Condo rents inch up

At first glance, there was good news for landlords, with private condo rents rising 0.5 per cent from May to June. That reversed the revised 0.6 per cent decline from April to May, but they are down 3.2 per cent from June last year, according to SRX Property estimates yesterday.

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said: “The increase could be a blip. We still see more property completions adding to the leasing market, and owners are still having difficulty getting tenants.”

The rent increases last month were led by the city fringe, where rents rose 1.4 per cent from May. Executive condo owners may sublet their unit after fulfilling the MOP. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life ECSignature at YishunBrownstone EC, Visionaire EC, Inz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

They increased 0.5 per cent in the suburbs, but those in prime condos in the core central region posted a 0.4 per cent drop last month.

Fewer signed leases also point to the fragile market. There were 4,250 condo units leased last month, down 8.8 per cent on the 4,661 rented in May.

HDB rents slipped 0.6 per cent from May to June, after rising by a revised 0.8 per cent from April to May. SRX said rents were down by 4 per cent from June last year.

There were 1,704 HDB units leased in June, a fall of 5.5 per cent from 1,804 in May.

 

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Executive Condominiums (ECs) turned out to be best sellers

AMID a lack of new residential project launches in August, executive condominiums (ECs) turned out to be best sellers.

Developers sold a total of 805 private residential units and EC units in August, down from July’s 1,921 units – with ECs taking up 41 per cent of the sales volumes in August. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life, Signature at Yishun, Brownstone EC, Visionaire EC, Inz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

Excluding ECs, some 473 private residential units were moved in August, about 8 per cent fewer than a year ago. But this marked a 57 per cent plunge from the active month of July, though the number of units launched (590 units) in August was only a 5 per cent fewer than in July.

The numbers were collated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) through a developers’ survey.

The only project launch in August was Victoria Park Villas, CapitaLand’s 99-year-leasehold landed project in District 10. The project sold only one unit in August for S$1,981 per square foot (psf) based on land area but had earlier moved seven units prior to its official launch.

The top three sellers in August were EC projects. Sim Lian’s Treasure Crest in Sengkang sold another 56 units in August at a median price of S$745 psf, followed by MCL’s Sol Acres in Choa Chu Kang where 46 units moved at a median S$781 psf. Qingjian Realty sold 37 units in its Woodlands EC project Bellewoods at a median S$769 psf.

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Upward pressure on prices?

WITH three collective property sales sealed in a week, analysts at DBS Vickers Securities believe the signs are there for an upswing in Singapore real estate prices.

Analysts Rachel Tan and Derek Tan have an overweight stance for developers. They see City Developments (CDL) and UOL as key beneficiaries to any price increase given their existing unsold stock and potentially better margins for recently land-banked projects. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life ECSignature at YishunBrownstone ECVisionaire ECInz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

At 10:38am, CDL was trading around S$10.94 a share, up 5 Singapore cents. UOL was at S$7.05 a share, up 1 Singapore cent.

“Looking at the way these en blocs and land bids are transacted, we believe that developers seem to be pricing in a price recovery in 2018 in their bids, implying the bullish sentiment towards land-banking good quality sites in Singapore. This could imply upward pressure on prices in the medium term,” the two analysts wrote in a report entitled “Hidden pot of gold for privatised HUDC homeowners”.

On Thursday, Hongkong Land’s unit MCL Land clinched Eunosville – a former HUDC estate site – through a collective sale at S$765.78 million. It was the third collective sale in a week, following last Thursday’s S$101.5 million sale of Goh & Goh Building and the S$575 million sale of Rio Casa, a privatised HUDC estate in Hougang. This brings the total en bloc sales to four, or slightly over S$1.5 billion, since the beginning of 2017.

The analysts also noted that the transacted prices of Eunosville and Rio Casa were higher than what owners were reportedly asking for.

JLL’s regional director for capital markets in Singapore, Tan Hong Boon, had earlier estimated 25 to 30 projects that have elected sales committees looking at collective sales. For the whole of last year, there were only three collectives sales.

The DBS analysts said any signs of over-zealousness from developers looking to land-bank in Singapore could see the authorities raising the number of available land sites or raising the number of confirmed sites in the pipeline.

“This will, in our view, signal the government readiness to tackle any unintended “bubble” that could form in Singapore land prices if such aggressive bids continue on. We believe to see such signals as early as in the 2H17 Government land sales (GLS) program.”

