Straits Times: Sat, Dec 24
NEW home sales have proved remarkably resilient this year, with buyers nonchalantly shrugging off a host of worries, though the tide may be turning.
Data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) showed that in the first 11 months of this year, developers sold 15,393 new homes.
Once this month's figures are in, this year could come close to beating the record-breaking 16,292 homes sold last year, but an apparent slowing in the sector could stymie that.
Analysts attribute these remarkably buoyant figures to strong demand for mass market homes, which often seemed impervious to external factors.
But others have cautioned that the recent strong demand for homes may have been induced by the number of new developer launches.
The strong demand for homes prompted two rounds of property cooling measures this year.
The first batch came in January, marking a rocky start to the year. Those rules slapped residential properties with a seller's stamp duty if they were sold within the first four years of purchase and lowered the amount banks can loan to home buyers to 60 per cent.
Another even tougher round of cooling measures was rolled out earlier this month. The new rules mean that foreigners and corporate entities will have to fork out an additional buyer's stamp duty of 10 per cent.
This is on top of the existing stamp duty of about 3 per cent. Permanent residents buying their second and subsequent homes and Singaporeans buying their third and subsequent homes will have to shell out an additional buyer's stamp duty of 3 per cent.
While the tough measures are keeping buyers at bay for now, industry watchers do not expect this to last long.
The latest round of measures is largely targeted at foreign buyers, said Mr Joseph Tan, CBRE's head of residential services, a group that is not prominent in the mass market property segment.
A recent report issued by CBRE outlined how Singaporeans make up 69.9 per cent of caveats lodged for homes outside the central region, and it is this local demand which will help prop up sales of mass market homes next year.
Homes in this segment have long been dominated by first-time home owners and HDB upgraders. Now such homes are also a huge draw for investors and foreign buyers like the Chinese and Indonesians who have increasingly been muscling in on the scene.
Buyer sentiment is expected to moderate next year, with some analysts predicting a price correction of up to 30 per cent. But places with good fundamentals like a strategic location, access to public transport hubs and an established network of shops and amenities are slated to do well.
Several districts have remained tops among buyers while other neighbourhoods have fallen out of favour.
The District 16 town of Bedok is the most popular pick this year, said Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of research and consultancy at SLP International.
So far this year, Bedok has recorded 3,848 caveats for both new and resale transactions. More than 100 units were sold at the 577-unit Archipelago project during its preview weekend earlier this month, at an average of $1,000 per sq ft.
Bedok Residences stirred up controversy over its queuing system last month, ultimately selling more than 470 units out of the project's 583 homes at a $1,359 psf median price.
'Bedok benefits from a big pool of people who live in the east. This means the pool of potential buyers and sellers is also bigger than in other areas. Most of these people also tend to be reluctant to move outside the east and tend to seek out homes within the eastern neighbourhoods,' said Mr Mak.
The rapid redevelopment of the Punggol area has boosted the popularity of this fledgling waterfront new town.
According to SLP International, this has helped boost the ranking of District 19, which includes Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang, to the No.1 spot for new home sales, with a total of 3,102 deals so far this year.
The neighbourhood recently entered a new stage of development, with more than 5,000 new private homes slated for completion over the next few years. Many buyers will be drawn by an attractive new waterway and plans for a new mall near the MRT station.
Still, some buyers have tended to dismiss this neighbourhood, saying it does not measure up to the amenities and infrastructure boasted by mature towns like Toa Payoh and Tampines.
But others have been more open to the area's development potential, encouraged by the Government's plan to establish Punggol as a waterfront town. In the first nine months of this year, close to 1,900 uncompleted units were launched for sale in District 19.
Projects such as A Treasure Trove and The Luxurie proved a hit, with each development achieving take-up rates of more than 70 per cent.
These projects have helped to boost overall sales activity in Punggol by 9 per cent year-on-year, and lifted new home sales in the area by 40 per cent, according to data compiled by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).
