Singapore property market on the mend?

Is Singapore’s property market finally bottoming out? Are current property prices the lowest they can go?

WhitehavenHong Kong and Singapore are 2 of Asia’s most expensive residential property markets, and while both countries’ governments have implemented property cooling measures to help abate the tension, prices remain high. Though Singapore’s property price spike of 92 per cent in the decade between 2003 and 2013 was not as drastic as Hong Kong’s 370 per cent in the same time period, housing cost has increased considerably and was much fodder for debate during the past 2 elections. While home prices have fallen 1.2 percent in Singapore and 13 per cent in Hong Kong since September 2015, the fall will have to be much more drastic for the situation to return to what it was before 2003.

Taking inflation, economic growth and global economics into consideration, property analysts feel that Singapore’s property cycle has almost reached its bottom or turning point as it is in a much more advanced state than Hong Kong’s. Considering the gentle slope of decline in Singapore’s property prices, a sharp rebound seems unlikely. Will there however be a glimmer of hope for a gradual increase upon policy changes and changes in the demand and supply scale?

Suburban private home prices waver


Parc EleganceNovember saw a 0.6% fall in private home prices, pulled down mainly by falling figures in the shoebox apartments segment. These units sized below 506 sq ft fared 1.2 per cent better in October than in November.

Property analysts are expecting some selling action in the months ahead, particularly in the non-central suburban private home segment as the surge of completed units and increased interest rates may force the hand of investors who have overstretched themselves. However, the number of sellers may outweigh the number of buyers as competition toughens up.

Properties in the central regions or prime districts of 1 to 4 and 9 to 11 could have fared better as well, with a 4.5 per cent fall in prices in a year-on-year comparison. That is a drop of 13.1 per cent from the peak in May 2013. Industry players have reasoned that properties in the central regions are generally larger in size, which means they also have a higher total quantum price, which makes them harder to find buyers for. Foreign buyers are also expected to pay a 15 per cent ABSD (Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty), which may have turned some investors off the Singapore property market.

The Boutiq Killiney

Photo: The Boutiq Killiney

As the target audience for the central and non-central regions are quite different, sellers and buyers alike may need to alter their expectations of the market in 2016. In the central regions, some sellers may be ready to let go of their properties as the economy slows, but prices are not expected to fall drastically as the owners usually have the holding power to hang on to their properties till the price is right. In the non-central regions however, where owners and buyers are usually salaried workers, pricing may be more dependent on external forces such as the overall rate of economic growth, employment and mortgage rates, rental potential and debt ratios.

Hong Kong’s property scene veer towards Commercial

Buyers and investors in Hong Kong’s property market seem to be veering towards commercial as residential property prices decline.

Mongkok Office hOng KongPhoto credit: Office18.com

Offices are at the top of the list as Chinese companies continue to seek out spaces and sometimes even entire buildings. Hong Kong is a city popular with Chinese corporations who hope to elevate their brand globally by having offices in the country. As the economy in China begins to slow, many companies are looking outside of the country for higher returns.

Home prices on the other hand, are not faring as well. Residential property prices are expected to fall by up to 20 per cent within the next couple of quarters. This may impact overseas investors who have previously purchased properties in Hong Kong. But the falling prices may be good news to those who are hoping to snag a few more properties in the city. Investors may very well take the opportunity to purchase and hold on to these  assets whose value might rise in the future not too far away.

Upper East Hong Kong CondoPhoto credit: GoHome.com.hk

There is however certainly no lack of new property launches in Hong Kong; with apartments in Mong Kok, Aberdeen and Yuen Long, just to name a few.

Private property prospects for the next 2 years?

The Singapore General Election may be coming up in the next year and a half, and that leaves most wondering about possible policy shifts and how that would affect the country’s economy. Since the last election, immigration and loan policies have changed rather substantially, both of which have impacted the property industry in a number of ways.

Melrose VilleOn the financial front, the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework has been effective in slowing down property demand. With the likelihood of interest rates here rising in tandem with US rates, it seems unlikely that this policy will be removed or relaxed anytime soon as it aims to help households and borrowers build a clearer structure around their long-term financial stability.

A decrease in immigration numbers have also affected the property rental industry, with vacancy rates possibly hitting 10 per cent at the end of 2015. Coupled with a growing number of completed new units made available within these 2 years, the supply could majorly outweigh the demand. Property experts suggest that the only way to slow down the property prices and demand decline is to reduce the speed and quantity of new properties, and an adjustment of the TDSR. There is no sign of change for the moment, but would next year bring about a fresh wave of changes?

Re-zoning Geylang – Fewer residential properties

At first instance, this proposal may not sound promising, but it may actually bring good news for owners of existing condominiums in Geylang. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has recently announced a re-zoning of residential areas in Geylang for commercial use.

