Executive Condominiums – Now’s the time

If you are a second-time HDB property buyer, and are looking at upgrading from a HDB flat to an executive condominium (EC) – the time may be now. Before the resale levy really kicks in.

The TerraceImplemented in Dec 2013, the levy applies to ECs launched after Dec 9 the same year and as most of the EC launches from now on will be for units launched after Dec 2013, a levy of $15,000 to $50,000 will apply. And that’s no small sum to scoff at.

Executive condominiums have long been the way to move from public to private housing for most middle-class Singaporean families. As young couples now see this as one of the best ways to start their families, competition for the same properties have never been fiercer. As a hybrid between public and private housing, ECs will become private properties following a ten-year period. There is a income ceiling for applicants however, of a combined household income of $12,000.

As bids for EC land plots dip, mostly due to a saturation of launches in the last few months, prices and sales volume may not hold as well moving forward. Currently, ECs which just escape this resale levy include Bellewoods, Bellewaters, The Terrace, Lake Life and The Amore. They each boast their own unique selling point, with unblocked views at The Terrace, basement carparks at The Amore, nature-inspired landscapes at Bellewoods and resort-living lifestyle atmosphere at Bellewaters. Combined with options of units such as penthouses and condominium facilities, it’s the only logical step up for HDB upgraders.

Private suburban properties faring better

 

For the resale private property market, condominiums in the suburbs seem to be faring better than those in the city fringe and city centre. While prices of city fringe and city centre apartments fell 1.2 and 1.1 per cent respectively last month, suburban resale properties rose 0.5 per cent. The sales volume also remained the same as November despite the expected lull due to the festive season.
Tre ResidencesBuyers are sharpening their skills at spotting good deals, and are going for units which will benefit them the most in terms of location and future value appreciation. Some buyers have even managed to secure purchases at $10,000 less than the market value of earlier transactions in the same development.

What are buyers looking for now? With the property cooling measures in place, the final selling price tag, including taxes and duties, makes or breaks the deal. Buyers are looking for lower price quantums, good locations and potential for future development in the district. Most HDB upgraders are also most likely to search for these suburban homes to stay close to their previous homes.

As 2015 moves along, and more homes become ready for occupation, will the interest for resale properties in the suburbs continue to burn brightly? Or will the spark wane and the market focus shift to other sectors?

Developers offer more direct discounts

If you’re looking for a good property deal, you could be hitting the market at the right time as developers are now preferring to offer direct discounts instead of indirect ones such as renovation and furniture vouchers and the likes. And the buyers seem to prefer that too.

In a bid to attract buyers back into the property market, developers have realised that with the prevailing property cooling measures, especially the tighter loan limits, it’s the final number that counts. Defraying the total costs through offers of furniture and renovation may no longer seem as attractive to buyers who are now keeping a keen eye on the total quantum prices.

HomeReno1Home buyers are more discerning and aware of how these indirect discounts affect the final sale price and more importantly, the total loan quantum they are able to receive from the banks. Though the rule which states that all discounts, even indirect ones such as renovation discounts and furniture vouchers, have to be declared when applying for a loan were in place since 2002, the banks have only recently been stricter about their checks. What this means for the buyer could be a lesser loan quantum as the amount give in indirect discounts are taken off from the final sale price of the unit, before consideration is given on how much the bank is able to loan.

Now, what developers are doing instead of offering renovation and furniture discounts, are to refurbish unsold units and selling them at a lower price than if the buyer were to purchase the furnishings themselves. Thus, the buyer gets a fully renovated unit at a slightly higher price than an unfurnished one, but at a lower price than if they were to renovate and furnish it themselves. This may be more cost-effective for buyers who are looking to rent out the unit as it saves them money and time.

Home prices expected to decline further in 2015

This year, the rate of decline for private home prices is expected to exceed that of 2014. Last year’s drop was estimated at 4 per cent whereas this year, industry analysts project an 8 per cent drop. This new estimate for the private property sector will put it on par with resale HDB flats. In 2014, the public housing market reflected a 6 per cent drop in prices.

Some market factors from last year are here to stay:
1) Tightened credit market
2) Stricter immigration policies
3) Weakening demand
4) Increasing supply of new homes
5) Higher stamp duties

The Luxurie - near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

The Luxurie – near Sengkang MRT/LRT Stations.

And while interest rates were at a low at a point in time last year, they are expected to rise this year, which makes for an even less favourable environment for a thriving buy-and-sell of residential properties in particular.

This may put a fair bit of pressure on home sellers, who may find themselves having to lower prices in order to make a sale. With developers competing for the same buyers with offers of discounts, rebates and other enticing options, resale private properties might struggle to stand out.

Landlords may also find that it’s a tenants market as an onslaught of homes become ready for occupation this year. The most recent residential projects to come into the market this year include the 622-unit The Luxurie and 590-unit The Riversound Residences in Sengkang.

Coupled with a number of new launches planned for this year, and fewer foreign buyers taking the bite, the only properties which may remain popular are mass-market homes in locations close to MRT stations, schools and shopping malls.

