Overall price decline in Q1 but buying sentiment remains upbeat

Price-declines across the board for private residential, commercial and resale public housing sectors could mean the bottom of property cycle is close. For the 14th consecutive quarter now, private home prices have fallen, the longest period in the past 13 years.

That said, the general market sentiment has recently picked up as slight tweaks in the property cooling measures and a series of new and exciting property launches have gotten buyers’ blood flowing once more. Private home prices have fallen 0.4 per cent in Q1, slightly lesser than the 0.5 per cent in Q4 of last year.

Paya Lebar Quarter_Lendlease PLQPhoto credit: Lendlease 

Values of private residential properties have fallen 11.6 per cent since its peak in 2013, and this difference has probably revived purchasing interest as most buyers still see the potential of well-located properties in Singapore.

Total private home transactions hit 5,202 units in Q1, the highest in 15 quarters thus far. Property analysts are expecting the market to remain bullish and continue its growth barring any unexpected economic circumstances. City fringe properties are faring particularly, propped up by the strong demand for newly launched projects such as The Clement Canopy, Grandeur Park Residences, Park Place Residences and the Paya Lebar Quarter. Non-landed home prices have in fact risen 0.3 per cent in the city fringes and 0.1 per cent in the suburbs. Core central region property prices fell 0.4 per cent however.

ParkPlaceResidencesLanded home prices fell 1.8 per cent last quarter, likely due to the restrictions placed on these rarer commodities. Foreigners are not allowed to own landed properties. On the resale HDB flat front, prices fell 0.5 per cent, though the decline is expected to reverse itself soon, in response to the positive sentiments from the private property market.

Bullish bid for land may mean higher home prices

A bid $65 million above the expected offer for a land plot is not something to scoff at. It also points to the site as having tremendous potential, are at the very least possesses characteristics which the winning developer is confident will eventually bring in profits.

The Creek in Bukit Timah.

The Creek in Bukit Timah.

Malaysian developer, S P Setia has offered $265 million for a 18,721.4 square metre site on Toh Tuck Road. The location, while tucked away behind Toh Yi Drive, is near enough to the Beauty World MRT station on the Downtown Line, as well as the series of shopping malls and eateries in the vicinity. Property analysts consider the bid bullish though understandable as the prices reflect the potential of the site’s location and size. It is also near the Bukit Timah housing district and schools such as Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

The robust bid sets the benchmark for sites in the vicinity. Recent tweaks in the property cooling measures might have had developers in a slight tizzy over the procurement of land plots for future projects. While demand is strong, supply from the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme is slower this year.

For the consumer, the fierce bidding on recent land sites could be indicative of the direction home prices might be taking. The number of successful new launches this year could however account for the spending. The 99-year leasehold plot on Toh Tuck Road is expected to yield approximately 325 new private homes and is the first of 5 residential sites under the GLS confirmed list.

Consistent growth in private resale property prices

For the fifth consecutive month, resale private home prices have had a good showing. Can we hope for a market recovery? Perhaps not quite yet, but there is no reason not to feel good about the turnaround.

THeSienaCondoMarch’s numbers were the highest in 2 and a half years with the resale index hitting 168.8 with an improvement of 50% in the number of units sold. Market prices have also been creeping upwards with sellers now beginning to set asking prices above the market rates. Overall, private resale property prices rose 0.5 per cent last month and were 2.2 per cent higher than the same month last year.

In the same year-on-year comparison, resale transactions grew by 77.5 per cent last month with 1,058 units sold. That is 51.8 per cent higher than the 697 units sold in February. Prime district property prices rose 0.4 per cent while 0.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent increases were registered in the city fringes and outlying suburban regions respectively.

Though the numbers are still lower than when the property market was at a few of its peaks in 2010 and 2013, the consistently improving numbers reflect an overall positive market sentiment. As the half-year mark draws closer, the numbers from the second quarter will be more crucial in determining the direction for the rest of the year.

New home sales yet to show significant change following SSD tweaks

Perhaps the recent changes in Sellers’ Stamp Duty (SSD) regulations may have no effect on the property market, or it might have a considerable effect. Whichever direction things might go, it is still too early to tell. Sales of new properties following the March 11 announcement has yet to show significant signs of change in terms of concrete figures, but the tweak has however boosted interest in new launches as shown in the response from the public at recent show flats such as that of Marine Blue and Park Place Residences.

MarineBlueCondoWhile earlier launches of The Clement Canopy and Grandeur Park Residences generated positive sales during their launch weekends, things have slowed down in the time following. That is however the general real estate market trend and is no cause for alarm. Most property analysts are glad for the change as it will bring about positive sentiments in the buying market, which could mean more energy, move net and direction in the months ahead. They are not certain this relaxation of the property cooling curbs will have a big impact on the market but are nevertheless happy the government has taken this step in moving forward. The next most likely impact would be the push for those caught in a dither of to-buy-or-not-to-buy.

