Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Buyer caution setting in at showflats?

INTEREST in Singapore residential property remains strong but initial signs of greater caution following the stockmarket rout may have started to surface.
Boathouse Residences, a 99-year leasehold private condo at Upper Serangoon View which was released last Friday by Frasers Centrepoint, Sekisui House and Far East Organization, saw about 90 units sold by yesterday. About 80 per cent of the units were bought by Singaporeans, with the rest taken up by permanent residents and other foreigners.

The average price is $880 psf. The cheapest unit is a 624 sq ft one-bedder on the second floor, at $570,000. The developers have released 200 of the total 493 apartments in project.

As a comparison, when Frasers and Far East released Eight Courtyards in Yishun in April, they sold about 202 units in the first four days - Friday to Monday. The 99-year leasehold homes were priced at an average of $795 psf.

However, Frasers Centrepoint Homes CEO Cheang Kok Kheong says the sales result for Boathouse Residences is not too far off another project the group released more recently - Seastrand condo in Pasir Ris, with 103 units sold in four days during its preview in June.

He also points out that generally, things have been quieter in Singapore these past few days as many people have taken an extended National Day holiday.

Mr Cheang said that while the turnout at the Boathouse Residences showflat was 'very good', buyers are now taking a longer time to make a decision.

'Four months ago, during the Eight Courtyards launch, buyers took about 45 minutes to make a decision. Now, they probably require 60-90 minutes,' he added. 'With more uncertainty and cautiousness, they're thinking twice, maybe three times, to relook the whole thing - their finances and their needs. Those who were previously looking at purchasing a four-bedroom apartment may now settle for a three-bedder, for instance.'

BT understands that Boathouse Residences' $880 psf average price is slightly lower than the $900-920 psf indication given to prospective buyers when agents began gathering interest about a month ago.

In the executive condo (EC) segment, City Developments Ltd (CDL) sold 115 units at Blossom Residences at Segar Road on Sunday, when sales of the remaining units in the project were opened to second-time buyers or upgraders.

This takes total sales in the 602-unit development to 319 units.

CDL began selling the EC project at an average price of $685 psf on July 7. Under government rules, developers have to set aside at least 95 per cent of units in an EC project for first-time home buyers in the initial month of launch. Only up to 5 per cent can be sold to second timers. With the end of the one-month period, CDL has been able to open sales of the remaining units to second-time buyers or upgraders.

ECs are a hybrid of public and private housing with initial buyer eligibility and resale restrictions, which are completely lifted 10 years after the completion of an EC project. There is a $10,000 monthly household income cap for those buying ECs from a developer.

Global Property Strategic Alliance chief executive Jeffrey Hong said that crowds at showflats for suburban projects are still quite thick as buyers are mostly HDB upgraders and 'more genuine'. 'But the stockmarket rout has had some impact even on this sector, with many house hunters now adopting a wait-and-see approach.

'On the other hand, things have been a lot quieter in the luxury segment, where there are more investors and they're more sensitive to volatility in the financial markets.'

Boathouse Residences comprises one and two-bedroom Soho-concept apartments housed in two 15-storey blocks and two, three and four-bedroom apartments in four 18-storey blocks.

The Soho-style apartments have a higher-than-usual floor- to-ceiling height of 3.35 metres, allowing residents to enjoy a bigger volume of space. They come with a furniture platform that may serve as a library, storage area or cosy corner. The one and two-bedders are priced from $880 psf to $1,040 psf, while the three and four-bedroom apartments cost about $800-930 psf.

Meanwhile, Far East sold 37 more units at euHabitat at Jalan Eunos between Wednesday and Sunday, taking total sales to 218 units. The property giant has released 346 of the 748 units in the project. Prices start from $541,000 for a 538 sq ft one-bedroom suite.

Over in Pasir Ris, Far East and Frasers Centrepoint found buyers for nine more units at their Seastrand condo last week, taking total sales to 239 units. To date, 269 units have been released in the 475-unit condo. Seastrand's average price has risen from $877 psf when the development was initially released in June to $924 psf currently. Both projects are 99-year leasehold.

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