MAS relaxes income cap on loans

Interest rates have been flying low for sometime now. At less than 2%, home loan rates are even lower than the 2.6% offered by the Housing Development Board (HDB). Though the latter offers stability despite inflation, the small difference is considerable for the large purchases real estate surmounts to.

And though there has been talks of rate hikes, a sharp increase has not yet happen and while interest rates have plunged to near-zero in 2011 and not surged since then, many have been favouring the floating-rate loans which are pegged to the Singapore Interbank Offer Rate (Sibor). But at the same time, the property cooling measures rolled out in waves by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) have restricted the ability of many to refinance their previously high-interest home loans.

MAS has since adjusted the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework as of 1st September, and more home owners and new buyers will find that they now qualify to refinance their loans or service a less taxing one. Now all home owners are exempt from the 60 per cent income cap. Previously, the monthly repayment amount for total household debt can only be of and less than 60 per cent of the household income.

As the goal of this regulation is to prevent a property bubble and to stop buyers from overextending themselves and running into debt, property investors may still find themselves restricted by the rule, but now with the change, less so. The loan threshold may be surpassed if they pass the bank’s credit checks and they also have to commit to repaying at least 3 per cent of the outstanding bank loan within a 3-year period. This may still keep errant property investing in check while allowing those we have done their risk calculations carefully an opportunity to plan their financial growth.

The property market has been gradually cooling for a few years now and while no change downwards or upwards has been sudden nor drastic, and although the authorities say this is in no way a relaxation of the property cooling measures, this is nevertheless a good start on the pathway to building a more structured and robust real estate industry.

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.

Small apartments: New fare better than resale

Prices of private non-landed properties in the central region have risen 0.7 per cent last month, a possible indication of the market bottoming out soon. New payment and incentive schemes could also have helped boost sales numbers, in particular for properties in the prime districts of 9 and 10. Across the board, prices of completed apartments have risen 0.2 per cent.

E MaisonNew small apartment units fared better than resale units as demand for the latter tends to be overshadowed by the former. Buyers are more open to buying small apartment units directly from developers rather than in the resale market as new projects tend to offer more longer-term benefits and immediate rental profits from resale units have been falling as the foreign workforce shrinks as a result of  tighter immigration policies. Most of the buyers are Singaporeans or permanent residents looking for properties to live in or rent out for the long-run, and having waited a couple of years for the property cooling measures to be lifted to no avail, are now dipping more than their toe into the pool.

July has proven to be a good month for the real estate market, with some property agents reporting up to a 50 per cent increase in sales in a year-on-year comparison.

Property market’s road to recovery a gradual one

While the global economy remains in the doldrums and the authorities keep the local property cooling measures in place, Singapore’s real estate market is likely to see a gradual gentle road to recovery, starting with stabilisation.

LakeGrandeJuly’s sales figures show promise, with 1,091 units sold (excluding executive condominiums). That is almost double that of June’s 536 units. Although August’s numbers may dip due to the Hungry Ghost month and the lack of major property launches, September will see the launch of Parc Riveria at West Coast Vale and Forest Woods in Serangoon. The former is developed by EL Development and the latter by City Developments.

Consumer interest on landed homes, a rare commodity in local context, has also shone of late. CapitaLand‘s launch of 6 Victoria Park Villas‘ units which all sold between $4.3 to $4.9 million led the way to positive market sentiments. July’s major launch of the highly affordable units at Lake Grande largely boosted sales figures, accounting for 40 per cent of the total number of units sold.

VictoriaParkVillasProperty analysts are expecting monthly sales of 500 to 700 units for the rest of the year, totalling up to 8,000 units for 2016. Selling prices have remained steady in July while sales figures rose 22 per cent, signalling the start to the market’s road to recovery.

Regional centres primed for growth

28 districts and 29 HDB estates strong, Singapore’s real estate market still holds space for growth, especially in the suburbs. As buyers become more investment-savvy, and the country grows, their needs and demands shift with the tides of time.

Lakeside URA MasterplanPhoto credit: URA

Buyers of today are looking for properties in a good location, not necessarily only in the central region, with the potential for value appreciation. There are now more regional centres than 2 decades ago, such as Woodlands, Tampines, Jurong and Seletar. These townships are considered second-tier commercial zones where residential, retail and industrial sectors connect and where residents can live, work and play all in the same location without having to step foot into the city centre. It helps spread the population out across the island and also create job opportunities and boosts property value and prices.

