Resale private homes – Slow climb up

There was a glimmer of light in the resale property market last month as prices of homes in the city fringe rose 1.1 per cent and 0.5 per cent in the suburbs. Overall private resale home prices rose 0.4 per cent.

BlueHorizonThough property analysts are not certain if prices will maintain their current level or dip even further in the later part of the year, the numbers gave at least a little hope to private property owners and sellers. While the resale market shows that it has steadied itself with a $0 T-O-X (the median transaction over X-value or a home’s market value), in the city centre district 9 which consists of Orchard Road and River Valley, more resale properties were being sold below the computer-generated  home prices dipped to an average of $55,000 below the X-value.

In district 5 of Pasir Panjang and Clementi however, the highest media T-O-X came up to $30,000; and in the Bukit Timah, Holland Road and Tanglin areas of prime district 10, the number came up to $14,000.

As the number of new properties being launched or completed rise, the prices of resale properties may face the danger of being pushed down by competition. Though location and condition of resale units may always have an upper hand. With the General Elections planned for the year ahead, prices may fluctuate with policy or economic changes. Could this year be the watershed year for the property market?

More data for Private home buyers

Private property buyers will no longer have to grasp at thin air in their attempt to make sense of which way the market is leaning in terms of prices, sales volume and even incentives offered by the developers or sellers.

iProperty Transacted PRices

Photo: iProperty’s transacted property price trends data is provided online

Starting from June 5, buyers or anyone who wants to do their market research can now access the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) website. Data will be published weekly. That would also mean much more transparency in the marketplace, including information provided to banks in order to allow them to better gauge applicants’ loan limits and also loan amounts which take into consideration value benefits such as cash rebates, legal and stamp duties absorption, rental guarantees and furniture vouchers.

Improvements will also be made into transparency of showflat depictions by developers. Previous complaints about obvious differences between showflats and the actual unit have not fallen onto deaf ears. Now, the Housing Developers (Snow Unit) Rules which will be in force starting from July 20, will keep everyone on the right track. Showflats ready for viewing before July 20 will however be exempted from the rules, though developers are required to made clear the differences between the showflats and the actual unit.

How will these new rules change the playing field? Will it be easier or more difficult to secure loans from the banks once these rules are put in place and enforced? Will that in turn affect the buying power of the already restricted purchasing crowd?

Will shoebox apartments be 2015′s top seller?

Despite a rise in the number of available shoebox apartments over the last year, the fall in prices of this property sector was the lowest amongst all the other completed non-landed private apartments.

JurongLake_URA

Photo credit: Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)

These small units up to 506 sq ft in size, especially if situated in good locations, will this segment continue to do well this year despite a 4 per cent price decline in 2014? Made popular in 2009, shoebox units in the prime districts such as those in the city centre or city fringes, were snapped up well and fast over the past 5 years. So much so that developers launched projects with shoebox units which made up as much as 80 per cent of the total number of units launched outside the city centre region.

Though these small studio-size units are commonly popular in highly populated cities such as London, Sydney, Tokyo and New York, will they work in suburban Singapore? With new regional hubs such as Jurong and Woodlands coming up, and even more in the next 10 to 20 years under URA’s redevelopment plans, it could possibly be so as businesses fan out from the city centre into these regions, bringing with them expatriates and their housing needs.

For the current year, property experts are waiting to see the markets’ response to resale shoebox units as more of these developments attain their TOP (temporary occupation permit). The most recent additions to the market are The Promenade@Pelikat and The Hillier. It could be a battle between centrally located shoebox units and slightly larger two-room apartments outside of the city.

Re-zoning Geylang – Fewer residential properties

At first instance, this proposal may not sound promising, but it may actually bring good news for owners of existing condominiums in Geylang. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has recently announced a re-zoning of residential areas in Geylang for commercial use.

Rezi3TwoWhile this means that there may not be as many private residential properties in the area, the value of those which have already been built may appreciate as offices and businesses eventually move into the area. This proposal by the URA could be seen as mainly to facilitate the balancing of residential and commercial activities in the district. The over-building of residential properties in the red-light district could have a reverse effect and introducing more commercial properties and maintaining a suitable amount of residential properties in the area may in turn increase the rental yields and value of properties in its proximity.

With Geylang’s prime location putting it close to the city centre, Aljunied MRT station and the Singapore Sports Hub, rental yields here are already 1.5 per cent higher than those in other districts. With the area mostly made up of smaller land parcels, the likely tenants would be boutique developers and small businesses, with the possibilities of niche eateries and shops.

