Friday, September 16, 2011

New private home sales resilient despite gloom

Sales of new private homes defied the economic horror stories and the dampening effects of the Hungry Ghost Festival to post healthy numbers last month.
Buyers snapped up 1,348 homes last month, just shy of July's 1,398. The total number jumps to 1,638 when executive condominiums (ECs) are included.

Experts say the sustained buying activity for a typically quiet month shows that Housing Board (HDB) upgraders are still buying and that confidence in property generally remains solid.

Last month's numbers were also achieved despite a new policy that raised the income ceiling for new HDB flats and ECs, said real estate consultancy Colliers International's director of research and advisory Chia Siew Chuin. This change would have creamed off some private market demand.

Suburban homes continued to lead the charge with 1,114 sales last month, comprising 83 per cent of total sales, according to Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) data out yesterday.

This is the highest number of homes sold in the suburban region this year and the highest proportion of total transactions since URA's monthly sales data series started in June 2007.

While suburban prices seem to have remained relatively stable and are likely to continue holding firm this year, Ms Chia noted that the band for mass market sales has moderated.

Prices ranged from $600 to $1,679 per sq ft (psf) last month, down from $705 to $1,742 psf in July.

This could be due to developers pricing units more competitively in the light of more choosy buyers, she added.

But most experts believe that developers are unlikely to lower prices in the light of last month's healthy sales.

Dr Chua Yang Liang, head of research at Jones Lang LaSalle South-east Asia, said demand driven by population growth remains the market's key driver.

This will continue to support the market beyond the economic uncertainty in the euro zone, he added.

Developers recently called for the Government to review the cooling measures in the coming months given fears that global economic woes could undermine the property market.

But experts say last month's healthy sales coupled with low interest rates that should stay in place until 2013 have supported demand.

Last month's launch of an 'optimistic' 1,435 units also kept pace with July, when 1,437 units were released.

Experts say developers might have fast-tracked new projects in case the economic climate deteriorates and scares buyers away.

There won't be 'double-digit' growth in Singapore's residential property prices this year, Capitaland Residential Singapore chief executive officer Officer Wong Heang Fine said yesterday at an event to unveil its Bishan Central condominium design.

'Some developers are taking the opportunity to launch their projects while the market is still positive,' Mr Ong Teck Hui, Credo Real Estate's head of research and consultancy, said.

'For this reason, we may expect more new projects to be launched during this period and sales take-up could be encouraging, depending on pricing.'

City centre and city fringe homes had less robust activity with the number of both new launches and sales significantly lower.

Experts add that between 15,000 and 16,000 new homes could be sold this year, barring further economic volatility.

They add that more affordable pricing for new project launches by cautious developers might also sustain sales.

This month, more than 500 units have already been sold at Sim Lian's A Treasure Trove in Punggol at an average price of about $866 psf.

Credo's Mr Ong said many mass market buyers are owner-occupiers with a long-term view and less influenced by the global market turmoil.

'Many buyers (now) are probably not too negative about the economic outlook. (They) acknowledge that there will be some slowdown but not a bad recession and in their view, prices, even if they correct, may not be substantial,' he added.

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