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?

Commercial properties – Promising future?

As the noose tightens around the residential property market, investors may consider shifting their focus onto commercial properties, in particular office spaces. Q3 figures have shown that selling prices and rental of office spaces have been growing at a record pace.

In land-scarce Singapore, the growing number of businesses means the demand for office space will continue to rise. And as space decreases, prices increase. In Q3 alone, office space rental prices rose by 1.6 per cent. Part of the reason could be that major buildings such as the NOL Building and Havelock II have been undergoing renovation and thus the office space crunch has led to businesses having to look for alternative spaces within a short time period.

Havelock 2 OfficeDespite luxury properties in the downtown and CBD areas faring poorly of late, Grade A office rents in these areas have been travelling the opposite direction – upwards. Office spaces in the central region have been more in demand than rentals in other regions despite the higher rental prices. Central districts office rentals have risen 2.8 per cent while those at the fringe of the city have risen 1.9 per cent.

Retail space however, is another creature altogether. As most retail space income comes also from the tenant’s sales and margins have been narrow due to higher operating and labour costs. And with the introduction of many more mixed-use developments come 2016, supply may overtake demand and reduce the rarity of these spaces. Especially as online shopping takes off in a big way locally, retail spaces, unless in high traffic areas or exclusive trendy enclaves, may find themselves fighting for the same audience.

New Thomson MRT Line will benefit East Coast residents

Not only will property owners in the North reap the benefits of the new stations of the up-and-coming Thomson MRT line, but those in the East Coast will also see the value of their properties rise in the long run as the new MRT stations run through Tanjong Rhu, Katong Park, Marine Terrace, Siglap, Bayshore, Bedok and Sungei Bedok.

LTA - TELPhoto credit: Land Transport Authority (LTA)

The Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) will connect more areas in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country to the city centre and cut travel time considerably. There are a number of exclusive and boutique private residential properties in the East as it has been a popular area for expatriates, but a boost is expected when the TEL commences service in 2019. Property analysts are already expecting a 5 to 10 per cent rise in property prices, if the response to the North-east Line (NEL) stations are anything to go by. And upon completion of the MRT line, they foresee a rise of up to 12 per cent.

Some of the properties which may enjoy the most out of the announced realignment of the TEL includes condominium developments in the Tanjong Rhu area such as Casuarina Cove, Tanjong Ria, Meyer Residence, The Belvedere and Water Place. Properties nearer the already existing Bedok and Tanah Merah mrt stations may not see as significant a change.

Marine BlueNearer Siglap and Bayshore are private apartments such as Lagoon View, Laguna Park, Elliot at East Coast, Bayshore Park, The Bayshore and Costa Del Sol. Cote D’Azur, The Palladium and The Seaview along Marine Parade could also see a rise in home prices in the future.

How will developers price new properties in the area which have yet to launch? Will they release units are higher prices or will they keep to the current market values? New launches coming up include the 124-unit Marine Blue and 109-unit Amber Skye.

HDB flat rentals stay low

The play between supply and demand never gets old. And the tug-and-push continues as rental demand for HDB flats remains lacklustre possibly for the rest of the year.

Immigration policies seem to be the main factor at play, keeping foreign workforce numbers low and thus affecting the demand for rental properties. According to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) figures, the HDB rental index has fallen 2.3 per cent.

But is this the deepest pit of the slowdown or will it continue? Industry experts are predicting this as only the beginning of the rental drop. Sales prices of HDB resale flats have already begun on their downhill journey and though the drop is not drastic, it is rather significant for the year. Most property analysts are expecting a 4 – 7 per cent drop by the end of 2014.

Woodlands HDBNaturally, areas which are further away from transport nodes such as bus stops, main expressways or MRT stations are most affected. HDB flats near MRT stations will continue to hold their prices, whether in sales or rent. Some of the flats fetching the highest rent are in the Central, Bukit Merah and Queenstown estates. Prices range between $2250 for a 3-room flat to $2, 900 for a 4-room flat.