Some residents have however raised concerns over this re-zoning move as more commercial spaces here may mean an increase in the illegal and disruptive activities normally associated with this infamous district. What are the pros and cons of purchasing property in Geylang and does one outweigh the other?

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?

Almost all Lake Life EC units sold

At $799 to $930 psf with starting average prices of $685,000 for a 2-bedder to close to $1 million for a 3-bedder, units at the Lake Life EC in Jurong flew of the shelves over the weekend. Only 12 out of its 546 units  were available as of yesterday.

Lake Life ECThe palatable quantum prices of units at the executive condominium (EC) by Evia Real Estate could be the main draw. With a lower loan limit and other cooling measures in place, property buyers are now on the lookout for properties with a lower total selling price rather than focusing on per-square-foot prices. Evia Real Estate has done their homework well, and projected that the deepest pockets of buyers for the Lake Life, according to the demographics of the Jurong district, would be not more than $1.1 million. The pent-up demand for ECs may also have accounted for much of the rush for units in this quickly developing region. The Jurong and Jurong Lake district looks set to be one of the newest and busiest areas for development under the government’s island-wide growth plans.

URA Jurong Lake District

Photo credit:URA

In fact, some of the buyers were originally considering private properties in the area but decided instead to go for the EC options instead. Many saw it as a good investment even though they were purchasing units to live in for the moment. Executive condominiums are a hybrid between public and private property and can be sold after a 5-year minimum occupation period (MOP) in the open market. After 10 years, it will become a private property and may fetch even higher prices.

The other 2 ECs entering the market at the same time are Bellwoods and Bellewaters, developed by Qingjian Realty.

ECs not so easy for buyers

Executive Condominiums (ECs) were first launched at the turn of the century, and these hybrid property types had legs in both the public housing and private property sectors. This scheme was launched by the Housing Development Board (HDB) thus buyers can apply for various government grants and loans. After an ownership period of 10 years, they will become private properties and their investment value more often than not, increases, some rather significantly too.

Their main purpose was to help HDB owners move into the private property market, especially the “sandwiched” class who are unable to afford private properties but yet do not qualify for HDB flats, and ECs quickly gained momentum in the first decade of the 21st Century as buyers found the space they received, the governmental benefits and the potential long-term gains a boon. In 2010, the revival of this sector created a huge rise in quantity and prices of ECs.

Sea Horizon Executive Condominium.

Sea Horizon Executive Condominium.

Even though executive condos are still popular to date, the tighter loan curbs mean those who are unable to receive HDB grants and have to take private loans are now only able to receive up to 80 per cent of the price of the property and have their loans capped at 30 per cent of their gross monthly income. With prices of ECs coming up to the $1 million mark and beyond, this has largely reduced the number of eligible buyers, not forgetting that there is a $12, 000 monthly household income ceiling for EC buyers.

Upcoming EC launches in Woodlands and Sengkang will be a good gauge of market response and affordability of units. Should the price points be right, there may not be a lack of buyers. Currently, there are still remaining unsold units at ECs such as Skypark residences, Waterwoods, Forestville, Twin Fountains, Sea Horizon, Ecopolitan and The Tampines Trilliant.

Smaller apartments gaining popularity once again

Just a couple of years ago, there were debates about whether homes were becoming too small for comfort as the 500 sq ft studio apartments or shoebox units took the market by storm. Some shunned small units, preferring instead to go for larger ones with a lower psf price.

But now as loan limits are truly showing their might, buyers are favoring smaller apartments once again due to their lower quantum prices and the ease of rental. Though not all are flocking to shoebox units, after all, young families do need a reasonable amount of space, the average home size has dropped to 947 sq ft from June last year. And for HDB upgraders, their chances to move onto the private property market might have become slimmer, especially if size is a major consideration. The average 4-room HDB flat is around 969 sq ft.

CIty GateOne- and two-bedders have increasingly become more popular with buyers as they are usually within their budget and investors find them easier to rent out. URA figures in fact also showed that new residential properties have also featured smaller units, with the average size being 753 sq ft. But this hardly comes as a surprise as home size has been shrinking since 2009.

The other popular property  type is the dual-key apartment which provides the atmosphere of having two separate living spaces within the same home. Some of these units share the same entrance but separate facilities such as kitchens and toilets, while others share the same facilities but have separate entrances, providing privacy for bigger families and offering more rental options.

As we progress into the second half of the year and the market evolves in reaction to buyers demand and supply of land, will developers be quick to re-strategize and cater to the majority?