Moderation of HDB flat prices modest

HDB flat prices rose 50 per cent between 2009 and 2013. With the property curbs in the last 3 years, prices have fallen 10 per cent. The government are considering the decline moderate and have mentioned that it is not yet time to completely reverse the process and policies despite recent figures showing a stabilisation of resale flat prices and a rise in sales volume.

Yishun HDB

Photo: HDB flat in Yishun

The most effective cooling measures thus far have been the 2013 implementation of the mortgage servicing ratio limit. The loan amount home buyers were able to take to service a HDB flat loan was capped at 30 per cent of their gross income. On top of that, there was a 60 per cent Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) which was also introduced in 2013 to prevent borrowers from over stretching themselves with the number and amount of loans payments.

Industry experts are mostly in agreement about a sudden and drastic switch in policies which back backfire on the industry and property market. But some have felt that certain measures such as the ABSD (additional buyers’ stamp duty) could be lifted in phases to encourage property investment. The current rule requires foreign property buyers to pay an additional 15 per cent of the price of a property here while Singaporeans have to do the same but at 7 and 10 per cent for second and third subsequent properties.

The new National Development Minister Lawrence Wong has however mentioned that adjustments may be possible, depending on global and local economic situations.


Maxing the potential of HDB Housing Grants

The General Elections of 2015 have brought about some changes in the local housing and property scene. With raised income ceilings for new flats and executive condominiums, plus a series of other adjusted or new housing grants, more HDB flat applicants are able to now secure a unit and at less by making use of these new grants.

HDB flats 10The new Proximity Housing Grant provides singles and families who are buying a resale flat with or near their married children or parents, with a respective $10,000 and $20,000 grant. Since its implementation on 24 August, 684 families and 53 singles have applied for the grant. Income ceilings have also been raised to $12,000 (from $10,000) for families and $6,000 (from $5,000) for singles. This means more would qualify for a HDB flat and the respective grants, possibly allowing some applicants who may have previously fallen just short of the income ceiling to now successfully apply for a unit.

Indirectly, this move may have also helped to boost resale transactions. As applicants who wish to live near their parents or married children may not be able to find a new flat within close proximity, especially in more mature estates where new flats are rare, resale flats may be their next best choice. With a combination of the Proximity Housing Grant and other CPF housing grants, what they may finally have to pay for a resale flat may be much more palatable.

Resale HDB flat prices hold steady

At this point of the property market cycle, prices holding steady could be a positive sign, indicating effectiveness on part of the cooling measures which did not crash the market but rather, merely realigned the prices gently. The change evolved over a long period of time, which is more palatable for sellers and the lowering prices may have also increased sales volume by enticing buyers.

BidadariPhoto credit: HDB

A 0.3 per cent fall in HDB resale flat prices indicate a slowly stabilising market. Although prices have been falling for 9 quarters straight, the last quarter showed the lowest rate of decline. In 2014, overall resale HDB flat prices fell 6 per cent. Industry analysts are expecting a smaller dip this year of 2 to 2.5 per cent. Some buyers may have been holding back on buying in the open resale market, in wait of November’s major launch of new Build-to-order (BTO) flats which includes prime units in Bidadari and Punggol Northshore.

Suburban resale private property prices are falling at a steeper rate of 1.3 per cent and if the prices fall even further and at a quicker rate than HDB resale flat prices, the gap between the 2 market segments will narrow. This could then draw a substantial pool of buyers from the resale flat market into the private property market, which could then give sales volume a boost and slow down the price decline in the private property sector.

Sims Urban Oasis

Photo: Sims Urban Oasis

Property developers are keeping a close eye on whether cooling measures will be adjusted, and pricing their units accordingly. We could also expect a more staggered schedule of new launches as developers become more careful about not cannibalising on one another’s market share. More so than before, it may be a matter of timing and opportunity.

More BTO flats expected in 2016

2015 might have been the year the government slowed down the release of new BTO (Build-to-order) HDB flats to 15,000 as demand was deemed to have been fulfilled by the massive roll-out in the previous years; but 2016 might see a reversal as new National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced last week that HDB will be building more new flats next year.

Clementi Crest HDB flat
Photo credit: HDB

Though the number of new flats will not be as massive in comparison to the 2011 to 2013 period when more than 22,000 flats were rolled out per year, the figure of just under 20,000 will still be considerable. This is largely to fulfil the increase demand that is expected to come with the recent policy changes. The income ceiling for BTO flat applicants have been increased from $10,000 to $12,000, which may mean that more families now qualify for a BTO flat. Add the new $20,000 Proximity Housing Grant which encourages families with parents or married children to live near to one another, and the numbers might increase significantly as well.

As the resale HDB flat market has only just stabilised after a year or so of declining prices, will this increase in HDB flat supply dampen the mood in the resale market? Probably not in the near future as demand for resale flats are still mostly in the mature estates, and most new flat owners are still serving out their 5-year MOP (minimum occupation period).

