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?

Lakeside’s Westside Story

Off on the west-side, Jurong and Woodlands are the main areas of business and redevelopment. But with the authorities planning to diversify commercial activity into the suburbs and redeveloping the Jurong Lake District into yet another hub for waterfront living, leisure and business, Lakeside may no longer be the town just on the side.

URA Jurong Lake District

Photo credit: Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Jurong Gateway and the potential working population and medical tourist it will bring serves to bring new life to the sleepy Lakeside township. Other businesses in the mix are Big Box, Westgate, Genting Hotel, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital. The previously very much industrial west-side of Singapore will see new life in many ways.

Already response at The Lakefront Residences spoke volumes, as it sold out of its 629 units during its launch in 2010. Prices then were at an average of $1, 000 to $1, 050 psf. Units were already selling this year at $1, 1199 psf. Units at The Lakeshore and Lakeholmz saw similar sales values with promising increases throughout the past few quarters. Though rentals and sales may not yet peak this year, the potential for growth is tremendous.

LakevilleThe newest kid on the block is Lakeville in Jurong West Street 41. Developer, MCL Land, is expecting buyers to mainly be HDB upgraders from the nearby, though not ruling out savvy investors who might see the rental possibilities of these units near future regional commercial hubs.

The Resale HDB flat rollercoaster ride

A year or two ago, the property market was at its peak and now, it seems to be have taken the quick dash down. With the fervent entry of new HDB flats and private properties over the last 3 years, the market is now facing a possible glut. The continuous implementation of property cooling measures also accounted for much of the decrease in activity over the last 2 quarters.

The resale market for HDB flats seem to have taken a dive due to the bumper crop of BTO flats. Photo courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board.

The resale market for HDB flats seem to have taken a dive due to the bumper crop of BTO flats. Photo courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board.

Data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority seems to signify a peak in home supply in 2016. That is when most of the properties purchased in the past 2 years will be completed and ready for occupation. That might mean many will be compelled to sell their existing homes and the resale HDB flat market may then face yet another challenge then. By 2016, 33,290 homes are expected to be completed.

In the resale HDB market, transactions have been at an all-time low since 2005. Prices fell by 0.6 per cent, and sellers may find themselves at the mercy of market demand. Median COV prices are now $10,000 and below. No longer are the days when sellers could command exorbitant cash premiums, which have to be paid upfront.

Most buyers in the resale HDB flat market now are upgraders or PRs. But the pool of buyers may have diminished as buyers may be restricted by loan limits and reduced number of foreigners granted permanent residency. PRs are now only allowed to purchase HDB flats after a 3-year period. Property analysts are expecting interest to rise again after the first half of the year, as low prices bring the buyers back.

Drop in government land supply

And this will happen come 2014. As numbers in both public and private property markets signal a soon-to-be oversupply, developers are cutting back on the number of land plots they bid for, and the authorities are getting the hint and hence cutting back on the supply of land.

A wise move perhaps to prevent a property bubble, though the first major move could be the tightening of loan limits implemented middle of the year. Only enough land for 11,600 new homes will be released in Q2 of 2014. That is 17.3 per cent lower than Q2 of 2013. The warning signal came in November from the Real Estate Developers’ Association (Redas) and it seems the Ministry of National Development (MND) has kept their ears open and made an announcement on Wednesday regarding the reduction.

THe CrestEven so, the market can expect 65,000 new residential properties to enter the market within the next 3 years. And this is expected to fulfill the housing demands of the population without sacrificing sales figures. 8 plots of land will be put up for sale in the first half of next year, and most of them will be in suburban areas such as Yishin, Sembawang, Sengkang and one at Prince Charles Crescent in Redhill next to The Crest. These plots will also yield some 2, 2000 executive condominiums (ECs).

The market will see the building of more executive condominiums, which may slow the private property market down a little, but still keep the number of new homes in the black. However, these hybrid homes will become available in the open market in 5 years’ time and this slowing down of supply in this sector may be a well-timed move.

Which districts will earn you big bucks, and fast?

It will not be an overstatement to say that the property industry in Singapore is booming. Recent announcements by the government may have gotten everyone into a festive mood with the promise of good things to come. But those good things, such as the Greater Southern Waterfront, may be planned this year, but may only materialise a decade or so in the future. A savvy investor would probably look at which areas will be completed first, and target those for sooner returns.