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Changes to support property counters

SINGAPORE — Shares of developers surged on Friday on the Singapore Exchange after the Government eased some housing market cooling measures and loan curbs, with analysts saying the changes will support property counters that have been weighed down by a three-year losing streak in home prices.

Shares of Singapore’s largest listed developer CapitaLand jumped as much as 6.2 per cent to a high of S$3.79 each before closing at S$3.70, or a 3.6 per cent gain on the day. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life ECSignature at Yishun, Brownstone EC, Visionaire EC, Inz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

City Developments shares soared to a high of S$10.59, or a 10.2 per cent rise, before ending with a 5.6 per cent gain at S$10.15.

UOL shares rose as much as 7.9 per cent to S$7.14 before closing at S$6.92, or a 4.5 per cent gain.

Together, the three property counters helped the Straits Times Index close 0.5 per cent higher at 3,133.35, taking the benchmark’s year-to-date gain to 8.8 per cent.

“The stealth move should lead to a scramble to re-rate property developers back to book value on optimism that property prices have bottomed and will start to rise from here,” said Mr Alan Richardson, at

Samsung Asset Management Co. The announcement took the market by surprise after the Budget speech last month did not mention property easing measures, he added.

Others were less exuberant. The measures are an “incremental positive” amid an abundance of housing supply coming to market coupled with a weak demand outlook, said Mr Joshua Crabb, head of Asian equities at a unit of Old Mutual.

For homes purchased from today onwards, the owner will not have to pay Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) if he or she sells the property more than three years from purchase, down from four years previously, the Government said. The SSD rates will also be lowered by 4 percentage points for each tier — to 4 per cent for properties sold in the third year; 8 per cent for those sold in the second year; and 12 per cent for those sold within the first year.

Rules on the Total Debt Servicing Ratio framework will also be relaxed, reflecting feedback from some borrowers that the measure limited flexibility to borrow against the value of their properties and raise cash, the Government said.

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Pick up in private home sales in all market segments

SINGAPORE: Demand for new private residential homes has improved in the first half of 2017 as compared to the same period last year, largely driven by the perception that the market is bottoming out, according to analysts.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) second quarter figures for the year showed the sale of new private residential units, excluding executive condominiums (ECs), rose by about 64 per cent in the first half of this year, as compared to the first half of 2016. The number of new units sold in the first half of 2017 was 6,039, as compared to 3,675 units in the first half of 2016. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life EC, Signature at Yishun, Brownstone EC, Visionaire EC, Inz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

New project launches and showroom flats this year have also attracted huge crowds and strong sales figures.

Most recently, the 450-unit luxury home project Martin Modern sold more units than its initial target during the first launch. It had sold 89 units when it planned to launch “between 50-60 units”, the property’s developer GuocoLand said.

While not all new developments launched this year may have received similar demand, market observers say  they have noticed a pick up in private home sales in all market segments – the Outside Central Region, Rest of Central Region, and Core Central Region – as compared to last year.

This is due to several reasons, with one being the belief that the “market is bottoming out soon”, said Mr Ong Teck Hui, the national director of research and consultancy at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Many buyers are drawn to the “fairly attractive prices” today, he said, because prices have fallen for the past 15 quarters and they “hope to take advantage before the market turns around”.

He said that the market could remain active in 2018, as demand has been pent up since 2013.

“BUYING BECAUSE ECONOMY IS BAD”

Alan Cheong, the senior director of research and consultancy at Savills, said investors are turning to residential property as a way to cope amid an uncertain economy.

“This may sound counter-intuitive, (but) people are buying because the economy is bad,” Mr Cheong said. “People are buying now because they have lost a little bit of faith in what are alternative investments, and so they are putting their faith in brick and mortar.”

Bullish bids for government land and attractive offers for collective sale sites this year are also among the reasons that analysts believe have led many buyers to believe that prices will increase next year.

According to a Cushman & Wakefield report, between January and May this year, developers paid 29 per cent more on average for residential plots over comparable sites sold in the past five years. Comparatively, the average premium was only 13 per cent in the second half of 2016.

But as public sentiment continues to improve, the market watchers expect upcoming launches for the rest of 2017 to continue to do well.

Last year, about 7,972 private residential developments, excluding ECs, were sold in the primary sales market, and Mr Cheong predicts that number to hit between 11,000 to 12,000 this year.