Rezi3TwoWhile this means that there may not be as many private residential properties in the area, the value of those which have already been built may appreciate as offices and businesses eventually move into the area. This proposal by the URA could be seen as mainly to facilitate the balancing of residential and commercial activities in the district. The over-building of residential properties in the red-light district could have a reverse effect and introducing more commercial properties and maintaining a suitable amount of residential properties in the area may in turn increase the rental yields and value of properties in its proximity.

With Geylang’s prime location putting it close to the city centre, Aljunied MRT station and the Singapore Sports Hub, rental yields here are already 1.5 per cent higher than those in other districts. With the area mostly made up of smaller land parcels, the likely tenants would be boutique developers and small businesses, with the possibilities of niche eateries and shops.

Some residents have however raised concerns over this re-zoning move as more commercial spaces here may mean an increase in the illegal and disruptive activities normally associated with this infamous district. What are the pros and cons of purchasing property in Geylang and does one outweigh the other?

New condominiums not spared from 2014’s lull

The stream of new homes entering the market has been continuous and more will be coming our way in 2015, with up to 2,500 units within the next two months. Larger new residential projects ready for occupation soon include the Sims Urban Oasis and Northpark residences.

Sims Urban OasisThis sudden increase in supply may not necessary affect sales prices, but the number of transactions may drop as buyers hold out in wait of what the rest of the year brings. In the last month of 2014, sales were lacklustre, with the best seller being Lakeville condominium with 16 units sold. This is followed by 13 units sold at Rivertree Residences and 12 at The Panorama. All are suburban mass-market private homes. Even the executive condominium market slacked a little with only 128 units sold at the 747-unit The Terrace in Punggol.

But the later half of 2015 may hold some promise as property prices may have corrected by more than 10 per cent and property cooling measures may then be lifted. Sellers may find themselves having to lower prices as competition heats up and buyers wait out as long as they can. It is just a matter of waiting for that sweet spot to hit the markets.

Decline of home prices not reflective of cooling measures’ power

It all boils down to holding power. Of both buyers with their mortgages and home loans; and developers with their unsold units. Despite a year of seemingly repressed property market growth, the actual decline in home prices as a direct effect of the property cooling measures may not be as steep as it feels like. In fact, URA figures show only a 3.9 per cent drop in prices since Oct 1 of 2013 to 30 Sept of this year.

TheVermontCairnhillSince the property boom of 2009, home prices have increased 65 per cent till the end of 2013. Whereas the drop this year is a mere 4 per cent. Which means, property prices are still more than double of what they were before 2009.

Though the average total quantum price of homes may have dropped, the psf prices are maintained at a reasonable level as the main change comes from the diminishing property sizes. Though buyers’ affordability now ranges between $1million to $1.3 million, figures which have held steady for the past 5 years; the median sizes of new homes have fallen from 1, 195 sq ft in 2009 to 753 sq ft in 2014. This is a sure sign that developers are still holding on to their asking prices while giving less in terms of liveable space.

Resale homes are holding up better than new homes however, with a 3 per cent drop as compared to a 6 per cent drop of the latter. This is largely due to developers’ offers of discounts on unsold units. Examples of these can be seen at The Vermont At Cairnhill, and also at Sky Habitat, where more units were moved after a 10 to 15 per cent cut in prices.

Moving into the new year, property analysts are expecting sales volume of next year to be similar to 2014’s, though home prices are unlikely to experience a drastic drop. Rather, a gentle decline into a comfortable equilibrium is what most experts are prone to agree on.

The future of Singapore’s property market – Looking outwards or inwards?

The property industry experts are hoping that the Government will take crucial and timely steps to aid the country’s property and construction sector should trouble loom.

8scape Malaysia property

Photo: 8scape Residences in Malaysia.

Redas (Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore) president, Mr Chia Boon Kuah recently mentioned that the impact on the property sector could similarly transfer to an impact on the country’s overall economy. The vacancy moving forward is expected to hit 10 per cent as the number of new properties reach 68,000 in the next few years. Transaction volume has declined by half of last year from 18,000 to 9,000.

There were also talks about the languishing luxury property market here. The stricter measures and higher taxes may be reasons for wealthy investors looking elsewhere in the region for property investment opportunities and even draw Singaporeans away from investing within their own country.

However, with possible interest rates hikes and stimulus slowdown in the United States, interest in overseas property investment may be waning. As the local property market cools, and prices start coming down, some may also choose to take the wait-and-see stance, possibly holding their horses for a good future run in the local markets. How will the market fare in 2015 and will buyers be drawn to local or foreign properties?