Woodlands Regional Centre URAThe Woodlands Regional Centre has been in the works for sometime now, drafted and planned by the URA under the Masterplan 2008. Being the closest to our neighbouring Johor Bahru, and served by an established transport network, which will only be further extended in future, commercial plots are already being put up for sale by the government as early as December 2013. Investors can expect development to be rapid, possibly up and running within the next five years.

In another district with a different ambience, but still as vibrant, is the Holland Village area. With bits of nostalgia and pockets of the new and modern, it’s an eclectic mix which attracts the artistic aånd creative crowd. To be extended to include 1,500 new homes and community park, it is also suitably close to the commercial hubs of Biopolis and Fusionpolis at One North. With the circle line and upcoming Thomson line, it will be even easier to connect to other parts of the island from this “urban-village” icon. Properties and businesses in this area might be set up to see a huge change.

Holland Village Extension_640.ashxIndustry analysts are expecting the other areas included in the Master Plan 2013 to be developed much further down the line. The Marina South area for example, will only be developed after the completion of the Thomson MRT Line, which means it will only  begin work 4 years later. Tanjong Pagar, Kampong Bugis and the Greater Southern Waterfront are all areas set for development under the Master Plan 2013, but properties in these areas will mostly be commercial and retail. Residential properties will command high prices, for its proximity to the city centre, thus property consultants are expecting new suburban areas to overtake in popularity and speed of progress.

Waterfront Singapore

URA Master Plan 2013As an island country, waterfront living seems like it should be a buzz word. And it certainly will be, come as early as 2023. A new blueprint, the Draft Master Plan 2013, for nation planning has been put in place, with promises of more and better homes, and a more sustainable green and ecological living environment. National Development Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has said in his blog post that “the underlying philosophy of making Singapore an endearing home and a clean, green, livable city remains unchanged”.

About half a million new homes have been planned for new housing areas. These include Bidadari, Tampines North and Punggol Matilda. Other older HDB estates will also see the injection of some new blood, in Sembawang, Yishun, Hougang and Choa Chu Kang. A strong focal point of the Master Plan is the Greater Southern Waterfront, a 1,000 hectare development along the south coastline.


Punggol Matilda HDB1And as recent property news have signaled, the Kampong Bugis and Marina South areas will be a hotbed for private residential home activity, with the possible yield of 13, 000 new homes. Out of the 13,000, 9,000 private properties are designated for the Marina South area, which will only be developed once the Thomson Line is completed in 2017 or 2018. And cyclists may have something to cheer for, with URA setting the wheels in place to make Singapore more cyclist-friendly.

As the nation becomes more congested, it now becomes less practical to travel too far from home for work, and the constant development and setting up of regional commercial centres will make the most sense. The Woodlands Regional Centre and North Coast Innovation Corridor are just two of the many scattered around the country.  There were also talks about a new commercial centre in Punggol, and new industrial sites at the Seletar Aerospace Park, and also in Defu and an area called 2 West near the Nanyang Technological University. Since properties near commercial and financial hubs usually fetch the highest prices,  could this also cause property prices to rise overall?

204, 500 properties to be completed by 2016

At 6,508 more units than the 197,566 units projected earlier this year, there will be 204,500 executive condominium and private apartment units built by 2016, according to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Completed condominium units are increasing in number as developers pour fresh new stock into the market mix. Despite having held back on some major launches as the year-end lull draws close, the number of properties available in the market continues to rise. Industry experts are however expecting developers to lower their launch prices in order to boost sales.

The CreekFrom the looks of the recent Inflora condominium launch, selling prices, of new properties at least, may indeed be on the slippery slope. But that perhaps might be good news for those looking to invest. Properties in the prime city centre spots are dropping by as much as 0.5 per cent whereas city fringe and suburban areas enjoy continued growth, however slight.

Over the next 3 years, 4, 884 more private homes will be built as National Development Minister, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan considers it “making good progress in our ramp-up of the home-building programme”. The number of HDB flats to be built will remain the same as projected. 1, 355 executive condominiums will be ready within the same time frame. What does this heightened supply mean for Singapore’s housing market and will the population growth be a reflection of a cause of this increased property growth?