He said he expects the positive buying sentiment to continue into 2018, but does not think that sales will increase beyond 2017.

“It all depends on the government land sales programme next year, and also the collective sales sites – when they get launched in 2018. If some get deferred to 2019, and if we don’t have new supply, then primary sales numbers will also come down,” he said.

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More en bloc sales likely to take place?

SINGAPORE: The residential en bloc market seems to be picking up steam this year.

With the sale of Serangoon Ville along Serangoon North Avenue 1 for S$499 million, the number of en bloc deals completed this year has increased to six, bringing the total value of such deals in 2017 to S$2.0 billion, a huge jump from the S$1.17 billion in 2016 and S$380 million in 2015. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life ECSignature at YishunBrownstone ECVisionaire ECInz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

There are good reasons to believe that this is just the start of another en bloc frenzy, given the number of developments currently on the en bloc market and strong interest from developers.

Yet, supply-side factors, in particular, the collective sale mechanism behind an en bloc negotiation, are essential ingredients for a successful sale. If not managed properly, any arising dispute among a property’s owners can scuttle a deal, and go some way to temper confidence in the en bloc market.

COMMON INTERESTS

In an en bloc sale, motivated by common economic interests, owners of either strata units in private non-landed residential developments or houses on contiguous land plots come together to jointly sell redevelopment rights of their land to a shared purchaser.

While the latter case is rare, owners living next to each other in landed developments might find common interest in jointly selling their properties when the price is right.

This was the case for eight owners who sold their terrace houses along Marne Road collectively for S$41.76 million in 2012, at a per square foot (PSF) price of almost $3,000.

Home owners can reap a windfall by selling their properties collectively in these cases, because their existing property can be redeveloped into new, higher density residential developments. In 1995, five bungalows along Walshe Road was sold jointly for a cool $1,520 PSF, double the price of what each would fetch if they were sold individually.

En bloc deals can be a lucrative affair for property developers and home owners in land-scarce Singapore. To date, 6,032 housing units have been involved in en bloc sales, with an aggregate transaction value of more than S$43.34 billion recorded since the first sale in 1994.

En bloc sales activities have been concentrated in prime residential areas, especially in the city-fringe, where demand for housing is traditionally strong. In these areas, there is also a ready supply of under-developed land with old, low-density buildings and low realised plot ratios, which are potential targets for en bloc redevelopment.

Although some say developers are likely to prefer smaller plots, the data tells us that appetite for large plots of land is growing. Despite the small number of en bloc sales in last three years, these en bloc sales are comparatively larger, both in term of total value and unit size.

The average deal size in this period ranges between S$194.8 million in 2016 and S$380.0 million in 2015, which is significantly larger compared to the en bloc deals during the last peak in the housing market from 2006 to 2007, where the average deal size was around S$90 million.

A few large en bloc deals, which include Raintree Gardens (175 units, S$334 million), Shunfu Ville (358 units, S$638 million), Rio Casa (286 units, S$575 million) and Eunosville (330 units, S$766 million) contribute to this larger average deal size.

BARGAINING, HAGGLING, BRAWLING

Because there is much money to be made, one can also expect a fair amount of bargaining, haggling and even brawling to take place. En bloc sales require the collective support from a majority of owners, who must agree to jointly sell their properties and share the sale proceeds, based on an agreed method of apportionment.

Based on the Singapore Land Title (Strata) Act, an en bloc sale can only proceed if 90 per cent of owners by the total area in a development that is less than 10 years old, or 80 per cent of owners in a development that is 10 years old or older, agree to sell.

This in itself is already an improvement from the previous legislation prior to 2007 that required a unanimous resolution supported by every owner of a strata development to effect an en bloc sale.

This stringent requirement had caused significant tensions between neighbours because minority dissenting owners, who sometimes consisted of just one owner in some cases, could veto an en bloc sale simply by refusing to sell their unit. The 64-unit Eng Kong Mansion was one of the earliest case, where two uncooperative owners of one unit vetoed the en bloc sale decision of the other 63 owners.

Then there is the issue of the sale price. A high reserve price that entices owners to sign onto a collective sale agreement may turn away potential buyers.

On the other hand, a lower reserve price that entices developers to invest time and money to study the profitability of an en bloc sale, can foster competition that drives the sale price up, if owners are sufficiently persuaded to sign on the dotted line.

