Authorities not ready to ease property curbs

The property industry has been hoping for a respite from the several rounds of property cooling measures rolled out over this year and the last. But the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director, Ravi Menon, recently said that even though home prices has ease somewhat and has leveled the playing field slightly, there are still risk factors which prevents them to being able to release their hold on the reins.

Home prices have risen an astounding 60 per cent from 2009 and over the past year, it has only fallen 3.3 per cent. Though it is quite impossible for home prices to fall to the level before the 2009 boom, they are hoping nevertheless to keep the markets stable before easing the restrictions.

Singapore real estateThe measure which affected the market the most could be the mortgage loan curb. The TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework has put many buyers hoping for a home loan out of reach of their desired property. This has indirectly caused developers to shake a little on their footing and prices of new properties dropped slightly over the last 3 quarters. But property prices are still relatively high and the fear is that any relaxation of the current rulings might cause an upward spiral process which might be more detrimental in the long run.

Battling inflation has been one of the key issues for the country’s rulers and with housing becoming an increasingly crucial factor of nation development, the property market here would be largely linked to policy-making.

Smaller apartments gaining popularity once again

Just a couple of years ago, there were debates about whether homes were becoming too small for comfort as the 500 sq ft studio apartments or shoebox units took the market by storm. Some shunned small units, preferring instead to go for larger ones with a lower psf price.

But now as loan limits are truly showing their might, buyers are favoring smaller apartments once again due to their lower quantum prices and the ease of rental. Though not all are flocking to shoebox units, after all, young families do need a reasonable amount of space, the average home size has dropped to 947 sq ft from June last year. And for HDB upgraders, their chances to move onto the private property market might have become slimmer, especially if size is a major consideration. The average 4-room HDB flat is around 969 sq ft.

CIty GateOne- and two-bedders have increasingly become more popular with buyers as they are usually within their budget and investors find them easier to rent out. URA figures in fact also showed that new residential properties have also featured smaller units, with the average size being 753 sq ft. But this hardly comes as a surprise as home size has been shrinking since 2009.

The other popular property  type is the dual-key apartment which provides the atmosphere of having two separate living spaces within the same home. Some of these units share the same entrance but separate facilities such as kitchens and toilets, while others share the same facilities but have separate entrances, providing privacy for bigger families and offering more rental options.

As we progress into the second half of the year and the market evolves in reaction to buyers demand and supply of land, will developers be quick to re-strategize and cater to the majority?

No rise in private property market sales yet

Though the dip in private home sales is not as drastic as expected, with a 1.3 per cent decline in the first half of 2014, industry experts are expecting the same rate of decline for the remaining half of the year.

The restrictive home loan situation was the main deterrent as it has meant that buyers may no longer be able to loan as much as before and that has limited their possible property purchases. The Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) limits the total monthly debt repayment to 60 per cent of the borrower’s gross monthly income. For buyers who are already servicing a home loan or other loans, the amount they are able to loan will be lesser as well.

CIty GateThe smaller and more affordable units will seem more attractive than before. Or units such as dual-key apartments which allow bigger families to stay together may be more affordable should the cost be shared. As June was a relatively quiet month for new launches, figures from the next quarter will be more telling. In the first half, less than 5, 000 private homes were sold. Buyers can look forward to a few more launches in the coming months, including mixed-use development, City Gate at Beach road, The Crest in Prince Charles Crescent, Highline Residences in Tiong Bahru and Marina One in Marina Bay. Indicative prices of units at City Gate will range from $1, 900 to $2, 200 psf.

Will there be a surprise market rebound? Or will it decline further?

Resale private home prices down the slippery slope

The tussle between new and resale properties continue to play out as supply continues to outweigh demand and buyers are now pickier with the units they purchase.

There has been recent calls for relaxation of the cooling measures, particularly the Total Debt Ratio Servicing (TDSR) framework which limits the amount of loan buyers can receive, which is largely dependent on their income. Those with a flexible income or commission-based incomes are particularly hit as the main part of their income may not be considered towards their basic pay.

Buyers could also be holding out on new launches as prices have dipped since initial sales launches. CapitaLand’s Sky Habitat recently sold a median of $1, 377 psf last month. But when it was first launched 2 years ago, prices were at $1, 583 psf. There are still a considerable number of unsold units out there and some buyers could be looking out for developers looking to sell off remaining units, which also means resale properties may be struggling to get themselves noticed, unless their price is right.

Sky Habitat condominium in Bishan.

Sky Habitat condominium in Bishan.

And as rental demand also shows signs of weakening, investors are more wary of properties, particularly newer suburban mass-market homes, which are yet untested in the rental market. Some condominiums may have a higher number of units out on lease at the same time, which increases the competition for landlords.

Will this continued decline in resale home prices cause buyers to rethink their property investments? How can you better spot the potential of a property?

Private home sales – Will the decline continue?

The property market has been softening. The decline seemed inevitable, especially as completed new private homes flood the market in the upcoming year or two.

Not surprisingly, shoebox apartments saw the largest dip in sales as the number of units are somewhat saturated. Buying power is also now lower and buyers who were initially looking at these units for investment may no longer be able to get the loans they need.

 

Marina One residential project with 1,042 new condominium units. Photo by marina-one.org.

