Private homes sales show slow and steady improvement

Twin-Peaks3Private non-landed property prices have been rising for 2 consecutive months now, a positive sign considering the recent market lull. Though values and volume are still lacking behind that during the peak of 2012 and 2013, any slight improvement is something to cheer for.

In April, the jump in non-landed homes sold was 17.6 per cent, a considerable 28.1 per cent higher on a year-on-year comparison with 2015. A total of 689 non-landed private units were sold last month. Property analysts are happy with the recent progress as it shows that the market is not completely dismal, and buyers will still bite if the prices are right. Resale private home prices similarly rose for 2 months straight, though the percentage were more modest with a 0.1 and 0.5 per cent increase in March and April respectively.

The residential developments which showed the most positive uptick were Twin Peaks in Leonie Hill, A Treasure Trove, D’Leedon, Double Bay Residences, Parkview Apartments, Thomson 800 and Carribean at Keppel Bay. The highest rise in home prices were in the core and central regions with a 1.3 per cent increase, while resale home prices in the suburbs fell 0.2 per cent.

Double Bay Residences SimeiAs the mid-year closes in, these 2 months may set the tone for the rest of the year, though much still hinges on how both local and global economies fare. Buying abilities and sentiments may follow suit.

Increased supply beginning to affect private resale condo prices?

There has been talk about private non-landed home prices being affected by the onslaught of new completed homes flooding the market this year. Could the supply-glut effect be already taking hold of the market as resale completed condo prices fell 1 per cent in March?

Bentley ResidenceFebruary and January were positive months for the private resale property market as prices rose 0.5 and 0.2 per cent respectively. Though the fall in March may seem a bit of a letdown, an overall dip was registered in all market segments. The largest decrement was for the non-central regions, where a 1.4 per cent fall was recorded.

Property analysts are expecting a 3 per cent fall in private home prices this year as the supply of completed homes continue to be met by competition from new launches and competitive pricing from developer-sold projects. Resellers of completed or older resale condominium units may face increase competition from developers who are now pricing newly-launched units are more palatable pricing. Buyers have also become more selective and are more likely to pay only for location. The total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework also limits the amount they can loan, thus putting a bit of a dampener on investment- or upgrading-based property purchases.

As the middle of the year approaches quickly, the next quarter will likely show the market response more clearly as more new launches are planned. How will the consumers react to the competition for their attention. Will sales volume increase significantly or will prices fall in the heat of battle?

New launches versus Completed private homes

As home supply inches towards a new high this year, the public’s attention may now be shifted to the competition between completed new homes and new developer launches.

Property investment was almost a sure thing not long ago, but now 3 to 5 years down the road from the peak of the market, when property prices were high but so were buying sentiment and potential investment yields, units which were launched then are now made available in the physical, adding pressure to the already-gluggy property market.

Private apartment prices in the core central region (CCR) have taken a turn for the better with a 0.4 per cent rise in the first quarter of 2016, following a 0.3 per cent fall in the last quarter of 2015. Luxury properties in the prime districts may once again be welcoming affluent buyers and investors as average unit prices have risen from $2,215 psf to $2,243 psf by the end of last year.

In the city fringes however, private property prices have continued to ebb, falling 0.4 per cent for 2 consecutive quarters now. Out of the central regions (OCR) and in the suburbs, prices fell 0.9 per cent. For the rest of the year, property experts are expecting private apartment prices to stabilise in the central regions while landed and suburban non-landed homes continue to struggle.

Price drop in City fringe and Suburban properties

The global economic slowdown may have affected industries all around, as salaried employees whose jobs may even be in danger are now more prudent with their spendings. As these are the main target audience for suburban and city-fringe properties, these market sectors are a little worse for wear and both sales and rental prices have fallen.

A typical 3-bedder outside the central region may have fetch $3,800 in monthly rent a year ago, but now the going prices are hovering around $3,200. Competition in the resale market may also rise this year as investors who have purchase properties in 2011 will now be clear of stamp duties and may be putting their units into the market by the middle of this year.

Corals @ Keppel BayPhoto: Corals @ Keppel Bay

Luxury homes and central region properties may fare a little better, though resale private apartment prices have dropped 0.3 per cent in February this year. Most of the buyers of these high-end properties are high-net-worth individuals or funds who are capable of holding on to their properties through market troughs. Foreigners also make up a large proportion of the buyers here, with Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese forming majority of the group. As Singapore’s luxury properties are still considered value-buys in comparison with the other popular Asian city, Hong Kong, where prices are 30 per cent higher and most properties are leasehold, those with the cash will continue to pick up deals, more of which are to be had this year as developers begin to offload their unsold stock.

