Rise in China and Singapore cross-border property investments

In global real estate sectors, the Chinese are known to be ferociously investing within as well as outside of their country. But is anyone else buying into properties on the mainland?

CapitaLandChinaProperty

Photo credit: CapitaLand China

Increasingly, investors looking to invest in land plots are looking to China to fulfil their development needs. Most of these are companies or developers looking for value-for-money options to buying land in Singapore, which is rare and often priced high. The property cooling measures and 5-year completion deadline for residential projects are also factors property investors are looking elsewhere.

In Q1 of 2017 alone, 88 per cent of investment monies in Asia Pacific residential land from Singapore went instead to residential sites in China. Cross-border investment activity has increased, as also seen in the high bids from China-based developers and co-ventures on recent collective sales within Singapore. Residential investment between China and Singapore has risen 137 per cent over the last 10 years to $42 billion last year.

Singaporean developers are also looking elsewhere for lower-cost assets and with the cultural and language similarities, and geographical proximity, China seems like as good a choice as any other. Within Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Malaysia are also on the list; as are Sydney and Melbourne in the Asia Pacific region. Property analysts expect continued increases in land prices in Singapore as government land sales sites are becoming limited.

Overall price decline in Q1 but buying sentiment remains upbeat

Price-declines across the board for private residential, commercial and resale public housing sectors could mean the bottom of property cycle is close. For the 14th consecutive quarter now, private home prices have fallen, the longest period in the past 13 years.

That said, the general market sentiment has recently picked up as slight tweaks in the property cooling measures and a series of new and exciting property launches have gotten buyers’ blood flowing once more. Private home prices have fallen 0.4 per cent in Q1, slightly lesser than the 0.5 per cent in Q4 of last year.

Paya Lebar Quarter_Lendlease PLQPhoto credit: Lendlease 

Values of private residential properties have fallen 11.6 per cent since its peak in 2013, and this difference has probably revived purchasing interest as most buyers still see the potential of well-located properties in Singapore.

Total private home transactions hit 5,202 units in Q1, the highest in 15 quarters thus far. Property analysts are expecting the market to remain bullish and continue its growth barring any unexpected economic circumstances. City fringe properties are faring particularly, propped up by the strong demand for newly launched projects such as The Clement Canopy, Grandeur Park Residences, Park Place Residences and the Paya Lebar Quarter. Non-landed home prices have in fact risen 0.3 per cent in the city fringes and 0.1 per cent in the suburbs. Core central region property prices fell 0.4 per cent however.

ParkPlaceResidencesLanded home prices fell 1.8 per cent last quarter, likely due to the restrictions placed on these rarer commodities. Foreigners are not allowed to own landed properties. On the resale HDB flat front, prices fell 0.5 per cent, though the decline is expected to reverse itself soon, in response to the positive sentiments from the private property market.

New condominiums in district 9 to generate more buying interest in H2

Less than 2 months to the second half of 2017 and things may continue to look up for the private home market, particularly district 9. Two new condominium projects in prime locations will be launched in H2 – Martin Modern by Guocoland and New Futura by City Developments (CDL). Property analysts are expecting more than positive responses from the public – that is if the prices are right. Foreign buyers of luxury properties have been picking up units in increasing numbers as prices of high-end residential homes begin to bottom out. Non-landed private home prices in the core central region have already fallen 10.3 per cent by the end of March from it’s peak in 2013 and the demand for local property from non-Singaporeans have been increasing steadily.

MartinModernThe recent relaxation of the property cooling measures, however slight, and the brighter economic outlook may have helped boost overall market sentiments and given a much-needed push to the private property sector. 3,141 private homes were sold in Q1 alone which is more than twice the 1,419 units sold in 2016.

The 450-unit Martin Modern situated in Martin Place will provide more fodder for property buyers and investors looking for prime district units. Set in greenery amidst the busy city background, the property will offer 2- to 4-bedroom apartments across two 30-storey towers. The main feature of the property will be the “botanic garden”-like atmosphere where over 200 species of plants and animals and more than 50 species of trees and palms will imbue the development. Another of Guocoland’s similar properties, Leedon Residence, has sold 42 units worth over $250 million within Q1. Prices of units at Martin Modern is expected to hover around $2,300 psf.

New Futura1

Photo credit: Newfutura.net

The other district 9 property to look forward to is New Futura in Leone Hill Road. This new CDL project will feature 124 two- to five-bedders (including penthouses) across 2 blocks of 36 storeys each. Prices are approximated to be between $2,700 to $2,900 psf.

Chinese top buyers of Singaporean properties

Foreign interest in local properties have not waned despite rising prices and supply over the past half a decade. Their appetite have not diminished, if at all. Transactions may have shrunk slightly due to the additional costs involved in foreign-purchases of properties in Singapore, put in place by the series of property cooling curbs rolled out since 2011, but they buyers are back in the market in search of potential sites and units, in particular buyers from mainland China.

skyline-residencesIn a year-on-year comparison, foreign property transactions were up 11.8 per cent and this excludes purchases by permanent residents. Besides the Chinese, other major buyers hail from Malaysia, Indonesia and the United States. Each group have their preferences as the numbers show. Chinese buyers mostly favoured suburban properties while Malaysia and Indonesian buyers went for core central region units. 68 per cent of Indonesian buyers and 40 per cent to Malaysian buyers purchased homes in the prime districts while 58 per cent of transactions from the Chinese were for homes outside of the core central districts. Most Indonesia buyers are willing to pay $2,000 psf and above for prime properties while Chinese buyers usually went for properties priced between $750 to $1,700 psf.