FLoravilleWith the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Masterplan moving into action, there may be even more property hotspots coming up by the end of the decade. There are plans to develop the once sleepy Lakeside district into Singaporea’s second CBD. The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail terminus will be located at Lakeside Gateway, which will be a good way of driving rental traffic in the area. The North will also see the development of the North Coast Innovation Corridor, centred around Woodlands and connected to the North South and Thomson MRT lines. And over in the North-east, the Seletar Aerospace Park is poised to bring in 10,000 new job opportunities and the early adopters of properties in the area may do well in the long term.

Property market on the road to recovery

2016 has proven to be a fairly good year for the property market. Despite slight price fluctuations, prices and sales volume have been stabilising for a few quarters now, giving analysts hope that it’s on a timely road to recovery.

GramercyParkThough the government has yet to indicate an easing of property cooling measures, the market as managed to right itself within the past year or so. Signs of the luxury property market picking up point towards the property market possibly bottoming out soon, which would also mean the market’s on the road to recovery. In Q2, the fall in private residential price index was a mere 0.4 per cent, the smallest thus far. The market has also been correcting itself for 11 consecutive quarters now.

Since the 2013 peak, property prices have fallen 9.4 per cent. With the interest rates currently low and looking like it will remain so for a longer period of time as opposed to extreme fluctuations, borrowing is kept at a healthy level sans the danger of over-borrowing or a property bubble looming. Investors may be refocus their attention on other sectors, keeping the property sector speculation-free.

Leedon Residence on Holland Road.

Leedon Residence on Holland Road.

Global situations such as Brexit or global terrorism may indirectly affect the investment environment and sentiment in the country and region, but Singapore’s real estate market is considered one of the safest and investors are increasingly looking at longer-term capital appreciation.

 

New residential property in Hebei

Though the spotlight on some second and third-tier cities have dimmed, some bright sparks remain. Take the 533.3 ha Sino-Singapore Health City in Gaobeidian for example.

GaoBeidian1Photo credit: KSH Holdings

A Singapore-listed real estate and development company, KSH Holdings, has announced plans to launch a 3,050-unit residential project within the Hebei province by the end of 2016 together with their joint-venture partners, Beijing Jia Hua Hong Yuan Investment, Oxley Holdings, Lian Beng Group, Heeton Holdings and Zap Piling.

They continue to see potential for growth and demand for commercial and residential property development, especially as the infrastructure and shift in economics are favouring this particular township. With the high-speed train, Gaobeidian will only be a 20-min train ride away from Beijing. And with the food logistics centre moving to the city, the township is set to be an important hinterland.

GaoBeiDIanPhoto credit: KSH Holdings

The potential residential project launch will see up to 1,600 mass-market units priced between 4,000 to 5,000 yuan per sq m and 1,450 higher-end units priced between 7,000 to 8,000 yuan per sq m. And this is only a fifth of the 18,000 new homes the township will eventually yield in phase 1. The second phase will potentially yield up to 30,000 new residential units. The Gaobeidian development will also include a 40,000 sq m commercial site, a food-safety testing centre and even a mountain-climbing training centre.

Property DIY – Buy and sell Resale HDB flat on your own

Ready and planning to buy or sell your HDB flat? Finding a good agent is the next big step, and an important one. But if you have the energy and time to do it yourself, the option and resources are available.

Queenstown-HDB
HDB regularly runs resale seminars in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil to educate buyers and sellers about the resale process. On their website, they have a clearly mapped out 9-step process complete with links to resources. Sellers could also do the marketing and selling of the flat themselves but engage an agent only to assist with the paperwork.

The entire resale transaction, minus the open houses and home viewings, commonly takes between 6 to 8 weeks. Before all that, sellers and buyers are advised to check their eligibility to sell or buy a flat, plan their finances and either approach banks or apply for a HLE (HDB loan eligibility) letter before looking for a flat. HDB also has an online tool that helps you compute a rough estimate of your loan type and amount.

HDB websiteUpon finding a flat you wish to purchase or when someone is ready to purchase your flat, the seller will then need to grant the buyer an OTP (option to purchase) which costs up to $1,000 and the ball is then in the buyer’s court whether or not to exercise the option within 21 days. If the buyer wishes to purchase the flat, both parties are required to submit resale applications via HDB’s e-Resale service. There are additional legal, administrative, insurance and valuation fees to consider in the entire process. Agent or DIY, having a firm idea of what is required will only be helpful in making the entire resale flat search and purchase process a smoother one.