There will be a major sales launch of new BTO flats in November and the response to this will be used to temper the projection for next year.

HDB resale flat market stabilising

While last month’s price decline in the HDB resale flat market may be slight at 0.3 per cent, a quick rebound may yet to be. Minor fluctuations may still occur, but prices seem to be stabilising. The number of flats changing hands also seem to be on the increase, up 3.9 per cent from August.

Punggol HDB EstateThe property cooling measures however continue to impact the property market with falling prices and sales volume in the private property market. While the effect is less apparent in the HDB resale market, prices have gone down by 8 to 9 per cent since its peak in 2013. Property analysts are expecting more gradual fall for the rest of the year, at a less-than-1 per cent monthly decline.

November’s mega-launch of 12,000 BTO (Build-to-order) flats may however take a toll on the resale market as buyers may hold back on buying from the resale market. On the other hand, most recent policy changes in public housing may also help buyers qualify for and attain a resale flat more easily. Income ceiling for resale flats have been raised from $10,000 to $12,000 and families who wish to purchase a resale flat near their parents or married child can apply for a $20,000 proximity grant.

The resale market has take some time to cool, but considering it has fallen from its 3,649 units sold in May 2010 to 1,504 in September 2015, all eyes and ears may be on when the authorities are likely to relax the property cooling measures.

Property prices soften last quarter

Property market prices seemed to have fallen once again as Q3’s numbers show. Weaker market sentiments as well as a weakening rental market seem to have taken a toll on property prices and sales volume. Resale HDB flat prices were down 0.3 per cent and private property prices down 0.9 percent in Q3. In a year-on-year comparison, HDB resale prices have fallen 9.8 per cent and private property prices 8 percent since 2013. Property analysts have expected a drop in prices this year of between 4 to 6 per cent.

Queens Condo Stirling RoadWhile many private property owners may not yet be feeling the impact of the price decline, those who truly want to sell their property may be faced with the dilemma of dropping their asking price in order to close the deal. With more readily available industry information, buyers are now more aware of market prices and making more informed offers, which places the ball in their court.

The HDB resale flat market seems to be stabilising. Last month’s price decline is the smallest thus far, with the previous month seeing a 0.4 per cent drop. As most HDB flat buyers are able to service their loans using their property using Central Provident Funds (CPF), they may be less affected by a weakening economy and rising interest rates.

How the market fares moving ahead, will be largely dependent on the economy. The 1998 Asian financial crisis is a good reminder of how policies, jobs and industries are closely tied.


Higher future demand for ECs?

Recent news of the income ceiling for new HDB and ECs (executive condominiums) flats possibly being raised have brought about a wave of questions from the market. Will this increase competition for new BTO flats? How will the resale HDB flat market be affected? Will the private property sector see lower or higher demand?

Since ECs and mass market private homes often go after the same pool of buyers, raising the income ceiling for ECs may mean increasing competition for the latter. With the higher income ceiling of $14,000, buyers who were previously ineligible for executive condominiums may now find themselves able to purchase these unique public-private hybrid properties, drawing them away from the private property market.

Sol AcresECs are considered public housing and buyers are able to take advantage of available housing grants for this property type. After 10 years, they become private property, which considerably ramps up their sale value. Buyers who have previously had to turn to private properties at much higher prices, and who are now eligible to apply for ECs will no doubt be in glee. The difference between an EC and a private property is about $300 psf and buyers comparing private homes and ECs in the same vicinity may come up with savings of up to $250,000. Not an amount to be scoffed at.

One recent EC offering, Sol Acres, have since sold 294 units. Upcoming EC launches are expected to give pricier private mass market homes without the calling cards of a good location, a run for their money. Prices of ECs usually stand at around $800 psf whereas private homes go from $1,000 psf and up.


Raised Income ceilings for HDB and EC flats

In the months ahead, the HDB market may see some significant changes.

In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a raise in income ceilings for new HDB flats as well as ECs (executive condominiums). The income ceiling for HDB flats could be raised from $10,000 to $12,000 and for executive condominiums, from $12,000 to $14,000. Just four years a, the income ceiling for ECs was raised to $12,000 but apparently income levels have risen since then. The government are also making it easier for lower-income households to purchase 2-room flats. The Special Housing Grant (SHG) will be raised from $20,000 to $40,000, giving them the financial support they truly need.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

Forestville Executive Condominium.

And to promote stronger familial ties plus cater to the growing group of young families who prefer to live near their parents, a new Proximity Housing Grant will help buyers who wish to live near their parents or married children secure their new flat.

This could be good news for buyers and home-seekers, as more applicants may then find themselves eligible for a new BTO flat or EC. But will there be more applicants now vying for available units. And how will this move  possibly affect the resale HDB flat market?