On the other side, the Federal Reserve has raised their interest rates to 1 per cent and that could affect home loan rates, in turn diminishing demand from property investors.

 

Weak rental market not an obstacle for investors

While the weakening rental market may have been putting pressure on investors, the concurrent weakening private property prices are opportunities to some. While the leasing market has slowed down considerably, the property-purchasing market has been gaining speed, especially in the last quarter or so.

TRE ResidencesThe overall genial atmosphere in the private residential property market over the past few months have brought property investors back into the heat of things. As more newly completed properties enter the market and new projects such as The Clement Canopy and Grandeur Park Residences were launched to affirmative responses early in the year. Overall private home prices fell at the slowest rate in 3 years, which could point to an increasingly stabilising market.

It would be prudent however for investors to take into consideration that the property cooling measures have not yet been lifted, though some signs of relief have been provided earlier this month. In the past, profits of up to 60 per cent could be reaped in the short-term, but the long-term potential of a property, rather than quick turnarounds or a dependency on rental profits, will be at the heart of a good investment henceforth. Property analysts advise investors to consider cash-flow, calculate mortgage and maintenance costs carefully while keeping a portion aside for periods of negative cash flow when  the property is unable to be tenanted.

Winds of change in local property market

A decade or so ago, owning a second or third property might be the fastest way to secure your retirement funds or to even accumulate a tidy little kitty. Investment properties were considered a surefire way of earning additional income, but in the climate of today, property owners and investors have much more factors to consider and competition to battle against.

SunshinePlazaResidencesWith the rental market weakening, property agents are finding that it takes twice as long and also many more viewings before a property is successfully tenanted. And even then, for much less than before. Some property owners have had to reduce rents by almost half. Leaving the units empty are simply not an option for some investors as the rents go towards the mortgage or mortgages of their properties. It is after all better to have less help than none at all.

SerangoonHDBflatFor new investors looking to enter the market, the environment is a lot tougher than before. Considerations such as whether there is a large pool of HDB flats available for rental nearby, the long-term potential of the property, competition from other new launches or even within the same property, whether the local and global economy will affect businesses and commercial hubs nearby thus reducing the pool of foreign tenants, and so forth.

Before the market makes a complete recovery, a possibly lengthy period of stabilisation will ensue, despite the governments having made some allowances in the are of the property cooling curbs.

Singapore no. 2 destination for Asian property investors

A recent study has found Singapore to be No. 2 in a list of top destinations for wealthy Asian investors. The Wealth Report compiled by Knight Frank has placed Singapore second, after only Britain, as a country high net worth Asians are favouring as a property-investment destination.

BishopsgateResidencesExcluding their primary residence, these individuals are defined by their portfolios of at least US$30 million (S$42.3 million). They are also more likely to apportion most of their assets to real estate investments. This could come as good news to developers and property marketing agencies, helping them narrow down their target audiences and structure more focused marketing strategies which are more essential now than ever as the economy languishes.

While Chinese investors are the mainstay of the real estate scene, Indian and Malaysian buyers are making an increasingly obvious presence. Property analysts are expecting the proportion of foreign home buyers in Singapore to rise to between 25 and 28 per cent this year. Their numbers currently stand at 24.7 per cent. Singapore’s slower rate of property growth allows investors to take stock of their investment and stake calculated risks without having to grapple with the rapidly increasing price growth in cities in China, Australia and Canada.

Some of the other countries which are also gaining traction in the real estate investment arena are China and Vietnam. Singapore’s stable political and business environment has however continued to make it a choice pick amongst Asian investors.

January’s private home sales plateau

After a slight rise of 0.1 per cent in December, January’s completed private home prices remained flat. There were some rise and fall in the different districts but overall, non-landed residential property prices evened out on a plateau.

CreekBukitTimahThat may not necessary be a negative as signs of stabilisation are generally expected of the year. Property analysts say that some of the zero per cent month-on-month change could also be due to the availability of smaller units with a higher psf pricing schedule. Besides shoebox apartments, studios and one-bedders, family-size units in new developments are also now smaller in size than before.

Small apartments aside, prices of completed condominium units in the central region did rise 0.7 per cent after a 0.3 per cent dip in December. In the non-central regions however, prices went the other direction with a 0.6 fall following a 0.5 per cent increase the month before.

26NewtonThe private real estate market could however be looking at more resale properties entering the pen soon as most buyers who have purchased investment properties in 2013 will have completed their 4-year holding period this year. This means they are no longer tied down by the cooling measure which requires them to pay a seller’s stamp duty should they sell their property within 4 years following the purchase. Whether the sector is ready for this influx of properties while pulling themselves sluggishly out of the lull remains to be seen.