Yishun and Sembawang
Yishun and Sembawang have also done well, riding on healthy demand for private homes with innovative designs, said Mr Ong Kah Seng, director of property research firm R'ST Research.
So far this year, 1,184 new homes have been sold in District 27, which encompasses the Admiralty, Sembawang and Yishun areas. Several notable projects such as Miltonia Residences and Canberra Residences have contributed to the boost in new home sales.
Still, Mr Ong added that such far- flung areas face some hurdles as they are not so well-located and do not have significant development potential.
This means some buyers may sideline these areas in favour of neighbourhoods like Jurong East and Paya Lebar which have better fundamentals like strategic location and long-term development goals.
Coming in third in the new home sales ranking is District 15, with nearly 1,149 deals closed this year. Made up of neighbourhoods such as Katong, Joo Chiat and Marine Parade, this location has once again proved to be popular among home buyers.
The area has also done well in overall home sales. According to data compiled by Savills, District 15 chalked up 11 per cent of the total caveats lodged this year, second to the 12 per cent garnered by District 19.
Ms Chia Siew Chuin, Colliers International's head of research, said the location's popularity stems from its proximity to the city, airport and recreational and leisure facilities such as East Coast Park.
'(Districts 15 and 14) also host a wide array of supporting amenities... as well as a large selection of food and beverage haunts,' said Ms Chia.
Districts 9 and 11
Despite being among Singapore's most prestigious postal codes, Districts 9 and 11 have achieved less than stellar sales this year.
The two areas include high-end luxury homes in the Chancery, Bukit Timah, Orchard, Oxley and Cairnhill neighbourhoods.
It has been a lacklustre year for the high-end and luxury home segment. The poor transaction volumes in these two particular districts have dragged them to the bottom five postal districts for this year, said Dr Chua Yang Liang, head of research at JLL. Year-on-year sales in District 11 slumped 53 per cent while those in District 9 tumbled 47 per cent.
Dr Chua said limited new supply in the prime markets is to blame: 'People looked for better value options with a smaller overall quantum as the economy stuttered and buyers became more budget conscious.
'(This benefited) the mass market as the more affordable properties on offer drew in the buyers,' he said, adding that foreign buyers have also been switching their location preference.
Marymount and Thomson
Interest in this District 20 neighbourhood has been building throughout the year, partly due to the opening of the remaining sections of the MRT network's Circle Line, which now links the area to Holland Village and Buona Vista.
'(The neighbourhood) is one of the few low-rise estates available which is centrally located, and perhaps still considered affordable for the average to above-average income buyer,' said Mr Ong.
A 603-sq-ft unit at Tresalveo, a condominium located opposite Marymount MRT station, sold last month for $748,000 or $1,241 psf.
Mr Ong added that the smaller but more strategically located neighbourhood gives off an exclusive, quaint vibe, which could differentiate the area from the rest of the housing supply that will come onstream in the next few months.
Set to underperform
Districts 9, 10, 11
Prime areas popular among foreign buyers are likely to be the worst performers next year, said JLL's Dr Chua. He explained that these areas will experience a drop in transaction volumes involving foreign buyers as they feel the pinch from the new 10 per cent stamp duty.
Other analysts said the market for high-end properties had been slow even before the measures and this trend is set to continue, with prices and sales volumes remaining in the doldrums.
The changing profile of foreign buyers is partially to blame, said Mr Mak.
'More of them are from China and are turning to suburban residential projects, this compared to earlier batches of buyers like Europeans, Indonesians and Australians who tend to favour snapping up homes in the prime districts.'
Next year will no doubt be a challenging one for the private residential market as it adapts to the new cooling measures and the economic slowdown.
Segments within the residential market will become more distinct, say analysts, with landed property to be a more resilient sector due to its limited supply and lower foreign participation.
For now, both buyers and developers are playing a waiting game, said property consultants, and a clearer picture of what tone the market will take will probably emerge only later next year.
Additional reporting by Esther Teo
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang