Heritage property in Orchard Road up for bids

Rising retail rents and popularity of e-commerce has had the old dame of Singapore retail, Orchard road, in need of a facelift. The recent month-long Fiesta on a Great Street hoped to draw shoppers back into the area with pop-up events, shopping promotions and lucky draws.

SLAOrchardRoadPropertyPhoto credit: State Land Authority

But what about keeping some heritage of the area, giving it a touch of tradition and history amidst the modern retail street. A heritage state property spanning 5 adjoining addresses on Orchard road has come up for sale. Situated near MacDonald House, the history of these properties herald from the post World War I era, with classical and art deco architectural features. It is the last remaining street-block of buildings in Orchard road.

Managed by the State Land Authority (SLA), the 5 units are now being offered up for a 3-year tenancy. And unlike previous government bids which were based purely on price, SLA has said that they will also consider the quality of the bid, which means the tender may not necessarily go the lowest bidder. 50% of the consideration will be dependant on the bid price and 50% to the concept.

SLAOrchardRoadProperty1Photo credit: State Land Authority

Though an attractive offer, property analysts do not expect it to be an easy-going tenancy as the property is placed at the end of the Orchard road stretch. The concentration of tourists and expatriates in the area however could be a jumping off point for the conceptualisation of a proposed plan for the property. The conservation status of the property also means some restrictions will apply and it will take a tenant with experience and adaptability to make it work. Market rental rates for the properties are currently around $3 to $4 psf.

Property Titles search goes digital at SLA

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has announced that they will be moving the property title search and transaction process online, which will make it easier for everyone when the time to sell comes.

SLA MyPRopertyCurrently, property owners have to produce a physical copy of the property title during a transaction. It will shorten the process for conveyancing lawyers and owners alike. For now both hard and soft copies have to be lodged for registration at the SLA and within specific daily timelines, even online (8.30am to 1pm on weekdays).

Some banks (a pilot run was done with DBS Bank in June 2013) have already begun storing property titles with the SLA. Previously, banks have to find ways to safe keep property titles of their clients. SLA is hoping this move to go digital will eliminate or at least reduce the risk of losing and damaging property titles or fraudulent use as such. The replacement of a lost title takes 8 weeks. When the SLA online services are up and running, all banks will be expected to participate in the scheme by June 2017, and SLA will no longer issue hard copies of Certificates of Title to banks.

Belgravia villasProperty owners who wish to search and view their property title deeds and boundary plans online can now do so free-of-charge at www.sla.gov.sg/MyProperty.

ABSD deadline looms

Properties launched 5 years ago are now facing their deadline to sell their units or incur the dreaded Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duty (ABSD). The regulation allows developers a 5-year window period in which to build and sell the the units in a residential project. Beyond this time frame, they will need to pay a 15 per cent duty on remaining units. This impacts the final selling price, which will see even fiercer competition from newer launches and other resale properties.

Mon Jervois

Photo: Mon Jervois private apartments

What some developers do is to purchase their own units, if the cost of paying the ABSD supersedes the losses otherwise. Properties launched before mid-2013 have mostly sold all their units, but launches after the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework kicked in tell another story. Non-Singaporean developers have an even tougher job as they need to sell their units within 2 years of completion or incur hefty fines and pay for extensions.

Prices of unsold units at these projects facing the deadline have already come down since their launch. At Kingsford@Hillview Peak for example, the media selling price have fallen from $1,340 psf to $1,288 psf in about 3 years. More than half of the 512 units remain unsold.

A similar story is told at The Trilinq in Clementi where 220 of its 775 units has sold by the end of 2015 at median prices of $1,329 psf. When it was launched in Q1 of 2013, the average selling price was at $1,545 psf.  It is not only the larger scale projects which are facing the deadline pressure. The 109-unit Mon Jervois apartments also saw a drop of $235 psf in the last 2 years. The project is approximately 43 per cent sold.


Rare landed public housing – HDB Terrace Houses

Who knew public housing was not always high-rise and towering 50-storey blocks.

HDB terrace houses are a rare commodity in modern Singapore and there are only 258 of these on the island. Two storeys, mostly in mature estates, and commanding high prices – most may not even have realised these gems were in their midst.

QueenstownHDBTerracePhoto credit: Queenstown.org.sg

A recent sale of a Jalan Bahagia HDB terrace house at $958,000 may rise eyebrows but considering the rarity and floor area of the unit (241 sq m), and recent sales of resale HDB units at the Pinnacle @ Duxton have already been closing on the $1 million mark, it is quite a steal indeed. It sold at a mere $370 psf and with 60 years or more left on its 99-year lease. In comparison, private properties in the vicinity sell at $2,200 psf. Earlier in the year, another such unit sold at $1.06 million. Previous sales include a 85 sq m unit which went for $760,000 in January; a 104 sq m unit at $875,000 in February and a 81 sq m unit for $708,000 in March.

Built decades ago by HDB’s predecessor, the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), these rare landed public housing units reside mostly in Jalan Bahagia in Whampoa, and Queenstown. Although the land can be taken back by the government anytime, and it is not a freehold private property (where the deed belongs to the home owner), these units are nevertheless much sought-after properties and provide the space and luxury of a private property at much less. Taking into consideration that there are an increasingly number of 99-leasehold private properties, being able to get your hands on one of these rare HDB terraced units is quite a coup indeed.