Investors’ loss may be end-users’ gain

With headwinds brewing in the property market, many private property owners and investors have already been or may be seriously considering letting go of their properties, in particular high-value luxury ones at below market prices. Investors with strong financial backing and holding power may be more willing to sell below market value, as long as the offer is reasonable, as they may want to release the money for investment elsewhere and make higher returns with a quicker turnaround.

TurquoisePhoto: Turquoise condominium

Smaller investors however may find themselves having to put their property in auction, in particular those who have had to suffer a loss of income. The days of old may have seen them relying on their passive income from rental of properties to supplement their income, but as the rental market is rapidly weakening, this iron rice bowl may not be so solid after all. For property owners who are in a rush to sell, they may even find themselves doing so at a loss as they would have had to put in monies for legal fees, stamp duties and mortgage loan interests in the years following their purchase.

Last year alone saw 400 secondary market transactions making a loss, four times more than the 100 in 2014; and 31 of these non-landed properties made more than $1million loss, that is more than thrice the number in 2014. Most of these were in the luxury property segment, with units at the Seascape making the largest loss of $5.2 million in the resale market. Some of the other projects with units exchanging hands at below-market prices include St. Regis Residences, Turquoise and The Orchard Residences.

Lull in private home prices

Despite a projected lull in local private home prices this year, interest in Singapore’s property market remains steady as prime residential property prices are still 165 per cent and 92 per cent lower than those in Hong Kong and London respectively.

 Photo credit: Singapore Tourism Board

So despite property analysts predicting a 5 to 10 per cent fall in prime and mass market private property prices this year, the local property market’s core remains strong. 2010’s property cooling measures may have kept property prices 17 per cent lower than what it could have been. Private home prices have fallen 4 per cent last year, following a 3.7 per cent fall in 2014. In the luxury home market, prices have fallen 20 per cent since the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) was implemented in 2011.

China’s recent growth slump, plunging oil prices, the Federal Reserve interest rate hike and a general sense of a global recession looming, might consequently affect the property markets around the world. Businesses may reconsider their expansion plans, which could mean a fall in demand for office spaces and commercial properties. This in turn may affect the number of expatriates entering the country, which may also affect rental prices.

This year could prove tough for investors and property sellers, but not without glimpses of hope. 2016 may be the year to hang-in-there, but industry experts are expecting 2017 to take a turn for the better.

Fewer launches More sales

Despite property developers rolling out fewer new property launches last year, sales of new private homes rose 2.9 per cent from 2014, to ring the tills at 7,529 transactions in 2015. The number of new homes launched last year was in fact 8.2 per cent lesser than that of 2014. Buyers may have realised that property prices are stabilising and will not decline much more, and thus are returning to the market to pick off already-better deals.

The Trilinq
Photo: The Trilinq

759 new private property units were sold in November alone last year, buoyed by the launch of The Poiz Residences. In December, there were 384 transactions recorded, 154 more in a year-on-year comparison with December 2014. Though 2013’s peak saw 14,948 new home sales, almost double that of last year’s, the signs are more positive than expected. Property investors may also be picking up real estate as the stock market remains volatile. Perhaps declining property prices have also managed to strike a chord with investors. At The Trilinq for example, which first launched at prices of $1,545 psf in 2013, have since trimmed their prices to $1,329 psf.

Market activity this year will await to be seen as the interest rates hikes and loan restrictions combined, and the reduction of land sites sold this year, may deter buyers and lower demand. Industry analysts are however remaining positive, projecting 8,500 new private home sales this year. They are expecting lower overall quantum prices to be the draw of this years’ property market.

A stable year for Singapore’s property market?

Resale HDB flat prices have fallen only 1.5 per cent last year, as compared to 6 per cent the year before. Industry experts are not expecting prices to fall much more this year and in fact last quarter saw a 0.2 per cent rise in HDB resale flat price index. But that may not mean a sudden rebound of HDB flat prices as the options available to home buyers have now increased, especially as private home prices have fallen and more are now eligible to purchase new BTO flats directly from HDB.
Poiz Residences2Photo: Poiz Residences

HDB has announced that they will be rolling out up to 18,000 new flats this year, 3,000 more that last year. Private properties are now more affordable as developers have caught on to buyers’ affinity to total quantum selling prices. Last year, private property prices dropped 3.7 per cent overall, and a 0.5 per cent fall was registered last quarter of 2015.

The number of new property launches in the 4th quarter propped up new property prices with launches such as Principal Garden, The Poiz Residences and Thomson Impressions. Prices of new units in the city fringes fared well with no price changes. Landed property prices however fell 10.4 per cent over the last 2 and a half years, with prices falling 4.4 per cent last year alone.

Property analysts are watching the market closely as they are expecting the interest rate hikes to put a strain on those servicing home loans, especially as the property cooling measures concurrently remain.