HDB property market – Has balance been struck?

The last four years saw aggressive moves by the Housing Development Board to release and build new HDB flats. In 2014 alone, 51, 598 new HDB flats were added.

Has this supply of new flats been effective in stabilising the property market? Is the supply and demand scale now balanced? Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has mentioned that the increased supply has helped move the selling price of HDB flats down, yet at a gradual pace and margin which buyers are still able to stomach.

WEst Rock HDB FlatFrom this year on, the number of new HDB flats will begin to decrease, from 50,796 this year to 38,316 in 2018. Which could mean that this year might be the watershed year for the HDB market. Will buyers be taking the opportunity to purchase before supply becomes tighter once more? Or will the number of HDB flats which have been released thus far be able to provide for a stable resale market, keeping a level playing field between buyers and sellers?

As Singapore grows in population size, and global and domestic economies fluctuate, all this would also be tightly linked to population and immigration policies. With the election possibly coming our way next year, buyers may take the chance to look out for opportunities to upgrade property-wise this year, or perhaps wait and see what the post-election changes may bring.

Low sales for resale homes in January

With city centre homes leading the way, resale home prices seemed to be walking down the same path as the month before, with a dip of 1.7 per cent. Suburban homes’ decline was slightly less steep at 1.1 per cent and across the board, resale homes saw a 0.2 per cent drop in prices. On the bright side, city fringe properties did fairly well, with a 1.5 per cent gain.

The number of transactions were part of the reason for the drop. In January, only 282 private properties were sold, down from 363 in December last year. Other reasons include the loan restrictions and overall lower buying sentiments. With the festive season coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, the numbers for February may not see a drastic pick-up, but from March onwards, the figures will be telling of the year’s property market prospects.

6DeryshireAs the year goes on, industry experts are expecting buyers to pick up on the softening home prices and keep a quick eye out for serious sellers who may have potentially value-worthy offers. There are sellers out there who are still holding on to their asking prices as they wait out 2015. The year could be a tussle between the these two groups. Any extreme asking prices on both ends will be unlikely to do anyone any favours.

Currently, areas with the highest resale home value (Measured by the amount buyers were overpaying or underpaying) of $60,000 are Watten Estate, Novena and Thomson. In Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang, the prices were a negative $31,000.

A major shift in dynamics this year could be caused by the higher interest rates which are likely to happen this year. Buyers may take that into consideration, together with the tightened loan limits, which does not give them much leeway in negotiations. Sellers who are eager to make a sale will do well to consider these limitations as well and understand that it will not be easy for their buyers to easily fork out additional cash.

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?