Bought landed property. What did you really land?

With the rise of high-rise properties in Singapore, landed homes are becoming very much the rarity it is. But surprisingly, you can still buy a landed home for as little as $2 million, which is in the same range as a condominium unit in the suburbs. In Geylang and MacPherson, there are a number of landed properties tagged with that price.

Freehold or Leasehold? What other criteria would affect the price of landed property? Belgravia Villas in Ang Mo Kio.

Freehold or Leasehold? What other criteria would affect the price of landed property? Belgravia Villas in Ang Mo Kio.

According to URA’s real estate data, at least 10 freehold landed properties were sold for under $2 million last year. The cheapest was a 1, 841 sq ft property in Geylang which went for $792,000. That is $392 psf for you, less than half of some suburban condominiums. But these finds are few and far in between. Usually the plot size of these landed homes are smaller, such as a 893 sq ft terrace house in MacPherson which sold for $1,133,000. One of the rarest sales last year was a landed home in the prime district 10 on King’s road. The terrace was sold at $800,000.

But since sale of landed properties are limited to Singaporeans (foreigners are usually not allowed to buy landed homes), prices and demand are surprisingly lower than you think. Landed properties are valued mostly for the land alone. Thus size definitely matters.The condition, age and location of the property all come into play as well of course.

Jansen cluster terrace homes in District 19.

Jansen 8 cluster terrace homes in District 19.

Landed home prices rose 7.3 per cent in 2012; as compared to resale freehold condominium prices which rose 2.3 per cent. Leasehold suburban condominiums rose 3.4 per cent in the same period. Property agents and industry players have been seeing a rise in the number of landed home buyers within 35 and 40 years old. Previously most buyers are above 40 years old.

So if you find a good landed property deal, could it be too good to be true? Perhaps.

There are a number of hidden costs to punch into the calculator before you sign on the dotted line.

  • Land size
  • Age of the property
  • Condition of the property
  • Location
  • Parking spaces
  • Quality of the neighbourhood
  • Restoration and renovation costs

One should also take note of the number of years remaining on leasehold properties. Since demand in the resale market for properties with limited number of years left on the lease might lower the selling price quite substantially.

HDB flat prices – New versus Resale

Do prices of BTO HDB flats rise in parallel to resale units? No, says the Singapore Government.

In line with their aim to keep new flat prices affordable for first-time buyers, National Development Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, has emphasized that BTO flat prices are in no way linked to the market prices of resale HDB flats.

Tampines Court BTO HDB flats, part of HDB's latest January 2013 launch. Photo by HDB.

Tampines Court BTO HDB flats, part of HDB’s latest January 2013 launch. Photo by HDB.

Addressing concerns that BTO prices may be dancing hand-in-hand with resale HDB flats, which have been on the rise for the past few quarters, Mr. Khaw promises to provide abundant and affordable housing to match the projected 6.9 million population of 2030. He says that as long as ‘property remains hot’, the new pricing policy of de-linking BTO flats to resale HDB flats will continue. It looks like this policy may have to stay for quite some time yet, as market feedback shows that prices are still going strong and have barely shown signs of letting up.
Industry players are not expecting the new HDB flats to take too much away from the resale flat market. SLP International’s head of research Nicholas Mak says that low prices of new flats may ‘effectively slow down the resale market but will not stop or reverse rising trends yet’.  However, Mr. Khaw did mention that although BTO prices will be priced differently from resale flats, there will be differences within its own category. He says HDB will not be pricing its new flats ‘haphazardly’ but instead, buyers can expect prices of BTO flats in mature estates to be up to 40 per cent more than those in outlying suburbs.

This keeping of prices low does come at a price. Taxpayers are essentially paying for the gap between new flats and resale flats. Because HDB purchases land from SLA (the Singapore Land Authority), land prices are based on the prices of resale flats in the vicinity, thus if resale flat prices are rising, land is more expensive, but if new flat prices are still kept low, the amount difference is made up by government subsidies, which indirectly comes from the taxpayers’ coffers.

Sentosa Cove home prices reach yet another high

At $32.5 million, more than $4 million more than the previous high of $28.2 million in 2010. The 10, 111 sq ft bungalow at Ocean Drive was sold at $3, 214 psf.  As one of the only areas where foreigners can purchase landed properties, Sentosa Cove has been seeing hearty responses from property investors this last quarter.

Sentosa Cove Bungalow.

The prestige, luxury and exclusivity of Sentosa Cove has lured many foreign home buyers to the area and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) data has shown a rise of 1.1 per cent in landed property alone. Overall, the residential property prices rose 0.6 per cent.

Across on the mainland, Serangoon landed properties registered the highest growth with a 33 per cent gain. 156 properties were sold in the third quarter of this year alone. As land becomes more scarce and home sizes shrink, landed properties have become rare and thus reflected in their sales value. Do you know how much your landed property is worth and what should be watching out for when purchasing an existing landed home? How should you work out the numbers and how much should you put aside for reconstruction, renovation and maintenance?