Increase in Foreign property purchases

The local property market is looking a little zestier as more foreign buyers picked up units in the first quarter. This affirms the continued popularity of properties in Singapore as compared to those in other major Asian cities, or global cities for that matter.

Kingsford HIllview PeakProperty prices in Singapore are still relatively affordable, and the number of purchases made by non-Singaporean residents rose by 5.4 per cent, while purchases made by permanent residents rose by 2.6 per cent in Q1. The Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD) initially dampened sales, but as foreign property investors find themselves having similar, it not even higher, fees levied upon them in other markets, their return is not particularly surprising. While there are other emerging markets with even lower property prices, the stability and proven track record of Singapore’s properties has done the market justice.

Most of the properties foreign buyers hunt down are priced between $1.5 to $3 million. They bought 79 units at Cairnhill Nine and 38 units at Kingsford Hillview peak. Most of the foreign buyers were Mainland Chinese or Malaysians. Property analysts are keeping positive about the market’s prospects for the rest of the year despite the number of local buyers falling 18.2 per cent, though it could be due to the Chinese New Year holidays falling in the middle of Q1.

 

 

More collective sales in the pipelines?

Following the successful en bloc sale of Shunfu Ville, the property market is once again energised. It has reignited the fire for some developments which have been unsuccessful with previous collective sale attempts, while also pushing some properties to reach out to property firms and developers for quotes. The minimum approval for a property to be sold en bloc is 80 per cent.

TheCapriAt a former HUDC in Potong Pasir Avenue 1, blocks 110 to 112, 60 per cent approval has already been secured. Another similar HUDC property in Tampines have begun drafting a sale agreement while Eunosville on Sims Avenue is also looking to restart the collective sale process. As most of these HUDCs are older establishments in mature estates, their potential value may heavily outweigh the units’  current condition and value.

ShunfuVilleThe recent collective sale of Shunfu Ville garnered each owner an average of $1.78 million each, that is almost 50 per cent more than what each unit would have received when sold individually in the current market. Other properties which are also trying their hand at the process are Changi Garden and The Capri. In the commercial property realm, Katong Shopping Centre has reached the 80 per cent minimum approval criteria and will be launching the site for sale soon.

To balance off the government’s recent diminished land sales, these private collective sales could be attractive to developers looking for an opportune time to  strike it out in the market.

Singapore prime properties considered reasonably priced 

Singapore properties are expensive. But compared to other major global cities such as London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, perhaps they are simply reasonably priced, particularly in the category of prime district properties. The government-implemented property cooling measures might have helped keep prices down.

Marina One ResidencesAccording to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Financial Stability Review from November 2015, Singapore’s home prices very well could have been 17 per cent higher than they are now if not for the property curbs implemented since 2010. The ratio of home prices to income for Singapore is now 5.6 per cent, lower than the 8 to 9 per cent for most major cities. Mortgage rates (at between 1.6 to 2 per cent) are approximately the same as average rental yields for prime properties, which are currently at 1.8 per cent.

Average luxury prime district home prices are hovering around $1,991 psf at the moment, about 20 per cent lower than the segment’s peak in 2011. Though sales volume has been low in the past year, as the year moves ahead, property analysts are expecting rental rates to increase after this year as the supply of prime properties dwindle. For savvy investors, the time to purchase may be soon, before property curbs are lifted and demand rises once more.

 

Developers’ incentive schemes under scrutiny

As competition in the private property market heats up and sales slow down, developers have been coming up with creative ways to sell their unsold stock. Some have offered rebates, vouchers and even tiered payment plans. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has however been picking up on some creative incentive schemes which may have tripped up on regulations.

Lloyd Sixtyfive

Take the newly launched Gem Residences as an example. There is currently a 5 per cent minimum booking fee for purchases of a new home, and the developers of Gem Residences have tried to ease the burden for their buyers by offering cheques of $7,500 to $10,000 to offset their booking fee under a “specimen cheque scheme”. As this would circumvent the fulfilment of the minimum booking fee requirement, the developers have instead offered rebates or direct discounts accumulating to the same amount originally to be offered in the cheques.

Another project with a creative scheme is Lloyd Sixty Five in River Valley. Its developers had originally come up with an “experiential purchaser scheme” which offers the buyer the opportunity to stay in the unit with only a downpayment, and the option to purchase will only kick in 2 years later. The scheme is under review by the Controller of Housing as it is essentially a tenancy scheme.

Twin Peaks2Uncompleted residential projects in particular were under URA’s scrutiny. Completed projects with unsold stock enjoy slightly more leeway as they will already have obtained their Certificate of Statutory Completion and are no longer restricted by the Housing Developers Rules. Developers of OUE Twin Peaks were for example able to successfully offer deferred payment schemes which allowed buyers to pay 20 per cent of the purchase price up front, with the remaining amount payable only 2 to 3 years later. Buyers who may be banking on the lifting of property curbs, in particular the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) by then may find this scheme favourable.