But often owners have their own price thresholds that must be crossed before they can agree to an en bloc sale.

COMPLEX, CONSENSUS-SEEKING PROCESS

An en bloc sale can be a long-drawn, and sometimes, complex consensus-seeking process. Differences in the en bloc decision, if unresolved, can harm relations among neighbours and create tremendous tensions for people who see each other almost every day and share the same amenities and facilities.

Some owners may harbour acrimony and hatred against others, who they see as standing in their way to realising a huge potential windfall.

For some dissenting owners, many of whom are older residents who may attach great sentiment value to homes that they have lived in for many years, no amount of compensation can make up for the loss of familiar surroundings and the social networks they have established. In old, large developments, this problem can be acute.

In mixed-use developments, commercial property owners can have significant bargaining power vis-à-vis weaker residential property owners. These include owners of big shops or restaurants who own and bear the expenses of commercial facilities in the development such as escalators, loading bays and cargo lifts or have large gross floor areas.

Through their controlling share value, they can have great sway over the details of such en bloc deals, including the method of apportionment and the minimum price.

In navigating these dynamics, some level of behind-the-scenes bargaining by authorised agents and shadowy horse-trading can work but it is often difficult to compensate the losers without taking too much away from the winners’ profit pots or running the risk of agents being accused of acting in bad faith.

Monetary inducement can be an attractive carrot to entice dissenting owner to join an en bloc deal, as was the case in the course of the en bloc negotiations surrounding Harbour View Gardens in 2013.

Yet, even after the sale goes through, some cases can end up embroiled for years in legal dispute and in the case of Gilstead Court, get called off, when dissenting owners who have strong legal grounds to contest the sale file lawsuits.

BUT MORE SUCCESSFUL EN BLOC SALES EXPECTED

In a rapidly urbanised city, en bloc sites provide an alternative source of supply of private residential land for developers and allow for the recycling of land plots populated by dilapidated houses.

More en bloc sales are likely to take place in the coming years, when Singapore’s living areas become more urbanised, and demand for housing in matured housing estates or city-fringe increase. Properties located near MRT stations and public amenities like schools and shopping malls, in particular, are likely to face pressures of being sold en bloc.

We can expect the number of en bloc sales to reach nine to 10 for the full year of 2017, with a total sale value of between S$2.5 and S$4.0 billion, based on the list of hopefuls and their tender exercise periods. Potential en bloc sites that have been put on the market in the past year are aplenty. The list includes Tampines Court, Florence Regency, Villa D’Este, among others.

However, an en bloc sale may take six months to a few years for completion. In the recent Shunfu Ville en bloc case, disputes brought up by a few objecting owners were only resolved by the Court of Appeal four years after the formation of an en bloc committee.

So the success of private en bloc sales is not just dependent on demand-side factors like location and marketing timing. It is also a delicate management of supply-side complications, requiring delicate human intervention to bridge gaps and reach compromises between consenting and dissenting owners.

Such factors are arguably the most important ones that ultimately determine whether a development can clinch an en bloc deal and see through the sale.

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New EC promises smart-living technologies for residents

Smart technologies, such as facial recognition devices for access to gyms or mobile apps to book facilities or even control appliances are now must-have features in new condominiums.

Future residents at Clement Canopy, launched on Saturday, will use a mobile app that integrates smart technology for their home and common areas in the estate.

Other developments such as Qingjian Realty’s iNz Residence executive condominium in Choa Chu Kang and Fantasia Investment’s 6 Derbyshire also promise smart-living technologies for residents. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life, Signature at Yishun, Brownstone EC, Visionaire EC, Inz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

Smart home concepts are not new.

Qingjian Realty’s Visionaire, launched last year, was one of the first few projects to feature smart-home technologies.

Mr Li Jun, executive director of Qingjian Realty, said the features have been well-received, with about 80 per cent of buyers opting for smart homes.

He said: “At an industry level, we are quite heartened that developers have subsequently introduced smart home packages.

“This will ultimately benefit the buyers, as the industry evolves to better serve their needs.”

Such innovations should be integrated with smarter communities and digital payments, said Mr Andrew Tan, director of business development and sales at Smart Gateway, who is behind 6 Derbyshire’s app.

The app, named LifeUp, allows residents to book facilities and make payments for maintenance fees, as well as control appliances within the home.