Decline of home prices not reflective of cooling measures’ power

It all boils down to holding power. Of both buyers with their mortgages and home loans; and developers with their unsold units. Despite a year of seemingly repressed property market growth, the actual decline in home prices as a direct effect of the property cooling measures may not be as steep as it feels like. In fact, URA figures show only a 3.9 per cent drop in prices since Oct 1 of 2013 to 30 Sept of this year.

TheVermontCairnhillSince the property boom of 2009, home prices have increased 65 per cent till the end of 2013. Whereas the drop this year is a mere 4 per cent. Which means, property prices are still more than double of what they were before 2009.

Though the average total quantum price of homes may have dropped, the psf prices are maintained at a reasonable level as the main change comes from the diminishing property sizes. Though buyers’ affordability now ranges between $1million to $1.3 million, figures which have held steady for the past 5 years; the median sizes of new homes have fallen from 1, 195 sq ft in 2009 to 753 sq ft in 2014. This is a sure sign that developers are still holding on to their asking prices while giving less in terms of liveable space.

Resale homes are holding up better than new homes however, with a 3 per cent drop as compared to a 6 per cent drop of the latter. This is largely due to developers’ offers of discounts on unsold units. Examples of these can be seen at The Vermont At Cairnhill, and also at Sky Habitat, where more units were moved after a 10 to 15 per cent cut in prices.

Moving into the new year, property analysts are expecting sales volume of next year to be similar to 2014’s, though home prices are unlikely to experience a drastic drop. Rather, a gentle decline into a comfortable equilibrium is what most experts are prone to agree on.

More transparency with Property prices

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has recently hinted that even clearer property transaction price trends will be provided publicly come 2015. Within the first half of the year, property players, the buying public, and even policymakers will be able to get their hands on prices of individual units in developer-sold properties.
URA 2

Photo credit: Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

This may level the playing field as currently, even though median prices of units in each residential project is shown on the URA website, only when units have been purchased, and only those with caveats lodged with the URA will have their prices disclosed.

Part of the reason for the change could be the fact that more developers have been offering discounts and rebates of sorts on new units, ever since the cooling measures kicked in, which meant affordability have decreased and total quantum value has now become the new unit of measurement. As these discounts are often not registered in the caveats, the prices disclosed may not paint the entire picture.
iProperty price transaction page

Source: iProperty.com.sg

Buyers may be able to now better negotiate their deals instead of relying on developers’ statistics. How will this impact the market and while transparency is a mature way of moving forward, will developers be able to withstand the continued price decline? Or perhaps the question would be, how long more before prices hit the bottom of the curve and begin its upward climb?

Good class bungalows still in demand

The private property, and perhaps more so landed property sector, has been the doldrums for most of the year. But the niche market for Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) has been thriving.

e704119a11f840b8865a9fb67a23b14eA total of 26 Good Class Bungalows were sold this year, with the total sales figure coming up to a whooping $587.75 million. Though it is nothing compared to the 133 sold for $2.38 billion at the height of the industry in 2010, it is comparable to the 29 sold last year for $682 million. But the average sf prices for GCBs have risen this year to $1,454 sf as compared to last year’s $1,388 psf. The Belmont Park, Chatsworth Park, Chestnut Avenue, Dalvey Estate, Raffles Park and White House Park areas received the most attention in 2014.

There are only 2,700 GCBs over 39 designated areas in Singapore, though the number may have increased slightly in the 1980s when GCB areas were gazetted. This resulted in some sites entering the good class bungalow market even though they are smaller than the usual 1,400 sq m size.

But property experts have noticed that the drop in transactions for these high-end properties were largely due to the  MAS-imposed TDSR (total debt servicing ratio) framework and ABSD (additional buyers’ stamp duty). Most buyers of these properties are likely to already have existing properties and the increased stamp duties will total up to a rather substantial sum.

They are expecting this market to fare similarly next year as the property cooling measures remain. But with buyers’ consideration possibly turning into long term value appreciation, the Good Class Bungalow sector will certainly stand its own.

Private resale property woes

Have buyers of private non-landed properties decided to take a hiatus? November’s sales figures for private resale condominiums seem to indicate a widening gap between buyers’ and sellers’ price expectations.

With the tough loan limit still in place, the number of buyers for private properties have shrunk, much more so for resale units. Some buyers could be holding back as they wait for newer launches or are simply wary about jumping onto the bandwagon too early as industry analysts have predicted a tipping of the supply and demand scale in the next couple of years.

RIse OxleyResale properties in some districts have however fared better, some selling up to $80,000 above the valued property price. In the prime district 9, buyers have responded positively to properties in the Cairnhill, Killiney, Leonie HIll, Orchard and Oxley areas. And far out in the western district 22 comprising of Boon Lay, Jurong and Tuas, the average above-valuation price buyers have been willing to fork out was up to $30,000. At the fringe of the city, in district 11 of Chancery, Bukit Timah, Dunearn and Newton, prices went to approximately $15,000 above the market value.

So it seems that despite  announcements that properties in the city centre may be loosing its clout, the recent  numbers seem to indicate otherwise. How are the suburban resale sector responding to this shift? Are they shifting their preference to public housing options such as executive condominiums?