October shows dip in resale private home prices

In the current market, where sentiments and demand are weakened by the property cooling measures, it might be idealistic to wait for the market to climb back to its peak in 2009 and 2013. But angle of decline for resale properties has been gentle, with a 7.6 per cent fall from January 2014.

26 NewtonPhoto: 26 Newton condo apartment

Though resale private home prices have dipped since then, the lowered prices may have brought more buyers back into the market. Resale properties or condominiums which were new launches between 2010 and 2012 have relatively larger floor area and in the current market, and buyers who are looking for a permanent home may find the fact that they have higher bargaining power a more-than-valid reason for approaching the resale property market.

Properties in the city fringes fared better as they are priced much lower than city centre properties, and yet offer the proximity or a good location and hints at exclusivity. Resale prices here have fallen just 5 per cent since the highs in 2013. This region has always been popular with investors and owner-occupiers and the lack of new launches here of late may have raised the number of resale transactions.

Suburban resale properties are facing a slightly different situation as the large number of new units have decreased the leasing and resale demand. Fiercer competition may have caused some owners to lower prices, more so than ever, buyers and tenants are finding the ball in their court.

Tri-factor sustaining Property market – Government, industry and home owners

As 2016 brings a slew of completed new homes into the property market, developers are concerned about what market restrictions and rising construction and project development costs will do to the industry.

Kallang Riverside

Photo: Kallang Riverside

Even as everyone understands that Singapore is a land-scarce country, and the costs of properties will never be unrealistically low, the current market sentiment seems to be one of wait-and-see. But property prices may never fall too far without affecting the quality of homes. Developers are already feeling the financial squeeze as land costs rise, along with regulatory fees for plans submissions and costs of construction, fittings and furnishings. On top of that, developers are also under the time pressure of selling all their units within a five-year period in order to avoid paying the Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty. At the moment 3,000 units from the development of properties from land plots sold under the Government Land Sales Programme in 2012 remain unsold, they will reach their five-year deadline next year.

Thus as much as a home buyers may be waiting for even lower prices, new properties launched in the months or year ahead may not be able to lower their prices any further. Moving ahead, how the Government manages its land sales programme, and how developers manoeuvre around rising project development costs and market their products may be key to keeping the industry and ultimately the overall economy healthy and growing.

Compact apartment units popular with buyers

At a couple of the most recent property launches – Principal Garden and Thomson Impressions, smaller units such as one- and two-bedders were the stars of the show.

The developers of both properties have managed to hit it off with the buyers with smaller apartments. As buyers are now more price-conscious, it was no surprise that these units priced below the $1 million dollar mark sold fast and furious. At Principal Garden alone, 120 of the 200 units launched last weekend were sold at a $1,600 psf median; 70 per cent of the 663-unit Prince Charles Crescent project consists of one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging rom 484 to 807 sq ft. For a gauge of the quantum prices here, selling prices of a one-bedder started from $777,000 and $1.18 million for a two-bedder.


Photo: Principal Garden

Another much talked-about new property, Thomson Impressions, also launched 150 units last week, and 87 have since been sold at an average of $1, 393 psf. Similar to Principal Gardens, 60 per cent of the 288-unit Lorong Puntong property near Sin Ming Avenue are made up of one- and two-bedders. With its prime location near the future Bright Hill MRT station and many good schools, one-bedroom apartments at Thomson Impressions were going from $670,000.

About 85 per cent of the buyers at the launch were Singaporeans, which could signify a comeback of sorts for the private property market. Sales figures may indicate a shift to more palatable quantum pricing and smaller apartments.

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.

Property market and Economy = Cause and Effect ?

It has always been thought that the economy, both local and global, has a big part to play in the performance of the local property market. But it seems a recent study by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has shown that the link is not all that obvious.

The study has shown that Singapore’s economy may be affected more so by external factors such as exports, rather than our property market’s ups and downs. The latter, in turn, is more attuned to its own internal factors, mainly by how developers choose to hold back or release units during the property market’s flow and ebb.

Although news about Singapore’s economy may not be all that positive at the moment, the effect of that on the property market may be weaker than expected. Thus Singapore’s property market, despite slightly lowered prices and sales volume, may not be in such a bad place after all. The housing cycle’s rise and fall takes a longer route as compared to the overall economy and business sectors’, and is more often than not, caused by factors such a developers managing their inventories to preserve profit margin and mismatched expectations between buyers and sellers. These in turn cause a kink in the demand and supply chain, which in turn affects housing prices.

In short, it takes quite a huge change in sales volume of new and resale properties here before a significant adjustment in the property market can be seen.

Home Loans – Fixed or Fluctuating?

There has been talk about home loan rates rising, but without concrete rise or fall, home owners are not yet basing property purchase decisions on mortage-linked rates. Loan rate fluctuations for the past few years have not also resulted in a rush for refinancing, which analysts have originally expected of home buyers.

Property graphMost home loans taken out within the past few years have been pegged to the SIBOR (Singapore Interbank Offered Rate) rather than the SOR (Swap Offer Rate), the former being less prone to wild fluctuations. The SOR increased by 50 percent to reach 1.56409 per cent in September whereas the SIBOR reached a high of 1.13958 in the same month, the highest in 7 years. By the end of last week, the SOR has fallen to 0.88223 per cent while SIBOR was at 1.00906 per cent.

As home loans are a crucial part of home owners’ cash flow management, fluctuating home loan rates are not to their benefit, though some banks have been actively reaching out to home-owners who have taken out loans pegged to the SOR to refinance and better manage their finances.

Early next year is expected to bring a sharp increase in both the SIBOR and SOR, thus fixed-rate or fixed-deposit home loan rates might be a better idea for now. Fixed-deposit home loan rates are pegged to fixed deposit rates. Some banks even offer an loan option which is partially pegged to fixed-interest rates and partially to floating rates to take the edge off the more expensive fixed-rate loans but with only partial risk of fluctuating-rate loans. DBS and OCBC both offer such loan packages.

2016 might be the watershed year, when things begin to actually happen and effects become more obvious. As more new properties reach completion, more public housing is rolled out, interest rates begin to solidify, market sentiments might actually head towards a more specific direction.