Luxury apartment market remains quiet

While luxury property buyers find similar properties in Singapore cheaper and more affordable than those in Hong Kong, the market for high-end apartments above 2,000 sq ft remains quiet. In the third quarter of 2014, 162 luxury condominium units were sold and this year, only 112. Most of the properties sold were in the prime districts of 9 to 11.

Palms Sixth Avenue 1Property analysts say the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) is one of the main factors affecting the change as it increases the total quantum price considerably. And as most luxury property owners are the highly affluent with sufficient holding power, they are unlikely to succumb to asking prices which are not suited to their liking. Buyers however are now looking for better deals as they see the property market as weakening. The buyer-seller tussle may continue while everyone keeps an eye on interest rates and global economic changes.

However, the landed home market in the prime districts are still doing well. 30 houses have been sold in the third quarter thus far, with the total sales numbers coming up to $266.3 million. And Malaysian and Indian buyers still have the strongest showing in the local market. Some of the projects which did well in 2015 include Leedon Residence, D’Leedon and Palms @ Sixth Avenue. Resale properties which fared similarly include Goodwood Residences, Urban Resort Condominium and St Regis Residences. Recently, a townhouse at Bishopgate Residence also sold at $21 million and Chinese buyers are coming back into the fold.


Has private property market reached stability point?

Has the private property market possibly reached a point of stabilisation? Figures of late seem to show that while there are slight fluctuations either ways of the scale, the market seems to have somewhat levelled.

Prices of completed private properties seem to have stopped declining and August showed a only a 0.6 per cent fall according to the Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI). Property analysts have put the slight decline mostly to the increase in completed units in the central regions, the possibility of buyers waiting for post-election policy changes, and the lull in property transactions in the Hungry Ghost month.

Stevesn SuitesSmaller apartment units seem to have fared well though, with prices rising 0.5 per cent in July. Vacancy rates of rental units have risen while rental rates dipped island wide. As long as foreigner labour and immigration policies remain tight, the leasing market may remain weak, especially as the number of completed units are rising in the next couple of years. Resale properties in districts 1 to 4 and 9 to 11 have suffered a hit with a 23 per cent fall in transactions in August.

The next 2 years might be a time to watch for small apartments under 506 sq ft which were purchases for investment purposes. While sellers may not yet be pressured to sell as interest rates now remain low, as the number of these units rise upon completion of many developments launched last and this year, and interest rates fluctuate, the situation may be different come 2017.



Property auctions see more action

In light of the declining property market, more properties are finding themselves placed under the hammer at property auctions.

THeWaterlineLowered mortgage ratios, decreasing rental demand and increasing supply have all affected the property market. Most of the 180 units put up for auction in the 3 months up to 30 June have mostly been due to mortgagors defaulting on their mortgage payments. Industrial or residential properties alike have found it difficult to meet their mortgage payments if they were relying mainly on rents, especially as it has become harder to command leases at a level expected during the peak of the market.

Smaller private non-landed units such as studios or shoebox apartments were also facing some market pressure as their popularity waned. Supply of such units, or simply more private condominium apartments in general, has possibly exceeded demand and such units are now more commonplace. The next thing to budge would be rental and then sale prices.

Even as property loans become harder to secure, with the tight loan limits and hefty stamp duties implemented as part of the property cooling measures, the last hurdle that mortgagors have to cross would be the increasing interest rates.

For buyers and property investors, the proper might be a possible avenue to consider in their property search.

Sentosa Cove units fetch high prices once more

There was a time when luxury properties on Sentosa fetched luxurious prices. That time was more than 2 years ago. The property cooling measures have hit home since their implementation over the past couple of years however, and sales number sand prices have dropped with the imposed additional stamp duties and loan restrictions.

TheOceanfrontBut there may be light yet in the horizon. Recent sales of 2 units at The Oceanfront condominium apartments in Sentosa Cove luxury enclave have soared above the $2, 000 psf range despite their lack of a waterfront view and their low-floor  Previous sales, which were few and far in between, have gone as low as $1, 190 psf. That was a $463 psf loss on a $1, 653 psf second-storey apartment at The Coast. Considering the fact that most mass-market homes on the mainland are already going at the $1,000 psf range, prices have declined substantially since its peak in 2008.

