Sunday, June 26, 2011

Who the resale HDB flat buyers are

The profile of buyers driving the hot Housing Board (HDB) resale market has been revealed - and it seems private property owners and permanent residents (PRs) still make up a sizeable chunk of the demand for such homes.


Together, these two groups comprise almost 30 per cent of transactions, according to new figures released by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in his latest blog post yesterday.


He also announced in the same posting that HDB will be combining the June and July launches of its new build-to-order (BTO) flats into one exercise in mid-July.


Earlier, he had flagged larger launches as a way to give flat buyers a wider choice of flat types and locations, and to reduce the potential number of unsuccessful attempts on their part.


The new figures released by Mr Khaw looked at the 2,162 HDB resale transactions closed last month.


They showed that a fifth of buyers were permanent residents (PRs), 8 per cent were private property owners and about a quarter - 23 per cent - were newly married couples, or first-timers.


The latest data surprised some industry experts, given that new rules last August introduced by Mr Khaw's predecessor Mah Bow Tan had restricted home ownership of resale flats for the first two groups.


Mr Mah revealed last year - before the implementation of the new rules - that 10 per cent of buyers in the resale HDB market were private property owners, while PRs made up 20 per cent.


The rules required private property owners who bought resale flats to dispose of their private property within six months. PRs who had overseas properties in their home countries also had to declare and dispose of them before they could buy an HDB flat.


Venturing explanations as to why these rules did not seem to have a deep impact, analysts said that people were likely selling private homes - with prices now at record highs - and buying HDB resale flats because it seemed a safer option for now.


Mr Colin Tan, research and consultancy director at Chesterton Suntec International, said that such buyers could be downgrading for good, or waiting for the market to correct before buying private homes again.


'There have also been a spate of en bloc sales, so these cash-rich owners are likely to turn to the HDB resale market,' he added.


PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said the new ownership rules had not put PRs off.


'These families prefer to buy a home in Singapore as rental rates are high. They will do so even if it means disposing of their overseas property,' he said.


ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim expressed surprise at the proportion of first-timers in the resale market. Based on his own agency's data, they made up less than 10 per cent of sales.


'The figures show that first-timers still feel the three- or four-year wait for new flats is too long and they are still looking at the resale market,' he said.


Mr Khaw noted that the data showed demand for all flat types was evenly distributed, with four- roomers enjoying an edge.


Second-timers were also the largest group of buyers, although they preferred smaller flats compared to first-timers who picked larger ones, he said.


'Earlier rounds of cooling measures, increased supply of BTO flats, latest BTO launch prices, the state of the economy and loan interest rates will combine to impact our housing market,' he wrote.


'The interactions are complex and do not work entirely in a mechanical way. There will be fluctuations and short-term volatility, at both volume and price levels. We will have to be patient to allow these changes to work their way through the market.'


Although Mr Khaw did not reach any concrete conclusions based on the data, some analysts said his musings could signal that something was brewing.


Mr Tan, for example, said that while such data improved transparency, the minister could be releasing it to justify future policy moves.

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