The freehold development at Novena also has car plate recognition systems and facial recognition devices for residents to access facilities like the gym.

Mr Tan said that his firm has been approached by other condominiums.

“LifeUp connects residents, MCST (the condo’s managing body) and managing agents in an entire ecosystem, creating unprecedented cost savings and productivity gains to the business,” he added.

Smart technology has not been limited to private homes.

In 2015, the first “smart” Build-to-Order project was launched in Punggol and would be ready by 2020. These Housing Board flats will come with extra power and data points to support the smart systems.

Last April, the Yuhua neighbourhood in Jurong East became the first HDB estate to roll out smart home packages to over 3,000 households.

The technologies include a utilities management system which helps households monitor energy and water usage through a mobile app and an elderly monitoring system that consists of motion sensors and alerting capabilities.

Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE’s head of Research, Singapore and South East Asia, thinks that developers have recognised that they have to provide smart features to remain competitive.

He said: “For homebuyers, (such features) won’t be a compelling reason to buy, but it’s a good-to-have. The price and location of a development is still the biggest factor.”

Qingjian’s Mr Li said: “In three to four years, Singapore would be a smart nation… Home owners would naturally expect to go home, at the end of the day, to a smart home.”

iNz Residence, Choa Chu Kang

In a collaboration with Singtel, all units in this 497-unit executive condominium development will be ready-fitted with 1 Gbps fibre broadband.

Singtel will also provide free Internet for a year to residents and provide Wi-Fi services in common areas such as the gym and poolside.

Residents can also choose from various packages to include different smart appliances, including washing machines, lighting and air-conditioners, that can be controlled remotely through an app.

Grandeur Park, Tanah Merah

All main doors of this 720-unit development are equipped with state-of-the-art Yale biometric digital lock sets which can be remotely controlled via mobile devices.

All units also come complete with motion detector cameras.

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Pent-up demand from buyers

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) – Developers’ hunger for land is adding to signs that Singapore’s housing market is making a comeback after three years of price declines.

As new home sales surge after an easing of property restrictions in mid-March, developers are becoming more aggressive in bidding at land auctions. On average, they have paid a 29 per cent premium, the highest level in at least five years, according to broker Cushman & Wakefield, which makes comparisons with the past prices of similar properties. Upcoming executive condo launches include Anchorvale Lane EC, Rivercove EC while existing ones include Parc Life, Signature at Yishun, Brownstone EC, Visionaire EC, Inz Residence, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, Hundred Palms Residences EC, Sol Acres EC and The Bellewoods EC. Rivercove Residences floor plans and Rivercove Residences EC details will be available shortly.

“Sentiment has changed,” said Mr Christopher Tang, chief executive officer of developer Frasers Centrepoint. “The general sense is that the market has bottomed out and like many of the developers in Singapore we are a bit landbank-starved – we are keen to build our land bank.”

A land auction last month attracted a record 24 bidders, amid swelling demand from Chinese and Malaysian developers. Home buyers are snapping up units at developments like the Seaside Residences condominium, east of the city. New home sales more than doubled in April from a year earlier, a report on Monday showed (May 15), after a surge in March to the highest level in nearly four years.

While the signs are positive, the scale of any comeback may be limited by government efforts to avoid any renewed overheating of a market that peaked in 2013. While the government tweaked its cooling measures in March, boosting buyer sentiment, it left most of the restrictions in place.

Singapore’s efforts contrast with Hong Kong’s failure to tame a market where home prices keep hitting records. Singapore’s home prices fell 3 per cent last year and have dropped for 14 straight quarters, the longest slide since the data were first published in 1975. The city’s next quarterly property-price numbers are due June 15.

“There has been a considerable lift in market sentiment,” said Mr Desmond Sim, head of research for Singapore and South East Asia for CBRE Group. “Buyers are more prepared to make a purchase, in view of prices possibly bottoming.”

Mr Sim also cited “pent-up demand” from buyers as developers refrained from launching projects in the final few months of 2016. Developers have since plowed back into the market, offering a total of 1,616 units in March, the most since May 2014, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

Among developers, the number of bidders per land tender increased to 13.3 in the first four months of this year from 8.3 in the second half of 2005, according to Cushman & Wakefield. Winning bidders at recent land sales included China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co and Malaysia’s SP Setia International Pte.

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