Marina ONe iprop watermarkThe Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) may have been a deterrent at one point in time, but as the government made clear that the measures are here to stay, acceptance is beginning to truly sink in and buyers are willing to spend the additional amounts in exchange for long-term capital gains. Buyers from the United States are exempt from the ABSD due to a free-trade agreement and this has raised the number of buyers up from 1.1 to 7.3 per cent over the past 5 years.

 

Money still to be made in property rental market

Despite falling property rental prices across the board as the market slump continues, home owners and investors are finding that there is still profit to be made in the home rental sector, at least earning them more than simply leaving their properties empty or waiting for money in the bank to earn them interest.

The AmstonA sudden and deep plunge in rents is quite improbable, and with slight adjustments of expectations, landlords will still find that there are tenants to be had in the current market. The median gross rental yield in May this year stood at 3.2 per cent, with median prices at $1,223 psf. Median monthly rents were down from $3.45 psf in April to $3.26 psf in May. The districts with the highest yields were 1, 2, 4,5 and 17 with the highest median prices at $1,960 psf in district 1 and 2 – in Chinatown, Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar.

Property analysts are however expecting further reduction in yields as the foreign workforce plays musical chairs with the abundant number of rental units in the mark. Areas with fewer residential properties, such as in districts 1, 2 and where property prices are lower such as in district 17 (Changi, Loyang and Pasir Ris), rental demand tends to be stronger. Rents have however plunged in districts 20 and 8 of Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Little india and Farrer Park respectively.

Promising year ahead for landed properties?

At least in the Good Class Bungalow (GCB) segment apparently. Property analysts are predicting a 5 per cent price growth this year following promising response in the first quarter alone.

Despite economic slowdown and stock market volatility earlier in the year, this luxury landed property sector has seen a pick-up in sales volume as Singaporean investors are turning their sights on home ground once more, after a few seasons of investing in overseas propeties. Property agents have reported buyers making serious offers as compared to just a quarter ago in the latter part of 2015.

Leedon Road GCBRecent sales of GCBs included one at Swettenham Close at $1,354 psf. A total of 33 GCBs were sold in 2015, a similar number is expected for this year. Perhaps property owners have lowered their expectations and asking prices, and buyers are also enticed by the rarity and land area these bungalows provide. Many are upgraders or investors while sellers tend to be those whose children have flown the coop and are looking to downsize to more manageable properties. Rental yields for these large-sized properties have been diminishing, and these properties also tend to have higher property taxes and maintenance requirements.

Buyers may be more willing to take the bite this year as prices have already fallen 15 per cent since its peak in 2013, and further price declines will be unlikely. As these landed properties are also far and few in between, they may be quicker to pounce on a deal as it will not be easy finding similar options.

Prices of suburban properties dipping

Prices of new properties in the prime central districts have been rising, even as the market dulls. Suburban homes are feeling the strain put on the market by the influx of completed new homes this year.

The PanoramaBuyers seeking out properties in the suburbs tend to be more price-sensitive, and are often hampered by the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework and the additional buyers’ stamp duty (ABSD), leading to higher competition from an expanding pool of stock for a shrinking pool of ready buyers. Prices at The Panorama in Ang Mo Kio have fell 9.7 per cent since its launch to $1,213 psf and similarly in Clementi, units at The Trilinq are now priced around $1,408 psf, almost 9 per cent lower than its launch price.

In comparison, buyers of properties in the prime central districts are more affluent and are able to afford the prices properties here demand. For example at Robin Residences, selling prices are now hovering at $2,371 psf, 2.4 per cent higher than its launch-price. Buyers of centrally located properties also have stronger holding power and less likely to sell unless the price is right.

RObin ResidencesThe price gap between suburban and central district homes have been widening. Last year, CCR (core central region) new-home price premiums were 81 per cent over those in the OCR (outside central region). As more OCR homes hit the secondary market this year, how will smaller investors handle the competition?

 

Slower pace of private property price decline

Resale private apartment prices have been on the decline since its peak earlier in the decade, after the effects of property cooling measures kicked in and fuelled by a recent building boom. But the pace of decline has slowed down 2.1 per cent last year, in comparison with 2014. The URA property price index indicated a 3.7 per cent fall last year as compared to 2014’s 4 per cent.That may be a sign the market is finally stabilising, and sellers are no longer pressed or enticed to sell quickly.

St. Regis Residences on Orchard Road.

St. Regis Residences on Orchard Road.

The resale private property market did however report some profit losses. For example, some resale units at St. Regis Residences registered losses of $542,30 up to $4.78 million for a 4-bedroom penthouse.

2015 saw a total of 4,999 resale transactions of private properties, up 22 per cent from the year before, though still a far cry from the 10,598 in 2012. Property analysts are expecting a continued decline in prices, though at a slower rate, as buyers and sellers are still taking time to adjust to the loan restrictions and also now to cope with the new interest rate hikes. Buyers are however gradually acclimatising to the current market situation where new properties are priced affordably and resale property prices may not be drastically reduced, and thus are re-entering the market albeit with some care.