Thursday, January 13, 2011

More developers see higher prices for new home launches

(SINGAPORE) Developers' outlook for the property sector turned rosier in the fourth quarter last year, with a larger proportion of them predicting higher prices for new residential launches.

Preliminary findings from the Real Estate Sentiment Index (RESI) point to improved sentiment from the third quarter, when the industry was still coming to terms with the impact of property market cooling measures introduced on Aug 30.

Steven Choo, CEO of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas), gave a preview of RESI results for Q4 at a seminar yesterday. Redas and the National University of Singapore's Department of Real Estate jointly developed RESI.

Based on survey responses so far, the Current Sentiment Index stood at 5.6 in Q4, up from 4.8 in Q3. For this category, respondents rate overall Singapore real estate market conditions now compared with six months ago.

The Future Sentiment Index - where respondents rate overall property market conditions over the next six months - rose to 5.7 in Q4 from 4.8 in Q3.

'We've actually seen a rebound,' Mr Choo said. 'We think it is an accurate reflection of our members' take on the market.'

While the index readings rose in Q4, they did not surpass the levels seen in Q1 and Q2.

Developers were also asked for their take on the primary residential market, and a majority of the respondents thought more launches and moderate price increases were possible.

In Q4, 60 per cent of respondents believed that unit prices would be moderately higher. In Q3, just 12 per cent thought so.

Some 76 per cent of respondents in Q4 also expected moderately or substantially more units to be launched, compared with 44 per cent in Q3.

A developer, who declined to be named, suggested that good take-up for several big launches in Q4 buoyed sentiment. Spottiswoode Residences, Waterview and Robinson Suites were some which reported strong sales.

Some industry watchers also reckoned that the sector's confidence grew as the impact of the tightening measures became clearer.

A Hong Leong spokesman told BT: 'While we took a cautious outlook immediately following the August 2010 cooling measures, buyer demand continued to remain strong for the group's various projects.' Low interest rates and liquidity in the market contributed to the demand, he said.

Credo Real Estate managing director Karamjit Singh also said: 'Like with any announcement, it takes at least a month or two for the dust to settle.'

Even so, improved optimism does not mean that the measures had no effect - there is still 'a sense of caution in the air', he stressed.

In the ongoing Q4 RESI survey, 69 per cent of respondents identified demand-side measures from the government as a potential risk to market sentiment.

Although this proportion is less than Q3's 83 per cent, it is still big enough to make state intervention the second most feared risk.

A possible slowdown in the global economy was the industry's top worry - 70 per cent of respondents said in Q4 that this was a potential risk. This is markedly higher than the 56 per cent a quarter ago.

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