Private home prices on the rise?

Twin-Peaks3Prices of completed private condominium units rose 0.3% in April, though analysts are putting it up to a technical rebound. After a relatively good start to the year, private home prices have fallen 1.1% in March based on the Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI).

Some completed residential projects have seen promising signs of buying activity. The recent upward price adjustments could have been due to higher pickup rates of central region private homes such as units at OUE Twin Peaks and Ardmore Three.

Although the rise of home prices this year has been tentative, across the board prices have increased by more than 50% since 2009. Small apartment units lead the way with a 62.8% rise, followed by a 57.7% increase in non-central region units. Central region home prices are now 30.9% higher taking March 2009 as a point of comparison.

Ardmore THreeLast year saw a dip in luxury, prime district properties while this year, the increased supply of new completed private apartment units have pushed prices of units in the non-central regions down. Buyers remain cautious in their purchasing approach and are more price-sensitive though projects in prime locations and whose developers offer fresh new incentives will continue to bring in sales.

Singapore property market on the mend?

Is Singapore’s property market finally bottoming out? Are current property prices the lowest they can go?

WhitehavenHong Kong and Singapore are 2 of Asia’s most expensive residential property markets, and while both countries’ governments have implemented property cooling measures to help abate the tension, prices remain high. Though Singapore’s property price spike of 92 per cent in the decade between 2003 and 2013 was not as drastic as Hong Kong’s 370 per cent in the same time period, housing cost has increased considerably and was much fodder for debate during the past 2 elections. While home prices have fallen 1.2 percent in Singapore and 13 per cent in Hong Kong since September 2015, the fall will have to be much more drastic for the situation to return to what it was before 2003.

Taking inflation, economic growth and global economics into consideration, property analysts feel that Singapore’s property cycle has almost reached its bottom or turning point as it is in a much more advanced state than Hong Kong’s. Considering the gentle slope of decline in Singapore’s property prices, a sharp rebound seems unlikely. Will there however be a glimmer of hope for a gradual increase upon policy changes and changes in the demand and supply scale?

Rents dip for Hong Kong’s luxury properties

The shaky global economic situation may have a wider effect than just the countries directly hit. The effects of cutbacks and job losses in the oil, gas and banking sectors have resounded worldwide. The flow of expatriates between countries have decreased and those who are still living overseas have found their housing allowances slashed considerably.

HKCEntralThis has in turn reduced the demand for property rental, mostly in the luxury sector. Besides  Singapore, Hong Kong is also feeling the effect of change. In Hong Kong, monthly rental budgets of expatriates have gone down to approximately HK$100,000 and below. Gone are the days when expats could easily afford a HK$300,000 per month rental. In fact, most are making do with HK$30,000 per month housing budget for individuals and HK$70,000 for families, which barely allows for a 550 sq ft apartment in the Central district.

Housing prices which have shot through the roof in September has since fallen 14 per cent and high-end properties at Victoria Peak have suffered the largest blow. Rental prices have fallen in some cases as much as 30 per cent. But considering the rise in property rents have risen steadily year by year for the past decade, it may not be as drastic as it seems.

HongKongPeakHowever, does this mean that smaller and middle-range private apartments are benefitting from the trickle-down effect? Are expats now looking at a whole new range of property types which could mean fatter pockets for landlords and developers willing to fit into their budget? In fact, some developers have already begin offering discounts in the form of offering a month’s rent for free.

Rational decline in private home rental prices

Instead of a wild and dangerous free fall, the price decline in the property rental market has been encouraging in its lack of acceleration.

Property analysts say the “sawtooth” pattern in the fall of rental prices is understandable and manageable. There was a spike in rental volume in March due to the influx of foreign talents after the Chinese new year festivities, followed by a level performance in April which indicated a higher rental volumes for both the private property and HDB rental markets though leases signed now tend to be shorter than 6 months.

TheSoundCondoRents in the Outside Central Region (OCR) fell 0.1 per cent in April while that in the core central region (CCR) remained unchanged and in the rest of the central region (RCR) rental prices rose 01. per cent. In a year-on-year comparison however, rental prices have been falling, with a 3.9 per cent dip for HDB flats in mature estates and 5.4 per cent for private condominiums.

The rental volume was however 10.5 per cent higher than in 2015 despite a 10.3 per cent fall from March. Many new completed units were included in the 3,953 units were leased last month. The continued influx of completed new homes entering the market this year may dilute the tenant pool even further and resale units may find it even tougher to secure tenants as the year moves on.