Property cooling measures likely to remain

The economic slowdown and diminishing growth rates are causes for concern not only for the Singapore government, but also for consumers and businesses.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong has recently spoken about the property cooling measures which were implemented in succession over the past three years. He has mentioned that they are likely to remain at this time of uncertainty as a response to “global context and environment”.

Kingsford HIllview PeakProperty prices have fallen 10.8 per cent since Q3 of 2013 and prices fell 1.5 per cent in the third quarter of this year, bringing it to the 12th consecutive quarter of price decline. The real estate industry currently faces stagnation and though interest rates are low, many are looking for higher yields. He has warned against creating an environment rife with property speculation and has said that capital inflow might create a volatile and highly-speculative atmosphere which will result in property market fluctuations.

With the high number of completed units entering the market this year, and with unsold inventory rising, the property cooling measures may be helpful in keeping the delicate market balance. As of Q2 this year, there were 21,500 unsold and uncompleted private homes, the lowest ever recorded, indicating a possible shift of influence from the seller to the buyer. The government has also held back on the launch of land sites earlier this year.

Meyerise2Property analysts are not surprised by the government’s move to keep the property curbs in place, though sudden pace changes and steeper declines might prompt the government to reconsider relaxing the rules sooner.

Home rental market softening

Rents for both HDB flats and private condominiums have been falling. The number of leases transacted per month have also dipped.

olina-lodgeThe weakening economic situation might be lengthening its stay as the job market remains soft and the hiring of expatriates is on the decline as well, indirectly affecting rental demand. The influx of new completed private condominium units and increase in number of HDB flats being sublet have also pushed rental prices and volume down in recent months.

In September, private non-landed property rental prices fell 0.6 per cent while HDB flat rents fell 0.3 per cent. In a year-on-year comparison, prices have fallen 4.6 and 4.5 per cent in the previously-mentioned property sectors respectively. Weak rental demand have also impacted property sales as resale private condominium prices have been reported to be shrinking, especially with added pressure from new completed units and new project launches.

hdb-flat-rentalStrangely however, core region property prices have increased despite the district leading the drop in condominium rents at 1.8 per cent. City fringe properties bucked the trend with a 0.2 per cent rise as the quantum rental might be more affordable to foreign tenants who also want to live in convenient and popular locales.

In the rest of 2016, the rental market may stagnant while in wait for the new year. As most of the completed projects were rolled out this year, 2017 may be the turning point for both the rental and resale markets. Property analysts are expecting rents to fall by a further 5 per cent before a possible rebound.

Hong Kong’s property market strong despite cooling measures

Unlike Singapore where the public housing sector is strong and almost 80 per cent of the population lives in a Housing Board (HDB) flat, in Hong Kong only 21 per cent live in a public housing unit and even then, it takes them a minimum of 3 years for a successful application. Though both cities have large population, the density is higher in Hong Kong where land restrictions are greater and unlike Singapore, they hardly have means of reclaiming land and expanding liveable space vertically is one of their only solutions. It comes as no surprise then, that unit sizes and liveable floor areas are shrinking.

hongkongpropertyMany could say that Hong Kong’s real estate fluctuations is very much like its undulating terrains, with steep climbs and equally slippery downhill slopes. Property cooling measures were rolled out in Hong Kong in 2012, around the same time as curbs were implemented in Singapore as well. But it still takes an average Hong Kong household 19 years to save up enough to purchase their own home compared to the 5 years for a Singaporean household.

Though property prices did fall in February, they rebounded to the levels comparable to 2015’s peak in September this year, possibly indicating renewed interest in Hong Kong real estate from mainland buyers. Numbers seem to show that more mainland Chinese are favouring Hong Kong properties over Singapore properties, possibly since Singapore’s property market has been seeing consecutive quarters of muted growth since last year.


Buyers act before impending rates hike

The niggling thought of interest rates possibly rising in the later part of the year may have gotten buyers pumped to seal deals sooner. The interest in 2 new condominiums – Forest Woods in Lorong Lew Lian and The Alps Residences in Tampines Street 86 – both launched last weekend, was overwhelming, leaving their developers happy.

the-alps3Almost half of the 626 units at The Alps Residences have already been snapped up during its launch last Sunday. The project houses a range of one- to four-bedroom apartments and penthouses with sizes ranging from 441 sq ft to 2,486 sq ft and selling at between $900 to $1,200 psf. Similarly at the 519-unit Forest Woods, more than 500 buyers have already make monetary commitments of their interest in the property. The most popular units were the one- and two-bedders and buyers were mostly Singaporeans looking to upgrade or invest in the property market. Units here are going at $688,000 for a 506 sq ft one-bedroom apartment with study to $1.65 million for a four-bedder. Penthouse units go as far as 2,185 sq ft in terms of size.

forestwoods2Property analysts say the fervency could be due to the pent-up demand after the Hungry Ghost month and the lack of launches last quarter plus the overall market sentiment that prices are already at its lowest possible. Physical assets such as land and property are also considered less volatile than bonds and securities as the outlook for the latter seem less secure.

