Evaluation of the HDB Resale Valuation

Recent changes in the valuation process for resale HDB flats have drawn some feedback from the public. Many are wary of how this mix-up will cause some hiccups in the buy-sell procedure and how it may also affect the selling prices.

Photo by HDB.

Photo by HDB. How does the recent change in the HDB resale process affect the seller and buyer?

Sellers will no longer be the ones to apply for valuation of their flats. They now need to come to an agreement on a selling price with the buyer before the buyer applies for the valuation. This may favour the buyer more than the seller as COV prices have been the main bugbear in the search and purchase of a suitable resale HDB unit, but without prior knowledge of the price of a unit based on the age, location and size of the unit, buyers may also be very much left to glean information from rumours in the wind or self-research.

HDB has however tried to bring some equilibrium to this confusion by publishing resale transaction figures daily instead of fortnightly.

What HDB hopes to achieve with this procedure renewal is:

  • Long-term stability of public housing prices
  • Less dependency of sales on COV (cash-over-valuation) prices
  • Making the HDB resale market more transparent

Will this move help them achieve all that? Or will market forces turn this around on its head and steer it in the other direction?

Change is in the wind for resale HDB market

And buyers too. More for buyers perhaps, as new rules regarding the cash-over-valuation (COV) for HDB resale flats kicked in at 5pm yesterday:

  • Sellers will no longer be the ones getting a valuation of their flats from HDB. Buyers instead are responsible for that part of the procedure.
  • HDB flat valuations can only be secured after the seller and buyer have agreed on a price. Previously, the seller could obtain a flat valuation prior to seller and then offer the valued price to the buyer, and on top of that demand a COV price.
  • The Option-to-purchase (OTP) period will now be 21 days instead of the previous 14.
Photo by ThinkStock.

Photo by ThinkStock.

Most of these new rulings were to help buyers obtain a home loan, especially since the loan limits have decreased. According to the National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, this move will also help “restore the original intention of valuation, which is to help buyers get a housing loan”.

The government is keen to make the HDB resale market less dependent on COV prices. Recent HDB sales have seen the COV prices drop to almost zero in many cases and some even selling below valuation. Just last year, median COV prices have sky-rocketed to $38,000 with some even garnering six-figures.

HDB will also now be publishing HDB transaction figures on a daily basis instead of fortnightly. These recent moves may be the push towards transparency the public housing market needs.

Shadows cast on property market

New properties are revving up their engines once more. As the market prepares themselves for these launches, what could the consumer expect?

Resale private properties situated near the sites of new properties to be launched this year may be slightly affected by the prices set by these new kids on the block. And as resale HDB flat prices dip, HDB upgraders may also not have as much as before to spend.   As developers find it harder to attract buyers since some have since redrawn from the investment pool as their finances are restricted by loan limits and mortgage curbs, prices of these new properties may be lower than expected. Properties nearby may then be forced to do the same with their resale units.

Tanglin ViewIn areas with potential for redevelopment and growth, such as Alexandra and Tanglin, competition may be fiercer. For example at Tanglin View condominium, the going rate used to be $1,600 psf a year ago, but now the average selling price stands at $1,400 psf. Similarly for Ascentia Sky apartments, prices have dropped from $1,900 psf to the current $1,500 psf.

But there are still profits to be made for private property sellers. Even though prices may not be as high as a couple of years ago, properties which were purchased 10 to 20 years ago may still find suitable buyers. Property prices today are definitely still much higher than a decade ago. Those who were hoping to rake in a quick profit with properties bought less than five years ago may find themselves having to hold on to their properties for slightly longer to wait out this year’s lull.

For the serious home buyer, it could be the prime time to buy.

Resale flats still awaiting buyers

Despite the fact that resale HDB flat prices have been on the downward slide for 2 quarters now, the number of resale flat transactions have not yet picked up. One might think the lowered COV prices might bring in the buyers, but perhaps it might be time sellers reconsider their asking prices.

Resale flats in the newer towns such as Sengkang and Punggol have seen the lowest COV prices thus far, with some sellers even willing to sell under valuation, with the lowest being $5,000 below valued selling price in December last year. The highest COV was for a unit in Marine Parade, with a COV of $40,000. Popularity of the unit, plus many other environmental factors, condition of the flat, and competition from buyers all determine how much cash over valuation the seller could demand.

Queenstown-HDBThe first half of 2014 might see a delicate tango between resale HDB flat sellers and buyers as buyers hold off in wait of possibly further reduction in market prices, and sellers doing the same as they wait for lowered prices in the private property market and to see if demand picks up in the later half of the year. As 2013 was the year of announcements, with new MRT stations and bus routes being planned, new redevelopment areas and township rejuvenations, much of the hype might be past. Is 2014 the year where the dust settles and the property market solidifies pockets of positive and negative performers?

Home prices down all around

Landed. Non-landed. Private. Public. Across the board, prices of all residential properties seem to have taken a hit in the last quarter.