Marina One residential project with 1,042 new condominium units. Photo by marina-one.org.

Rental issues such as the age, functionality and location of resale units now have to compete with the newer and sometimes faster property models. In the central districts, the decline in rents and sales of apartments were most evident. This could be due to the number of unsold high-end properties in these areas. Even suburban condominiums are feeling the heat as many expatriates shun them as they often do not provide the convenience and exclusivity they desire.

Whether the effect will transfer to the HDB resale market also awaits to be seen. As HDB upgraders who are moving to their completed units will have to let go of their HDB units within a specified time period, many may be in a hurry to let go of their units and possibly at lower prices than before as the market gets competitive. Pair this up with a diminishing market for smaller units as singles are now able to purchase new flats from HDB directly, as well as a smaller pool of permanent residents, the property market seems to be in for quite the turn this year.

Even as more new property launches are promised, how private home sales fare the next quarter may set the mood for the rest of the year.

New launches expected but at staggered timings

The market is somewhat dense with many units unable to leave the sales shelves. But the buying crowd is expecting new launches to whet their appetite. And perhaps this is the indirect way to help move existing properties as new properties provide grounds for comparison. A few more choices may just help the buyer make up his mind.

Though, developers are also equally wary about providing too many choices. This may tilt the market the way of the buyer and sellers may find themselves cannibalising on one another’s properties. Instead, the consumer can look forward to a steady flow of new property launches over the second quarter, but at staggered timings.

The Sorrento condominium

The Sorrento condominium

In Q1, only 7 new properties were launched. Q2 may see as many as 11 new launches. Starting the ball rolling is The Sorrento. Sales began over the weekend at $1, 380 to $1, 600 psf. It’s situated on West Coast road and has an offering of 131 units of one- to three-bedders.

And if you’re looking for something to do on 1 May, the labour day holidays. You can visit the showflats of Commonwealth Towers. This massive 845-unit project is developed by Hong Leong Holdings. Response at its preview last Sunday was indicative of its potential, drawing a crowd of 1, 500. Selling prices are expected to be around $1, 600 to $1, 800 psf.

Commonwealth TowersMost of the other projects expected to enter the market are in the city or at the city fringe districts. They include The Crest, Highline Residences, Amber Skye, Kallang Riverside, Pollen & Bleu, Marina One, Waterfront@Faber, Bijou and Coco Palms. Industry analysts are already expecting this second quarter to fare much better than the last, with 500 to 800 new private home sales.

New home sales up in February

After much news about home sales taking the hit, a rebound has brought some cheer to February.

Mainly lead by new suburban property launches, analysts are hoping that this is a sign of the market stablising. Excluding sales of executive condominiums, the Urban Redevelopment Authority released data showing a 28 per cent rise of private home sales of 724 units as compared to January’s 565 units.

2 launches in the Sengkang area, Rivertrees Residences and Riverbank @ Fernvale, made up majority of the sales. 218 units of the 495-uni Rivertrees Residences were sold at a $1,111 psf median while 211 units were sold at the 555-unit Riverbank @ Fernvale at an $1,033 psf average.

Rivertrees condoThe future however may lie in the hands of the property developers. Depending on their pricing structure and strategies, the buying public may respond correspondingly. Some older projects with units yet unsold, as well as resale units may find themselves competing intensely with lower-priced newer properties. But if recent sales are anything to go by, finding the sweet spot that hits home with pocket-conscious home buyers will bring the crowd back into the market.

Buyers who are looking for a good deal may find themselves searching for less salable units in older projects which may still be worth the investment depending on their location and potential for future development. March may be the turning point of this delicate dance between buyer and developer. What will the month show in terms of sales volume and prices?

Luxury condominiums going at lower prices

$2,200 psf to $1, 800 psf.
$3.7 million to $3.4 million.

That’s how far lower the prices for high-end luxury apartment units are going for.

Perhaps it’s a case of when the going gets tough, the tough gets going, at lower prices. It’s no secret that while luxury properties are the creme de la creme for property agents and developers, when investment money is slow in coming, these are one of the hardest to sell.

Hallmark residencesAnd the going looks like it is going to be tough for quite some time more. Property developers are struggling to move unsold stock, and depending on whether their holding power is strong enough, they may be forced to make other moves sooner. There were news earlier on this month that developers are looking to convert condominiums into serviced apartments as the pressure of the deadline to sell looms closer.

At MCL Land’s Hallmark Residences in Bukit Timah, the uncompleted condominium development is already advertising sales of units at discounts of up to $300,000. A 969 to 990 sq ft 2-bedroom unit was originally priced at $2 million but is now at a lower $1.8 million. Since its release of the first 20 units in January, 5 have been sold. They are however planning for a proper launch sometime in the first half of 2014. At the 999-year leasehold St Regis Residences on Tanglin Road, prices have dropped from $4,653 to $2, 349 psf. Of the over 10,000 private homes still under construction in the prime districts 9, 10 and 11, nearly half remain unsold.

Once again the story of low demand versus high supply dogs the real estate industry. With the government’s many cooling measures, a bubble is unlikely to happen especially since loans are harder to get. It will be interesting to see how the property market plans for a rebound.