Transaction volume expected to pick up from March to July

SINGAPORE – Private and public housing prices fell in the first quarter, official flash estimates showed on Friday (April 1), with industry experts predicting the decline will extend for the rest of the year as cooling measures, loan curbs and slowing economic growth continue to weigh on the property market.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) private residential property index fell 0.7 per cent from the fourth quarter of last year to 140.6 points in the first quarter, accelerating from the 0.5 per cent fall in the previous quarter and marking the tenth straight quarter of decline. Despite this stretch that was the longest in nearly 20 years, prices have fallen just 9.1 per cent from their peak in the third quarter of 2013, after a jump of around 60 per cent since 2009 as the market rebounded after the global financial crisis.

In the public housing sector, the decline was more moderate, with the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) resale price index slipping just 0.1 per cent in the first quarter from the fourth quarter of last year to 134.6, reversing the 0.1 per cent gain previously. Upcoming executive condo include The Visionaire EC, Wandervale EC,  Parc Life EC, Treasure Crest, Northwave EC while existing ones include The Terrace EC, Brownstone ECWaterwoods EC, Signature at Yishun, Skypark Residences, The Vales EC, The Criterion EC, Bellewaters EC, Bellewoods EC.

Mr Eugene Lim, key executive officer of property agency ERA, said: “It remains a challenging climate for the property market as Singapore’s economic growth is estimated to be in the 1 to 3 per cent range. In addition, buyers and sellers who were looking for some form of reprieve from the cooling measures had their hopes dashed during the recent Budget announcement. The Government has reiterated that it is not time to tweak any of the cooling measures yet.”

PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor said: “With the property market continuing to operate in a tight financing and regulatory environment, Singapore’s property market remains within the down-cycle.”

The URA data showed prices of non-landed private homes in the Outside of Central Region (OCR), or suburbs, led the decline in the first quarter, falling by 0.9 per cent, after staying unchanged in the fourth quarter of last year. Prices in the Rest of Central Region (RCR), or city fringes, slipped by 0.4 per cent, maintaining the same pace of decline. Meanwhile, prices were up 0.4 per cent in the Core Central Region (CCR), or city centre, turning around from the 0.3 per cent fall previously.

In the landed segment, prices fell 1.5 per cent, moderating from the 1.8 per cent fall in the previous quarter. While private home prices are expected to fall further, industry experts said declines will likely be gradual.

“Developers will continue to adjust launch prices to match the current inertia in the market but will not drop prices too much due to the high price at which they have secured the land,” Mr Ismail said, predicting a decline of about 3 per cent for the private housing market for the year.

Mr Lim expects transaction volume to pick up from March to July before activity slows in the Hungry Ghost month in August, followed by another smaller window from September to November before the year-end lull sets in.

“Barring unforeseen circumstances and external shocks, we can expect property prices to decline by 3 to 4 per cent for 2016, quite similar to the 3.7 per cent seen for 2015.”

In the HDB market, Mr Lim said he expected a slight decline of around 1 per cent for resale prices this year, slowing from the drop of 1.6 per cent for last year.

“Though the HDB’s upcoming Build-To-Order launches will feature new flats in mature estates, the quantity is limited and is not likely to affect resale prices in a large way. As more buyers come to realise that they can make use of the Proximity Housing Grant to move nearer to parents or children, we can expect resale HDB transaction volume to step up in 2016. However, with economic headwinds, the economy in transition and rising interest rates, buyers are likely to remain conservative when making their offers to purchase any flat,” he said.

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