and it may be some time before the next launch in May.