Maxing the potential of HDB Housing Grants

The General Elections of 2015 have brought about some changes in the local housing and property scene. With raised income ceilings for new flats and executive condominiums, plus a series of other adjusted or new housing grants, more HDB flat applicants are able to now secure a unit and at less by making use of these new grants.

HDB flats 10The new Proximity Housing Grant provides singles and families who are buying a resale flat with or near their married children or parents, with a respective $10,000 and $20,000 grant. Since its implementation on 24 August, 684 families and 53 singles have applied for the grant. Income ceilings have also been raised to $12,000 (from $10,000) for families and $6,000 (from $5,000) for singles. This means more would qualify for a HDB flat and the respective grants, possibly allowing some applicants who may have previously fallen just short of the income ceiling to now successfully apply for a unit.

Indirectly, this move may have also helped to boost resale transactions. As applicants who wish to live near their parents or married children may not be able to find a new flat within close proximity, especially in more mature estates where new flats are rare, resale flats may be their next best choice. With a combination of the Proximity Housing Grant and other CPF housing grants, what they may finally have to pay for a resale flat may be much more palatable.

Resale HDB flat prices hold steady

At this point of the property market cycle, prices holding steady could be a positive sign, indicating effectiveness on part of the cooling measures which did not crash the market but rather, merely realigned the prices gently. The change evolved over a long period of time, which is more palatable for sellers and the lowering prices may have also increased sales volume by enticing buyers.

BidadariPhoto credit: HDB

A 0.3 per cent fall in HDB resale flat prices indicate a slowly stabilising market. Although prices have been falling for 9 quarters straight, the last quarter showed the lowest rate of decline. In 2014, overall resale HDB flat prices fell 6 per cent. Industry analysts are expecting a smaller dip this year of 2 to 2.5 per cent. Some buyers may have been holding back on buying in the open resale market, in wait of November’s major launch of new Build-to-order (BTO) flats which includes prime units in Bidadari and Punggol Northshore.

Suburban resale private property prices are falling at a steeper rate of 1.3 per cent and if the prices fall even further and at a quicker rate than HDB resale flat prices, the gap between the 2 market segments will narrow. This could then draw a substantial pool of buyers from the resale flat market into the private property market, which could then give sales volume a boost and slow down the price decline in the private property sector.

Sims Urban Oasis

Photo: Sims Urban Oasis

Property developers are keeping a close eye on whether cooling measures will be adjusted, and pricing their units accordingly. We could also expect a more staggered schedule of new launches as developers become more careful about not cannibalising on one another’s market share. More so than before, it may be a matter of timing and opportunity.

Private property prices remain level

The NUS Singapore Residentail PRIce Index (SRPI) showed a 0.1 per cent rise in private non-landed home prices in September. But property experts say it could simply have been a post-election response, when buyers might have held back to see if the property cooling measures would be removed. Now that the authorities have indicated the cooling measures are here to stay, at least for now, some buyers may have taken advantage of the already-lowered prices and closed some transactions.

The Scala condo Serangoon

Photo: The Scala condominium in Serangoon

The resale private home market in particular has benefited from the lack of new property launches in September. Non-central units rose 0.3 per cent while smaller units gained a 0.4 per cent footing. But as 2016 brings an onslaught of completed new properties, the resale market may have to brace itself for a bigger hit. Industry players are expecting home prices in the non-central regions to continue on a downward trend as the number of completed units there rise. Leasing may also prove difficult as there will be a huge leap in supply while immigration policies are now tighter, which implies a lower demand.

While recent figures point to tenants looking towards to the central regions for leasing prospects, high-end properties may be hitting a wall in both sales and leases as competition has lowered rental prices in the suburbs and more tenants are seeking options there. The property market seems to be reaching a standstill as the year draws close and the festivities take over, the real time to watch the market might be the first quarter of 2016, which will set the tone for the year ahead.

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?