Although Woodlands seems far to many, the area is favoured by many tenants, perhaps due to its proximity to the causeway. Rental prices of flats in the area is lower, between $1,700 to $2, 000 for a 3- or 4-room HDB flat, but demand is higher and the ease of finding will benefit flat owners in the area.

Another reason for the falling rental rates might be the increase in the number of properties available for rent across the board. With some private suburban condominiums reaching completion and some in popular HDB estates, the competition will definitely heat up. 2014 seems pretty set its way for now, but there is always 2015 to look forward to.

Property market slump continues

Resale home sales and rental prices have continued to soften as we reach the middle of Q3. July proved to be rather quiet for the resale private home market as prices reached a 21-month low, according to the Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) figures.

LakevilleAs more new private properties reached their completion dates and entered the rental market, the number of units for rent increased, which caused the rental market to become more competitive. And as immigration rules tightened, the supply and demand scale tipped in favor of tenants. Rental prices were at a 38-month low last month. And the blow is felt not only in the private property market but also the HDB resale market with prices dropping to a 30-month low in July.

The areas with the largest price decline is the city center, with prices dropping 4 per cent. This is followed by the city fringe areas with a 1.1 per cent dip and the suburban districts with a 0.6 per cent drop. Property experts say that the drop in rental prices could be one of the reasons contributing to the slipping resale prices.

With property prices so closely linked to immigration policies in this small nation, how will the authorities balance the issues of housing and population?

Deflating rental prospects hurt home sales

Buying a property and collecting rent used to be one of the most popular ways to start your investment journey. Usually the case for cosmopolitan cities, the situation may have changed in this developing country. Rental rates have continued to deflate as immigration policies were adjusted.

According to URA data, vacancy rates have reached the highest point since 2006. City centre and luxury homes have been hardest hit as expatriates are now choosing to live further away from the city with more and cheaper housing options. And as sentiments go, the less lived in a property, the less others will want to live in it. And it’s a cycle which if not arrested soon, may be detrimental to the market.

But most of the unsold units reside in the prime districts 9, 10, 11. Further away in Sentosa, the Cape Royale is 100 per cent unsold with its 302 units still on the market. It was completed last year. Developers IOI and Ho Bee are going with the decision to rent the units out instead of trying to sell them.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

The Interlace at Depot Road.

And as more developments were finished in 2014, the number of unsold homes in completed projects continues its climb. Some of these include The Interlace at Depot road, Starlight Suites in River Valley, TwentyOne Anguilla Park and Concourse Skyline on Beach road.

Developers have been steadily offering discounts or cutting prices in order to bring the buyers and tenants back into the market. As shown by recent sales at The Vermont, where slashing the prices have sold 30 of its 37 unsold units. From $2,400 psf, it dropped to just a little over $2, 000 psf.

Landed housing gets a boost

Through semi-detached homes. Apparently prices of these landed properties have risen 4.2 per cent in the last 3 months, contrary to what most people would expect of a dimming property market. Usually the first property sectors to show significant decline are landed and luxury homes, followed by mass market suburban non-landed properties and resale HDB flats. But this rare glimmer of hope in the landed property sector has brought a little cheer to the otherwise gloomy industry.

semi-detached houseThe psf prices of semi-detached houses are now comparable to that of bungalows. But the rise could be due to the popularity of these property types with the rising group of buyers who are able to upgrade to landed properties but not yet able to afford the high quantum prices of a big landed home with a high overall land area. Add the group of buyers who may have originally been looking at bungalows but now find themselves strapped down by the property cooling measures, and there is a ready pool of potential customers for the sector.

Bungalows, being the rare commodity they are, will naturally continue to command high asking prices, which is unlikely to come down anytime soon as most owners have a strong holding power and are willing to wait out any industry recessions. However, property experts are quick to point out that the rise could be temporary and does not mean that landed property prices are on the rise per se. As the property cooling measures continue to restrict, the market will need to show significant adjustments before any change in policy will happen, which may then signify the start of a new era for the industry.

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.