Will investors with deep pockets continue to pick up deals on the island, especially as prices dip? And will those who have already purchase units on this exclusive waterfront-living enclave continue to hold off on selling in wait of prices rising in the future? How much more will prices be able to rise and will the competition with units on the mainland only become fiercer?

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?

Rebound in resale private non-landed property market?

If sales volume are anything to go by, signs of the resale private property market rebounding could be imminent.

Since the fall of prices of resale units to equivalent of or lower than new private non-landed properties, the number of transactions have increased significantly. Within the first 4 months of 2015, transaction volume has seen a 20.7 per cent increase. Resale properties are often ready for immediate occupancy and rental, thus buyers tend to favour these units to new ones in order to skip the wait of building and construction. The rental opportunities to be had within the few years it takes to build a new residential property could be quite substantial. And oftentimes, resale units tend to have a bigger floor area.

PebbleBayCondoThough the number of transactions, 1,411 from January to April this year, is still lower than the 2,203 in a year-on-year comparison with the peak in 2013, property analysts are upbeat about the market as the year moves on. It could show that buyers are finally getting used to the cooling measures, in particular the TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework, and realising that the market could be reaching a plateau. Sentiments could be that this is the time to buy, before prices and interest rates start climbing again.

The promising signs could be seen across the island, though more markedly in Districts 5, 10, 15 and 23. Some of it could be due to the fall in prices over the past year, and some the potential of having the future Downtown MRT line in close proximity. Even the Central region’s luxury properties have seen a recent boost in sales numbers of 24.2 per cent, most evident in Districts 9 and 10.


Private resale home prices stabilising

With minimal fall in prices over the previous couple of quarters, could this be a sign that resale private property prices are stabilising? Could buyers be getting used to the current home prices and are coming back to pick up deals before a possible rise? Will the predictions of a 4 to 8 per cent drop in property prices this year continue on its track or will buyers buck the trend?

Botanique@BartleyThe NUS Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) has indicated a 2.2 per cent fall in resale condominium prices over the last 12 months. But since the first quarter of 2015, the fall has been more gradual and marginal, considering the expected 5 per cent year-on-year fall in prices per month in the last quarter of 2014. The next couple of months could be the watershed for the property market. A slow and small drop in prices could indicate a possible bottoming out of the market.

Part of the reason for last month’s 0.1 per cent fall in April could also be due to the high transaction volume. The recent new property launches of Botanique at Bartley and Northpark Residences may also have had a trickle-down effect on the resale market, in particular properties in the proximity of these 2 launches. Another promising bit of news is the 0.4 per cent rise in the prices of small apartment units up to 506 sq ft. A much untested market, particularly in the suburbs, as more commercial businesses move out of the central region and into the heartlands, the demand for these units may change in the next few years.

More data for Private home buyers

Private property buyers will no longer have to grasp at thin air in their attempt to make sense of which way the market is leaning in terms of prices, sales volume and even incentives offered by the developers or sellers.

iProperty Transacted PRices

Photo: iProperty’s transacted property price trends data is provided online

Starting from June 5, buyers or anyone who wants to do their market research can now access the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) website. Data will be published weekly. That would also mean much more transparency in the marketplace, including information provided to banks in order to allow them to better gauge applicants’ loan limits and also loan amounts which take into consideration value benefits such as cash rebates, legal and stamp duties absorption, rental guarantees and furniture vouchers.

Improvements will also be made into transparency of showflat depictions by developers. Previous complaints about obvious differences between showflats and the actual unit have not fallen onto deaf ears. Now, the Housing Developers (Snow Unit) Rules which will be in force starting from July 20, will keep everyone on the right track. Showflats ready for viewing before July 20 will however be exempted from the rules, though developers are required to made clear the differences between the showflats and the actual unit.

How will these new rules change the playing field? Will it be easier or more difficult to secure loans from the banks once these rules are put in place and enforced? Will that in turn affect the buying power of the already restricted purchasing crowd?