Small apartment units spell affordable prices

Despite small private condominium apartments having fallen out of favour with buyers of late, 2 upcoming launches will feature these smaller units heavily.

forestwoodsForest Woods, a 519-unit condominium project in Lorong Lew Lian developed by a joint venture between City Developments (CDL), Hong Leong Holdings and TID, will launch this week with almost 89 per cent devoted to smaller units below 1,184 sq ft. The property configurations will vary from one- to three-bedroom units and pricing is expected to range between $668,000 for a one-bedder to $1 million for a 3-bedder. Forest Woods is located in prime suburban location, near interchange-MRT station, Serangoon, Nex shopping mall and schools such as Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School and Yangzheng Primary School.

The other development with 96 per cent of their units configurered as three-bedders and smaller units is The Alps Residences in Tampines. Prices are highly affordable with 80 per cent of the units priced below the $1 million sweet spot,  at $491,000 for a one-bedder to $918,000 for a three-bedder. About 30 per cent of the units at Forest Woods will also be priced below $1 million.

thealpsThe Alps Residences will also be launched this weekend, and if the 6,000 visitors who have since showed up at their showflat preview last weekend is anything to go by, the pent-up demand for new condo units in Tampines will bring out the buying mood in property seekers.

European-living in Tampine’s new condominium

It looks like the east will be getting a mountain deal of a new condominium development with a 9-block, 626-unit Swiss Alps-inspired one in Tampines. Named The Alps Residences, it is designed by a Switzerland-based architectural firm and the developers promise nature landscaping and a general ambience akin to living in well, the Swiss Alps, sans the alps of course. And resort-living it could be, as it will boast 30 facilities including a 50-metre lap pool, roof terraces, 2 shops and more than 100 bicycle lots.

alpsresidencesMCC Land launched a preview of the 99-year leasehold project last Saturday and it will be one of the larger launches this quarter, following weaker market showing due to the Hungry Ghost month in August. This will be their second private residential project in Tampines, the first being the Mediterranean-inspired The Santorini.

SantoriniThe Alps Residences is situated near the Tampines Regional Centre which consists of a hub of 3 shopping malls, the bus interchange and also the Tampines MRT station. The project has a good mix of 182 one-bedders, 416 two- and three-bedders and also larger units such as four-bedroom apartments and penthouses. Unit sizes are ranging between 441 to 2,486 sq ft and prices are set between $900 psf to $1,200 psf. With one-bedroom units going for approximately $400,000, the prices are well within the affordability range of recent buyers. Completion is estimated for 2020.


Executive condominiums top August property sales

August was a good month for the executive condominium (EC) market, with all 3 top sellers coming from this particular property sector, namely – Treasure Crest in Sengkang, Sol Acres in Choa Chu Kang and Bellewoods in Woodlands.

Bellewoods ECUnderstandably, there were not many major property launches in August with only 590 units launched in the month at Victoria Park Villas in District 10. A total of 805 units were sold, less than half of the 1,921 sold in July, with 41 per cent of the month’s sales coming from ECs. But demand for these rare hybrid public and private properties seems to be rising.

The price gap between ECs and private properties may be closing in as resale private property prices continue to dip though there is still a considerable distance between these 2 property types. The median selling prices of all 3 top EC developments below $800 psf whereas average prices for private apartments are mostly above the $1,000 psf range.

Sol Acres Besides comparison with ECs, new developer launches have also been fighting market competition from completed resale units, providing discounts and other incentive schemes to entice buyers. As a hybrid between public and private housing, EC buyers can tap on HDB grants and subsidies in the initial purchase and after 10 years, are able to leverage on the private property status of their property, harnessing the full capacity of a private resale condominium.


Consumer awareness crucial for property industry

The local property industry landscape has been changing quite a bit over the past few years, in particular for the consumer. The authorities have been working on transparency and consumers now have more information at their finger tips, and perhaps even more as net prices of de-licensed projects’ will soon be available as well.

singapore-property-authoritiesCurrently, the Housing Development Board (HDB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) both provide property statistics and data on their websites. The Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Institute of Real Estate also provides month-on-month transaction-based information for private non-landed residential properties.

ardmorethreeThere are however some caveats to take into consideration. URA’s quarterly price index for example, does not include the discounts and incentives which developers sometimes provide. Only the net-price will be recorded, thus consumers will do well to take this into consideration when viewing statistics and median monthly transaction prices. The change will take effect this month, which means the price index may have some downward pressure put on it as current figures may be inflated. De-licensed projects which have obtained their Certificate of Statutory Completion and thus do not come under the Housing Developers Rules, such as OUE Twin Peaks and Ardmore Three, are known to provide incentive schemes to their buyers such as 15% discounts and Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rebate.

A recent case of a property agent who handled and misappropriated cash handed to him by his client also brings to light that consumers may not be entirely aware of what they are entitled to or what their agents are allowed and disallowed to do. In brief, it is against the law for property agents to handle any cash on behalf of their clients.