Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Private home sales still strong

SALES of new private homes have held steady in recent weeks, according to the latest figures, despite global turmoil including Japan's earthquake crisis and unrest in the Arab world.

However, some analysts predict that volumes will begin to ease in the months ahead, as the Government's property cooling measures take full effect.

For now, buyers appear eager to sign up. For instance, more than 70 per cent of the 115 apartments at the 30-storey Sky Suites 17 project in Jalan Rajah have been sold since its soft launch last Tuesday.

Apartments there achieved an average selling price of $1,450 per sq ft (psf). The smallest 355 sq ft unit cost $499,000.

Oxley Holdings' Devonshire Residences project in Devonshire Road has performed equally strongly. The development has moved about 70 per cent of its 84 apartments since sales started on Thursday.

According to marketing agents The Straits Times spoke to, almost half of the 44 units at Harbour Suites in Kampong Bahru Road have been snapped up.

They went on sale on Monday last week.

Prices of the smallest 419 sq ft one-bedroom unit sold for about $724,900, with the one-bedroom units proving the most popular.

Buyers have bought about 33 of the 120 apartments in the 38 iSuites project in Ipoh Lane, off Tanjong Katong Road.

The smallest 452 sq ft one-bedroom plus study unit is going for about $641,900. The project's developer Sustained Land said sales of the project started last Thursday, with prices for units sold averaging about $1,397 psf.

These various sales figures post-date the latest first-quarter flash estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which cover mainly January and February.

Those figures indicated that private home prices climbed 2.1 per cent in the first 10 weeks of the year. Suburban homes led the pack with 3.1 per cent gains.

The latest sales since then help to flesh out the full picture in the first quarter.

Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research at SLP International, said that while prices will not waver, transaction volumes for March could drop, compared to February, in a reflection that the latest round of property cooling measures, taken in mid-January, have taken full effect.

He also suggested that the level of sales at these projects may not be reflected across the wider market in March.

'These sales figures from these sub-urban projects may not be an accurate reflection of the number of property transactions for this month, because they consist of many small units which are usually quite popular with investors,' he said.

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong is more upbeat about the outlook.

He said factors such as strong employment and wages, as well as a growing economy, will continue to support enthusiasm in the property market.

He said the crisis in Japan may even have spurred people to buy now.

Property observers told The Straits Times that some agents have been urging buyers to close deals now, saying construction costs are likely to soar when Japan's rebuilding efforts begin.

'Generally, whatever affects the stock market will also affect buying sentiment, but the stock market has been doing well,' said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

However, he said it is possible the market is in cautious buying mode.

'While luxury developments won't be moving so quickly, mass and mid-market projects should continue to do well,' he said.

But he added that there is an absence of 'anything that will boost the market', saying many buyers are waiting it out to see if there are more government cooling measures to come.

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