Prices have dipped, some sectors more than the others, but signs are pointing to a possible slowdown in the market due to governmental curbs and the increased number of new property launches over the last 2 years. With the last price decline registered in 2005, resale HDB flat prices have been on the downhill slope for 2 quarters now. Private property prices have also suffered albeit to a lesser degree, with the lowest prices since 2009.

Mon JervoisMight it truly be the buyers’ market this year? Will this prompt more buyers to jump on the opportunity or are there other factors which might keep them away from the cash register? The tighter loan restrictions such as shorter loan periods, lower debt-to-income limits, and higher stamp duties may still be an obstacle to some buyers, thus sellers eager to cash in on their properties may find themselves having to wait a little longer for a good deal to come by.

Location usually still trumps all, though considerations such as space, amenities and living environment all have a part to play in the final selling price. With more new private condominium launches and new HDB flats pushing their way into the market this year, competition on the rental front is proving tough as well. Buyers now have more options for comparison and may be tempted to wait for prices to drop even further or wait it out for the best deal.

Even prices of suburban private homes, which have been the main stalwart of the property market last half of the year, have slipped 0.6 per cent. And as resale HDB flat prices drop, so have the number of HDB upgraders who may require the cash from the sale of their flats to purchase private homes. In turn, demand for mass-market suburban homes may fall.

Will it be a sombre year for Singapore’s residential property market?

HDB Priority Schemes have helped thousands

A bumper crop of new BTO flats were launched this year. And correspondingly, a bumper crop of young couples, families and even singles received assistance from HDB’s various priority schemes and grants.

2 of the priority schemes aimed at helping young couples set up families are the:

Flat allocation under HDB's Parenthood Priority Scheme. Photo by HDB.

Flat allocation under HDB’s Parenthood Priority Scheme. Photo by HDB.

Under the Parenthood Priority Scheme, 30 per cent of BTO flats 50 per cent of HDB flats under the SBF (Sale of Balance Flats) are reserved for married couples with a child below the age of 16. And whilst waiting for their new flat to be built, these families are able to rent HDB flats directly from HDB under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme. The scheme was extended to also include divorced and widowed parents and one year since its implementation, would have helped almost 10, 000 families. Might these moves give young couples the final push into marriage or parenthood? What are the younger generation’s views on marriage and parenthood and are there more considerations besides housing?

Admiralty Grove HDB flatNow that majority of the first-time HDB buyers’ needs are satisfied, the authorities will turn their attention to building more 2-room flats for singles. Starting from July, they are now able to purchase new flats directly from HDB, with some criteria to be fulfilled. Is this good news for singles? How likely are they to go for new 2-room flats as opposed to resale 3-room or 4-room flats? What if they were to get married, what should they do to upgrade for a bigger flat?

Resale HDB flats in 2014

As the markets quieten down for the year end, one may wonder what the new year will bring. More new private homes? Or perhaps a revival of the resale HDB flat market which has seen less action especially in the last quarter of 2013?

For the first half of 2014 at least, sales transaction of resale HDB flats are not expected to soar. In fact, it might be the second year in a row, following 2013, with the least number of sales in the last five years. Usually the average number of transactions a year come up to between 24,000 and 37,000, but this year, the numbers may fall below the 20,000 mark.

HDB flatsOne of the main factors behind the dip could be the restrictions placed up PRs (permanent residents) buying HDB flats. Following their receipt of the PR status, they are now required to wait 3 years before being able to purchase a public housing unit from the resale market. But this may in turn drive up the rental demand, thus once again this may turn the market on its heels and redirect interest into the rental and private property market. Are more investing in private properties in order to ensure quick returns through rental yields? And could this be the trend for 2014?

As more new BTO flats are made available to first- and even second-time applicants, the lure of resale HDB flats may weaken even further. Location and space could the resale market’s plus points however. And as HDB holds back on its building schemes and reduces the number of launches next year, the buying crowd may once again consider resale flats more seriously. And industry players are more positive about H2 of 2014 as the low selling prices and COV (cash-over-valuation) attract buyers back into the market.

Reduced BTO launches will not affect resales market

2013 was a year of new BTO HDB flats. With a sales launch almost every couple of months, it may have taken the shine off resale HDB flats. Coupled with the decreasing COV prices, will this mean a a weakening resale market?

National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan recently announced that starting 2014, HDB’s “massive construction programme” will slow as the pent-up demand for public housing units have been largely elevated by the continuous supply of BTO flats over the past 3 years. Industry analysts are not expecting the resale market to be overly affected by this announcement, especially since the pool of buyers usually have different motivating factors. Most BTO flat applicants are young families and first-time buyers. Now that application rates have fallen from 5.3 to 2 in 2 years’ time, there seems reason enough for the authorities to put the brakes on the building programme.

East Lawn Canberra HDB FlatIn comparison, the resale market has suffered slightly, with stricter loan limits, competition from the private property market, and recent COV prices have come to show for it. With the median at an all-time low, many are wondering if the cease of supply of new HDB flats will once again bring resale flat prices up. But this may be unlikely, at least for the next half year or so. As long as the loan limits and private residential options remain and especially since demand has been largely fulfilled,

It will be an interesting year for Singapore’s real estate sector. Which way will the wind blow?